We can all probably remember our first seatboxes and looking back over my 38 years of fishing, I’ve had a surprisingly small number of places to sit my bum, some would say it’s because I’m tight (I prefer frugal!) or maybe I just get my money’s worth. I’ve never really been a tackle tart and I can’t afford to change my pole or box every time a new model comes out.
Although most peoples first seatbox was an iconic wicker basket (or creel), the first one I had was a wooden box given to me by Trevor Hyams way back in 1980. It was replaced by a canvas and metal framed monstrosity made by Efgeeco, that I received as a Xmas present one year. It wasn’t long after that, Brennan and Hickman started producing fibreglass seatboxes and although I never had one, I did upgrade to a blue fibreglass box, from Rule’s in Langport of course!
|My Efgeeco was something like the one in the middle at the top of the picture above
|A Brennan and Hickman box
Around the time I bought my blue box, a real game changer hit the market when Shakespeare released their blue moulded plastic seatbox, they must have shifted hundreds of thousands of them as every man and his dog had one and they could be seen on river banks and towpaths all over the country. Later they released grey and green versions and also several accessories like a tackle box that could be clipped on the top to hold all your terminal tackle and bits and bobs.
|The Shakespeare Team seatbox, reasonably priced, sturdy and waterproof – genius
The next massive innovation came when Octoplus released a set of adjustable legs that could be fitted to your seat box to ensure you were level, no more looking for stones or bits of wood to wedge under the box on uneven ground. I had a set but as I was clueless at doing anything remotely practical, Frank Woodard came round and fitted the legs to my fibreglass box. The standard legs which were about six inches in length were fine if you were setting up on fairly solid ground but if it was muddy or boggy you were in trouble as they were quite thin and sunk into soft ground. Of course you could buy longer legs, mud feet and a whole host of other accessories which fitted on the legs and turned your box into a fishing station. Attachments like feeder arms and side trays made fishing so much easier.
|A Shakespeare box with Octoplus legs and various trays and attachments
We had now come a long way from the humble wicker basket but things were about to get even more advanced with the arrival of the first continental style seat boxes, the ASI (or AS1 which I believe was the proper name) burst onto the scene and I must admit to suffering from serious box envy when I saw my first one but they were way out of my price range at over £300. They were a very cleverly designed with loads of features, legs that extended from the box itself, several wooden trays, a brolly spike holder in the back of the box, a padded seat and it came with a groundbait tray that fitted on the bottom of the box for transit, it could also be used as a side tray. They came in various colour schemes and changed the face of seatbox design forever.
|The AS1 was totally different than anything I’d seen before!
Some fantastic boxes came onto the scene over the next few years made by firms like Boss, Brilo and Matchbox with most having an integral footplate which was another massive leap forward as up until that point, most anglers took a separate platform with them. I still had my blue fibreglass box which had lasted me years but when my mate Andy bought a second hand Milo Tardis box, I had to have one, it was built to the same basic formula as the other boxes I’ve just mentioned, folding footplate, deep base unit, three side drawers, two front drawers, pole seat, space for winders and extendable legs that were very stable even at full length. It had loads of storage space and it certainly lived up to its Tardis name, it even had a side tray which held a groundbait tray underneath that slid under the box in transit, a brilliant idea, you could use it as a groundbait bowl or on wet or windy days you could put bait etc in it and slid it under the side tray so that it didn’t get wet, almost like an early version of these very expensive trays with a lid that are so popular now!
Not long after, the opportunity arose to buy a nearly new Tardis for £350 so I bit the bullet and delved into my savings. It was a heavy box but even with the legs fully extended, it was rock solid and you could stand on it no problems at all. I had that box for years and it was still going strong when I got rid of it, admittedly it was a bit like Trigger’s broom from Only Fools and Horses, it had a new gel seat courtesy of Andy who’d packed in fishing and I’d bought some new legs over the years when the locking nuts had seized but it was a brilliant box.
|My Milo Tardis in ‘action’ on the Isle at Redbridge (note the side tray behind it)
So after many years of faithful service, I’d decided to retire the Tardis and treat myself to a new box, but what to get? if money had been no object, I’d have probably gone for a Rive but I just couldn’t justify spending around a grand on a box (not that I had that kind of money to spare anyway!). With my budget, the front runners were the Preston box, the Daiwa Tournament and the Matrix Superbox which was the new kid on the block and after talking to loads of people, that was the one I decided to go for.
The day arrived to pick it up from the tackle shop and then I realised I didn’t have any attachments that fitted so bought various keepnet arms and a side tray which added another £60 or so and this was getting expensive, also unlike several of the other seat boxes on the market, winders weren’t supplied. I got my shiny new box home and set it all up in the garden and I have to say it looked nice but then I noticed my first niggle, one of the side drawers wouldn’t shut properly due to the rubber seal, I contacted somebody at the shop and they said not to worry and that it would soon ‘bed in’, well over three years later, it still hasn’t!
So my relationship with my new box hadn’t got off to the greatest of starts but there were other little annoyances too, I hadn’t had the box long and the footplate warped, looking online, it seemed to be quite a common problem, then one of the cheap carabiner clips that attached the strap to the box broke, although Matrix were very good and sent a replacement free, I couldn’t believe they’d scrimped on such a vital clip, especially when really good quality carabiners are only a couple of quid from outdoor type shops. I’ve since had another clip break and again, Matrix did send me another but I’m not looking forward to the day it happens and I have to carry my box across two fields!
|My Matrix Superbox (I use the term loosely!)
The problems didn’t end there, I was at Dillington one day, sat out in the water and I have to say it’s a nice stable box to sit on but when I came to pack up, I went to take my box out of the water and the legs were stuck in the soft mud, no problem you’d think but as I heaved, all the mud feet detached from the legs! After digging round in the mud, I managed to retrieve them but now every time I fish on soft mud, the same thing happens, another example of cutting corners, why weren’t they riveted instead of just being pushed in, I’m not even sure they were glued! I also bought some Matrix winders which had sliders on the side (great idea by the way) which did away with the need for pole anchors to attach your rigs but these kept pinging off, effectively rendering the winder useless. I’ve got some similar winders from a different manufacturer and they are much better quality.
I can also foresee further problems ahead, the carrying strap attaches to some webbing/straps that are attached to the box’s frame, it looks quite hardy and has lasted three years so far but what happens if it breaks or rots or the mice have a chew on it? It doesn’t look a simple job to replace it, so I then won’t be able to attach the carrying strap and it’s not a light box to lug about. With most boxes, if the carrying strap breaks, it’s not a big deal to buy a new strap.
Now, given all I’ve just said, I’ve actually grown to quite like the box but it could be so much better, surely the team of designers and consultants at Matrix are made up of top anglers and know what anglers want from a box, just a few tweaks and the Superbox would live up to it’s name but if I went out and bought the latest version tomorrow, I bet many of the little niggles I’ve mentioned above, still haven’t been addressed.
So going back to the title of this post, is there such a thing as ‘The Perfect Seatbox?’, at the moment, the two that I hear talked about a lot are the Rive and the Octobox but are either the ultimate seatbox? Lets have a look at each in turn, the Rive certainly looks like a lovely bit of kit and has a price tag to match, which in itself puts a lot of people off and if you want to add accessories that will add a rather formidable sum to your initial outlay as. I’m also a little mystified about the much talked about ‘Open Leg System’, as far as I can see it’s a system that allows you to take legs out to add attachments etc without having to lift the box up. Now I’ve never seen this as a particular issue, Rive have created this fantastically engineered answer to a problem that doesn’t really exist!
The average Rive box will cost you over a grand which a lot of people don’t spend on a pole, although they might be secretly pleased with Preston’s new arrival as all of a sudden Rive’s boxes look a bargain at half the price! The Guru edition is a sexy looking box but at £1149 for the basic model, it should be!
|The Guru Rive, lovely looking box
What about the Octbox that loads of top names have started using, it looks very well made and built to last but a lot of people don’t like the ‘Meccano’-esque’ look of the box, that really doesn’t bother me although compared to the racing car looks of the Rive, it definitely comes second in that department. Also for me, it extends to far out the front where there is a space for a keepnet, which for me isn’t needed as these days people need three or more keepnets to fish most commercials. The basic D25 model (with 25mm legs) comes in at a reasonable £350 while the D36 will set you back around £695. With everything fully extended, the Octbox wouldn’t look out of place in the North Sea!
What about some of the other top brands then? well Milo, Garbolino and MAP all have seatbox ranges but none of them really appeal to me, MAP do produce a really nice carbon model of their own but at £1249, I would buy a Rive. So there you have it, my thoughts on seatboxes, hopefully it’s given you something to think about, I don’t think there is a ‘Perfect Seatbox’ out there at the moment but if money was no object I would probably go for the Guru Rive but as a lottery win is unlikely, I’ll have to stick with my Matrix for now.