While winter cold may be keeping you off the water, there are still some things you can do that will help you catch more fish when spring returns. To begin with, when was the last time you did any maintenance on your rod and reel? That’s right, your rod and reel. Most fishermen are extremely particular about maintaining their reels. Saltwater fishermen are more aware of this because of the corrosion caused by the saltwater environment. And while today’s fishing rods are both highly specialized and highly priced they never seem to get the attention needed to keep them in top condition. The most important thing a fisherman can do to insure a good quality fishing rod remains that way is to rinse all dirt, sand, and salt from it after every trip. The area around the guides and reel seat are especially prone to corrosion and should be cleaned carefully. Another area neglected by many fishermen is the fishing line. Your line can dry out, become brittle, and develop weak spots due to extreme changes in temperature. This is why after a winter spent in the garage, your line will break under the strain of a trophy fish on the first spring fishing trip. Some reel cleaners may also have an adverse effect on monofilament fishing line. The chemicals in the cleansers may cause your line to dry out and break under stress. The easiest way to make sure your line will hold when you’ve got a trophy speckled trout or redfish on the other end is to replace it when you think of it. Don’t wait until the next time, do it now. Boat maintenance is something we never think about until it’s to late. While the winter winds are blowing and you can’t get on the water, take a day and check out some of your boat’s trouble spots. Many people believe that the motor is the most important part of boat maintenance. But think of it like this, if your trailer breaks, the finest running motor in the world won’t do you any good. First, check the wheel bearings. If there is to much play, replace them and make sure to add plenty of grease. You might also want to cover them with one of the many bearing bras available. At the very least, you should go ahead and change the grease, replacing it with new grease and cover. Next, make sure your wiring is intact and in good working order. Look for fraying or spots where the wires are rubbing against the frame or tongue of the trailer. If you find spots where the wiring is rubbing, but not worn through, use electricians tape to reinforce the wires and fix the problem. Other trailer trouble spots are: the running boards, make sure they are in good shape and don’t have any rotten spots; the tongue, oil the ball fitting and latch; and finally check your trailer lights to make sure that after all the other work a simple burned out bulb doesn’t get you a ticket. After you’ve made sure the trailer is ready to go begin checking out the motor. If you’re putting your boat away for the winter and it’s not one of the oil injected type, it might be a good idea to drain the oil. Also, now would be a good time to change the lower unit grease and replace it with new grease. Be sure to make sure all moving parts are sufficiently lubricated. Cold can cause dry steering cables and hoses to become brittle and crack so make especially sure that these areas are taken care of properly. Making sure to drain the fuel tank, if the boat is going to be stored for an extended period of time, can save you some major headaches later on when you pull your boat out for the summer season. And, thanks to today’s technology, you can pull your spark plugs, spray some of the conditioner inside the socket and return the plugs to their original places. Another way of making use of the cold winter months is to take advantage of the lower tides and strong northers. When a northern blows through the already low winter tides are pushed back even more. A wise fisherman will make the trip to the bay at this time to see things that he may have been missing because they were under water. Some of the more important items of interest are reefs, cuts, and sand bars that will hold fish during the summer months. After seeing these different forms of structure, you’ll better understand why you catch more fish in certain areas of the bay. A better reason for studying the bay while the water is low is to better see where you can take your boat. Bring along a map of the area and mark spots where the cuts run and where they don’t. Remember, that when spring arrives there will probably be at least a foot or more water over the bottom. Keep this in mind along with how much water your boat needs to run and you’ll have more places to fish come spring. Last but not least, cold and rainy winter days are a great time to clean and organize your tackle box. Begin by finding an out of the way place around the house or preferably the garage. Take everything out of the box and lay it out according to lure type, weight, or whatever is best for you. Now, clean out the box. Rusty hooks on one lure will infect every other metal object metal object in the box. And once rust gains a hold there’s no stopping it, so begin by replacing all rusted hooks. This is also a good time to take care of those lures that have become worn and had the finish scratched off by marauding fish. For refinishing plugs visit your local drug store and load up on the many colors of fingernail polish and don’t forget at least one bottle of clear. Paint the plugs whatever color your like and after the polish dries, add a coat of clear to help preserve and protect the color. This is especially good for tarnished and scratched spoons. After you’ve tried rejuvenating the spoon with a good metal polish, try painting over the ruined surface, replacing the hooks, and add a bucktail in a contrasting color. BINGO! You’ve got yourself a brand new spoon. One last thing, as you’re placing everything back into your clean and reorganized tackle box. This is the perfect time to sharpen all your new hooks just to be sure. You see, just because you can’t get on the water doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to prepare for your next fishing trip.
– Texas Saltwater Fishing Guide