Winters always seem too long. By the time the first hints of spring arrive, with tree buds swelling and the early wildflowers offering welcome splashes of color, the miseries of cabin fever seem to reach near-epidemic proportions. One of the best ways to shake off these woes and be ready when spring arrives is through a good, solid session of tackle tinkering.
Indeed, forgetting for a moment the pleasure of anticipation such efforts bring, getting gear ready for spring should be an annual ritual for every angler. By doing so, you ensure that once the happy day comes when you actually take to the water after months of absence, everything will be in a full state of readiness. And even if your season has started already, it’s not too late to get your gear in early-spring shape.
Analyze Your Assets
A good place to begin, and I’m betting that nine out of 10 fishermen have never done this, is to make an inventory of your equipment. This serves a variety of purposes. For starters, once you have completed the list, you have information which, should you ever suffer the misfortune of having items stolen or destroyed, will come in quite handy when you begin to deal with the insurance adjustor. Secondly, you will now have a way of checking equipment needs with each returning spring. A computer’s memory is the perfect place for maintaining this list, although you should also make a hard copy and store it in a safe or safe deposit box.
A quick look at your list, particularly if you keep it up to date with notations and additions, gives you an immediate indication of any area that needs attention. Often that will serve as the perfect excuse to visit your local tackle dealer or spend a pleasant day browsing the displays at the sport shows that occur each winter. Beyond that, the list also provides the ideal beginning point for the maintenance chores that should be part and parcel of every angler’s approach to his sport.
For present purposes we will confine ourselves to actual fishing gear and accessories, as opposed to boats and motors, but obviously they deserve attention as well.
Reels – Some of the simplest tasks are so obvious they get overlooked. Every reel should be respooled with new monofilament, and while you are at it, clean the reel, give it a light lubricating, and check your drag. In the latter case, checking the drag should be done by simulating the tension of a hooked fish; namely, with the rod bent. A good general rule of thumb is to have your drag setting no higher than 50 percent of your line test. It only takes one “parting of the ways” to remind you of this.
Rods – Along with changing line and checking reels, rods also deserve attention. Clean them, check to see that everything in the reel seat is functional and tight, and then turn careful attention to the rod guides. It only takes a small crack or chip in a ceramic guide to fray monofilament in a hurry.
Lures – Next, get into your tackle box. Hooks should be sharpened and checked for any signs of rust. If you doubt hook keenness, pull the point across your thumbnail. It will “grab” if it is appropriately sharp. Check moving parts of lures, such as propellers on Torpedo-type baits and blades on spinners, to be sure they are in good order. Likewise, look at lure skirts and any and all “plastics” to be sure no problems have occurred in the off-season. A bunch of worms or jigs stuck together or a spinnerbait skirt that has rotted away won’t do you much good, and you certainly don’t want to discover these problems as you rig up for the first cast.
Look at all your accessories (again, a list helps) and make sure you have what you need in the way of swivels, weights, bobbers, wire leaders, and the like. Also, speaking of accessories, don’t forget the tools of the trade that help you “close the deal” (nets) or keep your catch (stringer). Nets in particular can rot while in storage, have some mesh chewed away by anything from moths to rats, or deteriorate in some other way.
“Work” Before Play
In short, there’s always work to do before you can play. Getting ready is actually part of the fun and, when properly done, can be something truly special. For example, why not involve a youngster in your preparations? You will instill a good lesson and whet his or her appetite for the fishing to come. Obviously you need to take them along on a spring trip as well.
My father, when I was a youngster, constantly reminded me that “oil is the life of a machine.” He wanted to make absolutely certain that I cared for lawn mowers, tillers, and tractors in proper fashion. Similar advice should be a part of every fisherman’s creed. Careful, consistent maintenance is the surest way to get the maximum benefit out of your angling equipment in terms of both performance and enjoyment.