In much of the country, fishermen are forced for at least a few months of the year to mothball their tackle, winterize their boats and spend their weekends watching football instead of hitting their favorite patch of water.
Don’t despair. This is a great time to get all your gear and tackle in order in preparation for the season to come. Not only will this help make the fish-less weeks ahead pass by more quickly, it will make sure that when the snow stops, the ice melts and fish again begin to go on the prowl, you’ll be ready to take full advantage. And if nothing else, keeping your mind focused on fishing will help you stay in a better frame of mind as you await the warmer and longer days of spring.
Clear Out the Clutter —Just about every tackle box has a bunch of loose hooks, lures, swivels, lead weights and other “stuff” rattling around — often rusting away. Throw away those old hooks and sort, clean and organize things that can be salvaged.
Give Old Lures New Life —Your favorite lures are the ones that catch the most fish. So, it’s no surprise that by season’s end the hooks are often broken or bent, split rings are stretched out and the paint can be scraped up or worn off. The offseason is a great time to give some TLC to those plugs and jigs. If possible, replace damaged hooks with new stainless steel trebles and split rings. On bucktails or other lures with built-in hooks, you can sharpen the hooks with a hook file, and apply a new coat of paint to the jig head, creating new custom colors.
Rod and Reel Repair —Anybody who fishes a lot probably has a rod or two with a broken tip-top or a guide held on by electrical tape. Fixing up a favorite rod with a new tip or guide will assure trouble-free fishing next season. If your rod has ceramic guides, look for broken, loose or missing rings and replace those guides. Also check metallic guides for rough spots that can abrade the line, and replace as needed. A good way to do this is pass a nylon stocking through each guide — any burrs or rough spots will snag the nylon material. If you are mechanically inclined, spend a weekend taking apart your reels to clean and lubricate them, and replace drag washers if the drag is “herky jerky.” If you’re not the mechanical type, take your reels into a trusted tackle dealer for service.
Get Organized —This is a great time to get all your terminal tackle organized by size and type. Put all your loose hooks into a compartmentalized plastic box. Some have built-in corrosion protection; you can also purchase anti-corrosion pads or sprays to treat terminal tackle. By labeling each compartment, you’ll never have to guess whether you’re tying on a Size 1 or a 1/0 hook again, or mix up a J hook with a circle hook. Leader spools can also be organized and labeled by line strength and type (mono or fluorocarbon), so you can quickly make up new leaders when the fish are biting.
Treat Your Tools — When you catch the first fish of the new season, you don’t want to find out your needle nose pliers are rusted shut. Or when you go to clean that fish, that your favorite filet knife is pitted, dull and spotted with rust. Go through all the tools you will use, and give them some much needed TLC by spraying with a rust-dissolving lubricant, sharpening edges and the like. Don’t forget to check your landing nets for rips and damage, and make sure your gaff points are nice and sharp, too.