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"Winter time Preparation?"
By Duke Jenkel


In my part of the world tournament season has just wound down, and the onset of winter is just around the corner, which leaves only one question, what’s a fisherman to do?  The answer is simple, start preparing for the next year.

Wintertime presents an excellent opportunity to inspect tackle, take inventories of soft plastics, terminal tackle and other high use items.

ackle Inspection

This is a large category, so we’ll break it down like this:

Hard Baits:  Topwater, crankbaits, jerkbaits.
In the world of tackle storage anglers today are given excellent storage equipment, however, crankbaits still get put up with moisture on them, tackle storage systems can condensate, and I’m sure you’ve never changed a bait while fishing in the rain, and left the crankbait box open while you did it.  All of these scenarios lead up to crankbaits needing constant attention. 

Winter time offers the opportunity to make sure when you start next spring; your baits are competition ready.  So start like this: How are the hooks?  More than likely they need replaced, or sharpened.  My personal selection for crankbaits is a Gamakatsu EWG round bend treble.  

How about the split rings?  If you keep the split ring on the line tie of a lure, does it have any corrosion?  Rough spots?  Remember, the only thing bringing that fish to your boat is the line attached to your lure.  Anything that can jeopardize that connection must be fixed immediately. The second split ring to check is the split ring attaching the hooks to the bait.  Have they experienced excessive stress?  Are they showing signs of corrosion?  Are they slightly gapped or bent?  These are all signs identifying a split ring that needs to be replaced.  The purchase of new split rings and a pair of split ring pliers will make this task a lot easier.  These items are available through most tackle supply companies.

Have any of your hooks started to rust in the box?  Has this rust got onto any of the baits?  This is an excellent time to clean these baits.  Any industrial cleaner will work; even a “cleaning” type car wax will remove most if not all of the rust.

Spinner baits
Just like hard baits, spinner baits possess some of the same components, and experience the same maintenance issues.  Hooks, split rings, clevises, swivels, wires, beads, and blades.  All of these components are normally made of metal, which makes them susceptible to corrosion.  For the blades a standard metal polish can be used to clean up mild cases of tarnish.  Corroded split rings should be removed and replaced; this makes any blade changes in the future easier.  Clevises should be checked for corrosion, if a clevis shows signs of corrosion, it will reduce the ease at which the first blade spins, thus reducing the function / effectiveness of you r spinnerbait.  Hooks should be sharpened and cleaned of any corrosion.  If the hook is in bad shape due to corrosion, it may be best to dispose of the bait.  However, if that is the case, make sure and get all of the working components off of the bait (blades, clevises, beads, etc.) prior to disposal.  The last check to your spinnerbaits should be inspection of the wire, if your “old favorite” spinner bait has caught many limits, it would be wise to inspect the wires to check for signs of fatigue, if the wire shows signs of fatigue it may be best to hang up the bait and break in a new one.

If not checked regularly, especially during the off-season, an angler should inspect each rod for any damage (i.e. - cracked ceramic guides, broken feet on guides, etc.) to make sure that the rod is in top operating condition when spring arrives.  If any damage is found, either send the rod back to the manufacturer for repair, or find a local rod and reel repair shop that can replace the broken item.  I personally use GLoomis IMX and GLX rods ( ) which carry an excellent warranty, just send them back to the manufacturer and they will correct these issues and return the rod in approximately 8 weeks, or for a small fee you can use their quick turn around method, but remember, this is the off-season, so time is not the issue.

Another step an angler can take is to make an inventory of your rods, write down how many of each type of rod you have, and what their best suited to be used for.  Once you made this list, think about the tournaments you plan to fish next year and compare your equipment list to the potential conditions and type of fishing you most likely will be doing to see if you are adequately equipped.  If you are properly equipped, great, if not, you now have time to save up and purchase any new rods you may need before season starts.

Now that are reels aren’t being used every week, take the line off of your reels, back the drags off and clean the reel with a mild soap and water.  As you clean the reel, check it for any visible damage.  Once the reel is clean, lightly oil the bearings, and all you will have to do is add new line and your reel will be ready to go next spring.  If you do find that your reel has sustained damage, or isn’t functioning properly, you can send your reel back to the manufacturer to be repaired.  Make sure to provide a description of what is wrong with your reel when you send it back.  Also insure your package when you send it.

Tackle Inventory

Soft Plastics
For those of you who have been fishing a while, you probably know what baits and what colors you use most of the time.  If you don’t, or even if you do, take an inventory of what you have, from A to Z, inventory every soft plastic bait you have, now look at what items you have the most of, and compare that to the way you fish, or the way you fished predominantly in the past year.  If flipping a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver in watermelon-red is what you fished every time you encountered a flipping situation, then look at how many you have and think about how many you went through, and now you have an idea of how many you need to buy for next year.  The only other part of this equation, is to compare your inventory to next year’s tournament schedule, this may cause additional purchases, or may eliminate some, but it will give you a ball park idea of how baits you will need.  The whole idea here is if you can buy any soft plastics you like in bulk, you will save money.  Knowing what you need also presents an excellent opportunity to shop for good deals at any winter sports and recreation show you might attend. This preseason preparation can prevent the situation where you’re out of town, and you need a pack of your favorite jig trailers and there isn’t a tackle store for 40 miles.  Now, you will have some.   

Terminal Tackle
I know of very few anglers who don’t use a lot hooks and weights in a year’s time.  These items are where bulk buying comes in very handy.  Inventory your hooks and weights; see what you have and do the same as you did with your soft plastics.  How many did you use last year?  What type of situations occurred that caused you to use hook X over hook Y?  What does your tournament schedule look like for next year?  I’ll use the Sweet Beaver example, if you use a 4/0 Gamakatsu EWG superline hook when you flip a beaver, and you like to flip whenever possible, chances are you consume several hooks throughout the year.  If you also use this hook when you fish with a tube, you definitely use a lot of these hooks.  Go online or to your local tackle dealer and order a 100pk, or several if needed, this will save you time and money in the long run. 

One last item about hooks, try your best to settle into as few of types of hooks as possible.  If a Gamakatsu 4/0 EWG hook works well when you throw a 10” worm, does the 3/0 work well in a baby brush hog?  Will a Gamakatsu 4/0 EWG superline hook work for most of your flipping needs?  The less number of types of hooks you can get to will streamline your tackle storage, it will allow you to buy in bulk, and will prevent “grabbing the wrong hook” situations.

Weights are another story, but a very similar situation.  It is not hard to have weights in many sizes and still store them in a small tackle organizer.  The biggest concern again is if you like tungsten weights, then you need to buy an inventory of tungsten weights in the weights you use most (this will prevent trying to dig out the last tungsten weight out of your weight box, when its mixed into your lead weights.  I personally prefer Penetrater weights ( made in Florida , they are made of tungsten and come with a special coating that not only doesn’t chip, but makes them slick, which allows better penetration into vegetation.  If you prefer lead weights, buy bulk unpainted weights.  If you like to have colored weights, a piece of cardboard and any can of spray paint can solve this problem.  Now you can have all of the colored weights you want ready to go before season, for about half of the price.

Last but not least, rattles, weight pegging materials, swivels, clevises, blades, skirts and beads should all be looked at and inventoried.  Some of these items are used more frequently than others so limited quantities may work in your situation.  There are many avenues for getting these materials, most on-line or catalog tackle retailers offer the above products.  Buy quantities as you predict you will need.

Regardless of whether you’re a tournament fisherman, or a pleasure fisherman, inventorying and organizing your tackle during the winter months will allow you to be prepared to go fishing at the first sign of spring weather.  Don’t waste valuable fishing time next spring, by not being ready before winter is over.

Good Luck and Good Fishing,



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