As the winter kicks into full gear, it’s time to start off-season preparations for the next fishing season. Whether you’re a fun fisherman, a pro, or club-level angler, there are many things you can do during the off-season that will help you on the water when the ice thaws. Here are a few things I like to do to prepare my gear for the upcoming fishing season.

Reorganizing your tackle

Nothing gets more frustrating or wastes more time on the water than digging for a bait, hook, tool, or other item you need. After 200 days on the water during the past season, my tackle can be anywhere. That’s why I reorganize, from scratch, every year.

While I am reorganizing, I also check for damaged baits, dull hooks, and holes in my inventory. It’s a lengthy process, but it will pay off in saved minutes and headaches on the water.

I start by emptying all of my storage boxes, by bait type, onto a large table. I then clean the storage boxes with nothing more than water and a rag. I make sure the boxes are good and dry before I put baits into them.

From there, I take individual baits and check them for damage, hook sharpness, and split ring quality. Then I organize them by type, size, and depth range and place them back in the storage boxes.

I label each box on every side, including the top and bottom of the box with something that makes sense, like “Megabass Deep-X Shad Crankbaits.” You never know which side will be the easiest to see when you are digging through your storage compartments during your fishing day.

For hooks, I dump them all on the table, keeping them in small piles of like size and styles. I will go through each hook and check them for sharpness and shape. When I come across a dull or bent hook I will either sharpen it or discard it.

Throughout this process I will take an inventory of each product and make sure I am fully stocked and prepared with everything I will need for the upcoming season.

Reel repair and lubing

Even though I get a quite a few new reels each season, I use many of the previous season’s reels for an additional season. For the reels I plan to use in the upcoming season, I tear them apart.

I will check each part for visual flaws, like missing teeth in the gears or stripped threading on the bolts or screws.

I clean them with proper a proper reel cleaning kit, which can be found at almost any tackle shop, and re-lubricate them. Then I reassemble them and make sure everything is good and tight and ready for a season on the water.

Lastly, I check each drag system. I check it to make sure it is functioning correctly and very smooth. A smooth drag, especially on light-line applications, is very important.

Line inventory

When you spend as much time on the water as I do, you can go through a lot of fishing line. This is why during the off-season I take the time to organize and prepare my line for the upcoming season.

The first thing I do is pull all the line out of the boxes I keep it in and organize it on a large table by size and type. I have quite a bit more Gamma Edge fluorocarbon than I do Gamma monofilament, or Tuf-Line braided lines, but I organize it separately and by type, color, and size. I have a pretty good idea of how much I will need of each for the duration of the season. I store my line in non-transparent plastic storage boxes and label them with line type and sizes for easy access during the season.


Taking the time during the off-season to prepare for the upcoming season will save you time and headaches while you are on the water. What seems like a monumental task at first is much easier and manageable when tackling in the comfort of your home. I do quite a bit more than just organizing during the off-season, like map study (either paper or electronic) and new product research. However, it’s the time I spend organizing my tackle, cleaning and lubricating my reels, and preparing my line for the next season that saves me the most hassles when I am on the water.

Image courtesy Luke Clausen

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