JACK WOLLITZ It's all downhill to fishing season 2002

Anglers are an optimistic bunch of people. We have to be, after all, considering we spend far too much time wishing we were catching fish.
So it is with great optimism that I check the calendar and discover I've endured half of the off season.
It has been 10 weeks since I put the boat away for the winter. In another 10 weeks, the Ranger will be back in the driveway.
In other words, I've hit the summit on my trudge through winter and it's all down hill from here on out. Soon I'll be stuffing the boat's storage compartments with lures, scents, towels, sunscreen, first aid items and everything else that makes the boat my home on the water.
In the meantime, I've been fussing with my toys. The reels are cleaned and oiled. Rusty hooks are replaced. The rods are inspected. All the plastic worms, tubes, jigs and trailers are sorted and reorganized.
I have prowled the aisles at Dick's, Gander Mountain and Walmart and scanned the pages of the catalogs from Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops.
That's a warning to the fish that I've stocked up on new secret weapons like Senkos, Mad Man craw tubes and more. (I know they don't read this, but it's the best I can do for a fair heads-up.) So now I can coast to April and let my optimism build.
Adding knowledge: Everybody wants to start the 2002 season sharper. A great way to get smart is the Citgo Bassmaster University session March 9-10 at Cleveland Airport Marriott.
Presenting advanced information about bass fishing will be pro anglers Jimmy Houston, Larry Nixon, Mark Davis, Mike Auten, Terry Baksay and Danny Joe Humphrey.
I can vouch for the abilities of three of the teachers, as I have had the opportunity to spend a day in the boats of Houston, Nixon and Davis.
Houston and I rode together on the James and Appomattox rivers in Virginia as he plucked a limit of tidewater largemouths. He's not only entertaining, but extremely talented with spinnerbaits and sure to provide tips that we all can apply.
Nixon is amazing with plastic worms and demonstrated his skills to me on the Ohio River near Louisville, Ky. He's also widely acknowledged for his versatility with crankbaits, topwaters and whatever it takes to put bass in the boat.
Davis was my host for a day on the Louisiana Delta near New Orleans and I watched in awe as he limited early on keeper bass with a floating worm. He changed to a larger craw worm and began flipping with 30-pound braided line and jerked in two more limits of fish considerably bigger.
All in all, the B.A.S.S. seminar at the airport Marriott should be a great learning experience. Call 1-800-472-9039 for registration information.
New Zebco reel: Long known for its dedication to making inexpensive reels available to anglers, Zebco has a new product that is sure to appeal to those who require a simple-to-operate spincaster.
It's called Omega and features all-metal construction. But it also has six ball bearings and a helical-cut brass worm gear drive that makes the Omega smooth and durable. Another innovation is the oscillating spool to prevent line from stacking and hindering casting.
Omega has many more features that make it a cut above previous spincast reels and should earn itself a following by those who just can't get a handle on baitcasters.

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