Lakecaster Online

By Sue Crochet

Happy New Year everyone! I sure hope you all had a great Christmas ... we surely did. Everyone is healthy and our grandchildren were very excited with their gifts. As for me, I was just grateful to have all my family around me during the holidays.

Although there are one or two circuits that have kicked off their 2000 season with "early bird" tournaments, we still have a month or so before everything gets into full swing. This is a great time to do some things we don't take time for all through the fishing season.

If you're a tournament angler, probably the single most important piece of equipment is your big motor. Have you had it tuned up lately? This is something we do every year before our tournament season kicks off and I'm sure it's saved us some big headaches. There are some things that are out of our control, but I'll bet that regular tune-ups help us to avoid most of the problems other anglers encounter, who do not tune up their motors.

What's a big motor without the batteries that make them work, right? It's a good idea to have your batteries checked to make sure they're in good condition and will take a full charge. You might want to check out your battery charger, as well, to be sure that it's functioning properly. Isn't it a bummer when you're fishing one of those always windy, spring tournaments and the batteries won't allow you to stay on your spot or go where you need to go? Fortunately, my husband and I have a battery sponsor who takes care of us twice a year. Every six months we get new batteries, whether we need them or not! Thanks, Ernest Kennedy (Safety Brake Sales/Battery Warehouse) for taking such good care of us! Even without a sponsor, let's face it folks, when you've spent $150 - $300 to fish in a tournament, batteries are relatively cheap. Making sure they're in good condition and fully-charged will sometimes make the difference between a good fishing day and a bad one.

The next most important piece of equipment is your trolling motor. Is it functioning properly? Maybe there's some line caught in the prop. It's usually a good idea to take the prop off occasionally to check for line or other trash that may be causing a slight lack of performance. You might want to check all connections and fittings, inside and outside of the head of the trolling motor, to make sure they're good and snug.

Now, let's talk about rods and reels. Once you get where you're going, the only way to catch fish is to have fishing equipment that is working properly. Sometimes we go through the season with a loose eye that we just keep pushing back into place and maybe super glue it temporarily, until we can get it re-wrapped. Then, when things slow down and we get into hunting and honey-dos, we forget about those little things. There's no better time than the present to look over all your rods for loose eyes or broken tips and get them repaired or replaced before they cost you a really big fish. Reels are a part of our equipment that we take for granted. I don't know about you, but my reels don't get attention until something doesn't work right. For those of us who have several reels (a luxury not everyone can afford), it doesn't totally put me out of commission when something goes wrong with one of them. But, this is not the case with the vast majority of anglers, so it would be smart to check those reels thoroughly before embarking on an important tournament. Make sure the pushbuttons will pop up readily once the handles are cranked. Tighten all screws and assure the reel is securely anchored to the rod. At the very least, they should be cleaned and/or oiled between seasons ... as in right now. My husband is very good at tearing down reels and getting all those teeny, tiny parts back into place. However, I prefer to pay someone else to deal with this headache. However it's done, this is the best way to make your reels last virtually a lifetime.

Organizing tackle is kinda' like doing housework. You know it'll get messed up again, but if you don't keep it up, it just gets to be more and more of a mess! I like to keep my tackle organized so that when I go to look for something, I'll know exactly where to find it. Even if they're some of my favorite lures and I'll be sure to take them out first, I always put them back in their storage containers/compartments until I need them. The same thing goes for other things I use regularly, such as clippers, scissors, scent, line, and so forth. Holsters on the poles of our butt seats are where we keep our needle-nose pliers. We've been in some pretty rough water and they stay right in the holsters, and they're easy to get to when we need them.

What about your boat trailer? Are there any boards or carpeting loose? Depending on how long you've had your boat, you might want to check the tires for wear or flaws. You should particularly look on the inside of the tires, or the side that's under the trailer and not showing. If you have a spare tire, you might want to take it down for a couple of reasons ... one, to loosen up the fittings that are holding it on the trailer and make sure they're not corroded and are easy to remove if you should need to get to the tire quickly and two, to check for possible flaws and there is adequate air pressure. If you do a lot of traveling with your boat trailer, you should also make sure the bearings are in good shape and greased.

What kind of shape is your boat in? Have you looked at the bottom to make sure any minor "dings" don't turn into major problems? We're pretty good about getting in our boat within a week or two of our last tournament, to clean it up and put lures back where they belong. We've just recently gotten into the habit of pulling the plug in our boat after each tournament, to allow moisture to escape. Water from rain-soaked carpet, draining your ice chest, or taking a wave over the bow or stern of your boat will collect in the hull of the boat. If it's not allowed to drain completely, even things that are stored in "dry storage" compartments will begin to mildew and smell.

A few other things you might want to check on for the upcoming season are:
- A new roll of toilet tissue.
- Fire extinguisher is charged.
- Tools are available and in good condition for changing a prop or doing minor repairs.
- First aid supplies are available.

Now is also a good time to sort through your tackle for lures that are no longer functional and are taking up space. Get rid of them! You can make your favorite spinner bait look like brand new by polishing the blades and putting a new skirt on it. Sharpen the hooks on those favorite crank baits and take the time to separate your favorite worms by placing them in readily accessible plastic trays. Another thing we always try to do is lighten up our boat by sorting through our lures and keeping only what we think we'll need from one tournament to the next. What usually happens is that we need those exact items we decided to leave behind! When I first learned to fish, I was taught that there was a certain of year to throw a gold Rogue, another time when the Rat-L-Trap was the only thing to throw, and yet another when a watermelon seed Shad Assassin would kill 'em. But I tell you ... if you throw these lures when no one else is, you're likely to catch more fish than they are. So I guess the best rule of thumb is pack as much as you can, 'cause you never know when you'll need it!

Finally, I'd like to remind all of you that January is usually the time of year when boat shows are popping up all around us. Lots of folks are looking for that "good deal" and hoping this is the year they'll be able to graduate to that bass boat they've always dreamed of having. If you're one of these people, you need to take the time to ask around about used boats. There are many anglers from this area who are sponsored tournament Pros (such as Yours Truly) and these folks will "turn over" their boats as regularly as every one to two years. Professional anglers take a great deal of pride in the products they represent and will usually maintain their boats better than the average angler does. Additionally, because they need peek performance at all times, these folks will usually have extended warranties on their equipment. If you're looking for a boat, you should check ads in local newspapers, credit unions, and boat dealerships for these kinds of bargains first.

Good luck and God Bless!

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