February is in full swing, which means the pre-spawn isn’t far away…for many of us anyway. If you live in the frozen tundra known as the Northern United States, you have a few hard months left to go. And if you’re down in the sunny part of south Florida, you’re bass have been spawning for a while now. But for the majority of us, the first hints of spring are right around the corner.
With the spawn imminent now, we’re encroaching quickly on the immediate pre-spawn period when bass will be feeding up and will weigh the most they will all year. If you’re an angler who loves to catch monster bass, the last thing you want to do is let this season sneak up on you. So, let’s prepare for the pre-spawn.
Check your rods
If you’re anything like me, winter can be a little rough on your gear. I try to keep things in order, but inevitably my rods get tossed around a bit as I jump in and out of buddies’ boats periodically and attempt to carefully transport a rod or two in my car for a day of bank fishing or product testing.
If this sounds at all like you, this is a very important time to check your rod guides and tips. These can be easily bent or broken, and the inserts can either pop out or get chipped. The worst of these, and the least noticeable to the naked eye, is a chip in the insert of a rod guide or tip. Just a small chip in a rod guide creates an extremely abrasive and sharp spot that will quickly fray or break your line.
So it’s best to look for these before they leave your line broke and you broken hearted out on the water. A quick way to check all your guides, is by simply running a Q-tip around the eye. If there’s anything there that would scrape your line, a few of the soften cotton fibers will tear free from the Q-tip and you’ll be able to find the chip easily.
If you do find a broken or chipped rod guide or tip, you can either do the repairs yourself using super glue, a little braided line and a guide off an old broken rod that’s lying around. Or there’s often a custom rod builder close by that will repair it for a few bucks.
Check your hooks
Checking all your hooks is another very productive use of your time when waiting out the winter. This is especially critical with treble hook baits like crankbaits, topwaters and jerkbaits. All of these lures will be called upon before long, and they need to be ready for the task ahead.
Treble hooks have a tendency to bend out and break off pretty easily. And they’re prone to rusting. Last but not least, the points can roll or break off which can sneak by even the keenest eye at just a glance. If you run into any of these issues, it’s often best to swap your trebles out for new ones.
The rust will be easy to detect with the naked eye. Though it takes rust a while to damage the integrity of a hook, it has a tendency to spread from one bait to another and make a mess of your whole tackle box in a hurry. So it’s best to remove the rusty hook from the equation early on.
Bent hooks can often be returned to their original shape using a pair of need nose, but this weakens the hook for sure and can be a dangerous endeavor. If the hook breaks during the process of bending it back, it can snap off quickly and burry into the hand that’s holding the lure. The safest thing to do is simply replace bent hooks as well.
And when it comes to a broken or rolled tip, these can be hard to see at first. Look closely, and if you still can’t tell, you can do the thumbnail trick. Carefully try to scrape the treble hook across your thumbnail. If it’s sharp, it’ll scratch it. If the point is dull, broken or rolled, you will be able to tell. Then, change those out too.
Check your line
Line is one of the likeliest things to fail on you as you set sail this spring, especially if you haven’t fished much through the winter. Fishing lines are more resilient these days than they were in the past. But still, sunlight and regular use will weaken them over time.
Look for the obvious abrasions and frays that may have been caused by rocks, wood or other cover as your last fishing trips wound down. But you can also tell if monofilament and fluorocarbon are getting pretty old and in need of replacing. Some of these lines will start to change colors or get stiff. These are signs that you need to change them ASAP, because their strength is definitely compromised at that point.
Though braided line lasts longer, it will start to fray a little over time and the color will fade. One money saving hack here is to simply ‘flip’ your line. By that I mean, take the line off the spool and then reel it back on starting from the other end.
This is fairly easy to do if you have another reel handy. You can just tie your braid to the spool of the other reel and wind it off of the current reel. Then the new reel will house what looks like a brand new spool of braided line, with the fresher braid that was on the bottom of the old spool now on the top.
Taking an inventory of your rods, hooks and line and then making the necessary adjustments is a critical part of every anglers preparation for the pre-spawn. This coming season is the absolute best time of the year to hook into the fish of a lifetime. So you better make sure you and your gear are ready.