Is there any boat accessory more useful and versatile than the good ol’ 5-gallon bucket? Think about it. For around $5 at your local hardware store, you can purchase a combination cast net container, pitch well, chum bucket, trash can, tackle box, backup cooler, fly line tamer, jump seat, emergency bailer, washdown system and, in dire straits, porta potti.

Nothing is perfect, though, and there’s always room for improvement — even with a 5-gallon bucket. Here are a few ways to make yours even better.

1. Turn It Into a Cutting Board

Although a 5-gallon bucket is never going to take the place of a dedicated fillet table, it can still serve as a convenient cockpit, dock, or beachside fish cleaning or bait prep station. Our 5 Gallon Bucket Top Cutting Board, for example, drops over your bucket and provides a large cutting surface with pliers, knife, drink, and lure holders, plus a measuring stick and handy notches for leaning rods.

A more compact option for bait and chum prep is our Cutting Board Insert, which is the same diameter as a bucket.

2. Don’t Let Trash Blow Out

One of the more common uses for a bucket on a boat is as a trash can. A 5-gallon bucket is just about the perfect size and shape, can be easily moved wherever it’s needed, and just as easily carried to a dumpster and emptied back at the dock. The problem is that lightweight trash — water bottles, beer cans, cellophane sabiki wrappers, chip bags, discarded fishing line, and so on — tends to blow out when running. 

Snap-on lids like the LitterBin solve that problem. A flexible opening allows even large trash items in but not out. Coincidentally, the LitterBin also happens to work beautifully for storing rigged trolling baits.

Another option is the Thrash Can Bucket Topper, made of elastic mesh with a center opening. The Thrash Can also works very well when using a bucket as a pitch well on the bow for shrimp, pigfish, pinfish and other live baits that tend to jump out onto the deck.

3. Keep It from Sliding

One problem with buckets is they slide around on wet fiberglass like a curling stone on ice. Usually, it’s not a big deal. But if the bucket in question happens to contain a couple gallons of ground pogies and slides across your cockpit, hits something on the floor, and dumps into your buddy’s tackle bag … well, then it is in fact a big deal.

Enter the Bucket Grip, a flexible, soft rubber base that slips onto the bottom of your bucket and resists both sliding and tipping.

Use it to keep a bucket stationary in your cockpit for use as a trash can, chumbucket or tackle container, on the bow as a pitch well or line tamer.

Will it keep a full bucket upright while clearing the inlet on an outgoing tide? Probably not, but it’s still a major upgrade.

If you want to keep your bucket in place no matter what, consider the Boat Outfitters SeaSucker 5 Gallon Bucket Holder, which attaches to any smooth vertical surface and also incorporates convenient storage for a bait net and pliers. SeaSucker’s innovative vacuum mount technology means it can be removed and repositioned any time; no drilling is necessary.

4. Convert It to Weight Storage

There are quite a few inserts and caddies on the market to turn a 5-gallon bucket into a tackle organizer for different kinds of fishing from freshwater to offshore. 

One relatively new innovation is an insert for storing deep drop weights. Cylindrical and prone to rolling around and dinging gelcoat, these weights have always presented a storage challenge.

Fortunately, the same long, skinny shape that makes them difficult to store in typical tackle boxes and drawers also makes them well suited to storage in 5-gallon buckets. Our Deep Drop Weight Bucket Storage Insert, for example, can hold 8 stick weights of various lengths with the typical 1-1/4” to 1-1/2” diameter, as well as three additional square weights.

5. Lose the Junky Handle

The typical hardware store 5-gallon bucket comes with a rattly, rust-prone metal handle and a cheap plastic grip that crumbles in sunlight. Buckets used for caustic stuff like pool chlorine have flexible plastic handles that don’t rust but still can’t stand up to extended UV exposure.

Instead, a length of thick, double-braid nylon rope makes the ultimate handle — strong, rattle-free, corrosion-proof and easy on the hands even with heavy loads. You can wait until the handle on your bucket breaks to replace it with something like our Heavy Duty Rope Bucket Handle, but it makes more sense to do it right out of the gate.

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