Besides rods, reels, line and hooks, what’s the most-common piece of fishing equipment carried by anglers fishing from the bank to million-dollar billfishing boats and every other class of angler in between? 

The 5-gallon bucket.

This container has withstood the test of time and is still used by low-tech and high-tech anglers alike; its uses are limitless. Whether it’s storing tackle, anchors, cast nets or lunch or hauling water, holding bait or ice, serving as a livewell or cutting board, to being used as a seat, table or to hold fishing rods, the bucket has long been a useful tool for all anglers.

 It’s changed very little over time, and no one gave much thought to it not changing. They’re cheap — if not free — and while they’ve always served an important role, no one has found it necessary to have a nicer bucket. But once one gets a crack or has a handle break off, it can cause a mere inconvenience or a major catastrophe, depending on what it’s being used for when that happens.

In many ways, buckets have been similar to coolers, which, until a few years ago, were inexpensive enough and cheap enough to replace every year or two. But just as some companies stepped up to vastly improve everything about coolers, the bucket is finally being modernized. 

Two buckets in particular are leading the revolution. The Yeti LoadOut, by the same folks who made it cool to spend $350 on a cooler, is one. The Kula 5 is another. And while they both have the same 5- gallon capacity, they are vastly different.

The Yeti LoadOut is the same size and shape of a typical 5-gallon bucket, but it’s seriously over-engineered. The Kula 5 does double-duty as a bucket and cooler, and it features high-performance cooler insulation, so it’s considerably larger.

Both buckets feature tie-down points, non-slip bottoms, heavy duty and comfortable handles, are virtually unbreakable and are guaranteed to last much longer than any other 5-gallon bucket available.

The LoadOut has an optional lid that is virtually unbreakable, makes the bucket watertight and is easy to install and remove. A fabric apron with numerous pockets is also available. This attaches to the bucket and adds plenty of storage.

The Kula 5 comes with a hinged watertight lid with foam padding, making it perfect to use as a seat. A single, vulcanized rubber latch allows one-handed opening and closing. A stainless steel bottle opener is mounted to the Kula, and a leak-proof plug is positioned in the center of the bucket’s slightly sloped bottom, allowing for quick and complete draining.

Are they worth it?

The LoadOut Bucket retails for about $40. A 5-gallon bucket from Lowe’s will run you about $4, so you would need to go through 10 of them to equal the price of one LoadOut. But those buckets from Lowe’s have uncomfortable handles, will slide on truck beds and boats, and they lack other features of the LoadOut. More important, the cheaper buckets will fail you at some point. With the LoadOut, you’ve got peace of mind that $4 doesn’t buy.

The Kula retails for about $200. That’s expensive for a bucket but less costly than most high-performance coolers. And like the LoadOut, when you need a bucket (or a high-performance cooler), you know it’s going to be there, and you know it’s going to last. It’s got everything you could want in a bucket and more, and offers dual-purpose use that a hardware store bucket, the LoadOut, or a bulky rectangular cooler can’t deliver.

Some anglers jumped on the high-performance cooler craze once those products became available. It took others quite a while to come to terms with spending that kind of money, but they eventually recognized the durability meant it could be the last cooler they ever purchase, so they eventually spent the money. 

For many folks, that purchase has saved them from spending more money on multiple coolers in just a few years. Likewise, some anglers are already using these high-tech buckets, but many others are hesitant to shell out the money. But once their current inexpensive bucket leaks, or the handle breaks, or they tire of it sliding across their truck bed, they have these options to turn to. 

A bucket list of bucket uses:

A 5-gallon bucket might be the most-important thing you carry fishing after your rods and reels. Whether you’re fishing from land, pier or boat, a bucket can perform these takes: store tackle, anchors, cast net, lunch, water, bait or ice. It can be a livewell or cutting board, a seat or a table, and in some cases, even a rod-holder.