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I think you’ll agree with me when I say:
Carrying fishing rods, tackle boxes, bait, buckets and more can be really hard when you’re fishing on piers, river banks and land-based structures.
It is why I made my own DIY fishing trolley. It was born from struggling with gear.
This step by step guide is how I built mine. You can build one like it, or use it to inspire your own unique fishing trolley.
While this article’s about building a fishing trolley there’s something to be said for not carrying to much gear. That’s for sure. However, some people need certain things for specific kinds of fishing. Other people have health issues, like heart, asthma, arthritis or other physical disability. They can find even small amounts of tackle difficult to carry.
That’s what I’m sharing with you here. It’s my solution. I’ve borrowed from fishing carts and seen people use on piers and beaches. Watched videos people have uploaded. Looked at commercial solutions.
Also the original design, details still included in this article, used flat-straps to attach the cooler to the trolley. I’ve replaced those with square steel tubing, nuts, bolts and wing-nuts. It’s massively improved stability and is neater and easier to assemble in and out of the car. I have updated this project and the details are included below.
Of course, while my main goal was to reduce armfuls of rods, tackle, thermos flasks and bait, I also like to fish with more than one rod. So a fishing trolley or “cart” with rod holders seemed smarter.
I used to either clamp rods to a jetty, which doesn’t work well on spinning rods, or lean them against a rail. I’ve seen a lot of rods fall in and become lost as a result of this.
This setup solves both these issues, even on a beach, for me.
I like to carry a thermos of coffee and something to eat. I’ve also tended to carry a folding chair.
As I have chronic Asthma that’s progressed to a mild form of COPD the fishing trolley has become essential.
I’ve already seen a couple of these setup using the steps here as a guide. Really gratifying that it’s helped some people out.
So – if you use this guide to build your own fishing trolley I’d love to see some photos!! You can use the Contact form on this site.
Note: As I make modifications, born from using this fishing trolley in real life, I update this article from time to time with what I’ve added, changed or improved.
The design of this fishing trolley is based on the original “bucket on a removal trolley” that folks have used for years.
There’s some smart folk who’ve built similar fishing tackle trolleys. You can find them on the internet. The one we are building here adds some features I’ve found to be valuable in real usage.
Also, where this design differs, is it’s quicker to build, is a little more robust and has some cool little “extras” that make a big difference in my opinion.
The goal is simplicity and speed. Simple and quick to make. Quick to put together from your car. Easy to use getting to and while at your fishing spot, pier or beach.
In usage, I’ve found I’ve unpacked, assembled and am ready to go in under 5 minutes after parking the car.
For my own, I chose the TopLift 70kg model from Bunnings.
I wanted a good base-plate, durable wheels and medium-lift for the price. These units fold completely flat into my Ford Falcon’s boot. But it’s flat enough and folds small enough to fit into my wife’s Hyundai hatch. So it’s a good choice, even if you have a much smaller car.
The wheels are reasonably quiet and robust. A lot quieter and stronger than the wheels that come pre-mounted on some coolers. So they’re harder to damage and don’t cause heaps of noise when pulling it.
Other folks fishing on the pier will thank you for that!
I don’t use this on the ocean beaches and dunes. Like all smaller wheeled trolleys, it’s going to get caught in the sand. But on piers, river banks and smaller beaches, it works a treat.
Even with a full load in the cooler I still find it pretty easy to lift over obstacles when I need to. So it’s extremely lightweight.
Hang on? Wheels? Haven’t we already got a trolley?
Yup. But having the wheels on the cooler as well means I can still pull it in places where the stainless steel trolley won’t work. Like beach fishing.
The wheels on the model I chose are fairly robust and don’t interfere with being mounted on the trolley.
This increases the variety of environments we can put our fishing trolley to use.
It needs to be pointed out though – that the wheels on most coolers are not strong enough for long-term use. This is why the aluminium hand trolley was selected.
I tested the “cooler with wheels” without the aluminium hand trolley and it quickly became clear that the wheels on the cooler are a back up only. Great for some beach use. Otherwise, they are noisier, have less strength and won’t last on their own.
Bonus – if you’re around 100kg or less – the cooler makes a useful seat while fishing. It seems to tolerate my previous 107kg (I lost over 20kg happy to say) quite well. So the 100kg is arbitrary.
Some folks use PVC piping – which is awesome for the task.
However, for this project, I opted for factory made because I wanted a “finished look” and the factory made rod holder came with great “extras.” For example – knife and plier storage.
The one I chose is all plastic and made for boating by Jarvis walker. It holds three rods, two knives and two pliers (or substitute other tools as needed.)
It’s quite sturdy as it’s back braced. It’s fast to assemble as it’s pre-drilled. It does come with mounting nuts and bolts. However, I found them a tad short for passing through the front panel of the cooler. So I substituted those.
In use, the rods are placed in their folded down state (halves etc) with reels attached. If they are fully assembled when pulling you’re likely to get a continuous thwack in the head from the rods.
Reels fit into the slits on each “pipe.” This gives them some free movement of the bail, when needed, while seated in place. It keeps most rods from touching the ground. The slits for the reels are nicely rolled smoothly to avoid friction.
When fishing they sit inside, just as intended, as they would onboard a boat. No more leaning against pier rails or on the ground!
It makes a solid, flexible, easy to use and great looking fishing trolley setup.
With a small drill bit in your drill. Gently drill a hole in the top crossbar – the starter hole is already done in the factory – into the cooler. Repeat with the bottom hole, making sure the bars are level to the cooler.
Remove the rod rack from its position. Take a wider drill bit and widen the holes to the circumference of your bolts. Clear away any excess plastic and pieces from the holes as you go.
To test your holes and position: Place the rod rack back in position and insert your bolts, with the nuts on the inside of the cooler. Finger tighten, not tight. Top and bottom bar. Don’t worry about bolt overhang as we’ll trim down to size with the hacksaw later.
Place the centre rod tube in place.
Reinsert bolts through the tubes factory drilled holes – so they match up on the pipes and the back bars – and finger tighten.
Remove the bolts.
Now – you can drill the starter holes for the left and right outer pipes and their top and bottom crossbar positions. To do this – remove one of the side pipes. Left or right.
Making sure the rack is level. Repeat the drilling process above for the top and bottom crossbars.
Once drilled, replace the removed pipe into its slots on the crossbars. Insert bolts and finger tighten. Repeat with the whole process with the pipe on the other side, depending on whether you removed the left or right pipe.
Tighten the nuts gently. You could optionally place rubber washers under each at this point to protect the cooler plastic. Also – a touch of lock tight spray is probably better than winding the nuts on too tight.
In a recent update of this fishing trolley project, I’ve replaced the eye hooks (described in 6b below) with a steel square tube, bolts, nuts and wingnuts.
The advantage is the strength and speed of assembly. It also looks neater and nicer with the square tube.
I found the flatstraps would move on some surfaces, making the trolley a bit harder to pull at times. This fixes that. One steel tube and it stabilises 10 times compared to the straps.
These can be bought from most hardware stores. I picked mine up from Bunnings. You can buy these in lengths at some places, such as where I bought mine, pre-cut to around a metre (3 foot). Which required only minimal trimming with a hacksaw once fitted.
Heavier steel will require something like an angle grinder to cut.
I chose 3/16″ Bolts, nuts and matching wing-nuts.
Because the lower eye-hooks were kept at the bottom of the trolley (as described below) they became useful for using as peg holders.
A trolley like this can get a little top-heavy with rods in. So jamming tent pegs (or other spikes) into the pier between the planks, or into the ground on land, helps keep it from tipping.
The instructions below for the flat-strap version of this trolley contains the correct details as far as drilling etc goes. Just substitute the upper two eye hooks and flat-straps for the steel square tube, nuts, bolts and wing-nuts.
OK. This part could be argued as being optional. That is if you didn’t want to attach the cooler to a stainless steel trolley.
I recommend you use the trolley. You won’t regret it!
Bonus – the eye-hook bolts we use also make a great anchor point for passing a couple of hefty tent pegs through if you’ve got your fishing trolley cooler on the beach.
Most importantly use flatstraps with carabiner’s, instead of traditional octopus straps with hooks, because they are sturdier and less prone to fly off by accident. However – like it’s octopus strap cousin – if you let go of a fully stretched strap it springs back hard. Watch your eyes and watch your knuckles when connecting and disconnecting!
So here’s how we attach it firmly and securely so our cooler – and it’s contents – don’t fall off. Whether we’re pulling it up a pier or path – or while we’re fishing.
First off, drill a hole, in the top of cooler on the left edge, with a drill bit that matches the diameter of the shaft of your eyebolt.
Repeat this on the right top edge, making sure the holes are level.
It’s smart to drill a centimetre or two below the lid, taking into consideration any handles, hinges, etc if there are any, already on the cooler.
Repeat the above at the bottom of the cooler. Taking the same spacing considerations into account.
Insert your eyebolts.
Cut down the bolts of the eyebolts as necessary within the cooler. Make them level with the nuts. Once again, this will help you reduce catching your hand or arm on the steel.
Now, all you need to do is place the cooler onto the baseplate of your foldout stainless steel trolley. Hook up your flatstraps – winding them around the extended handle a few times to get the desired tension and clipping the buckles each end onto your eye hooks.
Test it out. Put in some rods into the holders.
Fill it with some tackle. Move it about. Test the rod holders with your rods fully extended.
Then start planning your next, comfortable fishing trip.
BTW – if you’re under 100kg – depending on the cooler you choose, it can make a comfy place to park your backside, between casts.
As I weigh in at a fraction over this I strap a roll-up camping chair to the handle. It sits just on the lid while pulling the trolley. You can see the empty bag in the photo of my own fishing trolley.
(Updated: As I’ve now lost over 20kg I can confirm you can sit on the trolley comfortably without stressing it.)