By David Hart
Fishing season may be a few months away, but it’s time to start thinking about your first day on the water. Why not? Winter may seem to creep along now, but before you know it, the numbing cold will be a distant memory, and the fish will be biting. If you aren’t ready, you just might spend that first day on the water fixing broken equipment, searching for missing lures and tools, and doing everything but catching fish. There’s no better time to get your fishing gear in order.
Centerville, Virginia resident Greg Matson spends a weekend in January or February working on his boat and tackle in anticipation of the upcoming season. He starts by cleaning his boat.
“I try to keep it clean during the season, but that doesn’t always happen. I go through all the storage lockers and take everything out and clean out the compartments so they basically look brand new. I wipe out all the little nooks and crannies. They can get gunked up pretty bad after a season of fishing,” he says.
A clean boat not only makes fishing easier, it will sell for more money when the time comes for a trade-in. Matson, who fishes an estimated 75 days a year in tournaments and with friends, trades in his old boat for a newer model about every three years.
After he cleans his boat, Matson then goes through all his tackle boxes and puts lures in their rightful place. He keeps dozens of containers, each with a specific type of lure, but sometimes lures don’t always get put back in their rightful place during the season.
“I do that before the season starts, too. I want to be able to open a box marked ‘lipless crankbaits’ and find the right color and right size without having to go digging for it,” he says. “I like having everything organized, right down to hooks and weights, pliers, measuring boards, everything I need to catch a bass or fish in a tournament. The less time I spend looking for something, the more time I can spend actually fishing.”
Straightening up your tackle collection and your boat also means keeping a trash can handy. Evaluate everything you touch, including your rods, reels, lures and various gadgets you collected the previous fishing season and ask yourself a few simple questions: Did you use it? Did it help you catch more fish?
Matson will donate lures and even older rods and reels he doesn’t use anymore to a local youth fishing club. The rest goes into a trash can. Old lures and other tackle that were either broken, damaged beyond useful repair or just never used anymore get pitched.
Once Matson organizes his boat and tackle, he strips the old line off his reels and replaces it with fresh line. Prolonged exposure to sun can weaken monofilament and fluorocarbon line can weaken over time, as well. Line that stays on a spool for too long also develops a memory, retaining the tight curl during a cast. That reduces casting distance and accuracy.
“I wipe down my rods, oil my reels and if any of them are broken in any way, I’ll take them to a local rod a reel repair shop. You definitely want to get that done before fishing season starts,” said Matson. “If you wait, the repair shop will be backed up with hundreds of other broken rods and reels.”
Matson’s annual routine doesn’t just include cleaning, organizing and pitching obsolete, worn-out and broken gear. It also includes adding new stuff to his assortment of lures and gear. He keeps a running list of new things he wants to try. Then he makes a trip to a local tackle shop to stock up on those new items and an assortment of other gear he needs to get started.
“That way, I don’t have to make a run to the store half way through the summer because I ran out of a bait I use a lot,” says Matson
In other words, the start of a new fishing season is a great excuse to go shopping. First, get your gear in order and clean it up. Then reward yourself with a shopping spree at your favorite tackle shop.
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