One of the jobs I enjoy the least is packing up my open water fishing gear for the winter. I generally drag fall fishing out as long as I can, avoiding the inevitable task of hanging it all up for another season. Winter always comes, and the shift to ice fishing organically occurs.
However, putting your fishing gear away for the season shouldn’t be done without a little tender loving care. Let’s face it, we put our rods, reel and tackle through the ringer during the fishing season. If you are anything like me, tackle boxes become areas of chaos, reels get a bit grungy, rods lose eyes, and handles lose cork. The end of the fishing season is a good time to take inventory, and heal some wounds before the spring arrives.
Nothing gets more abuse during the open water fishing season than a reel. The drags get worn, while mud, sand and silt gets in the gears. Reels get dropped. Bits fall off them. It’s quite remarkable how well most reels hold up, considering all of that. At the end of the season, I try and take my most heavily used reels apart. That doesn’t mean in tiny pieces. But I’ll take the spool off a spinning or fly reel, or remove the handle. This is also a good time to wipe the inside of the spools off with a soft, damp cloth. it’s incredible how much dirt can get inside a reel. This is especially noticeable if you are a river or creek fisherman. I’ll also see if the reel needs any light oil or grease, but be conservative with lubricants. Another key thing to do is back the drags off all your reels. That includes baitcasters, spinning reels and the rest. A tightened up drag that sits for months on end will not be as pliable come spring. Take pressure off the drag. End of the season is also a good time to check line etc. If your monofilament line is worn out or the braided line is fuzzy, pull it off and discard it in the garbage or line recycle bin. In the spring, you can load up new stuff.
There are less things that can go wrong with rods, but they are always worth an inspection. Check the rod eyes, and make sure they are not cracked or have lost ceramic inserts. Some rods may be repaired under warranty, while other may need some DIY repair. I’ve replaced many rod tip eyes in my career, and have also wrapped a few rod guides. Handles can also get beat up and may need to be sanded or glued. If a rod is dirty, I’ll take one of those automotive cleaning rags and run the length of the shaft with it. Some rods can get pretty nasty with fish slime and hand funk. Also check the reel seat, and make sure nothing is cracked or moving on the blank.
Nothing gets more upside down than a fishing tackle box. When you have a few of them on the go, it all can get pear shaped very quickly. Sure, I’ve seen the people who have tackle boxes that look clean, orderly and organized. I don’t trust these people. They make me nervous. Perhaps that’s because by the end of the season, my boxes look like they were caught in a Twister and dumped with Toto somewhere in Kansas. However, it never hurts to start the spring with a neat tackle box. My biggest job is always trying to sort through my balls of walleye spinner rigs and getting them back on the foam tackle tamers. It’s incredible just what a mess this can become. In the same way, crank baits and spoons can get balled together by the treble hooks sorting through that many hooks is like trying to tickle a porcupine. The end of season is also a good time to get rid of broken lures, replace rusty hooks and shine up dulled spinner blades. This may take some time, and I recommend taking a few evenings to go through each of your boxes. It’s amazing the things you will find, and the various little treasures you may discover, or forgot you had. Fishing is a great activity, and brings all manners of pleasure and relaxation. A little maintenance effort in the fall will help maximize the fishing experience you have in the spring.