Have you ever wondered what goes into manufacturing the tackle, gear and accessories we all use today? Anglers often take for granted the tremendous effort it requires to engineer, design and produce all of the equipment and countless components which combine to enhance our boating and sport fishing experiences. You name it, and somewhere in Florida is a team of professionals investing long hours to produce the assortment of fishing and boating gear we so cherish. We wanted to learn more about these people and about the products they specialize in and believe that you, too, will be fascinated with what we discover in our ongoing quest to find out “How It’s Made.”
Bait tanks. What angler in Florida hasn’t at one time in his or her fishing career capitalized on the benefits of a plastic bait tank. Inshore or off, shrimp to ballyhoo, we all use them in some size or form. The most common bait tanks are, of course, spherical in shape. The simple reason behind this is for the benefit of the baitfish. Sharp corners lead to injury and exhaustion – the devil’s calling card when you’re cramped in tight quarters with 143 of your closest friends. Something so simple, yet so important to our angling success in every arena, we wanted to find out more about bait tanks. The mission objective was to track down a plastic bait tank from conception to installation, but who to turn to? How about Pompano Beach’s Tank Depot.
Sharp corners lead to injury and exhaustion - the devil’s calling card when you’re cramped in tight quarters with 143 of your closest friends.
The first Tank Depot retail store (641 SW 7th Street, Pompano Beach – 954.783.0115) opened in Florida more than a decade ago, with a second in Jacksonville now servicing North Florida and beyond. Tank Depot manufactures literally hundreds of different size and shape water and chemical tanks utilized in nearly every industry including, fuel, water and holding tanks for boats of all sizes. Fortunately for live bait fishermen across Florida, they also manufacture a full array of plastic bait tanks. Regardless of brand label, it’s likely Tank Depot is where your bait tank got its start, too. The company is sort of low key and lets their products and reasonable prices speak for them. They do not have a toll-free number, do not print catalogs and do not have a large staff. What they do have is a website where you can learn more about the company (www.tank-depot.com), and outstanding customer service.
The first thing we learned in our investigation is that plastic bait tanks are made with the aid of rotational molding, a highly versatile manufacturing process that allows for unlimited design possibilities, with the added benefit of low production costs. Rotational molding literally transforms plastic powder into any shape or size and also has a number of inherent design strengths, such as consistent wall thickness and strong outside edges that are virtually stress free, critical factors when you consider the precious cargo the tank will hold and the consequences of a failure.
As you would expect for nearly any plastic item, bait tanks materialize from a clean, quality mold that is placed in a specialized molding machine equipped with a loading, heating, and cooling area. Several bait tank molds may be placed in the machine at one time. Metal anchor points are pre-positioned before a predetermined amount of plastic resin, in powder form, is loaded into each mold. The molds are then sealed tight before moving into the oven area where they are “baked” while systematically rotated on both their vertical and horizontal axis (Image 1). As the oven climbs in temperature, the melting resin sticks to the hot mold and coats every surface evenly. Exact temperature and bake time are proprietary secrets. We could tell you, but then we’d have to…well…you know.
Once the baking cycle is complete, the mold continues to rotate during the cooling stage so the formed container retains an even wall thickness. Rotational speed, heating and cooling temperature and time are all carefully monitored throughout the entire manufacturing process.
Once the plastic tank has completely cooled, it is removed from the molding machine and released from the mold (Image 2). A technician carefully inspects the tank for flaws. If all is good to go, the technician begins the process of cutting the large hole on top of the tank where the lid will sit. The hole is cut and trimmed with a router to a precise measurement (Image 3) and BAM! You have yourself a bait tank. The only thing left is to send the bait tank off to get plumbed according to its intended use (Image 4), either as a permanent or portable bait tank in the cockpit of a sportfish near you, or permanently mounted on a dock as an efficient bait pen. If you are serious about our sport, the latter of which is a worthy project you can easily do on your own.
Experiments have proven baitfish kept in a pen fed by a sump-pump far outlive baitfish housed in a submerged pen. The pump’s constant circulation continuously provides nutrient, oxygen rich seawater. Bait pens can be built in any size ranging from 10 gallons to over 200 gallons. Of course, the larger the pen, the larger the required pump and plumbing. Feed baitfish regularly, and your captives won’t let you down when you need them most.
The next time you reach into your bait tank for a frisky offering, stop for a brief moment and think of the effort that went into manufacturing this simple, yet often overlooked marvel. Without it, the odds of consistent angling would never be in our favor!