Old-school fish boxes were famous for broken hinges, marginal insulation and lost drain plugs. The latest generation of fish boxes combines high technology with solid construction and killer looks for a cooler that makes an angler cooler. We put four of the hottest coolers to the test by filling them with ice, bait and beverages, then bouncing them around in the back of a truck under the southern sun. All of these coolers kept ice longer than we needed it while taking heavy-handed punishment. The difference came down to the details.
Yeti Hopper 20, $299.00
Soft-sided coolers fit anywhere and go anywhere, but they suck at keeping stuff cold and usually leak or tear. Leave it to Yeti to invent a super soft-sided cooler. Built like a whitewater raft, every attachment and connection is double stitched and reinforced. The soft material is puncture and tear-proof. Handles and straps make the Hopper easy to carry. Antimicrobial liner on the inside makes for easy clean-up, and the leak-proof zipper keeps water and cold in. The Hopper 20 lives in my truck cab all summer with 10 pounds of ice and a half-dozen cold drinks.
Igloo Sportsman 20, $179.99
For years, Igloo's marine coolers were icons of sportfishing; every angler has a garage full of these white, utilitarian fish boxes. Recently, Igloo added the tough and efficient Sportsman line of coolers. Extra-thick, two-inch insulation in walls, floor and lid keep ice for days. The folding handle makes it easy to carry. Aluminum parts don’t rust and won’t break and hinges on the lid and latches are molded in so they won’t snap. The Sportsman boasts an extra- large drain plug, but we found it cuts down ice retention when opened and the chain tether is a bit...