As I come back to the paper for my first full week, I cannot help but think how much has changed, but, at the same time, how much has stayed the same.
“Are we there yet?”
I remember asking that question more than once from the back seat of my Mom’s Ford Galaxy 500 as Dad drove us up to the U.P. to see our grandparents, his parents. But, I also never asked more than once. Those who knew my Dad would understand — it was not something a kid would ask repeatedly.
Now, as an avid bass tournament angler, usually some time around the end of January, I the same question.
“Are we there yet?”
Is it spring yet? Time to get the rods ready and get the boat out yet? I have always said it is not winter that is so long, but what seems like six months between January and March that are the problem. But every year we get there, those of us the Big Guy upstairs has allowed to see another spring. We get the warmer weather and the sunshine and, eventually, soft water in the lakes again.
The question, at this time of the year, other than “are we there yet?” is “what should I do with all of this time?” And, when an angler really thinks about it, there is a lot to do. While there are days on the water that I would rather be lucky than good, I find the more preparation I put into it, the “luckier” I tend to be. So, for me, and many other anglers, late winter is preparation season.
Well then, what do I do to pass the time? This winter I got pretty heavy into pouring my own soft plastics, which is a lot of fun and very time-consuming. It is probably not for everyone, and there are several safety precautions, including wearing a respirator to keep the fumes at bay, but it is something I enjoy.
I know several other people who dabble in building their own rods, or making spinnerbaits or buzz baits. A few friends even skirt their own jigs. Of course, I have friends who own small businesses in the fishing industry, and they are busy in their shops year-round with customer orders.
Even for those who do not believe they are creative enough to make their own lures, or who just do not have the time or the space (I have an entire room for making baits, which makes it super easy), there is plenty to do in the cold winter months.
One of those things is to really go through all of my gear. I take apart my reels and clean them all up, oiling them where needed. I also use this time to clean up my rods. While I have been a foam grip handle kind of girl, my late husband was a cork grip guy, so I am now charged with cleaning that cork at least every winter. A good friend, though, gave me a tip. She said to get the cork clean like new again, just use some toothpaste and water. And I will be danged if it did not work perfectly! The rod grips looked like brand new.
I also use this time to go through all of my tackle. Again, I have far more than I could ever use in the next three years, with what I inherited when Rod passed away, so this task probably takes me much longer than it does most anglers, even tournament anglers, but I think it is probably the most fun part of getting ready for the next season.
By now, most tournament anglers, and likely even some anglers who simply fish for the fun of it, have the list of lakes they will be fishing, or would like to visit, in the coming season. I will be fishing the series I run, the Central Wisconsin River Series, as well as another series, the Upper Midwest Bass Challenge, run by a very dear friend of mine Gregg Kizewski from St. Germain. My boyfriend Chet and I fish together, and will also fish a few tournaments in other series as well as two different clubs’ tournaments. That said, I can plan at least a bit, for the types of things I think I will throw most for the time of year and the type of water I plan to fish.
I think every angler starts out that way, but by the end of the year, the “just in case” section of the storage compartment often accounts for more weight in the boat than what we originally planned to use on any given lake. But we learn as we go along — OK, sometimes it is out of desperation, but sometimes it is because we have learned something.
At this point in the year, though, I feel like I can make a pretty decent plan. Then I take stock and make sure I have enough of everything I think I will need, at least to get the season started. Now that I am making my own soft plastics, which is the majority of what I throw throughout the year, it is a bit easier to make sure I have what I need. But still there are some small businesses across the state that will always have my business when it comes to fishing lures. So I make a list for each of those as I go through my tackle.
While some days winter seems to drag on and open water fishing season seems far away, it is fun to keep busy going through tackle and getting my gear ready. Now is the time to go through all of that, and to make a list of anything the boat needed when I put it away last fall. That will make for the best start to the season.
The best part? I have never heard Mother Nature say she is going to “turn this car around” and go back to December if I ask one more time, “Are we there yet?”
Beckie Gaskill may be reached at [email protected].