I’m the world’s worst procrastinator when it comes to getting ready for prime fishing season. In my neck of the woods, the bite can start popping off as early as the middle of February and I’ve known this for decades. But somehow, I end up waiting until just a few weeks before to start getting my boat, new electronics and fishing tackle ready. I spent the entirety of this past weekend chasing my tail and stressing out while trying to get all my stuff in order. For whatever reason, I do this every single year.
I got to talking with my wife the other evening at supper and we decided I should put together some sort of rudimentary checklist for guys like myself. This is the perfect time of year to publish this and I sincerely think it might help some folks get their proverbial ducks in a row a bit easier.
Awesome fishing will be here before you know it. Here’s how I (try to) keep my stuff in order so I’m ready for that first warm front of the late winter and early spring.
Order any new boat accessories
This is a big deal and something that, if procrastinated, can waste a bunch of time and set you back several weeks. Marine electronics manufacturers are running wide open throughout the late winter. All of the professional anglers are submitting their orders and even the weekend anglers are trying to get their orders done as well. This leads to slower shipping times, lack of inventory and backorders at times.
Whether you’re upgrading graphs, getting some shallow-water anchors or throwing a Hydrowave on your boat for the upcoming season, order this stuff as close to Christmas as you can. Even if you’re not going to install it yet, go ahead and get your stuff delivered so you can complete the install whenever you have time. Getting your electronics to your house is the most important part.
Take your boat to the shop
If you rig your own boat, that’s awesome. I choose not to because I simply don’t have the time to mess with it. This is the time you need to take your boat to the shop. Not only for rigging, but for general maintenance as well. In another month or so, the boat shops are going to bust wide open. Recreational boaters and lakehouse owners will inundate them with all sorts of crazy and complicated problems, so it’s best to beat the crowd and arrange an appointment for your boat now. Like, right after you read this article.
I have waited until late February before and it can easily become a nightmare. There’s nothing worse than knowing the big prespawners are moving shallow and your boat is stuck at the shop with a two-week turnaround time. It’s a miserable feeling.
While they’re rigging any of your new toys, make sure to get them to change your lower unit oil, replace your spark plugs and change your impeller at the very least. These are very simple general maintenance tasks that, if ignored, can completely derail your spring fishing plans. I know it sucks to pay that bill, but go ahead and bite the bullet now and get it over with.
Order your hard baits
While your boat is in the shop, you’ll have a perfect opportunity to take care of a little “housekeeping”, as I call it. This is when I like to go ahead and make all of my hard bait orders for the prespawn period. I rarely, if ever, fish with soft plastics during the prespawn. Most of my fishing includes crankbaits, jerkbaits, ChatterBaits and spinnerbaits. The season for huge female bass is coming up quickly, so it’s important to go ahead and stock up right now before it’s too late and inventory gets low. I waited too long a few years ago and when I finally got around to making orders, all of my favorite colors were sold out.
I generally start by buying three of my favorite colors of each bait. Again, the price tag can be a little high when you do this, but if you take careful inventory before ordering, it may be the only hard bait order you have to make all year. It’s a good feeling to know that, whatever the water color, temperature or conditions do, that you probably have a bait that’ll do the job.
Put new line on everything
This is absolutely, without a doubt, my least favorite part of fishing. I’m not a huge tackle tweaker, but I am fairly adamant about keeping fresh line on all of my reels. I will put this off until the very last minute usually, but I’m trying to be better about it this year. It takes me a long time to get everything re-spooled, so I try to make it as painless as possible. My wife will come out to the shop with me-she holds the screwdriver and spool of line-and we’ll turn on the radio or TV and make somewhat of an impromptu redneck date night out of it. I know; I’m such a romantic.
In all seriousness, however, it really is important to go into the fishing season with fresh line. That old, crusty line has been sitting on your reels and kinking up all winter long. You don’t want to get your spring off to a bad start by breaking off every fish you hook. Go ahead and spend an evening to knock it out.
Get your boat back and clean it
I’m kind of weird about organizing my boat each winter. We’ll get to the organization part in a second, but I have to clean my boat before I start reorganizing my tackle. I’ll pull it out of my shop and wash the inside and outside before I really get down to the nitty gritty of things. A clean boat helps me think better and fish better, as strange as that might sound.
I’ll wipe it down, take a shop vac to it and even shine my trailer tires. It makes me a little less stressed out and for some reason it pumps me up to go fishing.
Pull everything out, purge and reorganize
The amount of crap I accumulate in my boat throughout the year is simply unbelievable. I’ll find hoodies, rain jackets, baits and even shoes in my compartments I forgot I even owned. I actually embarrass myself every winter when I clean everything out. Surely I’m not that messy, right?
This is the best time of year, however, to take everything out of your boat. Lay it all out in your driveway or shop and start purging anything you won’t need for the spring. You’ll be amazed by all the soft plastics, hard baits and other miscellaneous stuff that has been weighing your boat down. Just this past weekend I took about 50 pounds of junk out of my boat.
Before you hit the prespawners, order your soft baits
When that prespawn bite starts popping, I get a one-track mind like a buck in rut. I become completely immersed in it because it’s my favorite thing on the planet. I’ll even get so immersed that, when they start to spawn and gag on soft plastics, guess what? Crap. I forgot to order my plastics. I’m only left with the remnants of last year.
So before you get all carried away with those big ol’ prespawners, take an hour to hop on the computer and order your soft-plastic necessities. Then you can go fishing without having to mess with anything else. They’ll show up at your door in a few days and you’re ready to rock without any worries.
Now, I certainly didn’t reinvent the wheel with this piece. But I truly believe that a lot of us procrastinate way too long when it comes to preparing for the good fishing ahead. Fishing shouldn’t ever be stressful, so try a few of these tips and see if you can’t get a little system going and simplify your spring fishing a bit more.