Top Ten Off-season Prepping Tips for Anglers

No serious angler should let his “down time” during the open-water off-season go essentially to waste just reading magazines and watching the latest TV fishing shows. There is still ample time in your weekly calendar to tend to your angling bug in some very fundamental and important ways. Here in Ohio, the ongoing lack of fishable ice this winter has provided even more time for many to tend to the preparation that is so fundamental to the properly prepared angler.

Here are my top ten areas of off-season preparation—listed alphabetically—to make sure you’re prepared and ready to safely and comprehensively enjoy the upcoming fishing year of 2016:

  1. Boats/watercraft
    No matter what kind of boat you most often use, from kayaks to jon boats and canoes to lavish bass boats, there is preparation to be considered and maintenance to be tended to. Generally, the larger the craft, the more complex are the concerns. Any gas motor should have had its gas tank prepped with a stabilizer like Sta-Bil or other similar product for protection against “varnishing” or the settling of bad gas. Trailer tires should be checked for any sidewall cracks or telltale low-air readings. Trolling motor props should be removed to check for damaging and energy-robbing accumulations of fishing line. Check all safety devices for availability and expiration dates.
  1. Electronics
    Screens should be cleaned with an alcohol-based wipe like Zeiss Lens Cleaners. Check connections for any signs of corrosion. Check with your sonar manufacturer for availability and facilitation of any update relevant to your particular unit. Consider attending any available classes on GPS or other applications during the off-season.
  1. Hooks
    Monotonous though it may be, few tasks are more fundamental to successful fishing than good quality hooks with competently honed hooks on all their lures and for soft plastics use. While easing back in that recliner, have a stack of tackle boxes ready to tend to when able until the task is competently and thoroughly done. I like to sharpen my hooks by hand with a quality hand file, but many opt for one of the available hook-sharpening products on the market.
  1. Licenses
    Who hasn’t been embarrassed by forgetting or neglecting to make sure that you have a new personal fishing license or all boat and trailer licenses? Online access by state makes this annual ordeal easier than ever before.
  1. Fishing line
    More anglers should probably dedicate more time and research to this particular area of preparation. I list every reel and spare spool I have as well as every rod they are likely to be paired with for what application prior to putting on fresh line. Not only color (easily seen fluorescent blue for soft plastics, for example), but also type of line (mono, braid, fluorocarbon) should be considered. Then line strength and diameter and sheer test power must be considered, rather than just grabbing an old spool of whatever and spooling it until gone. I don’t at all mind putting on my own line, but do acknowledge that line filled professionally by machine at the local bait shop is my top choice and eliminates leftover excess line.
  1. Needs
    I suggest keeping a notepad handy as I do an inventory of my tackle to note just what needs are to be met before hitting the water for the first time. I then take this list with me when finished to a quality outdoors store or to a catalog like Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s to fill my particular needs for the coming year. And, attending a good local sports show like the Cleveland Outdoor Adventure Show at the IX-Center is another fun option for fulfilling needs.
  1. Reels
    Taking your reels for an annual thorough cleaning and tune-up at a quality tackle store is my preference. For minimum attention, at least oiling the shaft and handles of spinning reels and the underside bearings case of all your level winds is essential.
  1. Rods
    Too many anglers that should know better spend too much time looking over the cosmetics on their prized rods rather than attention to the fundamentals. Make sure handles are secure as well as eyes. These same eyes should be run through with cotton swabs to check for abrasion tendencies and replaced before they end up damaging your line.
  1. Skirts
    Too many fishermen readily check out and understandably replace worn skirts on their spinnerbaits without paying similar attention to the skirts on their jigs, which are as every bit as important.
  1. Tackle organization
    Time is valuable, and not only tournament anglers must know where all their gear is and commit it to memory as best they can. Organizing and inventorying your tackle as covered above will always go a long way in recalling what is where. To help, I label all my tackle boxes with a permanent marker.

Proper preparation will go a long, long way in making the upcoming fishing season a successful and safe one for you and yours.

Jack Kiser is the host of TV’s “Buckeye Angler” and co-host of Fox Sports’ “Destination: Outdoors,” heard locally on WARF-1350 every Monday evening from 5-7 p.m. and Saturday morning from 6-8 a.m. You may reach him at the Facebook site for either program.