This is about the time of year that I look forward to spending a few evenings doing some routine organization and maintenance on my fishing tackle.
Not only will that exercise do much to put my gear in shape those first outings this coming season, but it also helps to make those few weeks left until the onset of spring weather pass a little quicker.
Because I regularly clean and lubricate my reels during the course of the fishing season, I rarely need to do much for them in the offseason other than to replace the line. About six years ago, I tried wrapping the handles of couple of my rods with a special tape designed for that purpose and now I have it on all my rods.
It has a slightly tacky feel that provides a perfect grip, even if your hands are wet or covered with fish slime. The tape holds up to a reasonable amount of use, but I like to replace it once it becomes dirty and worn.
Most of my time on tackle maintenance will be spent getting my extensive collection of lures back in shape. I'm referring mostly to hard baits such as crank baits, topwaters, minnow-shaped plugs and all the other various hard-plastic lures, of which I own hundreds. From spring through fall, I am constantly moving lures from one tackle box or tackle bag to another depending on what I'm fishing for or where. By the end of the season, most of the lures I use regularly have been shuffled all over the place, so the first task now is to put things back into some kind of order.
Most hard-plastic lures now cost from about $4 to $7, and some go for more than twice that. Therefore, whether you own a few dozen or a few hundred hard baits, it only makes sense to get the most from your investment. I start by sorting my lures by type - topwaters, crank baits, jerk baits and so forth - and then sorting each type by make, model and size. Because I own such a variety of crank baits, I further sort them into shallow runners, medium divers and deep divers.
During the sorting process, I take a casual inventory of my lures, noting any favorite models or colors that I might need to add before the season starts. Most important,
I inspect each lure, especially ones I fish most often, to see if any hooks or hardware need to be replaced. I am a fanatic when it comes to sharp hooks for any kind of fishing. Making sure your hooks are as sharp as possible is the simplest thing any angler can do to increase the number of fish hooked and landed. I won't make a cast unless I know every point on every hook on any lure I'm using is absolutely needle sharp.
Therefore, I check every point on each treble hook, and if any require more than some minor sharpening to make it deadly sharp, I set that lure aside to replace it.
I also look for any rust or other damage; any hook showing such signs will be replaced too. Fortunately, I rarely need to use pliers to unhook a fish. I find using pliers often does unnecessary damage to fish I want to release as well as bending the hook out of shape. Even if the hook is bent back into shape, chances are the metal has been weakened and likely to break at an inopportune time, like when you have hooked a big fish. Any hook that shows signs of having been bent should always be replaced.
Refitting the hooks on your lures isn't difficult or expensive. You will need an assortment of treble hooks, of course. The hooks on most bass lures, for example, tend to be size 6 or 8. Some larger models might use size 4 hooks, while some size 10 hooks will likely be necessary for smaller bass baits or trout lures. Hooks are attached to the lure body with tiny split rings, which should also be replaced if necessary.
A selection of good quality stainless steel split rings in sizes 0, 1 and 2 will cover most bass and trout lures. Finally, you'll need pair of split ring pliers to open and install split rings and hooks. These tools cost from $5 to $15.
Many tackle shops carry hooks, split rings and other components for repairing lures. If you can't find what you need locally, however, mail-order suppliers such as Bass Pro Shops, Cabela's and jannsnetcraft.com offer a complete line of lure parts.