Get some tips on sorting your gear and double checking it before heading out for the first few fishing trips of spring. Make sure is everything is in tip top shape so all you have to worry about is the sun on your face and the fish on your line.
The sun is out, the ice is breaking up and any day now will be your first day of fishing for the year. When the winter clouds finally part and you’re ready for your first cast, you don't want to be sorting out a mess of gear, or dealing with problems that accumulated in the off season. Doing some early spring prep work can be the difference between starting your season off right and landing that fish, not losing it.
Here are some of our early spring tips for sorting, cleaning and double checking your gear, so you can spend your first day out setting the hook and not cursing a frayed line, or dull hook.
Resort your lures and tackle box
If you’re not an ice angler, there's a good chance that the lures and baits you used before winter were vastly different from your preferred spring baits. Late fall, most fish metabolisms slow down, getting ready for winter and requiring you to throw passive baits to drift or retrieve painfully slow. Baits like soft plastics, beads and egg patterns work great this time of year.
Spring baits are better for active fish that are kicking off the winter rust. Topwater poppers, jerkbaits, streamers, spoons and some chatterbaits are now viable options for hungry and aggressive fish. Make sure you sort out boxes that were previously on the bottom of your tackle box, or filter out your lures from last fall and add in some vibrant spring baits. You don't want to get to the water and start shuffling through your gear when it go time.
Check rods you stored over winter
Rods stored over the winter need a quick checkup before heading back onto the water, especially if they are stored somewhere with less heat. Guides, handles and tips can all weaken during winter storage and result in catastrophic failures, or breaks when pressure tested with a fish.
If you didn't take your reel handle apart at the end of the previous season, now is a good time. Clean out any dirt, or grit and place a few drops of reel oil on the bearings on each side and the main shaft, put it back together and give it a few turns.
Give your drag system a check next. Some anglers release their drag at the end of the season to relieve pressure on the system. There is also a high chance the drag setup you had at the end of last year will not be suitable for the beginning of this year and could end up costing you.
Check your lines
Frays, tangles and improper wrapped lines can all occur during a season and sometimes during the offseason, if your gear is stored in poor conditions. Meticulously checking your line for weaknesses starts your season off on the right foot and gives you the confidence you need to fish in, or near, weeds and structure.
If you do find weaknesses in your line setup, now is the time to strip the line off your reel and get a fresh spool ready for this spring. This is also a great time to look into new lines, or heavier braids you’ve been putting off adding onto your spool during the heart of fishing season.
Sharpen and clean
Check your hooks for rust and dull points. Resharpen everything you plan on taking out on your first day, because why not.
For anglers who fish both salt and freshwater, this is extra important to check for damage and corrosion due to saltwater. If you are finding rust and corrosion try using salt and lemon juice paste on hooks to remove the rust, or soak them in vinegar for 24 hours.
A few years ago I wet out for my first spring fishing day in Montana. I threw on my old waders without thinking twice about the heatless garage I stored them in all winter. When I hit the water I was instantly greeted with a couple pin holes that developed in the offseason. One in particular charming hole was settle neatly in the crotch region.
For those who live around the snow, the spring waters can be bone chilling as melted snow feeds into the waterway. Waders are still essential gear this time of year. Whether you hung them up nice, or bunched them on the floor at the end of last season, you need to check them for leaks before setting foot in the frigid snowmelt.
Nothing is more shocking than fresh snow melt dripping its way to your feet, legs and crotch. You should also make sure to know where your wading belt is. Rising water levels can move quickly and a wading belt can help keep your waders from filling up if you take the wrong step.
Try filling a bathtub, or bucket and submerging the legs, up to the hips in your waders and keep a sharp eye out for bubbles rising to the surface. The bubbles indicate a leak and will help you find the culprit puncture and patch it.
Check your hull and prop
For those who take their boats to different bodies of water in the offseason, check your hull for aquatic hitchhikers like zebra and quagga mussels, or vegetation like millfoil. These creepy crawlies are also fond of attaching themselves to the prop of motors and can live for quite a while out of the water.
These invasives can wreak havoc on other bodies of water, endangering fisheries and reducing our favorite sport species.
Many state and independent agencies will set up check stations to try and catch the spread of invasives before they get into a waterway and you should do research to find out where these are, as passing one without stopping can get you pulled over and fined.
Keep the rust (literal and figurative) off your gear this spring. The days are too nice, the temp is too warm and we love fishing too much to have preventable accidents on our first days back fishing. A little time goes a long way and we are just getting started on another amazing fishing season.
Now let’s go fishing. We’ll bring the hook sharpener and wader patch kit.
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