Cooler Weather is Coming (Well, pretty soon anyway)

Cooler Weather is Coming (Well, pretty soon anyway)
Changing out rusted or damaged split rings and hooks in the off-season means you’ll be ready to snag a wall-hanger on that first cast next time out.

It is hard to believe that September is nearly gone and October's cooler weather is just around the corner. Okay it'll be a warm corner some of the time but dang it, I sure hope the days with afternoon temperatures that soar near 100 or above are all in the rearview.

Those of you who will be storing the fishing tackle for the winter in exchange for shotguns and rifles for hunting season need to pull your reels off of your rods and do a little maintenance before you put them away... trust me they'll work much better when you get the urge to head out after spots and dots again. Those who will continue fishing through the long deer and waterfowl seasons, especially if you will be going infrequently, you get no pass here, your tackle deserves a little TLC as well.

A good place to start is stripping the line from your reels. If it is monofilament, I recommend you throw it away. Braid is probably worth winding onto an empty filler spool you should have saved and storing for future use unless it shows a lot of wear. Place a towel on the kitchen table and tear your reels down as far as your capabilities will allow. It's not that hard to do if you put things down on the towel in the order that you remove them. When you're ready to put things back together you simply start where you left off and work backwards until the reel is back together. If you doubt your reel repair prowess, take it to someone who does it for a living and let them clean it for you.

It is very important to clean away all the old lubricant and salt deposits inside and out by using either hot water or a commercial reel cleaner that contains the proper solvents to get rid of them. If you use hot water, make certain that you've rid the reel of all traces and let it dry thoroughly before applying new lube. I really like those cans of compressed air that you can buy for blowing dust out of computers to take care of excess water.

Check the bearings, drag washer, springs and such and make sure that nothing has rusted since you last used it. If you need new bearings make sure that you get some. Don't just place the damaged bearings back into the reel as you're just asking for a short day on the water if you do. After you get the reel back together put some fresh line on it if you're going to do some fall and winter fishing; if not, leave the line off until the spring. This part about installing new line pertains to monofilament, not braid, as all mono has a memory property and will take a set from being tightly spooled for several months while braid does not.

What about your rods? Any guide inserts missing or damaged, any wrappings frayed or coming loose? Check them and make sure there are no sharp edges in any of the guides. If the cork handle and fore grip need cleaning try a wet SOS pad over the kitchen sink. Wrap it around the cork, work it back and forth, rinse and let dry. The cork should look as good as new.

Have you checked to see if your waders still fit? You might laugh but if you put on some weight over the summer you may be in for some heavy breathing trying to maneuver around in them. Are there any tears or holes that you need to patch before you slip into some cold water? Check straps or suspenders to make sure they're in good condition and replace or repair as necessary.

Check your wading belt (if you use one) and make sure that there are no surprises waiting for you when you put it on. Check the buckle and the stringer holster for a tight fit. Speaking of stringers, is yours ready for another season? Check the knot at the float and take a look at the spike for any problems. If it needs sharpening, you can use a grinder to put a point back on it, but be careful you don't grind too much off. How about those wading boots and stingray protection? Do your boots need serious attention or even replacing? Don't forget to oil the zippers liberally before storing to prevent them seizing up with salt corrosion.

Are your lures in tiptop shape? Replacing hooks on your plugs during the off-season can save you some dang-its on the water. Check the split rings too and make sure that they are not sprung or rusted. How's the paint job? Does it still rattle? If a noisy bait has gone silent, try removing the hooks and bumping it on a hard surface to loosen the rattle. Don't hit it too hard as you can crack the body and turn an expensive topwater into a waterlogged bottom dragger.

Go through your soft plastics and make sure that colors haven't bled together. Sort them out and ditch the torn and chewed. Most of us have way more soft baits than we'll ever use and, if you're like me, some you've never used and likely never will. While you're checking the soft plastics you might as well go over your supply of lead heads. Make sure you have a good number of each weight and hook size that you use and check the sharpness of the hooks. A little touch-up of the points will go a long way towards more hookups.

How about cold weather fishing clothing? Check to make sure that your favorite wading jacket still fits and that the zipper works, the hood is still attached and that it will do what it is suppose to do: keep you dry and warm. Make sure your insulated underwear still fits.

Check your boat and trailer for the following:

If you're putting the boat away for the fall and winter make sure to add the recommended amount of fuel conditioner and that you have run the motor long enough to get that conditioner through the entire fuel system. For those who will fish periodically through the cooler months, I hope you're already running a fuel conditioner. If not you really need to take of it right away. Ethanol is no a friend of outboard motors.

Hit all the fittings on your outboard with the grease gun, especially the steering arm. Check the spark plugs, better yet just go ahead and replace them if they've been in there a full season. Rinse everything under the cowling and spray liberally with electrical component grade silicone.

Pull the prop and grease the splined shaft. Reinstall prop to proper torque specs and make sure the locking device on the nut is in good repair.

Check the kill switch system while the engine is running on the hose. Check your batteries to see if they're holding a charge and if not, replace them. Three years is about all you can expect from wet cell batteries. Gel cell batteries will usually last at least five.

Check to make sure you have all of the drain plugs and that all of your emergency equipment is up to date and in good condition. Did you damage any PFDs over the summer? Throw them out and replace them if you did.

Check the springs and hangers on the trailer and make sure that the tires are in good shape. When was the last time that you replaced the bearings on the trailer? As a rule I change the bearings on all four wheels every other year and they are greased after every trip. Check the winch and tie down straps for wear.

It might be a good time to replace your water pump whether or not you'll be using the boat this winter or not. I change mine every other year or sooner if there is a problem with water pressure.

The main thing is to make sure your equipment is in good condition before you put it away or before you continue to use it. Proper inspection, proper maintenance and TLC for the tools you use will help ensure that you get to the ramp and back when you want to.

Be Safe,