Time to clean the fishing gear – and get ready
Outside: the days of boating are numbered, but ice fishing awaits … and it’s never too early to prepare for spring
When the snow starts to fly like it did over Cedar Falls’ Doug Bonwell last fall, maybe it’s time to pack the boat up for the season and get your gear ready for spring. (Doug Newhoff / correspondent)
CEDAR FALLS – November is a month of conflict for those of us who can’t spend enough days fishing the Mississippi River.
As certainly as the leaves will separate from the hardwoods and the giant flocks of mallards and geese soar to warmer weather, the curtain will fall on the open water fishing season as well. On Thanksgiving, it’s time to consider the days when you’ll be sitting in an ice tent with a hot cup of coffee and some poop crumbling on the ice.
But first. It’s also time to make sure you’re ready to head back to the Mississippi in the spring.
The cleaning and maintenance of the boat, as well as the wintering of the engine and the maintenance of the battery, are priorities. There’s nothing worse than destroying that first trip to the river in March with equipment issues when the walleye wake up after a largely lethargic winter.
The same goes for fishing gear and fishing equipment.
I rarely go a season without at least one or two rod and reel problems. From broken rod tips to faulty reels, there is always something that needs to be repaired or replaced. I also still have a few coils that need a new line.
When it comes to tackling, most of us have our favorite presentations and our favorite lures.
I always end the fall with lures hanging all over my boat, and the end of the season is about the only time I put those baits back where they belong. This is also a great time to browse through the boxes of gear you use the most. I inevitably end up with a few crankbaits sent back to the box which is handy rather than the box they actually belong to, so sorting and rearranging is part of my process.
Then I go through each box and fix things like missing or broken hooks. If I have time, I sharpen the hooks of the lures I use most often.
Taking inventory is a proactive step that you will probably appreciate later. I’m on my last two Rapala DT6 in the Helsinki Shad scheme which was lethal in May and June. I only have one of my best surface waters left for bass fishing, thanks to an aggressive pair of pike that couldn’t resist an attack. I also need more Rapal Rippin ‘Raps, after they prove to be effective in late spring.
Plastics seem to disappear during the open water season. I find used, torn and dissected ones in the cup holders and trays of my boat, in the pockets of the clothes I wear and inside my fishing bag. I use everything from moths and paddletails to larvae and shad bodies in applications ranging from Dubuque rigging to jigging. Sometimes I even make my hair jigs bigger by adding a plastic body, especially in the fall when the walleyes are eating and as a bigger bait. I’m weak on ombre body tube style tails which are also my go-to for crappie fishing.
As for the jigs, I like to make mine in late fall and early winter. I fish jigs in a variety of styles and sizes depending on the situation, so reloading those boxes is always on my to-do list. It is good to have lead, hooks, paint and tying material on hand. So when you take the time to craft jigs, you don’t have to wait until you can order supplies.
The terminal tackle is another consideration. Do you have swivels, three-way, snaps, hooks and sinkers?
Typically, by the time I complete the inventory, I have a long list of needs at exactly the right time to meet them with requests for Christmas gifts for my wife and kids.
There are many other tasks you can take care of before putting your boat and open water gear into hibernation. How long has it been since you cleaned your GPS unit and eliminated tracks and waypoints that you don’t need or use? Is it time for a mapping update? Got a tear in your boat cover that needs to be repaired or sewn up?
A few hours of attention now can save you a lot of headaches next spring.
In the meantime, I will also think about ice fishing. Unfortunately it gets cold when I call the hard water season a wrap and I don’t give this gear the same end-of-season attention.
Was my tent lighting working when I put it away last winter? Didn’t I have a reel with an anti-reverse problem? How is my stock of titanium jigs?
Looks like I have a lot to do in the next few weeks.