It's That Time of Year

It's That Time of Year
Check those reels!
So winter fishing is upon us and we dream of the 10-plus pound trout that will place us on the "right side" of the ledger. I wrote a story years back in which I tongue-in-cheek stated all trout anglers are entered on the left side of the ledger when they take up fishing and the right side is reserved for those who have landed a ten pounder. Some will actually realize that dream either by sheer determination and skill or maybe just by blind luck, and some of us will not.

Those of you who put the fishing tackle away for hunting season need to pull your reels out and do a little maintenance. Those who have continued to fish through the long deer and waterfowl seasons need to do a little TLC as well. I know I harp on this every year, but hey, if I can save one reader some trouble, then being redundant isn't going to bother me.

Strip that old line off your reels, put a towel on the kitchen table and tear your reels down as far as your capabilities will allow. If you doubt your reel repair prowess, take it to someone who does it for a living and let him or her clean it for you. Clean all of the old grease and gunk out of the reels by using either hot water or a commercial reel cleaner that contains solvent that will melt that goop away. If you do use hot water, make certain that you've rid the reel of all traces of it before you re-lube. I use the 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 asking for a short day on the water if you do. After you get the reel back together put some fresh line on it and you should be good to go.

What's the condition of your rods? Any eye inserts missing or any wrapping coming off? Check them and make sure that there are no sharp edges in any of the eyes. If the cork handle and fore grip need cleaning try using a wet SOS pad over the kitchen sink. Wrap it around the cork and work it back and forth, rinse, and 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 since the last time you wore them you may be in for some heavy breathing trying to maneuver around in them. Are there any tears or holes that you need to take care of before you slip into some cold water? Check straps or suspenders to make sure that they're in good condition and replace or repair as you see fit.

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 keepers 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 sharp end for any problems. If it needs sharpening, you can use a grinding wheel to put a point back on it, but be careful you don't grind too much off.

Is there any chance that some lures need your attention? Replacing hooks on your topwater and subsurface mullet imitations prior to the season can save you some "dang its" on the water. Check the split rings too and make sure that they are not parted or rusted and replace as needed. How do the colors look? If it's supposed to rattle, does it? If a noisy bait has gone silent, try removing the hooks and banging it on a hard surface, such as a 2 x 4 or something similar to loosen the ball that is inside. Don't hit it too hard as you can crack the body of the lure and turn a nice expensive topwater bait into a water-logged bottom dragger.

Go through your soft plastics and make sure that colors haven't bled together. Sort them out, do a count and replace the ones that you use the most. Most of us have way more soft plastic baits than we'll ever use and if you're like me some you've never used and 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 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 hook-ups for you.

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 dokeep you dry and warm. Make sure that those warm wool socks don't have holes in them or that you didn't leave them at deer camp. See if your insulated underwear still fits and that there are no rips or tear in them.

Check your boat and trailer for the following:

Gas, is it old or new and if old did you put fuel conditioner in it before you parked it? If not, you might want to think about replacing the fuel.

Is the steering stiff? Grease the steering arm and all grease fittings on the outboard.

Check the spark plugs and replace if need be.

Check the cotter pin on the prop and make sure it's in good shape, the nut as well. If not, then replace them. While you're doing that it's not too much work to remove the prop or props to make sure no fishing line is wrapped around the shaft and wearing out a seal.

Check to make sure that the kill switch is in place and that it works.

Check your batteries to see if they're holding a charge and if not, replace them.

Check to make sure you have all of the drain plugs and that they work and that all of your emergency equipment is up to date and in good condition.

Check the springs and hangers on the trailer and make sure that the tires are in good shape. Check the winch and tie down straps and if anything needs repairing, do it now.

As a rule, I usually take my boat to my dealer and have their shop go over it for me after a long period of non-use. Knowing that the outboard is running as it is supposed to leaves me less to worry about when heading out onto the bays.

Be Safe,