The spring fishing explosion is under way, and one of two things will happen: Anglers will enjoy making memories at this annual affair, or they will miss the piscatorial parade because of avoidable events. ¶ Specifically, we're talking about tackle failure. You can't change the weather, you can't alter the tides, and you can't always have the best spots to yourself. You can, however, keep your fishing tackle in operational order with a few basic measures.
String it along
If your line breaks, you lose your fish. That one's easy.
Monofilament has its benefits, but it's more susceptible to breakage than braided line, so get in the habit of inspecting your mono before each trip and change line every couple of months — more often if you fish frequently.
Braided lines are significantly more durable than monofilament, but time tests all materials, so check your spool before every trip.
At the very least, inspect the connection between your line and leader. Is the knot holding as it should? Any damage to the leader portion of the knot can prove disastrous when a big fish tests the connection.
Even when knots hold fast, make a habit of running your thumb and forefinger along your leader and note any rough spots. Rocks, docks, oyster bars and even a snook's raspy jaws will abrade leaders, and that's a quick route to heartbreak.
On a subtle note, fluorocarbon is a popular leader material because it vanishes in the water. Nicks and burrs create darker, more visible spots on leaders and thereby diminish their stealthy advantage.
Rods at the ready
Broken guides — tips, as well as lower positions — are the common casualties of car doors, dropped tackle bags and errant foot placement.
You can still cast and reel in a fish with a broken guide, but these points distribute pressure across a bent rod, so taking one or more out can result in rod breakage during a heavy battle.
Eyes made of less expensive materials can chip and crack — both conditions that can weaken line passing across the damaged spots. Rub a cotton swab around a guide's interior, and any rough spots will grab cotton fibers.
Keep handle turning
Reels are the most complicated part of your fishing outfit, but you don't have to know how to take them apart and reassemble them to keep them in good operating condition. A good reel service center can provide complete interior cleaning and maintenance a couple of times a year, but intermediate care is something anyone can do.
Plain and simple, gear lasts longer when you clean it after each use. Saltwater is particularly corrosive, but general rust and grime issues will diminish the effectiveness of reels, along with hooks, pliers and lures.
A basic freshwater rinsing prevents salt crystals from gathering on metal surfaces, and that goes a long way toward making your gear last a long time.
After a trip, just line up your rods and rinse them tip to butt with a garden hose. Do the same with other metal items.
Seal the stinky stuff
Scented soft plastic baits are all the rage for inshore fishing, as much for their undisputable fish appeal as for their user-friendly simplicity. You can hop, jig and jerk them, but the natural baitfish and crustacean scents in the bodies will draw interest if you do nothing more than slip one into a pothole and wait.
The downside is the completely opposite effect these baits have off the water. Leave a bag open in your vehicle or anywhere else, and the situation gets ugly fast.
Some scented baits are packed in standing liquid. If this offensive elixir spills on clothing, bags or seating, you can plan on replacing those items.
Avoid such mishaps by checking bag zippers and doubling your protection by carrying the bait containers in a separate resealable bag. And this extends the useful life of moist baits by keeping them from drying.
Small steps add up to large impacts when big fish are on the line. Stay on top of your tackle and your tackle will keep you on top of spring fishing.