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Remember to clean, organize fishing gear in offseason

With just four more weeks until we finally put 2020 in the rearview mirror, many anglers already have stashed their tackle for the season.

But before too many days pass and we forget about our fishing equipment, it’s a good idea to organize our stuff and do maintenance work so everything is ship-shape when the spring fishing gets going.

All the gear that saw regular duty during the past eight or nine months deserves inspection, cleaning and sorting.

Rods and reels, in particular, benefit from TLC. Anglers can remove the grime that accumulates around rod butts, blanks and guides with simple soap and water. Gunky guides provide friction that actually slows the line as it flies up the rod and reduces the distance and accuracy of anglers’ casts.

I also rotate a cotton swab inside the guides to check for cracks. Rough spots that snag the cotton have the potential to damage and weaken fishing line. Replace cracked guides during the offseason to avoid broken lines in the spring.

For a bit of insurance against rod damage, consider investing in nylon mesh rod socks, which have become popular for good reason. They protect the guides and graphite blanks from damage caused by sliding rods in and out of boat lockers and in transporting them from house to the lakes.

My reels see hard duty 10 out of every 12 months, so before I put them to rest for the winter, I scrub them clean and carefully lube the gears and moving parts. I use Quantum’s Hot Sauce, but any of the reel-specific lubricants will work well.

I strip all of my reels of the line I used during the past season, leaving 50 yards of backing before respooling with fresh monofilament or fluorocarbon line to start the coming year. New line adds distance and control to anglers’ casts and helps ensure solid hook-ups and failsafe performance.

I try to keep my lures organized and in good condition throughout the fishing season, but it is inevitable that my tackle storage system falls into disarray. So I dedicate a few Saturdays in December to cleaning the clear plastic boxes in which I store my hard-body lures.

Each lure gets a visual inspection. I touch up nicks and scrapes with enamel fingernail paint and add a dab of red to the shank of the leading treble hook on crankbaits and top-water lures. I replace any treble that has a bent tine.

I also check all skirted lures jigs, spinnerbaits and buzzbaits ä for signs of deterioration. Plastic skirts can become gummy over time and must be replaced. The bands that hold skirts in place also can soften and cause the skirt to fall apart.

For those that are on the verge of failing, I make multiple wraps of 20-pound-test mono or braided line around the skirt’s seat on the hook shank and tie secure knots to hold them in place.

I sort out jigs and spinnerbaits that have hooks that are no longer sporting needle sharpness. If I cannot file a fine point, I discard them to avoid the possibility they will fail me next spring.

One of the big learnings to come out of 2020 is that anything can and will happen. It makes sense then to do our postseason maintenance chores now to reduce the risks when we hit the water again in 2021.

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