Let’s face it, winter kind of stinks. Yeah there is ice fishing, grouse hunting, and “Elf” is on every station all day, every day. That only quenches my boredom so much. I constantly find myself day dreaming about watching my planer boards fall back, or the rush of having a smallmouth slam a topwater only feet away from me while wading in a stream. For those of you who suffer the same pain, here are a few things to keep yourself sane throughout the hard water times, and get yourself organized for spring fishing.
Organize Your Tackle!
Can you honestly say that your tackle is all neat and organized, or that you can go in one of your boxes and find me a HJ-12 in purpledescent without pulling out 7 other cranks with it? Keeping organized is a big part of staying efficient while fishing, and makes life so much easier in the long run. Here are a few things you can do to help organize your tackle, while enjoying a big mug of hot cocoa with a splash of peppermint schnapps.
1. Label Your Boxes
Simply labeling your boxes will save you time when you are loading up your tackle bag or boat. If you have multiples of a certain lure in different sizes, try organizing them by size. Since I’m a die-hard troller, I keep my lures organized by weight and size. I use a sharpie to write the type of lure, size, and dive depths on the side of my boxes. For example, “Flicker Shad, Size 7, 0-15ft” or “Husky Jerk-12”.
2. Tame Your Hooks
How annoying is it when you grab the one lure you want, and you end up pulling half of the lures out of the box with it? I sincerely hate that. One simple way I’ve found to combat this issue is by using small orthodontic rubber bands to hold my hooks together. This is a simple and cheap way to keep your hooks from snagging each other. I simply flip the lure upside down, point both (or more) hooks towards the center of the lure, and wrap them together with the rubber band. This keeps your hooks under control, and also helps save some space in the box by making the lures more compact. There are products on the market designed to fit over individual hooks, however, I have found them to be easily lost and somewhat pricey compared to the bands.
3. Tame Your Other Hooks
I hate having to sort through my boxes of single hooks. It just stinks, however keeping your hooks organized makes life a lot easier when you are in a pinch to get tied up. The best thing I have found to keep all of my single hooks organized is to use safety pins. You can buy a pack of 100 for only a few bucks, and they are well worth the investment! Simply thread your hooks onto the open end of the pin, and close it once it’s full. Now you can load up your hook box and keep everything organized by hook type, size, finish, whatever! *Walleye anglers: this also applies to spinner blades! Throw those bad boys on a pin as well!
Your equipment is an investment, as well as the link between you and the fish, so keep it running strong! There is a lot of little things you can do to keep your gear in working order. Here is a couple of things that I like to do during the off season.
4. Clean Your Guides
This one might sound kind of stupid, but hey, it’s something to do! You would be amazed at how much crud is accumulated in your rod guides throughout a season. This accumulation doesn’t have too much of an effect on “performance”, however, it can be somewhat abrasive and can wear your line. I always take the time to clean out my guides at the end of every season, especially on my trolling rods. It’s not rocket science. Go pour yourself some more cocoa and peppermint, grab some Q-tips, and a cup full of hot soapy water. Yes, it sounds like a totally mind-numbing job, but in the end, you will be extending the life of your line, which we all know is the most important part of your equipment because it is the direct link between you and the fish, right?! Okay, good!
5. Go Ahead, Re-Spool
Now that you have squeaky clean guides, let’s re-spool! There is no harm in doing it this early as long as you will be keeping your reels out of direct sunlight because as we all know, ultraviolet radiation is bad news for monofilament and fluorocarbon lines. Now is an awesome time to let you in on yet another way to save some $$$ with your line. Instead of stripping all of the line off of your reel, take off about half of it. Now, go ahead and use your favorite line-to-line knot to tie on your new stuff. The old line you left will serve as a space filler, requiring less new line to fill the reel. When you think about it, you really only use a small portion of the line on your spool, so why replace all of it? Doing this, I can typically fill 2-3 reels with a single filler spool of line.
6. Sharpen Your Hooks
It’s boring, it’s tedious, but sharp hooks can make all the difference. There’s just nothing quite like the feeling of sadness and remorse when you miss a fish setting the hook. Although dull hooks are not always to blame, you may as well remove them from the equation. Take your sad self down to your favorite tackle shop (which always cheers me up) and purchase yourself a hook file. You don’t need the most expensive model, just something comfortable. I prefer to use a more old school file over the newer compact ones, or even electric ones since they offer more control and fine tuning abilities. Always work the file from the base of the point towards the point, never the other way around. Use light even pressure, and let the file do the work. Usually after a few passes around the point, you are good to go. Yeah, it sounds boring, but what else is there to do, other than read this article.
Plan for Open Water!
In all reality, open water isn’t too far away. It seems like April will never come, however, it’s only a few cold months away. Another great way to spend your time is by preparing for future fishing adventures.
7. Start Marking Fishing Spots
Well, if you can’t actually go fishing, why not make plans for when you can? Winter is an excellent time to do some map study and start looking for potential fishing spots in the coming season. I do a lot of this work on Fishidy, as well as a little bit with paper maps. Generally, the tour locations and dates are posted around this time of year, so I can get a head start on breaking down the bodies of water I will be competing on in the coming year. This doesn’t just go for tournament guys. I encourage any and all anglers to use maps, especially Fishidy, to find the most productive spots in order to maximize time on the water.
8. Go to Sports Shows
Sports shows are a great way to get out of the house and get pumped for open water! I love getting to check out all of the new products, and of course loading up on them before anybody else! They can be a great place to check out new techniques, attend seminars by local and national pros, check out new tackle, and even learn about new places to fish. I’m usually one of the guys working a booth or 3, but I still find time to go experience the show (and buy more stuff that I don’t need). I highly recommend grabbing a buddy or two and checking out some of the shows. My personal favorites for the Midwest are the Milwaukee Muskie Expo and the Madison Fishing Expo. Just hop on the old Google and search “fishing show (your city)” and see who’s coming to town!
Hopefully these tips and tricks will help you make it through this dark, horrible time of year with at least a little bit of your sanity. Stay tuned for more tips and tricks to help get you through the winter blues!