How To Choose the Right Fishing Vest

Fishing requires a lot of gear, and carrying it all to the water can be a challenge.

You can haul it in tackle boxes, but if you have a long walk or are planning to move quickly from one spot to another, a fishing vest can be a better option. While vests have long been favored for fly fishing, their utility, versatility, and comfort make them great for bait casters as well. Here’s how to find the right fishing vest for you.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Before you buy a vest, figure out where and how you like to fish.

What kind of fishing am I doing?

Are you just going out for a quick cast, or are you headed to the river for an epic fly-fishing trip with every lure you own? Knowing how you’ll fish will inform how you need to carry your gear. 

What time of year will I fish?

In hot weather, opt for a vest made from mesh and lightweight materials. If you’ll fish in cooler weather, make sure your vest is roomy enough to allow you to wear warmer layers underneath.

How much stuff do I have? 

Buy a vest that can accommodate everything you need to bring but won’t leave a bunch of empty pockets left over (you’ll just be tempted to overpack).


A vest’s build has a big influence on its overall performance. 


A mesh vest breathes well and offers good flexibility. It’s great for hot days, but when the temperatures dip, you can also add more layers underneath for warmth (as long as you get a size big enough). On the downside, mesh isn’t as durable as other materials, and it snags easily on branches or hook barbs.

Polyester and Nylon

For a more solid construction, look for abrasion-resistant materials like polyester or ripstop nylon. These durable fabrics will keep your vest from tearing and help it last longer; they’re also lightweight and breathable.


Cotton and canvas are classic fabric choices for fishing vests, but they weigh more than newer materials, will be warmer on hot days, and won’t dry quickly if they get wet. 


Make sure that your vest is comfortable and won’t inhibit your fishing. The arm openings should be large enough to allow a full, unencumbered cast. In addition, look for a vest that’s the correct length for your trip. A longer vest is great for extra storage and additional warmth, but if you’ll be wading in the water or hiking through brush, look for a shorter vest that ends around the bottom of your ribs. The shorter length will be less likely to get wet or snag on a branch.


For most people, a vest with 10 to 12 pockets should provide plenty of storage for fishing necessities. Experts or serious gear heads may want a vest with 16 to 20 pockets to haul a more extensive kit. Don’t go overboard, though: Vests with more than 20 pockets might be uncomfortable to wear.

Make sure your vest has a variety of pocket sizes to store different types of gear. It should have easily accessible front pockets and secure interior pockets for keeping valuables like your phone and keys safe. Consider a large rear pocket for bulkier items like your lunch or a raincoat.

Additional Features

While pockets are the most important factor, look out for a few key additional features. 

Fleece Patches

Fleece patches are great for hooking your flies on after you use them. That way, they can dry out before you put them away.


These are great for attaching larger gear items to keep them handy. These can often be found on the rear of the vest for attaching a net, for example. 

Adjustable Straps

These help you fine-tune the fit of your vest. This is particularly useful if you fish all year: You can loosen the vest’s fit to accommodate warmer layers in cold weather. 

Straps for Carrying Rod Tubes

Do you transport your rod to the water in a travel tube? Some vests have straps with buckles or Velcro for holding your travel tubes while you fish.


Vests come with a variety of pocket closure styles: Velcro is durable and convenient; simple flaps make it easy to reach into a pocket; zippered pockets provide secure storage; and some pockets fold open to provide a clear view of their contents (great for choosing flies, for example). Choose a style, or a mix of styles, that work for your needs and preferences.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.