It’s that time of year again, when all your brain wants to think about is fishing – but you can’t go.
Here’s my winter preparation check list to help you get your fix. Ten tasks over the next ten weeks will get you to the start of the season here in Ohio. Click here to download the list. You can print it and hang it on your fishing wall or refrigerator.Week 1: Clean and Service Reels Depending on how many reels you have, this could possibly take a full week. The price of new reels is getting out of hand, so maintaining those you have is critical. Clean all exterior components of your reels with a Q-Tip. You can soak the cotton ends in lighter fluid to help remove any stubborn gunk. After the exteriors are cleaned, you have two options for servicing the interior components. Option 1 involves doing a full-blown servicing. For step-by-step details on how to do this, check out How to Clean and Maintain your Baitcasting Reel. Option 2 is to simply clean and/or replace and oil the easily accessible bearings. Although Option 2 isn’t as thorough, oftentimes it will get you through the season. Week 2: Repair and Clean Rods All it takes is one small nick or bur in a line guide to cost you the biggest fish of your life. Run a Q-Tip around the lip of each eyelet of your rods. If there is a rough spot, the cotton on the Q-Tip will snag. Replacement guides and rod tips can be purchased online from a number of stores. Cork rod handles can be cleaned with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, or with a rag that has been dipped in nail polish remover – honestly, they will look like new. Week 3: Purge Unused and Old Tackle We’re all guilty of “over purchasing” when it comes to our tackle. Every year I remove dozens of unused bags of soft plastics, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits from my tournament tackle. My general rule is that if I haven’t used a bait in the past season, it’s got to go. Purging your tackle will not only allow you to remain organized, but will reduce the weight you are carrying in your boat or in your tackle bag. Fill up an old jar with unused crankbaits until it’s full – then sell it on Ebay. Week 4: Replace Crankbait Hooks Replacing the treble hooks on your hard baits can be tedious – but it’s an extremely important maintenance task. In particular, look for hooks that show signs of rust or that have blunt or bent hook tips. This is the perfect opportunity to upgrade cheap factory hooks with bigger, badder versions. Week 5: Replace Worn Out Skirts There’s nothing more annoying than firing a cast with your favorite spinnerbait and losing the skirt in the process due to a worn-out rubberband. Replacing the skirts is a quick and easy process. Learn how by reading and watching at How to Make Custom Spinnerbait and Jig Skirts. Week 6: Take Inventory and Order New Tackle My favorite “to do” item of the off-season. Once the old is out, it’s time to replenish any of your go-to baits and anything new you’ve had your eyes on. Stop in at Ohio’s own Fin Feather and Fur Outfitters if you want personal service and great prices. If you can’t make the drive, it’s tough to beat the selection at Tackle Warehouse (www.tacklewarehouse.com). Week 7: Organize and Label Tackle Now that you’ve got all your new tackle, time to get organized. You can buy an inexpensive label maker at Wal Mart to label your boxes and other storage containers. For storage of hard baits, I prefer the Lambeau models with Zerust protection. And for a couple of bucks each you can get container boxes for storing your soft plastics. Week 8: Schedule your 2014 Fishing Tournaments and Trips The misery is almost over, and soon you’ll be on the water. If you haven’t already, get your fishing weekends planned. If you’re a tournament angler, be sure to check out the Ohio Bass Blog Tournaments Page and fill out your calendar. If your preference is chasing lunkers, here’s a list of some of the best bass lakes in Ohio. Your best chances for a trophy are ice-out through May. If you only have time to hit a few, Clear Fork, Burr Oak, and Rocky Fork are tough to beat for big Ohio bass. Week 9: Learn One New Technique for 2014 Learning a new technique for the new year might sound a bit cliché. With that being said, I do it every year. After a couple of years you’ll be pretty pleased with your bag of tricks. FLW Bass Magazine has done a tremendous job over the past few years of covering the latest trends and techniques of the pros. Plus you can read my articles! Week 10: Learn One New Knot Spring is here! Add a new knot to your arsenal. My newest addition was the Snell knot for those heavy-cover, straight-shank flipping scenarios (I’m thinking Indian Lake in late August). If you don’t know them already, the Palomar, Improved Clinch, and Blood knots are bass fishing staples every serious angler should learn.