Unless you’re in Florida, bass fishing in January isn’t too much fun. That’s why I use January as a time to get all of my fishing stuff – tackle, lures, boat – ready for the upcoming season.
I’ll usually put a drop of oil on all my reels, make sure they’re still in good shape and replace the ones that aren’t. I check all of my rods, especially the eyelets, to make sure they aren’t cracked. That can cause you to lose a nice fish.
I will go to the lake and see if I’ve got all of my electronics working just right. Sometimes, you need to fine-tune them. The new electronics have got more features than I’m smart enough to use, so I spend time on them.
My Lowrance unit has Active Target, and I will work on tuning it in so I can see a lot better. I will go out on the lake and work and play with it to learn my unit.
One thing worth paying attention to is your trolling motor and how it can relate to your depth finder. I have run other units, but my Lowrance Ghost is tremendous. You can do so many things when your trolling motor works in concert with your electronics. I spend time on the water – when I’m not trying to weigh in fish – learning all of the advantages those units provide.
I spool all my reels with new line and put them on the rods they match. I try to have two rods with 15-pound, 100-percent fluorocarbon, maybe one rod each with 17- and 20-pound line. I’ll have a rod with 12-pound test and my crankbait rods all with 10-pound Sensation or X-5 braid.
Last but not least, I am going to go through my tackle boxes. I want to look at all my crankbaits and check the hooks, make sure none of them have gotten broken, had the barbs broken off, things like that. The Fusion 19 hooks that are on my Berkley crankbaits will really stay sharp. I used to upsize the treble hooks that came on my favorite plugs. But now, they’re already upsized for the particular baits.
Next, I look through my tackle boxes and try to fill in the holes. I want to have five of every lure and color, especially crankbaits. You need to have at least three, but I like five. If you go out with just one or two, you can bet you’ll lose a bait, hang it up, or you’ll hit it on a rock or a bridge piling and break it. I’ll make out a little list of baits and colors I need to add.
Test it out
As far as crankbaits, if I’ve got access to a swimming pool, I’ll go out and test and tune those new baits. I used to go to a Holiday Inn that had an indoor pool that was closed during the winter and use that pool to test my crankbaits.
Now, this is where I probably do things a little differently from a lot of fishermen. When I sit down with my tackle boxes, I’m looking at all the lakes I’m going to fish in February and March, and I will find all the baits I might use at those lakes in those months, and I’ll organize them into tackle boxes. I like those Plano boxes that seal up all around; they keep your hooks from rusting. I’m going to find all the lures and colors I plan to use in January, February and March, and I’ll put them in boxes. I’ll have a box of spinnerbaits, a box of jigs, a box of Slobberknockers, and boxes of crankbaits. Except for maybe some Generals and Flukes, I’m probably not going to use many plastics in January, February and March. Leaving all those boxes of plastics out of my boat saves all kinds of weight and can actually help my boat run better.
I want five of each crankbait – each size, each color. Reds or crawfish colors are so dominant in February and March. I’ll want the two reds that Berkley has, plus Honey Shad, Kentucky Blue and Lone Ranger. All of those colors are great. I’ll have my Frittsides, all three sizes plus the Big Uns. And for March, I’ll probably have some Dredger 8.5 and 10.5s, because until March, you don’t need to fish more than 10 feet deep most of the time.
What do I do with the rest of my baits? I leave them at home for a couple of reasons. First, the weight. I can eliminate 100 pounds from the front of my boat by leaving stuff home that I’m probably not going to use anyway. Second, it makes stuff so much easier to find, and you’ll be surprised how much more efficient it makes you when you don’t waste time sorting through tackle boxes looking for a particular bait. You’ll know right where it is.
I kept all my lures sorted the way most fishermen do until a few years ago when I changed. Now, I have everything I want to use in the storage in the front of my boat. I can find baits almost immediately, because I have them sorted the way I do.
This works for all seasons. I’ll have boxes for the prespawn – April through mid-May – and I’ll have a post-spawn box and a box for summertime fishing and fall fishing. I’ll have the lures I plan to use at those times sorted so those boxes will be the only ones I’ll need in my boat. The big difference will be carrying plastics, but to some extent, you can sort those by season, too.
It may not be for everyone, but I’ve found it a great way to get my baits organized as I get ready for another fishing season.
What size line?
My fishing buddy Al Little used to put round stickers on his fishing reels with the size line written on them. That’s a great idea that will help you make sure you’re using the right reel for whatever lure and technique you’re going with.