Although up where we live, in the northern realm of walleye country, ice fishing is still in full swing, we’re willing to bet many of you, like us, are already beginning to wear the pages thin on the new Bass Pro Shops catalog and cruising sport shows and local tackle retailers to see what’s new to help in your quest to catch more walleyes. The open water walleye fishing season seems so long away, but there’s plenty to be done right now to keep your mind in the game, and get your tackle, and you, ready for the new season ahead.
The first order of business should be to take a full inventory of your tackle and equipment. This is a perfect time of year for that, because any items you’re short on can be easily replaced before the open-water season gets rolling.
Start out by checking your stock of jigs; sort them by style, size and color, and check the hooks for rust. Rusty jig hooks are a menace, and those jigs should be tossed. You may think they’ll be OK, but the rust will simply spread to other hooks in the box, and rusty hooks don’t stay sharp! Make notes about what sizes, styles and colors you need, and be sure you have plenty of jigging accessories. These would include soft plastic bodies, stinger hooks, etc.
Next, sort through your crankbaits. Be sure you’ve got plenty of baits to cover different depth ranges, actions and color patterns. There are always new baits introduced each year, and you’ll want to be sure you make a list of the ones you want for the upcoming season. While the Berkley Flicker Shads have been on the market a couple seasons now, and one of the hottest walleye catchers out there, Berkley is adding some dynamite new colors to the line for 2010 that are sure to become big hitters this year. Make sure you have plenty of room in your tackle box for these!
As with the jigs, rusty hooks can be a big problem on crankbaits. If you find some rust in your crankbait box however, there’s no need to throw out the entire lure. In this case all you need is a pair of split-ring pliers and an assortment of replacement hooks. Don’t skimp on the hooks either ... remember, this is the part of the lure that either hooks the fish, or doesn’t, and if you’ve ever lost a big fish at the side of the boat, you know the feeling a bargain hook can cause. For the ultimate in replacement hooks, consider going to Mustad Triple Grip Treble Hooks (model 36233 in Black Nickel or Red). These unique wide bend, fine-wire hooks hold fish like no other. They come in a wide range of sizes to fit any crankbait, and feature Mustad’s super sharp, super durable Ultra Point technology. If you’re looking for a little stouter replacement hook, check out Mustad’s new KVD Elite Triple Grip Treble (model TG76BLN) designed by our good friend Kevin VanDam. It has a shorter shank which can be good for keeping hooks from tangling on smaller baits, and is built with a stronger wire than the standard Triple Grips. You’ll also want a few spare split rings available to replace any of those that are showing signs of rust.
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Every well-equipped walleye angler will have a supply of spinners and live bait snells in his arsenal. Since most of these are tied on monofilament line, be sure to check them carefully for any signs of wear. A good policy when it comes to these, is if it’s out of its original package, it probably needs to be replaced. Spinners can be stripped and the components salvaged to tie new ones, but it’s usually a good idea to tie those with new hooks. If you do tie a lot of your own spinners, be sure you have a good supply of blades on hand. Bass Pro Shops offers a full line of Walleye Angler series blades and other spinner components for the “do-it-yourselfer”. And we highly recommend you tie up your spinners using a quality fluorocarbon line like Berkley’s Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. This line is tough and virtually invisible to the fish, making it an ideal material for tying spinners. Line weights of 12 to 17 pound test should cover most all your spinner applications. For the business end of your spinners, Mustad’s new Double Wide Bait Hooks (model 10548R) feature a perfect balance between gap size and point angle and are as good as it gets for spinner hooks as well as other live bait applications.
As long as you’re checking out the live bait gear, you’ll want to be sure you have plenty of weights and bottom bouncers. The typical walleye angler will carry a lot of lead around in the form of everything from split-shots to Snap Weights.
Taking a little time for some light maintenance on your rods and reels is a good thing to take care of now too. Strip last season’s fishing line off your reels, clean the dust and grime off them, and put a few drops of lubricating oil on the moving parts. Loosening the drag on your reels while they’re not in use will also help them to last longer and serve you well in the seasons to come.
This is the time to pick up a few spools of new fishing line too. A new line you might want to check out is Berkley’s Trilene TransOptic. It’s a new monofilament that is not only strong and abrasion resistant, but it also captures UV rays to physically change the line’s color, making the line a hi-vis gold above the water and transparent below the surface where the UV rays are filtered out. If you are a line watcher this is a great new line for you.
Some fishermen find it tough this time of year ... stuck indoors staring out at the snow covered landscape and the ice formed over their favorite trolling water, but time spent “cranking it up” for the upcoming season will help get you through until the time comes once again to hit the water in search of your Next Bite.