Winter Blahs

By Steve Huber - March 1, 1999
It's tough to think about open water fishing when the thermometer is reading approximately 18 gazillion below zero as it is today while I'm writing this. It's tough but it's one of the things that keeps me going when I'm trapped in the house like this. My wife thinks I'm nuts, but now is when I get ready for the upcoming fishing season.

During the open water fishing season, it's hard to find time to do the routine maintenance that really should be done, especially when your time is Fireline graphicdivided between my dual careers as a firefighter and also a fishing guide. All of the reels need to have the old line stripped off (do what I do...put it on your tip-ups and jig poles, if you ice fish). I know, I know, it's expensive to replace that much line and far easier/cheaper to replace just the first 50 - 75 yards of line, but do you really want to risk the fish of a lifetime because you tried to stretch one more outing (season?) out of your line? When you add up all that you have tied up in rods, reels, lures, terminal tackle, etc., it's false economy to NOT replace all of the line. It's been said before and I'll say it again...your line is the only connection between you and the fish, don't skimp on something that important! This might be also the time to consider one of the premium, synthetic lines (like FireLine) that are on the market, some like them, some don't. You might do as I did in the beginning, try it on one or two reels and see if you like it.

Remember how your favorite reel, on your last trip out, was making all those really funny (not ha-ha funny) sounds?
Remember how your favorite reel, on your last trip out, was making all those really funny (not ha-ha funny) sounds? It needed cleaning, lubrication or something was wearing out. Casting lures, especially large musky lures, puts a lot of stress and strain on reels and parts do wear out. NOW is the time to take care of your problem equipment, not a week before the season opener. This is the time of year to either repair or replace that problem equipment.

Something to drive your "significant other" crazy is to clear off the kitchen table and take apart your reels to clean and lubricate them. I've found that the kitchen table works great, the light is good and just as important, you're near the refrigerator. Assemble the necessary tool to disassemble your reels, and what I do is take one part off, and clean it with a mild solvent (I use low odor mineral spirits) in a small pan with a flux brush (available at any hardware store). As I clean, I lay all of the parts out in the order that I took them off to reduce any confusion when it comes time to put things back together. It's amazing how much gunk and grunge accumulates on a reel in the course of a season. I usually try to clean my reels several times during the season but...well, you know...

As you are cleaning, take note of the condition of the parts, if anything looks worn, now is the time to get replacement parts, not opening weekend. If you don't have a reel repair shop nearby, there are several sources on the InterNet, you can order them on-line or over the phone. Check with your friendly neighborhood bait shop, if they can't get you the parts, they'll probably have a shop that they can refer you to.

After everything is apart and cleaned, I begin to reassemble the reel, lubricating with either a good reel oil or grease, depending on the part. If you paid attention to how things came apart and you laid things out in order, everything should go back together easily. If not, you have plenty of time to study the diagrams that came with the reel (you kept that stuff from the box when you got the reel, right? I thought so), and hopefully get them back together. If not, put everything in a box and take it to that friendly, neighborhood bait shop and either they can get it back together or they'll have a source for reel repair that they can send it to. Now, aren't you glad that you did this now, rather than two days before leaving on that lunker expedition??

Get your rods out and check them over, clean the grips with a mild detergent and warm water. You'll be amazed at how much crud comes off and how nice the grips will look and feel. If you have rough spots on cork

Pay special attention to the rod tip, that's what gets the most pressure and is most likely to give you a problem.
grips, they can be smoothed with fine sandpaper. Take a Q-tip and run it around the inside of each eye on the rod. Look for anyplace that pulled fibers out of the swab, that is where a crack is developing and potential place to fray/cut your line. Pay special attention to the rod tip, that's what gets the most pressure and is most likely to give you a problem. Replacement tips are readily available and most are held on with a heat set glue. Simply warm the tip with a lighter and it should twist off. Using hot glue, simply put on a new tip. You might have to re-warm the tip to realign it with the rest of the eyes.

As you are checking the eyes, pay attention to the wrappings on the eyes. If they are starting to look worn and frayed, they too will need to be re-done. If you don't know how to do this part, there are books on rod building available (check your local library) that will show you how to do this, it's not as hard as it looks. Mostly, it's time consuming. Besides, it's cold outside and there's nothing on t.v. anyway, what else do you have to do? Another thing that you can do is use a good automotive paste wax on the rod blank itself. It helps protect the rod finish from fading in the damaging rays of the sun.

The last thing that you have to do is go through your tacklebox(s?). This is a pleasurable experience in itself. Look at each lure, remembering whether it produced or not. If it did, doesn't it bring memories flooding back? If it didn't maybe it should be taken out. Do what I do, give it to a kid...they'll always manage to catch a nice fish on it and make you wish you'd never given it away. Besides, if you have empty spaces in your box, it gives you a valid (?) reason to buy new baits. Checks the hooks, if they're rusty, they need to be replaced and if they can be replaced, put on new hooks and sharpen them...now. Use a metal cleaner and polish up those spinner blades. If the wrappings on those bucktails is unraveling, use fingernail polish to touch them up and re-seal the wrappings. You can while away several days doing this...I can stretch it out over a week. My wife says I'm daydreaming and stalling cleaning the driveway...I say that I'm being practical, prepared and re-living fond memories while avoiding a heart attack.

Until next time, see ya.

Author Steve Huber

Steve Huber
Steve Huber, an avid angler with over 35 years of experience (man, he's old) is one of the few multi-species guides in the Rhinelander area. He's been operating G & S Guide Service for 8 years now and loves to fish for Muskies, Northern Pike, Largemouth/Smallmouth Bass and the occasional Walleye (in no particular order). A person who loves to see others succeed, he's an educator while on the water and when he's not teaching you something, he'll regale you with tales of adventures and mis-adventures gleaned from his years on the water. If you liked this article, you can check out Steve's web site at http://www.herefishyfishy.com.