A few years ago my buddy and I were pre-fishing for a walleye tournament. The bite was soft and light. He caught about 5 to my one before I decided to check the hook on my jig. I either didn’t check it before the first cast or the hook point hit a couple rocks. It was so blunt it rolled over my thumb nail. To this day he reminds me every time we go fishing to check the hook.
After that fateful day I’ve become very aware of dull, rusty or bent hooks. I will also keep a close eye on my leader for twists, fraying or nicks. A couple minutes here and there might help keep that trophy fish pinned on your hook. I always tell my clients there are 3 points of release. Bad hook set or dull hook. Bad knot, twisted or weakened line. A drag that’s too tight or to loose. (We won’t talk about netting in this article)
Let’s start with some tips on hook maintenance. When a hook comes out of the package, I like to line the point of the hook up with the eye. Grab a pair of pliers and push the hook from the base of the bend right or left just a little bit. I’m a firm believer an off-set hook grabs more fish. When selecting your lure, jig or plain hook take a moment to look it over. If you see rust around the point grab a hook file and grind it off. While you’re at it check the sharpness of the hook. I do this by running the point over my thumb nail. If the hook scrapes or slides over it, I spend a few seconds sharpening it. Sharpen the hook away from the point so it will not form a burr on the point. If you keep your tackle in boxes make sure they are waterproof boxes or the boxes that drain and breathe. This will help with rusty hooks. To keep hooks sharp protect them by burying the hook in foam. Pipe insulation from the hardware store works wonders.
Line can create its own set of problems. When fishing clear water for anything I like to use fluorocarbon. I must admit, I have a love hate relationship with fluorocarbon. Its more sensitive and abrasion resistant then mono, but its memory can drive me nuts. We vertical jig tubes for lake trout, the tubes are terrible line twisters. Keep an eye on twisted line, if and when it starts twisting up and causing problems cut it off and retie. Watch the bottom few feet of your line for nicks or fraying, if you see anything change it. If you’re a sports fan, watching a game on tv is an excellent opportunity to learn new knots. (A little practice hear helps land a few more fish.) If you’re still using fluorocarbon or mono from last year this would be a great time to change it out. Fall is right around the corner and those big fish will be looking to break a few hearts and create more stories. When I replace my line on the spools I color coordinate my line. All 6 lb. will have a green tint, 8 dark or smoke, 10 clear. This helps me look at a spool without wondering what’s really on it.
I always loosen the drag on each reel at the end of the day. This keeps the washers from warping and gives me a smoother drag. Just make sure to adjust it when arriving at your spot. Run a cue tip through your rod guides, if they pick up the cotton there is a nick that could cut your line.
Have you ever pulled on a snag only to retrieve a nasty old lure? I always throw them in a bucket and let the plastics dry out. When they dry out you will have the opportunity to see the actual color. Waterlogged plastics turn white in the water. This leads to another cool tip. While using tube jigs I always have a few in a zip lock bag of water. As the tube starts to lose its color I will pull it out, put a hook in it then fish it. Those muted colors can really get fish excited at times.
All my crankbait, jig and hook boxes are vented, there is nothing worse than finding a box that got water in it and developed rust. Once a month I empty my entire boat, clean the storage compartments then restock it. This helps me keep clutter down to a minimum. If I haven’t used something in a while, I ask myself “Am I really going to use it or is it going to sit there”. There is no use in having your late fall gear in the boat during the month of August. While you’re at it check your life jackets. If your using inflatables check the green or red indicator, then act appropriately. Is your fire extinguisher charge good?
These are some practices that might help catch a few more fish, make your day on the water a little more pleasant or at least help you clean your gear on occasion. I’ve adapted them, it makes me a little more efficient on the water. My wife just told me she wishes id put as much energy in cleaning the house as I put in my boat. At least she notices.