Now that spring has arrived, it’s time to get out and fish. But do you have your gear ready to go?
Ideally, you should clean and prep your gear at the END of the fishing season, so it can be stashed away for the winter all clean and ready for spring. But, of course, that doesn’t always work out. Chances are that you ended last fishing season hoping for one more day of fair weather and being disappointed. Probably more than once.
But no worries. While this may make the task of getting ready for the season a little harder, it will also help you get organized and excited about getting back out there. So let’s begin.
STEP 1: CLEAN UP
If you haven’t already done so, then you need to start by cleaning everything. All the dirt, salt, fish scales, and other muck that’s on your gear needs to be cleaned first so that you don’t accidentally relocate any debris elsewhere. Fresh season, fresh start.
You can start anywhere. We suggest starting with your rods because they are the easiest to clean, and help you build up momentum for everything else. Just wipe them down with soap and water. Try to avoid chemicals or abrasive cleaners which may do more harm than good. For two-piece rods, you’ll also want to clean (and probably wax) your ferrules, to ensure a snug and unobstructed fit.
Also be sure to wipe down your reel carefully, making sure that you don’t get any debris inside. If you do, don’t worry, you can get to it when you open up the housing to add grease and lube.
As for your tackle box and its contents, we recommend cleaning and organizing it at the same time, which is usually best to do last.
STEP 2: CHECK YOUR LINE
Despite the essential role your spool and line play in fishing, it’s remarkable how many anglers tend to neglect it. Although you should definitely clean your spool, you don’t really need to clean your line. You just need to decide if you’re going to replace it.
If it looks old, then you should definitely replace it. If you’re not sure, try pulling out a little and seeing if it coils stiffly. You might want to try spraying some line conditioner on it to try to extend its life a bit, but if there was ever a good time to replace your line, it’s right now at the beginning of season.
You should also take note of how much unused line there is on your spool. Do a practice cast in your backyard, and examine what’s left. Is it enough to get you through a season? How long has it been on your reel?
Just remember, you don’t want to be out fishing when you realize you need to replace your line.
STEP 3: LUBE IT UP
Carefully open your reel housing to expose the gears inside. Gently wipe off any grease or dirt you find, and then blow out the rest with compressed air. You’re going to apply fresh grease to all of the gears, but you want to get any old grease off first, as it may have captured dirt or grit that can cause damage.
You’ll want to apply oil or lube to all other moving parts, making sure that they can move freely and easily. Your bearings are likely sealed, so you will need to evaluate whether they need to be removed, cleaned, and re-lubed, or not. If your reel has been submerged, or hosed off previously, then the answer is yes. Although some sealed bearings are able to resist water, they were not designed to be submerged.
If you are planning to remove them, you should probably consider replacing them instead. Not only is it easier than servicing them, but it’s also a good way to upgrade your reel to ceramic or ceramic hybrid bearings. These have the potential to extend your cast by as much as 20%.
And as with your line, there is no better time than now to replace your bearings.
STEP 4: GET ORGANIZED
We’ve already briefly touched upon this last step. It’s time to tackle your tackle box.
Even if you don’t believe a tackle box should ever really be “clean,” tidying it up is a great way to organize it with a degree of thoroughness. It’s pretty likely that some hooks, bobs, lures or flies have managed to relocate themselves during the course of the previous season.
But even if there isn’t a lot of organizing to do, this is still a great time to take inventory of what you have, and consider what you might need for the coming season.
It’s also a great time to get rid of whatever junk you don’t need. We’re not going to tell you what that is. You know.
STEP 5: EVERYTHING ELSE
We put this step here to remind you that your rod, reel, and tackle box are only part of the whole fishing picture.
For example, you should probably also consider your attire. Do you have a hat, vest, boots, or hip-waders that you use? Do they need to be laundered, cleaned, or conditioned? What about any nets or coolers that you use? Is your boat ready to go?
Finally, if you’re in a state that requires it, are your fishing and boating licensure current? Are there any new restrictions or requirements you need to be aware of?
You don’t want to wait until the perfect weekend arrives to find out that you aren’t prepared. Take care of everything now, so that you’re ready to go, and you can maximize your time doing what you love.