For fishermen and hunters, the best way to describe January is that it’s kind of like Black Friday — but spread out over a month or two. 

That’s because January kicks off the boat show-hunting show-fishing tackle show season. It’s the best time of the year to get out and get great deals on the latest, greatest fishing tackle, electronics, boats and motors — all that stuff. It’s also time to do some smart shopping and save money, whether you’re looking at a 21-foot Phoenix bass boat with a 250-hp Evinrude, or just a Mop Jig, a pack of Trigger-X plastics, an All-Star rod or a Pfleuger reel,

No matter what you’re in the market for, this is the best time to find it. You can probably drive no more than a half-day and see shows in Columbia, Greenville, Atlanta, Augusta, Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro, and the money you save will pay for your gas, even at $3 a gallon.

I look forward to the show season because I attend the ICAST show in Las Vegas in late summer when all the stuff that’s going to be at these shows is introduced — the latest in just about everything a fisherman could ever desire. And because you’ve got all kinds of dealers in the same building, you’ll get a chance to see everything and compare everything, including prices. If you’ve got some Christmas money to spend on fishing stuff, that’s great, because you won’t find a better time or place to spend it and get everything you possibly can out of every dollar.

One thing about having so much stuff in one place is that you can get overwhelmed if you go without a plan or an idea of what you want or need to buy. If you’re looking for a boat, know what size, style and price range you’re looking at, because it’s easy to get caught up in all the numbers: the sizes, varieties and styles. It’s a great time to look and compare, especially if you’re in the market for a boat and motor. Most of the marine dealers will be scattered all over the place, but when you get them in one place, at a show, they tend to get more competitive in pricing, and you can always walk 100 yards from one dealer to the next to see what everyone’s got.

Here’s one item that’s a must to have at a boat or tackle show: a 3x5 index card. I carry one that’s got a little list of all the things I want or need to buy at the show. I do an inventory of my tackle and write down what I need, because it’s hard to remember it. I might need five packs of white lizards, three packs of 5/0 worm hooks and three packs of 3/0 swimbait hooks. If I know I need those things, I can find them, shop around, and buy them for a good price — instead of waiting until the Thursday or Friday before a tournament in March and winding up paying more at the convenience store down the street.

I’ll write down the kind of line I need, what kind of rod I might need to replace the one I broke slamming the door on the rod locker in the fall, a reel to replace the one I finally wore out. Going in knowing what you want can save you hundreds of dollars at a show, and it can keep you from making mistakes and buying stuff you don’t need.

So make a list and check it twice. This is time to play Santa Claus with your tackle box.