Every fisherman gets excited this time of year. Winter is over and the warm weather only means one thing, the start of fishing season.There’s a lot to do: wax the hull, preform engine maintenance, schedule your launch date and throw on bottom paint are a few at the top of the list.
While all this is important, most people are so focused on getting the boat ready they neglect their fishing gear & crew.Early season is a great time to prepare before problems occur and ruin many a fishing trip.
1. Organize your terminal tackle
Keeping your tackle in proper working order will help prevent failure and make sure everything you need is on board.
Start by emptying and cleaning all your tackle boxes and fishing bags.Built up fish grime and salt residue quickly becomes unsanitary and shortens the life of your gear.
Reorganize your tackle boxes and trays making sure all lures and terminal tackle are where you want them, labeled and ready for quick access. There’s nothing worse than standing on a pitching deck going through six different trays looking for a lure while fish are splashing franticly at the surface behind your boat.
Remove all old knots or line fragments from your lures making sure the eye holes are free of obstruction so new knot tying is a breeze.If any hooks, swivels, split rings or lures look excessively worn or tired - throw them away and restock.
2. Get your rod and reel battle ready
Performing ongoing preventative maintenance on your rods and reels is a no brainer in salt water environments, but don’t forget your pre-season startup ritual.
Check all your rod guides (hoop or roller) and ensure no sharp edges or cracks have formed anywhere your line may come in contact.We like to rub a Q-tip (cotton swab) around each rod guide and see if any cotton gets snagged or pulled.Replace your rod guides as needed.
Reset your reel drag to ensure you don’t pull hooks.It’s a fairly simple process to reset your drag on most reels.If you’re unsure, consult your manual or find a video on you tube.Every fisherman will have an opinion on how many pounds of drag you need - many will change with the fish you’re targeting.
Get in the habit of spooling your reels with fresh line.A few times we’ve gotten lucky using the same line across several seasons - but we’ve also lost several stripers in 20 minutes during a fall blitz.Now we rarely use the same line (mono or braid) across seasons (unless that reel has been lightly fished).After all the money you’ve spent getting out to the canyon, do you really want to be gambling with line from last season?
3. Manage your crew for success
80% of a successful fishing trip comes from having a prepared crew who know how to perform their roles on deck.
Think about crew management and preparing everyone before you leave the dock.Do folks know their assignments (angler, gaffman, leaderman, spotter, etc.) and how to preform their jobs?Even the most seasoned crew needs refresher training and insight into any new tactics you want to implement.
Print out all state fishing licenses.There is nothing worse then watching a crew member struggle to pay for a license on their cell phone while leaving the inlet at 0500 hrs.We prefer seeing a printed license before leaving the dock, but a screenshot saved to a phone will suffice in today’s digital world.Trust…but verify.
Create a list of backup crew members.Anyone’s life or personal situation can change at a moment’s notice; we’ve had half our seasoned crew cancel the day before an overnight canyon trip after we just loaded the boat to the gunwales with fuel, bait and ice.Having a list of folks you can call in these hard times can salvage a trip.
Lastly always make sure your boat is properly equipped with all safety gear required by the US Coast Guard and enough PFDs for everyone onboard. A free safety inspection from your local Coast Guard Auxiliary Squadron is a great way to ensure you haven’t forgot anything.
The spring startup can be a bit overwhelming with so much to do, but following these simple tips will get you summer ready and ensure time on the water is spent catching fish and making awesome memories.