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Off Season Chores
 By Sam Anderson

Off-season projects for the fisherman make fishing season get here faster.  January is a difficult time of year for the fisherman because the fishing season for most folks has become little more than a memory as the snow piles up outside and the time until the opener grows longer by the day.
Fortunately for sportsmen, there are a number of off-season projects that can occupy their time during the month of January.  For instance, there is always a need to clean the tackle box.  When cleaning the tackle box you will see that there are some hooks that need to be sharpened and there are a few things that need to be discarded.  If your tackle box needs cleaning chances are then your rods, reels and line need some additional attention as well.  If your fishing line is not put on the reel correctly, it can cause line twist that will result in tangles, reduced casting distance, and tough day on the water.  Most tackle shops will fill your reels for you, but it still pays to learn how to do it yourself.  That way, you can change your line anytime you want to and save money by purchasing line in larger quantities. Baitcasting and trolling reels are the easiest to fill.  You can buy a small line holder that will keep the correct pressure on the line as you
reel it on, or you can just ask a friend to help you.  Loose wraps can cause tangling later on, so it is important to keep slight tension on the line while you are spooling up. You can do this by holding on to the line before it enters the reel, or by having a friend hold the spool of line while you wind it onto your
reel. If you have someone holding the spool for you, insert a pencil through
the center hole and have them apply a slight pressure inward to keep tension on the line as you reel.  Run the line through the guides of your rod and onto the reel, and tie the end to the spool.  Then all you have to do is turn the handle.
If you are keeping tension on the line by squeezing it with your fingers, make sure you don't squeeze too tight.  If you are squeezing hard enough to make the line heat up, you may be weakening it.  Just keep it tight enough to lay down smoothly and evenly on the spool.  Fill the reel to within an 1/8 inch of the outer rim.  Don't overfill. Line twist is the problem of all spinning-reel fisherman.  When line isn't put on the reel correctly, it can start coming off in loops, twists and coils that make it impossible to cast or retrieve.  To avoid really bad line twist, make sure the line is spooled on correctly.  If you still get line twist, make sure that your line is taut before you start reeling after a cast.  Starting to reel in while your line is flopping around by the reel is a surefire way to get into trouble.  If you do start to get a loop or coil, loosen the drag and pull the line
off with the bail closed.  If you open the bail, line will tend to keep coming off in strange double-loops and coils.  Pulling it off against a loosened drag will usually get you back to normal after just a couple of feet.
Since the spool of a spinning reel doesn't rotate, you need to be careful how you spool it on to avoid line twist.  Place the spool of line on the floor with the label up, and pull some line off the spool so it spirals up.  Thread the line through the guides on your rod and tie it to the spool with the bail open.  Once you've got the line tied on securely, you are ready to start spooling. Hold your rod so that the tip of the rod is about three feet above the spool of the line that is on the floor.  While you are reeling, keep tension on the line by holding it between your thumb and forefinger in front of the reel.  Turn the reel handle just fifteen or twenty times at first, then stop and dip the rod tip to about a foot above the spool of line.  If the slack line twists into a tight coil, turn the spool of
line over so that the label is face down, and continue reeling until the spool is to within an 1/8 of an inch of the lip of the spool.  If the slack line didn't twist when you lowered the rod, just resume reeling. Don't overfill. Fill a spincast reel the same way you do a spinning reel.  Don't forget to thread the line through the hole in the reel face before you tie it to the spool.  Spincasting reels don't  hold very much line as a rule, so make sure to open it up and check it frequently.
A good premium line like Berkley fishing line will last a long time. Some professional fishermen change their line everyday, but that is in extreme cases.  Make sure you store your reels in a cool place and keep them out of direct sunlight.  Heat and sunlight are enemies of line that will weaken it, but with proper care and spooling, you should have tangle-free fishing.
Now that you have new line on your rods take a closer look at your
tackle box and your hooks.  What shape are they in?  What does your hook
gap look like?  Hook gap is overlooked by many anglers as something that is not that important, but if you want to catch more fish this season you should pay
attention to this little detail.  Hook gap is the distance between the hook shank and the point of the hook. I know what you are thinking.  Why is the hook gap so important?  Take a glance at most jigs.  The point of the hook is in line directly behind the line eye, especially on most round head and bullet head jigs.  Some jigs even have the points below the line eye. This type of jig even
makes it harder to hook fish.  A walleye will many times ingest water with the bait and pull the entire bait into its mouth.  Watch a walleye feed.  They will suck in the bait and expel the water through their gills.  If the walleye feels anything foreign in the meal he has consumed he will quickly spit out the jig.    If the walleye has just the bait in it’s mouth; you could still hook the fish.  But if the
walleye has inhaled the bait and the whole jig, much of the time the fish will not be hooked. The point of the jig hook should be bent up to increase the hook gap. With the hook pointing upward and a little to one side, the chance for a
solid hook set is increased considerably.  Instead of the hook point just scraping the top of the walleye’s mouth, it will cut and burrow in.  I refer to this many times in my seminars as making the jig have a "cam action".  In essence, this makes the fish hook themselves. Don’t forget to check the sharpness of the hook as you improve your hook gap.  Many walleyes are missed because of unsharpened hooks.  It is extremely important that the jig hook is sharp.  Quite a few excellent anglers touch up the hook on every jig before it is put in the water.  With winter gripping most of the land it might be a good time to get out
the tackle box and touch up some of those hooks as you watch TV.  I found that the Northland jigs I use have very good hooks but I still check then for sharpness.  The vast majority of the quality jigs on the market today have excellent hooks, but it’s a good idea to check the hook before a walleye gets it in his mouth.  Often times we are in a hurry when we are on the water and we don’t realize that our hooks are put away wet and rust forms on these hooks.  A rust spot will grow and make your hooks dull and blunt. These two activities should keep you busy on some of those cold winter evenings and if you would like some more off season tips to do on your equipment contact me on the web at, www.samanderson.com..

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