Bass Fishing and winter are not the most pleasant mix. Those fortunate enough to have soft water will battle brutal cold fronts, dangerous temperatures and extremely finicky bass. Those in the northern part of the country will deal with frozen water and closed bass fishing seasons. This leaves anglers across the country sitting in a warm house dreaming about catching that next bass. What is a bass angler to do?
All that said, “Cabin Fever” can be extremely productive for a bass angler. The down time forces us to take a step back and evaluate the previous season and think about different options to better the upcoming season. We can evaluate everything from tackle choices, equipment choices, lakes and locations, seasonal patterns, and when best to utilize them. This is also a great time to prepare. While I’m dreaming about the double digit bass I might catch; my hands are busy sharpening hooks, cleaning baits, inspecting terminal tackle, and performing maintenance on my rods and reels. My experience, successes and failures, has taught me many things, but the most important is that if your equipment isn’t working properly the odds are in the bass’s favor.
On the coldest of days, I like to bring my tackle boxes filled with hard baits into the house. I’ll sit and watch a football game or fishing show and inspect each lure for defects. Top water to crankbaits, I will inspect the bait itself for damage and the split rings for corrosion. Then, I will sharpen or replace each hook that won’t hold onto my fingernail while the bait hangs freely. For most of us, this is going to be a very time consuming job since we have far more hard baits than we realize. Set aside an entire weekend for this project, take your time and be thorough.
Although often filled with new or slightly used items, don’t forget your terminal tackle box. This is the one filled with split rings, snaps, swivels, hooks, weights and all the little things that are necessary for putting together a bass catching combination. Look at the openings on all your weights, lead or tungsten; make sure they are free of nicks and burrs. With lead weights, you can use an opened paperclip to round out any burrs; however, you’ll need a small file for tungsten weights. Check your snaps, make sure they operate properly; open smoothly and close securely. Check the sharpness of all your single hooks, sharpen or discard as needed. Spin your swivels to make sure they move easily and are not corroded or binding. It is very frustrating to tie up a Carolina rig just to find out the swivel won’t spin, or your weight has a sharp edge that is cutting your line. Or maybe a snap won’t stay secure. Now, precious fishing time is being lost to re-tie. Taking the time to clean, inspect, and verify even the smallest parts of your terminal tackle now will equate to many more productive casts when you do get to the water.
Finally the day has come, and you’re about to make your first cast. You line up your first cast and fire your offering to the lake. As your bait sails through the air you hear a horrendous screeching sound coming from your reel. Then all the sudden everything comes to an instant halt as your reel backlashes driving your bait into the water–Talk about frustrating. Take the time this winter to clean and lubricate your reels. Many anglers are intimidated by this, but in reality, a few simple steps can extend the life of your reels exponentially. First, wipe them down; look for cracks and loose screws on the caps and handle. Second, take a few Q-Tips and clean the worm gear as best you can. It’s also a good idea to remove the cap that holds the worm gear pawl and run a Q-Tip through the housing. Third, the bearings, take the side plate off and put a drop of oil on the bearing. Pull the spool out and clean the shafts, if there is a bearing attached put a drop of oil on it as well. The last bearing to oil is under the spool tension cap; simply remove the cap to gain access to it. Finally, put a drop or two of oil on the worm gear, reinstall the worm gear pawl and cap and wind the reel a few times to work the oil through the worm gear teeth. With these few simple steps, you can ensure that next first cast is a beauty. These steps are not to replace a full tear down and cleaning, but are a supplement that we all should be doing.
I personally finish off my cabin fever “equipment overhaul” with a complete wipe down of my rods. Using soap and water, I clean them tip to butt. I inspect each guide by running a Q-Tip around the ceramic insert. If there is a crack, it will snag the cotton. Sometimes, for rods that are used in a lot of vegetation or lakes with surface scum, I’ll take a tooth brush to the reel seats. Your line brings back the scum and debris and your reel’s line guide will push it off allowing it to fall onto the threads of your reel seat. I’ve seen anglers crack their reel seats trying to loosen it to replace the reel; an expensive exchange.
Instead of sulking all winter about the days not spent on the water, take some time and prepare your equipment, baits, and terminal tackle for that day when you do get to chase Mr. Bass.
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