Stripping Baskets: What Are They Good For?

orvisbasket.jpgThe first big article I ever put together was about using stripping baskets on a trout stream. At the time, I was using a stripping basket–basically, a big bucket you wear around your waist–to help manage line on rivers like the Clinch in East Tennessee, where really long drifts of really little nymphs can produce lots of trout in some pretty slow water.
Since then, I’ve largely abandoned my stripping basket fetish, mostly by teaching myself better line management techniques with my left hand. However, there are still many times when the basket is useful, especially for anglers using shooting heads who don’t have boats (like most shore-based saltwater anglers). What should a stripping basket be?

First, the basket needs to keep line from tangling. Some do this with fingers in the bottom, others with loops or even ridges, but every good basket has this in common. Second, the basket needs to keep line in place. Usually, this means fighting the wind, but sometimes a basket must also resist waves or splashing water. Most manufacturers (but not all) have handled this by giving the basket fairly high walls. Finally, the basket needs to be wearable. It’s possible to seriously (and dangerously) overkill on a stripping basket, especially if it’s too big and heavy in moving water, where it can fill and drag an angler under. (We’ll talk about boat-based line tamer buckets in a later post).
For years, anglers made do with Rubbermaid tubs with holes for belts cut in them and weed-eater line punched as loops into the bottom. This is an effective basket, but surprisingly, you can save money by buying a ready-made model (try pricing the parts some time).
The most bulletproof stripping basket ever made is Orvis’s poly-plastic gray bad boy, historically about $40 (pictured above). This bucket is good at many things, like being rigid and providing quality line management, but it’s also heavy, prone to flooding, and practically impossible to fly with.
llbeanbasket.jpgL.L. Bean briefly made a $19 knock-off (pictured, in green) of the Orvis bucket which many anglers felt to be the perfect storm; it was lighter, slightly smaller, but still just as rugged as the Orvis benchmark. Unfortunately, it is no longer available (and it still wasn’t packable).
TFO/Mangrove partnered with a very innovative designer named Stan Pleskunas to bring his smart, folding foam model to market. I’ve never used one of these personally but I know the majority of the reviews were good, with predictable caveats about durability.
william_joseph_stripping_basket.jpgThe last style of stripping basket is–to me, with all due respect–the one you only use as a last resort. Several companies, including William Joseph, have made popout all-mesh baskets which can collapse into a belt. Conceptually, this is a great idea, because you can store the basket when it’s not in use (very important in crashing waves if you wind up swimming). Functionally, the darn thing just doesn’t work; with no fingers and a soft bottom, line rolls and piles up in heaps, while the mesh allows water and wind to wreak havoc. As a result, you can only have a minimum amount of line in these soft-sided buckets, rendering them more than a little pointless.
On the balance, my preference is to use the hard-sided Orvis/L.L. Bean models whenever possible, despite the drawbacks of weight and bulk. When traveling, I’d rather have a foldable foam or plastic model. The mesh basket idea might work well with a little refinement (for instance, a pop-in floor with fingers), but as presently available, I’d stay away.
What is your favorite stripping basket model? Why? Let us know in the Comments section!

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  • robert morselli

    Very incisive, Zach. Everything we neeed to know about these odd animals is summed up beautifully in your second paragraph.

  • racine

    I thought they were too cumbersome till I tried one on a canoeing saltwater trip to FLA. No matter how I cleared out my deck I was always tangling my flyline somewhere and missing my target. I brought one on my last salt trip and was surprised how much further consistently I could cast with less effort. Yes it’s cumbersome to have on your side but the casting and fewer tangles made up for it. Last summer I decided I needed a wading belt for my older waders and found those Will Joes online. On a trip to the Gunnison river I used this belt in fast water and also found the convenience of having less line on the river and in my basket to cast. So it turns out to be a double duty belt that folds away when I don’t need it. I also added a magnet/leash to a side loop to attach my wading stick. It’s a convenience when I really need to have a third leg. I could do without a lot of extra gear but practice and preparation make for a good time on the water.

  • I’ve used several of them over the years and have found nothing that works as well as the TFO/Mangrove Hipshooter designed by Stan Pleskunas. The only place this wouldn’t be effective is where one is standing nipple deep in the surf, or heaven forbid, that deep in a river. Since I make a practice of never being that deep in anything more than a swimming pool, the Hipshooter works for me. The baskets designed to sit in front make casting a lot more laborious, especially with a two-handed rod, and also block your view of your feet when trying to wade. I know most of the guys somehow get used to that, but I never could. That meant that most of the time I just didn’t wear/use it. It’s a little like a really inconvenient wading staff. You talk yourself out of even bothering to bring it, and then it’s not there when you really need it. As long as I stay waist deep or less, the Hipshooter works extremely well for me.

  • I use a stripping basket in boats with any kind of line because there is a lot of shit to catch on. And I use it with intermediate lines because if I’m wading they sink and don’t shoot and secondly, they tend to tangle quite badly on their own. Also, I use the Mangrove hip shooter and love it. It allows for a much more natural stripping motion than traditional baskets, yet can be used like the traditional basket if you want.