A fishing cooler is not a luxury when you go fishing. Rather, it is a necessity. It helps to keep your food and drinks chilled and fresh and it can also be used to keep your bait and catch fresh. Did you know that fresh chilled fish tastes better than fish on a stringer? Also, it is much easier to clean and fillet fish that has been chilled. You will find that heavy-duty fishing coolers can also function as makeshift stools and seats when you want to rest your tired feet. So, having a fishing cooler can be a blessing in disguise and you always want one when you are going fishing.
Of course, it is necessary that you find the best fishing cooler that serves your needs. This can take a fair amount of research. Thankfully, you don’t have to bother as we have done the groundwork and shortlisted the top five best fishing coolers to help you find the right one. Also, take time to read our buying guide that helps you understand the features you should be looking at when buying a fish cooler.
|Table: Five Best Fishing Coolers|
|#1 Cooler and Dry Box by Engel||Check Price »|
|#2 BMX Fishing Cooler by Igloo||Check Price »|
|#3 Aerated Fishing Cooler by Frabill||Check Price »|
|#4 Leak-proof Fishing Cooler by Engel||Check Price »|
|#5 Elite Cooler by Pelican||Check Price »|
The best fishing coolers reviewed
1. Cooler and Dry Box by Engel
This airtight cooler and dry box is perfect for keeping your fish, food, and drinks properly chilled. It is made from PP copolymer and insulated with the help of molded polystyrene foam. It comes with a carrying handle as well as a shoulder strap.
The lid of the cooler is hinged and has durable and high-quality stainless steel screws. It comes with an EVA gasket that ensures that there are no gaps to let air in or out. The interior of the cooler is non-absorbent and that makes it very easy to clean. Also, it is resistant to odors and stains.
This cooler comes with rod holders so if you are kayaking to your favorite fishing stop or you enjoy shore fishing, you will find that it is an ideal companion. The fishing rod holders allow you to carry your rods without worries and as a result, you can carry more gear.
- High-quality construction
- Resistant to stains and odors
- Comes with an ergonomic handle and shoulder strap
- Easy to clean
- Can keep contents cool for up to 24 hours
- Durable and long-lasting
- Users complained of condensation on the outer surface of the cooler
2. BMX Fishing Cooler by Igloo
In case you are looking for a fisherman cooler, this one by Igloo fits the bill. It is a heavy-duty cooler that is designed to be durable and long-lasting. We found that while it is solidly constructed, the cooler is lightweight. It comes with a reinforced base that adds to its strength.
It comes with a comfortable grip and the way the handle is designed, you can easily carry the cooler using one hand. It comes with excellent insulation, allowing the cooler to retain ice for up to four days. The hinges are made from stainless steel and hence, they are rust-proof. It has a molded base that keeps the cooler elevated and this boosts its performance.
We liked that the cooler has UV protection and that means exposing it to long hours of sunlight will not damage or adversely affect the cooler. We also thought that the tie-downs for securing the cooler during transportation are a fantastic feature and extremely utilitarian. It also has an integrated ruler that lets you measure your catch. What more could you ask for in a cooler?
- Heavy-duty construction for durability
- Rust-resistant hardware
- Can retain ice for 4 days
- Easy to carry
- Resistant to sun damage
- Easy to clean
- Has rubberized latches to keep the lid secure
- The tie-downs are on the lid and not the body so that makes it difficult to open the cooler during transportation
3. Aerated Fishing Cooler by Frabill
If you are looking for a fishing cooler that can keep your live bait safe and secure, this is the one that you should buy. It comes with storage for live bait and has an integrated aerator. If you do not want to use it for live bait, you needn’t worry; it can function as a regular cooler for your food, beverages, catch.
The aerator comes with a 12V power adapter but you can even operate it from a couple of D batteries if you do not have a power source. The pump is integrated with the lid so you do not have to worry about it hanging at the side. We really liked this feature.
This cooler is definitely heavy-duty and hence, you do not want to be carrying it for long durations. It is sturdy and strong enough for an adult to sit on it without the cooler collapsing. The molded base is non-slip so the cooler does not slip and slide. Also, we found the large handle quite convenient to grip.
- Live bait storage fishing cooler
- Comes with a built-in aerator
- Heavy-duty and durable
- Airtight; does not leak
- Can keep bait alive even in freezing temperature
- Since the cooler is airtight, it is not suited for live baits like minnows and shrimp
4. Leak-proof Fishing Cooler by Engel
We loved this fishing cooler as it functions as a cooler as well as a dry box. It is completely airtight and keeps food and beverages chilled to perfection. It also does not let moisture in and hence, if you are looking to store away your electronics and gadgets and keep them safe from water during your fishing trip, this dry box serves the purpose.
While the construction of the cooler is solid, it is lightweight and we could easily carry it from the car to the boat, a distance of about 10 minutes by foot. The handle is ergonomic but we found the shoulder strap extremely useful. It also comes with a tray for accessories. We also liked the fact that it has attachments to hold fishing rods.
The lid can be securely shut with the help of latches that do not get undone by accident. The hinges have stainless steel screws so there is no risk of them getting rusted when exposed to water. The interior of the cooler-cum-dry box is resistant to stains and odors, and it very easy to clean.
- Durable and long-lasting
- Functions as a cooler and dry box
- Leak-proof and airtight
- Comes with a try for accessories
- Resistant to stains and odors
- Easy to clean
- Convenient to carry, thanks to the ergonomic handle and shoulder strap
- Attachments to hold fishing rods
- Latches made from stainless steel but the hinges of the latches are from plastic, which can break easily
5. Elite Cooler by Pelican
Your search for large fishing coolers ends with this one by Pelican. It can easily accommodate 15 cans of beverages or 3 wine bottles. It comes with thick insulation that ensures optimal ice retention. The lid has a freezer-grade gasket that does not allow cooled air from inside to escape outside or hot, moist air to enter inside the cooler. It can keep beverages cool for up to 3 days.
This cooler is made in the USA and comes with a lifetime guarantee. That makes it a worthwhile investment. If the cooler gets damaged, Pelican will replace it. What a wonderful feeling! The base has rubber feet that are non-skid so there are no worries of the cooler sliding around on the boat. Also, it has 4 cup holders that come with channels to drain the condensation and spills.
We also loved the tie-down slots that make transporting the cooler easy and convenient. The handle is strong and the integrated bottle opener is a blessing. We found that the latches are strong and the lid comes with a reliable and resilient hinge system.
- Solid construction, built to last
- Large storage capacity
- Comes with a lifetime guarantee
- Has integrated bottle opener, tie-downs, and cup holders
- Can keep beverages cold for up to three days
- Rubber feet at the base
- Has superior insulation
- Leak- and waterproof
- Easy to lift and carry
- Does not have drain holes on the inside
Buying Guide for the Best Fishing Coolers
When you are looking for the best-fit fishing cooler, you need to consider are a few factors to help you decide. Some of them are as follows:
Quality of Insulation
Consider the quality of the insulation as it will affect how long the cooler can retain ice and keep the content fresh and chilled. The best fishing cooler is one that can keep everything that you store in the cooler chilled and fresh throughout your fishing trip.
The best fishing coolers have about two to three inches of insulation. Also, they should have freezer-grade gaskets to prevent them to retain ice for a longer duration. The fishing coolers reviewed here fulfill this criterion and ensure optimal insulation for up to 3 days of ice retention.
Construction of the Cooler
Build quality is also an important factor when choosing a cooler. You want a fishing cooler that is built with high-quality and tough materials so that it can carry loads without breaking into bits. The cooler should be able to withstand impacts, rough terrain, and the elements without showing signs of damage.
Most fishing coolers are made from heavy-duty plastic and are either roto-molded or injection-molded. Since you will be outdoors, the cooler should be not only resistant to UV rays but also corrosion. The latches should be strong and not break easily. Pay attention to the handles, straps, and hinges. You want a cooler that uses superior-quality hardware that lasts long and can withstand rough usage without breaking.
Size of the Cooler
Consider the exterior dimension of the cooler as it should be convenient to carry and also be able to fit into the storage space on your boat and vehicle. While large fishing coolers can be attractive but may not be convenient to carry and store.
The fishing coolers reviewed here are big enough to suit your purpose but not too big that you cannot conveniently store them on your boat. You will also find that we have selected coolers that are lightweight and you will not find it cumbersome to carry them from your vehicle to your favorite fishing spot. So, they fit the bill as the best fishing coolers on the market.
Load Holding Capacity
Just as the exterior dimensions are important, so also the holding capacity of the fishing cooler. It should be large enough to hold ice as well as anything else that you want chilled during your fishing trip. If you are going for a multi-day trip, you may want to have a closer look at large fishing coolers that have high holding capacity. On the other hand, if you are going for a single-day trip, you can check out the regular fishing coolers.
Also check out: Fishing cart
The coolers that we have reviewed here have high to medium holding capacity and will fit your fishing needs. You can rest assured that can retain ice for a long duration, keeping your food, drinks and even catch fresh for up to three days.
Manageability of the Fishing Cooler
It is essential to find a fishing cooler that is easy to manage. So, size and weight have an impact on this. It is advisable to opt for a lightweight cooler that is well-insulated so that you can trek with it without a problem.
While a fishing cooler with wheels may sound attractive and tempting, it may not be the most practical choice. If the terrain is bumpy, you will end up having an issue. So, it is best to look for a fishing cooler that has a durable handle and/or a strap. That will make it easy and convenient for you to carry the cooler. A couple of coolers that we have reviewed also have fishing rod holders that can be an added convenience as you can carry other essential items and gear that you require for your fishing trip.
Drainage Feature in the Fishing Cooler
Since you will be storing ice in the cooler to keep the content fresh and chilled, you have to remember that the ice will melt and result in water. So, look for a cooler that allows you to drain the water quickly and easily.
The bottom of the cooler should have drain holes or recessed channels for this purpose as it will do away with the need to lift and tilt the cooler to get rid of the water. Of course, the drainage mechanism should be sealed when you are not using it to ensure that the cooler is well insulated and leak-proof.
Most of the coolers that we have reviewed here have a drainage mechanism and that makes it very convenient to get rid of the water without removing anything from the cooler. So, check them out and make your choice.
Maintenance of the Fishing Cooler
It is important to clean the fishing cooler after each trip. That way, you will not have to contend with odors and a fishy smell. The cooler that you select should be easy to clean. Typically, you should rinse out the cooler with clean water (check out this video) and then use half a cup of baking soda and one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid to scrub the inside. Rinse well and then spray some food-safe bleach. Let the bleach stand for 5 minutes and then rinse it off. Allow the cooler to air dry. This could get rid of odors.
You will notice from our reviews that are there are coolers that do not need so much maintenance as they are resistant to odors. So, if you are worried about a smell, those could be the perfect coolers for your need. However, you should still drain, wash and rinse them thoroughly to maintain them.
What size cooler is good for fishing?
You should be looking for something in the range of 20-80 quarts – depending on the duration and plans of your fishing trip.
Is a cooler mandatory for fishing?
As a general rule of thumb it is a good idea to bring a fishing cooler along on your trip. You can use it to keep your catch fresh, as well as your bait.
Now you know which are the best fishing coolers on the market. You can read our reviews and select one that suits your needs. Alternatively, use our buying guide as a benchmark to find the right fishing cooler for you. You can be certain that by following this guide, you will make the right choice.
Updated: May 24, 2022