Preparing Tackle for the Winter Offseason
Winter is hitting hard and if you're not ice fishing then this is the time to prepare your fishing gear for winter storage.
Check those rods. Run a cotton swab or a piece of a nylon stocking through the inner ring of the guides and tip of all your rods. The swab or stocking should catch on any deformities, chips or cracks in the guides and let you know that it needs to be replaced. Also, “wiggle” the guides/tips to make sure they haven't come loose and need repair. When a cork handle becomes roughened or soiled; old timers say wash it with gasoline and then rubbing it smooth with very fine sandpaper will make it look new.
Rods should be stored in such fashion so they don’t take a “set or bend.” One good method is to hang the rod by its tip with the butt swinging free. Another is to put it in a storage case that can be bought or in PVC tubes that make cheap holders for your rods. Add elastics to the rods to hold them together and stop them from banging and rubbing together. Mark each tube so you know what rods are in there. Horizontal or vertical racks are also great for storing rods.
Reels should be checked over for sand, dirt or gummed up parts. Clean your reels before you put them away for the winter. Tools: warm water, clean cloth, cotton swabs, rubbing alcohol, old toothbrush. Get rid of all the surface grime and grit. On spinning reels, take the spool off and check and clean it inside, also inside the skirt of the reel itself. If you’re a saltwater angler, remove all of your lines used in saltwater, dunk and soak your reels in fresh clean water to remove any residual salt, dry them, then clean as above. Reels with braid, peel line off on to a reel that has been prepped for winter storage so the line that is "fresher" is now on top of the new spool. Then prep the old reel as above. Turn the drag off on all your spinning and baitcasting reels (pressure on drag washers deforms them over time). Apply a little amount of oil on working parts for storage (never over-oil a reel).
Remove your fluorocarbon and mono line from your reels before you store them. Why now and not the spring? These lines, regardless of quality, will develop a memory or set and become “coily” over time making them a little harder to remove from the spool. This can make removing them more time-consuming and frustrating in the spring. Also, it will serve as a reminder to respool first thing next year. If you’re in a rush in the spring you may be tempted not to respool right away and until you do so, you will be increasing your chances of birds' nests and line tangles. Same goes for fly lines: take the line off the reel, coil it in fairly large loops, lay it in a box and put it in some dry, well-ventilated place which is not subjected to extremes of temperature.
Anglers who give the rod, the line and the reel excellent care may sometimes overlook an item of tackle which is fully as important. This is the hook. Fish are frequently lost because hooks are dull or bent. Check plain hooks and also those on baits, flies and other lures and sharpen them or replace them. Take those soiled, matted trout flies and wash them in mild soap suds, rinse carefully in clear water, and then hold them for a moment in the steam of a boiling teakettle to restore their fluffy form.
Coil leaders in big, easy loops, warp them to keep out sunlight, and put them in a dry, cool place. Take some time to sort out your tackle, get rid of anything you haven’t used in the past year or two. eBay™ or similar sites can turn some of your old unwanted gear into income for things you would like to try, and cleaning out your tackle keeps clutter from building up. The kids in the neighbourhood probably wouldn’t mind some “new” tackle either! Do an inventory of lures and baits so you can restock accordingly. Prepare a shopping list (or wish list) of items that need to be re-stocked for next season.
This may seem like a lot of work and it's only a few things to do, there's lots more you can do (boat, batteries, etc.) to be prepared for the spring. But it will all increase your chances of not losing that fish of a lifetime… FISH-ON! Cookster.