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FRANKFORT, Ky. – With much of Kentucky covered in a sundae made of snow topped with a crust of ice, fishing season seems millennia away.
The sun gets higher in the southern sky with each passing day; it is only a matter of time before this horrible weather pattern breaks. Use this dark and cold time to prepare for the inevitable coming of the spring fishing season.
Get your gear organized. While we change lures or rigs in haste while fishing, most of us just shove things such as bags of soft plastic lures, jigs or leaders into the first pocket in our tackle bag we find.
For most anglers, the tackle bag goes onto a shelf in the garage in fall until fishing season begins the next spring. Take the time now to get out all of your tackle and go through it. Throw away torn up soft plastic lures, replace worn spinnerbait or jig skirts and put everything back where it belongs. Then, you can actually find the lures or tackle when you need them this spring.
Organizing your tackle is especially important if you fish for different species from different platforms such as fishing from a motor boat for largemouth bass, wading for trout in the Cumberland River or floating for stream smallmouth bass in a canoe or kayak. Your tackle and lures easily grow into mishmash by the end of the fishing year.
Use closeout season to upgrade your fishing rods or reels. The large catalog outfitters routinely clearance many of their fishing items at this time of year to make room for new models. Earlier models of reels or rods usually perform just as well as the new models. Remember, those same rods and reels were cutting edge when they debuted on the market, usually just a couple of years ago. You can often find them at a steep discount, sometimes 50 percent or more off the original price right now.
This is a great time to buy closeout lures as well as steeply discounted fishing waders, wade boots and fishing vests. It is also a good time to buy deer or waterfowl hunting gear at great prices.
The clearance season is a good time for journeyman anglers to specialize their rods and reels. When most of us start fishing, we use one or two rods for all of our fishing, regardless of species sought or water body fished. They are all we have. As fishing experience develops your skill level to a higher plane, the one or two rod approach doesn’t work anymore. You don’t want to fish jigs in heavy cover for largemouth bass with a light power rod or use a medium-heavy power rod for crappie.
Remember the difference between a rod’s power and action. The power of a rod determines what fishing situation the rod’s design allows. For example, a light power spinning rod usually handles from 4- to 8-pound test line and lures from 1/16-ounce to 5/16-ounce. This rod is a poor choice for throwing ½-ounce jigs into heavy cover for largemouth bass, but great for fishing 1/8-ounce tube jigs for stream smallmouth bass.
The bend point of the rod determines its action. Extra fast action rods bend mostly in the tip section, making them extremely sensitive and good for bottom presentations in deep water. Fast action rods bend mostly in the upper one-third of the rod and provide backbone for hook sets and fighting fish, but still allowing some forgiveness.
Moderate action rods make excellent live bait rods as their softness doesn’t rip bait off the hook, but they still have enough strength in the lower half of the rod to battle a fish. A slow action rod bends for most of its length and is used mainly for casting live bait a long distance.
Match the power and action of a rod to the fishing situation when upgrading rods.
Respool all of your reels. Line is the only connection between the fish and you. It is also relatively cheap. You can respool a reel with monofilament line for less than the cost of a large candy bar. Fluorocarbon lines cost much more, but a respool with even the highest end fluorocarbon line costs less than one fast food lunch. Fishing line weakens with exposure to sunlight, water and use. Old line will let you down when you can afford it least. Avoid the gut punch that comes with breaking off huge largemouth bass, catfish, striped bass or trout because you didn’t replace old, worn line.
Finally, study maps of the lakes or rivers you plan to fish this coming year. Most anglers feel more comfortable fishing structures they can see. Fishing visual structure puts you at the end of a long line of anglers.
Map study illuminates underwater humps, points that extend well out into the lake and river rock bars known only to ship captains. The farther from shore you can find fishable structures, the more likely you are to find trophies.
Trophy fish flee human activity. They don’t grow large by being caught. Find subtle offshore areas to fish and separate from the crowd.
Get organized, upgrade your rods, respool your reels and spend a few icy February evenings with a cup of hot chocolate and a map in your lap. You’ll have a leg up on spring fishing when this long, horrid winter finally ends.
Remember to buy your 2014 fishing license soon as the 2013 fishing license expires Feb. 28, 2014.
Author Lee McClellan is an award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.