Are you one of those lucky anglers with open water on your local lakes year ‘round? Consider yourself lucky. Around my area there comes a time when temperatures drop so much that ice eventually takes over my favorite fishing holes and cabin fever ensues. Stuck inside with no fishing on the agenda, I’m left dreaming of warm sunny days and giant bass. If this sounds familiar to you too, try not to get too discouraged. The following lists a few things you can do to fight off that cabin fever and ensure you’ll be prepared for a successful season come spring.
Rods and Reels
Rod and reel maintenance needs to be practiced throughout the season but the dead of winter is always a great time to dig in deep and make sure your equipment will perform on the water to the best of its ability.
Before cleaning your reels, strip all the line off. Unless you’re low on slinkies, throw it in the trash. I don’t normally put line back on until just before I plan to use that particular setup. One thing I do recommend when cleaning reels is to lay all the parts out in order of removal on a white piece of paper. This does a few things. First, it keeps the tiny stuff very visible so you don’t lose small screws in the carpet or deep in the couch cushions. Lining them up in order of removal will allow you to work backwards with a systematical process when putting it all back together. Another plus, you can make notes on the paper to label where things go or just draw little cartoon fish when you get bored. I recommend keeping the manual that comes with every reel. I know most guys won’t admit to using instructions but trust me it comes in handy in this case. Most reel manuals will not only label all the part locations but also pinpoint where to use oil and grease after cleaning. If you don’t have the manual, take a few pictures with your phone for reference. If disassembling your reels seems a little too overwhelming, you can normally find reel cleaning services somewhere near your area.
Rods are a lot simpler to clean and inspect. I always start by wiping down the entire rod with a damp cloth. After removing the dust and debris, inspect the blank for any cracks or other damage. Next, check the guide connections at the blank and make sure all are secure and solid. A trick I’ve been using for a while to check guide inserts for nicks and snags is to take a q-tip and run around the inside of the guide. Any imperfections in the guide insert will snag on the cotton. If you find any damage just repair or replace the guide.
If you’re like me, you start the season out with every intention of keeping all your tackle organized. At the end of the season, if it looks like a drunk Tasmanian devil made its way through your kayak, I’d say that plan didn’t exactly work out. Don’t worry though, that’s not a problem that can’t be remedied.
I like to start the process by going through and just putting everything back where it belongs. Along the way, I’ll throw out any rusted or broken hooks. Hooks that look extremely worn are set aside for sharpening. Also, change out any trebles needed on crankbaits and topwaters. As I’m sorting through my tackle I’m taking inventory and making a list of things to get before next season. I use a ton of different baits and by the end of the season I’d hate to see how much money I’ve lost to the bottom of the lake.
Now is the best time to try something different as far as organization goes. Try tackle storage boxes that are new to the market or maybe try different labeling methods. It has taken me years of trial and error to get everything exactly the way I like it and everybody is different so don’t get stuck thinking inside the box.
A long tournament season can put a ton of stress on your yak. Don’t let neglect leave you sinking to the bottom of the lake next season. Here are a few things to look for during your down time.
Give your vessel a good wipe down to remove any dirt or debris. It always helps to have a garage or some kind of inside space out of the weather to do this. The bottom of your yak takes the blunt of the damage from suddenly finding submerged logs or sliding up and down boat ramps. Check for any deep scratches or gouges. You can find YouTube videos online that show how to repair some of these problems.
Finally, if you use lights, fish finders, or any other type of electronics now is the time to check all the connections and make sure everything is working properly. Also, test all batteries at some point before your first outing of the New Year. This also pertains to anyone using a trailer to haul a kayak. Also, don’t forget the little extras like landing nets and rod holders.
Winter is without a doubt the best time to start looking at your future tournament destinations. Obviously, there are entire magazine articles and even books written about tournament preparation so I’m not going to go into extreme detail here.
The internet is full of information about any and every body of water out there. Paper and online maps are available from many different sources. Spend time studying these maps and first eliminate water that you know won’t produce. At that point, you can start to break down areas of interest and start to develop a plan.
Most tournament trails keep the results from past events posted online. You can see how often limits are caught and the fish sizes normally checked in. Check in with local bait shops and marinas to see what baits are popular on that body of water. There are many online forums that discuss fishing different bodies of water. Use these resources and try to piece together a plan over winter before your scouting starts for your upcoming tournaments.
Hopefully, this article will give you a leg up on the competition this season and get you through the winter lulls that often bring on hardcore cabin fever that me and many other anglers out there just can’t seem to deal with. Good luck out on the water this year.
Keep the lines wet - Joe Gentry