Winter tackle maintenance will pay off real soon

One of the consequences of being an incurable gearhead is having almost too much fishing equipment.

Notice I say “almost,” because the only thing I like better than accumulating fishing tackle is using all those rods, reels and lures. I also expect my gear to function flawlessly on the water, so fortunately, I enjoy performing the routine maintenance necessary to keep everything working as it should. Over the next several weeks, I’ll strive to inspect most of my tackle and then clean or repair those items that need care. Here’s my basic workflow on off-season tackle maintenance.

First, wipe down each rod that saw use last season with a soft microfiber cleaning cloth, taking care to clean in and around the guides. These areas often develop a dirty film from all the impurities in the water that clings to the line as it passes through the guides during the hundreds, maybe thousands, of casts during a fishing day.

Next, wipe down each reel in a similar manner and check them to make sure all are operating smoothly. Usually, I’ll lube them with a drop or two of a quality reel oil in critical spots. Most important, back off the drags on all your reels during the off-season. Doing so will keep the drag working better and longer. Just remember to reset the drag again for your first outing next spring.

Finally, I check and replace the line on my reels as necessary. I currently fish braided line on most of my spinning and baitcast outfits. I love its incredible sensitivity and lack of stretch when setting the hook. Braid is also quite durable and will last for a season or two of hard use, so it doesn’t require frequent replacement as monofilament does. Therefore, I check to make sure the braid spooled on each reel is not frayed or excessively worn. If so, I’ll simply cut off the first 5 or 10 feet of line to get rid of the bad area or just replace all the braid on the spool.

While braid is much more expensive than monofilament line, its overall performance and longevity help to offset its higher initial cost. I can also offer another tip to make using braid even more cost effective. Most brands of braided line come on 125- 150-yard spools. Rather than install the entire spool of braid on one reel, I fill the reel spool almost full of 8- or 10-pound monofilament line as backing. Then splice the braid to the mono with a double uni-knot and finish filling the reel with 50 to 75 yards of braid. This system will allow you to fill two or three reels with a single spool of braid.

I actually began using this procedure with monofilament line because I got into the habit of replacing the mono on my spinning reels after each fishing trip and still do. Rather than continually fill a reel with 200 yards or more of new line when most of it was little more than backing for the 20 or 30 yards of line employed on most casts, I started filling the spools of my reels with inexpensive mono and topping it off with 70 or 80 yards of quality line.

Soft-plastic lures don’t take much maintenance other than organizing and inventorying them to see what styles or colors need to be replaced. Crankbaits and other hard lures are another matter. Hard baits, too, need some organizing and inventorying, but the hooks on these often-pricey lures should be checked as well. Make sure all three points of each treble hook are sticky sharp, and if not, carefully sharpen them. Any hooks with worn or damaged points or those showing any sign of rust should be replaced.

To properly service most hard baits, you will need a good pair of split ring pliers, some split rings and treble hooks. For most bass lures, split rings in sizes 1 and 2 and trebles in sizes 6 and 8, with a few in sizes 4 and 10 if you have some larger or smaller lures, will cover most needs.

At least 10 years ago, I began replacing the belly hook on a few of my crankbaits with a red hook. My experience seemed to indicate I got more strikes and solidly hooked more bass on the red trebles. Since then, I’ve been putting red trebles on the belly of all my crankbaits. Just one more bit of routine tackle maintenance, but one that I still find worthwhile.

Demonstration time

The John Kennedy Chapter of Trout Unlimited will hold its regular monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at the Allegheny Township Volunteer Fire Department located at 651 Sugar Run Road, Altoona.

The featured speaker for the evening will be John Brehm from Juniata Troutfitters, who will present “An Introduction to Euro Nymphing and Tight-Line Nymphing.” His program will include a video featuring the onstream techniques and tactics of Euro nymphing. He will also tie some of his “go to” fly patterns and the leader setup he uses for this special method of fly-fishing. The program is free, and the public is invited to attend.