Saturday, February 21, 2015


If someone were to survey outdoorsmen on their least favorite month, a strong case would likely be made for February.

Photo by Matt Reilly

    Though a multitude of sporting opportunities might be pursued in the second month, everything from trout, bass and musky fishing to snow tracking, predator calling and skiing, February is a time of relative slowness in the out-of-doors. The calm, however, precedes the rapid changes that will occur across the Old Dominion come spring. Thus, February is a logical time to make preparations for the upcoming season.

Tackle Care

    In my pre-driving years, when I was still entirely dependent upon my elders to transport me to the water, I became a master at organizing, cleaning, honing and reorganizing my gear. Even for those with the freedom to take off to fish at any given moment, this is a worthwhile chore to undertake at least once a year.

    Start with your reels.  With both spinning and baitcasting reels, remove all moving parts, clean them and apply a small amount of reel grease to help keep them lubricated and smooth. Don’t apply to much — an excessive amount will stiffen the reel’s movement. Apply an anti-rust protectant such as WD-40 to the outer surfaces. Wipe down, air dry and reassemble.

    Rods can be given the same care. Windex and a paper towel rubbed on the cork handle is a good cleaning solution. Wipe down the rest of the rod blank for good measure.

    It’s a good habit to replace weathered lines every season, depending on their use. A few dollars is a small price to pay to guarantee that your connection to the fish is at peak performance. A clever alternative to buying new line is to strip the current line from the reel spool and reverse it. This places the effectively new line that was at the very core of the spool on the outside. This line will have lots of memory, but applying a product such as Blakemore’s Real Magic will eliminate memory and clean the line for increased casting distance.

    Fly lines can be cleaned with the same product, or with a fly line-specific product. Though lines should be cleaned regularly throughout the season, a thorough pre-season cleaning is essential to starting out on the right foot.

    Inventory should be taken of your tackle boxes, too. Depleted lures should be replaced, and every piece of your fishing arsenal should be put back where it belongs (I know it won’t stay there for long), as this will only save you time on the water.

    Treble hooks on lures should be replaced and sharpened.

    When all is said and done, there are always flies to be tied and more fine-tuning to be done.  Fishing is an art, so take care of your tools.

Blustering Bass

    Unfailingly, every year, spring peeks out from behind the gray sky of February. For two days — maybe three — sunshine and temperatures in the 60s replace snow, sleet and cold, and fisherman go mad for winter’s temporary disguise.

    Underwater, bass feel the change, too. Winter has slowed their metabolisms to an all-time low. But as water temperatures heat up, so do their metabolisms.

    Larry Largemouth puts on his feedbags, and the urge to spawn pulls him progressively shallower, creating a unique window of opportunity for fishermen.

    It was on a February weekend with such weather that I rounded up my younger brother, Connor, and pleaded with our mom to drive us to a local farm pond I had acquired permission to fish.

    The sun was blinding as it beamed down onto the open field and the glimmering pond into our soft, wintry eyes. Wind swept the broomsedge and pines — March’s lamb-like temperament was early.
With Connor tagging along, I was more than happy carrying my Nikon and coaching him on his casting and retrieval, more than confident that we would find some fish.

    We first set up on a main point, adjacent to a known spawning cove where the water temperature was in the low 50s.

    Bass will use these sloping points as underwater elevators when altering their position in the water column for temperature gains. In the summertime, the cove’s mouth is choked by a weedbed, so with the wind in our faces, I attempted to commentate what was happening subsurface. 

    As the wind blew micro-invertebrates with the water current toward the point, small baitfish would follow and with them, larger predatory fish.

    No sooner had I said this, a small minnow broke the water’s surface ahead of a charging V-wake.
Connor, rigged with a white, three-inch plastic swimbait, cast into the wind and retrieved it with subtle twitches, rod tip up. 

    I grabbed my Nikon when his retrieve was interrupted, and he excitedly set the hook on a chunky four-pound late winter largemouth.

*Originally published in the Rural Virginian

1 comment :

Brk Trt said...

Good tips on gear cleaning.
I'm waiting for a Shenandoah report.