What is the Best Fishing Cooler?

Last Updated by Brandon F. on June 19, 2019

One of the most popular applications that coolers are used for is in fishing.  When coolers are exposed to beach or lake elements, they are oftentimes put through some unique scenarios, which is why fishing coolers are quite handy.  Figuring out the best fishing cooler isn’t an easy task, so we are here to help break down the requirements and offer up our top choices.

Common elements such as sun or water exposure can be amplified, especially in marine settings with sand, saltwater, and potentially high winds.  In addition, since in many scenarios the fishing cooler will be fully exposed to the sun, it is important to have very good insulation performance to help maximize the ice life for the contents inside.

Depending on how long you plan to be on the water and what sort of size and exposure limits you are after, many conventional coolers simply won’t do.  Because of this, several ice chest companies have created marine-oriented coolers that are better optimized to deal with the unique challenges of being on the water.

For convenience, we have listed out our choices for the best fishing cooler in an easy to read table.  If you wish to read up on more details about what we feel needs to be included in a fishing cooler and also more thorough reviews of each of the coolers we chose skip below to the bottom of the article.

Our Top Rated Fishing Coolers

 GrizzlyRubbermaid Gott MarinePelican Elite
grizzly cooler thumbnail rubbermaid gott marine cooler thumbnail pelican elite thumbnail
Our Rating 4.5 star 4 star 4 star
Price by Volume (Amazon)$$$$$$$$$$$$
Ice Life6-10 days6-7 days6-8 days
Our Full ReviewLinkLinkLink

As mentioned above, fishing coolers are loaded with unique specifications and features that make them best suited for life on the water.

Common special features include:

  • Specialized surface paint and material that can hold up to sun exposure without fading
  • More aggressive waterproof measures.  This helps to not only keep unwanted water from coming in but also help keep the melted water from inside leaking out and getting everywhere.
  • Higher-performance drain plugs.  Since a full cooler is extremely heavy, having an easy-to-use and reliable drain plug is important because it makes transporting the cooler on and off the boat much easier.
  • Extra thick insulation since the sun and heat will often be more intense on a boat than on land.
  • Easy-grip handles to avoid slippage when wet
  • Various comfort features such as additional cup holders, a fish scale, a bottle opener, and many more examples
  • Other features that allow a cooler to work well with your favorite fishing gear.  If you are going to take advantage of the best spinning reel, you need to have a great cooler to match.

What to Look For in Your Next Fishing Cooler

There will be certain variables that change from person to person, and it is important to establish those beforehand so that you know what to look for when shopping for your next purchase.

Storage Size

How much space will you need?  Since this will be your primary source of cooling in many cases, make sure that you leave ample space for both food and drinks as well as any other random items that you need to stay cool (medications, fish bait, etc.).  We also recommend going with higher levels of ice if possible since the last thing you want is to run out of ice while in the middle of the lake or ocean.  Just to be safe, consider bumping up to the higher size.

Cooler Size

Boats obviously can be limited in how much space they have, and walking area can be precious.  Examine your vessel and see how much space you realistically have for a fishing cooler, considering that it can be extremely annoying and also dangerous having to constantly walk over a cooler that is blocking the entire walking area.

Cooling Performance

fishing with cooler

Do you plan on being on the water for a few hours?  A day?  A week-long excursion?  If you anticipate being on for more than a few hours then we would encourage you to check out one of the higher-end lines that promise multi-day ice performance.  It can be very inconvenient and sometimes impossible to find additional ice once on the water so we think it is better to be safe than sorry.

Waterproof Ability

While all marine and fishing coolers should inherently be waterproof to a certain extent, what levels are you going to actually need?  Do you want it to protect your stored items in the case of a random rain shower?  What if the cooler accidentally tips over into the lake, fully exposing it to outside water? 

While nobody anticipates some of these examples, consider where you are doing and any potential turbulence or moving issues that might arise.  Also, understand that “waterproof” can mean different things depending on how you ask.  According to the dictionary, waterproof literally means “designed to prevent water from entering and passing through“.  However, using that definition, no fishing cooler is technically fully waterproof as all will ultimately fail if submerged long enough.  It is up to you to find out how close to fully waterproof you really want to go.

Creature Comforts

Do you want a fishing cooler that has multiple access points so that you don’t have to get up and move to the other side every time you need to pull something out?  Are there multiple carrying handles so that anybody on either side of the cooler can easily move it if need be?  Do you have other areas for your drinks or do you need built-in cup holders?  Do you have or need a fish scale? 

Would having backup ice packs built into the cooler be of great help to you?  These and many other questions should run through your head when considering your purchase.  Think about where you will be sitting and what actions you will take on a given day and make sure that your target product will assist and not interfere with these.

Price

Of course, how much you are willing to spend will play a big role.  When it comes to fishing coolers we encourage that you don’t skimp on quality to save a couple of bucks.  While that doesn’t mean you have to go out and purchase a 500 dollar cooler to meet your needs, we feel that you should put more emphasis on cooling performance than you would for, say, a picnic cooler.  

Having said all of this, here are a few of our recommendations for fishing coolers.  These products should meet most of the requirements laid out and will be more than acceptable for just about every fishing trip thrown at it.

Grizzly 

grizzly cooler reviewOur Rating: 4.5 star

While not necessarily designed for fishers in mind, the performance here is just too good to pass up.  Great insulation in all sizes and an air-tight lid means everything inside is staying there and nothing from the outside is coming in.  A bit sparse on marine features but we still recommend it.

Pros: Some of the best ice life on the market, incredibly durable, aggressive look, easy to carry considering the size

Cons: Very expensive, heavy

Read Our Review of Grizzly Cooler

Rubbermaid Gott Marine

rubbermaid gott marine cooler reviewOur Rating4 star

We feel this is Rubbermaid’s best answer to marine needs.  Super long ice life and additional ice packs mean little concern about items not staying cold.  The handy drain plug and tight seal should be able to handle any water thrown at it.

 Pros: Fantastic insulation, very tough, good grips, great price Cons: Lid can bit a little stubborn, quite bulky

Read Our Review of Rubbermaid Gott Marine Cooler

Pelican Elite

pelican elite cooler reviewOur Rating: 4 star

Probably the most recognized brand, the Pelican name is one you can trust and we have added it because of a combination of its ice life as well as sheer roughness.  They are expensive and might not have a ton of specific features, but they will do what you need them to year in and year out on both land and water.

Pros: Incredible cooling life, very durable, rugged look

ConsVery heavy and difficult to move, expensive

Read Our Review of Pelican Elite Cooler

Igloo Marine Ultra

igloo marine ultra cooler reviewOur Rating:  3.5 star

A proven, established marine cooler that has all of the features you need for our next boat trip.  Plenty of sizes to choose from and overall nice construction for all of them.  It can be had for a great price if you do some research.

Pros: Overall good to very good insulation, many wheeled options, stainless steel hardware, looks very professional

Cons: Can be quite bulky, need to shop around to find good deal

Read Our Review of Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler

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