Tuesday, February 2, 2016

February Fishing Checklist

Handicapped Outdoors
I want to begin by thanking all of you for making last week's article the biggest article for Handicapped Outdoors ever.  The readership continues to expand and that is because you are sharing the article or talking about with your friends.  From the bottom of my heart - Thanks!

Groundhog Day 2016 and Phil didn't see his shadow, meaning an earlier spring is on the way.  Reality is, here in the south, we have enjoyed several spans of warmer than average days.  Last week was mostly in the 70's with mild nights.

Lake shore
All of this spells two marvelous words - Big Bass!  February is the month of transition in the south when deep Winter and early Spring begin sparring for dominance.  The Sun's angle is increasing daily as well as it's warming strength.  All of this should signal a fisherman to begin inspecting their gear and making it ready for some of the best fishing of the year.

After a long layoff from fishing, I like to go through a checklist to make sure my gear is in top condition.

1.  Line - The first thing I like to check on is the condition of my line.  I use braided lines that can wear over the course of a summer.  I typically like to change lines at the beginning of a new season.  I leave the backing on the reel but replace the braided portion with fresh line so I get the very best hook ups possible.

Zoom Fluke
2. Soft Plastics - I am a believer in soft plastic baits and I depend on them a lot.  I like to empty my fishing bag of all of the soft plastics to take inventory.  I have certain plastics like, Zoom Flukes that I love and this is the time to see how many I have or will need.  Discard those that have become irregular in shape or discolored.  I also use this moment to inspect my bait boxes to see if any of the plastics melted inside them during the heat of the previous summer.  If so, I throw out the old box and replace it.

3. Hard Body Baits - I know all of you keep your tackle perfectly ordered all year long and never are guilty of throwing a bait in the wrong box during the heat of battle.  BAH!  We have all done it, right?  This is a great time to re-organize your boxes and double check if anything should be replaced or discarded.

4. Hooks - While organizing, I make sure to double check the status of the hooks on every bait.  Check for rust, bending and replace where necessary.  Treble hooks have become rather easy to remove and replace using split ring pliers.
This is also a great time to double check the hooks you use for soft plastics.  Sharpness is of massive importance.  Some people like to sharpen their hooks, while others would rather just purchase new ones.  For me, it's just a matter of making sure I have plenty in the sizes I like to use.

5. Terminal Tackle - Weights, beads, rattles, jig-heads, needle-nose pliers, etc.  Make sure your brother-in-law hasn't borrowed what you think is in your bag.  Just the moment you need it and it isn't there, you'll thank me for this checklist - LOL!

Jig and Skirt
6.   Spinner-baits/Jigs - Check the skirts on these amazing baits.  Skirts have a tendency to dry and crack over time, so this is a great time to replace those skirts that got mauled the year before or are just brittle and falling apart.

7.  Duplicate - I cannot emphasize this enough.  If there is a certain bait you catch fish with routinely and you only have one of them in your bag...it's a mistake.  Having a backup is a minimum in my experience. Personally, I am all about letting someone else catch fish too, so I keep 3 or more of my very best baits on hand so that when I am catching I can share the wealth.

8. Reduce - There is nothing wrong with getting rid of some things that you just aren't confident in to begin with.  If you never use a particular lure or set-up, let it go.  You can always try it again when a particular situation calls for it.  Why lug around stuff that you are never going to use?

Reel Parts
9. Drag - Your reel is everything!  Being certain it is set correctly is critical.  After adding the new line, I like to check that the drag is set correctly.  This is big fish season.  Allowing a big fish the line it needs can be the difference between landing it or watching it swim away with your bait hanging out of its face.

Enjoy the changing of the seasons, warmer days and lovely sunsets and may there be bass under all your Lilly-pads!

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