Lure selection can be a real challenge no matter what your experience level, but it’s especially bewildering for new anglers. With thousands of choices of style, shape, pattern, and color, it’s tough to know what works and when to throw it.
Simplifying these options is critical, as is getting to know what works, when.
That’s the driving force behind fishing subscription boxes that offer a monthly selection of tackle delivered right to your door.
But do these subscription boxes really do better than you can at Bass Pro or on Amazon? And do they save you money in the short- and long-run?
We’ve already taken a close look at MonsterBass Box, and today, we’ll give Mystery Tackle Box the same treatment.
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Related: Best Fishing Lures
Mystery Tackle Box Review
Mystery Tackle Box is a subscription service that gives you the opportunity to try a wide variety of lures and baits. The good folks there select season-specific lures and terminal tackle, put them together in a package, and mail them to your door.
Mystery Tackle Box uses “product specialists who are experienced tournament fishermen” to select the contents of each box, but unlike MonsterBass Box, these options don’t reflect your region. Instead, they choose lures that are known performers in a variety of regions, picking suitable colors for each.
That means that - as far as we can tell - every subscriber receives the same monthly box at their chosen price point.
As they say, “Each month you will get a variety of quality fishing products from both large and small manufacturers. We do our best to send a variety of brands and products types in each box to ensure that you have the best chance of discovering and trying new products. We have product specialists who are experienced tournament fisherman reviewing each bait that we put in the box to make sure it is high quality and effective.”
That may leave Mystery Tackle Box a step behind MonsterBass Box’s regional specificity, but Mystery Tackle Box compensates for this by offering a wider range of species options, including bass, walleye, trout, panfish, catfish, inshore saltwater, and (seasonally) ice fishing.
That range of species is excellent, and pretty much whatever your fishing passion, Mystery Tackle Box has you covered, though we’ll have more to say about that below.
Mystery Tackle Box offers three levels of plans: Regular, Pro, and Elite, and a variety of subscription lengths ranging from one month to 12 months.
The Regular, Pro, and Elite plans start at $19.99, $29.99, and $39.99 respectively, with slightly lower monthly prices as you lengthen your subscription.
Mystery Tackle Box promises that each box contains a higher retail price of goodies than you’ve paid for, and as far as we can tell, they deliver on this guarantee.
At any point in your subscription, you can pause, cancel, or switch species, making this service pretty customizable.
Mystery Tackle Box ships every box with a tips and tricks guide, and as a subscriber, you also have access to how-to videos and blog posts. That’s a nice extra, especially if you’re not really sure how to use a new lure.
And something we really like: each shipment includes an itemized list of its contents with prices, ensuring some peace of mind about the pricing.
So what can you expect?
In a recent Elite box, the following items arrived (not necessarily in these colors/patterns):
Lucky Craft LC RTO (approx. $10)
Thunderhawk Lures A10 ($9.99)
Team ARK Topwater Slider (approx. $7)
Googan Squad Mini Zinger ($6.99)
Eurotackle Metacraw ($5.99)
Kalin’s Cast Stalker ($3.29)
ZMan StreakZ (approx. $6)
Headbanger RockerHead ($3.99)
Headbanger BangerLizard ($5.99)
When I total this list of products, I get a price of $59.24. If you paid for the one-month Elite subscription, you’d still come out way ahead, and this matches Mystery Tackle Box’s claim that you’ll receive “about $60 in value” with each Elite box.
Let’s take a closer look at these products:
- The Lucky Craft LC RTO is a deep-diving crankbait with plenty of wiggle. I like it a lot, and I would certainly purchase this on its own. When run against rocks, stumps, branches, and other cover, it’s going to dart erratically and entice hard strikes.
- Thunderhawk Lures’ A10 is also a great deep diver, and this is another excellent choice for largemouth bass.
- The Team ARK Topwater Slider is simply murder when the conditions are right, and this again is a lure I’d choose. It casts well and walks easily, creating plenty of commotion on the surface.
- Googan Squad’s Mini Zinger is a ¼-ounce spinner that’s great for finesse fishing. Buzz this little guy through the grass or against a brush pile, and the bass won’t leave it alone.
- Eurotackle’s Metacraw is 2 ½ inches of awesome trailer. Essentially a Strike King Rage Tail knock-off, it’s a great bait in its own right.
- The Kalin Cast Stalker is an undeniably effective skirted swim jig. When thrown in and around thick cover, it will impact and bounce, creating those erratic darting motions bass can’t resist.
- ZMan’s StreakZ are premium soft baits that make unbeatable trailers for jigs, drop shot rigs, and Ned rigs.
- The Headbanger RockerHead and BangerLizard trailer are an awesome combo, offering wriggling, erratic dives as you let it fall back to the bottom in short hops.
Overall, I really love the contents of this box. If it’s truly representative of what Mystery Tackle Box delivers every month, this is a subscription service that’s really worth the money!
Bang for Your Buck?
That box contains some great stuff - no question about it - and even seasoned bass fishermen will like what it has to offer. But we’ve checked out a few other boxes, and they weren’t nearly as strong.
That could just be normal variation in the service, but this box struck us as way better than average.
That said, experienced anglers will probably already have a very nice collection of deep-diving crankbaits, topwater walkers, spinners, swim jigs, and trailers. There’s nothing “WOW!” here, just high-quality tackle from up-and-coming manufacturers (less so from established brands like Strike King, Rapala, Yamamoto, etc.).
For new or less experienced anglers, this box is simply awesome. You’re getting good tackle that’s going to catch fish if you do your part.
But for tournament-level anglers, the bang for the buck just isn’t there.
We’ve heard complaints that this box is the “new normal,” and that the old standard included a lot more overstock and knock-off products. We’ve also heard that the bass boxes are the best by a wide margin, with the other species trailing behind (especially catfish). Finally, there are complaints that each box contains too many soft plastics and not enough crankbaits and other hard plastic lures.
Mystery Tackle Box bills itself as a great way to discover new baits and lures, clearly pitching its service to less experienced anglers. Including small sample packs of soft plastics in different styles and colors makes a lot of sense given these goals, and there’s no question that this service is an awesome way to broaden your tackle knowledge.
What can we say about a Mystery Tackle Box subscription?
- Excellent value for the money - By their very nature, subscription tackle services are going to hype their cost savings by inflating the price of the products they deliver, typically by using the highest retail price they can find. But we checked the real prices of the products in that box, and they delivered exactly what they claimed: about $50 of tackle.
- Customer service is excellent - When a shipment misses you, mistakenly contains a duplicate, or is short an item, customer service is easy to contact and exceptionally responsive.
- Multi-species letdown - A common refrain we’ve heard is that while the bass and panfish boxes are pretty good, the others - and especially the catfish option - can be lackluster. One of the strong suits of Mystery Tackle Box is that it caters to all kinds of fishermen, but the products provided for walleye, inshore, and catfishing aren’t all that great.
- Lots of soft plastic sample packs - In one sense, this is a great thing. Soft plastics are remarkably versatile and productive, and Texas and Carolina rigging are among the most popular approaches to bass angling. But in another sense, an endless set of samples from different brands leaves lots of anglers cold.
- Lesser-known brands - Subscription tackle services offer anglers access to new and lesser-known products, and some of these are seriously good. They also offer new tackle companies much-needed exposure. But if you’re expecting Rapala, Strike King, Spro, and Yo-Zuri, you’re going to be disappointed.
Instead, expect a more or less steady diet of Lucky John, Optimal Baits, Sebile, Castaic, Matzuo, and the like, with occasional lures, baits, or hooks from the big names.
These aren’t “bargain bin” names, but they’re also not the choice of tournament pros who have the option to throw whatever they like.
Is Mystery Tackle Box for you?
If you’re a bass fisherman struggling to pick the right lures to catch the fish you’re after, or if you’ve been stuck in a rut for a long time, throwing the same lures and baits season after season Mystery Tackle Box is a great way to experiment and learn about new options.
If you’re a die-hard angler, however, you’ve probably got a lot of what you’ll receive, and you may not be impressed with lesser-known brands, month in and month out.