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from Hank Parker!

    For a large section of the country, the next few months may provide some down time.

    Of course, we’re not talking about fall, when fishing can be utterly fabulous, or for the far Southern anglers who have the luxury of fishing year-round. On the other hand, everyone needs to spend some time revamping his gear so that it’s in tip-top shape before good fishing hits again in spring. Now is a good time to schedule that.

    I get to fish all year, but I still use the slower months to get my tackle in order. There never seems to be enough time to do it right during the busier months of the fishing season, yet it is so critical. Maintaining gear and getting better organized lead to fewer equipment failures, more casts and ultimately more fish.

    The benefits of owning a lot of tackle are diminished if you’re not organized. This is a never-ending project for bass fishermen because we’re constantly accumulating new stuff. Without a good system that keeps everything in its place and at your fingertips, you’re going to get frustrated and waste valuable time on the water.

    Tackle-box manufacturers have made this easier with a variety of specialty tackle boxes and bag systems. There’s no one-size-fits-all in tackle organizations, nor does one system work well for all people. That’s why you should visit your favorite tackle supplier, see what’s available and then see how it can work for you.

    Consider how you currently store and organize tackle and think about how you can alter it to save space and time. For example, have you added new techniques? A specialty box set up with the lures and terminal tackle components keeps everything at your fingertips.

    Also, don’t forget your existing lure boxes. This is a good time to eliminate the older baits or colors you no longer use and restock with your favorites.

    If you carry a lot of crankbaits, box them by running depths. If you carry a lot of soft plastics, organize them by technique or size. For example, put all of your key colors of finesse worms in one box, action-tailed worms in another and flipping baits in yet another. Don’t forget to label your utility boxes so that you know at a glance precisely what’s in them.

    The off-season is also a good time to upgrade your hooks. Treble hooks on hard baits get overlooked, and that can cost you a big fish next spring. Hooks on frequently used baits will deteriorate from use, so get yourself some good replacement hooks and a pair of split-ring pliers.

    The same goes for your hooks for soft plastics. Hooks stored over time in a utility box can rust or weaken. Examine your current supply, replace questionable hooks and restock with sizes and configurations that you use the most.

    You’ll also need to maintain your rods and reels. Clean the reels and add lubricant as specified by the manufacturer. Run cotton balls through rod guides to check for nicks. If the cotton snags, you know that guide needs to be replaced. If a rod or reel is worn, now is the time to put it on your Christmas wish list.

    Watch your local retailer, catalog outlets and even outdoor shows for tackle bargains. Winter is a good time to stock up on lure sizes and colors that may be hard to find when the season begins. If you can find bargains, you can buy more for your money.

    While all of this may sound simple or basic, it’s incredibly important to be stocked with the necessities and well organized before the next season begins. So many anglers have a lot of gear but never know where it is or how to use it efficiently.

    Developing a tackle-storage system that works for you and knowing your equipment is in order will reward you with more casts, less frustration and better bass-fishing success.