116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — November is a conflicted month for those of us who can't spend enough days fishing the Mississippi River.
As certainly as the leaves are going to part from the hardwoods and giant flocks of mallards and geese wing their way to warmer weather, the curtain also will fall on the open-water fishing season. By Thanksgiving, it's time to look ahead to the days when you'll be sitting in an ice tent with a hot cup of coffee and a crappie flopping on the ice.
But first things first. It's also time to make sure you're ready to get back on the Mississippi in the spring.
Boat cleanup and maintenance, along with engine winterizing and battery care, are priorities. There's nothing worse than wrecking that first trip to the river in March with equipment issues when the walleyes are perking up after a largely lethargic winter.
The same goes for fishing gear and tackle.
I seldom make it through a season without at least one or two rod and reel issues. From broken rod tips to malfunctioning reels, there's always something that needs repaired or replaced. I always have a couple of reels in need of fresh line, as well.
When it comes to tackle, most of us have our favorite presentations and our favorite lures.
I always end the fall with lures hanging all over my boat, and the end of the season is about the only time I ever put those baits back where they belong. It's also an ideal time to go through the boxes of tackle you use most. Inevitably, I end up with a few crankbaits returned to whatever box is handy rather than the box where they actually belong, so sorting and reorganizing are part of my process.
Then I go through each box and fix things like missing or broken hooks. If I have the time, I sharpen the hooks on the crankbaits I use most often.
Taking inventory is a proactive step you'll probably appreciate later. I'm down to my last two Rapala DT6s in the Helsinki Shad pattern that was deadly in May and June. I have just one of my best bass fishing top waters remaining, thanks to a couple of aggressive northern pike that couldn't resist an attack. I need more Rapala Rippin' Raps, too, after they proved their effectiveness in late spring.
Plastics seem to disappear over the course of the open-water season. I find used, torn and dissected ones in the cup holders and trays in my boat, in the pockets of the clothing I wear and inside my tackle bag. I use everything from ringworms and paddletails to grubs and shad bodies in applications that range from Dubuque rigging to jigging. Sometimes I even bulk up my hair jigs by adding a plastic body, especially in the fall when the walleyes are chowing down and like a bigger bait. I'm low on the shad-bodied, tube-style tails that are my go-to for crappie fishing, too.
When it comes to jigs, I enjoy crafting my own during late fall and early winter. I fish jigs in several styles and sizes depending on the situation, so reloading those boxes is always on my to-do list. It's good to have lead, hooks, paint and tying material on hand so when you make time to make jigs you don't have to wait until you can order supplies.
Terminal tackle is another consideration. Do you have swivels, three-ways, snaps, hooks and sinkers?
Typically, by the time I finish tackle inventory I have a lengthy list of needs at exactly the right time to address them with Christmas gift requests to my wife and kids.
There are plenty of other chores you can take care of, too, before you put your boat and open-water tackle into hibernation. How long has it been since you cleaned up your GPS unit and eliminated trails and waypoints you don't need or use? Is it time for a mapping update? Got a tear in your boat cover that needs patched or sewed?
A few hours of attention now can save a lot of headaches next spring.
Meanwhile, I'll also be thinking about ice fishing. Unfortunately, it's cold when I call the hard-water season a wrap and I don't give that equipment the same season-ending attention.
Were my tent lights working when I put it away last winter? Didn't I have a reel with an anti-reverse issue? How's my stock of titanium jigs?
Looks like I've got a lot to do in the next few weeks.