I’m cheap. I’m a chintzy, penny-pinching, miserly skinflint of an angler. I have a rack of rods and reels that I was using long before my hair went gray, and a boat that was built the year my daughter was born—she’s a freshman in college today. Still, I recognize that some pieces of fishing gear need annual replacement, cost be darned. If taking care of these items isn’t on your to-do list, then it’s time to rearrange your priorities and pry open your wallet.
Monofilament line: Regardless of how much it gets used, monofilament line suffers from two major problems with age. First, it gets “shape memory” as it sits on the reel, making casting problematic and prone to tangles. Second, it loses strength. Nylon degrades with age, and sunlight degrades it even faster. Can a spool of mono last for two seasons? Sure, but you’ll be fishing at a slight disadvantage. In the third season, that disadvantage becomes huge. And when it comes to catching big fish on light tackle, even the smallest handicap can make the difference. So, take those reels to the tackle shop and get them respooled for 2019.
Hooks: There was a time when carrying a sharpening stone and touching up old hooks was the smart move, but that time has long since passed. Today’s high-quality hooks are chemically and laser-sharpened. Take one out of the package, use it a time or two, and it will never again be as sharp. Add a full season of use with a couple touch-ups along the way, and regardless of how hard you work on that tip, it will be dull in comparison to a new one. Pitch it and buy a batch of fresh hooks before the new fishing season.
Fishbites, Gulps and other synthetic baits: Once you’ve cracked the package, despite the zipper-lock seals, most synthetic scented and flavored baits quickly lose their appeal. Gulp baits will usually shrivel and harden after a few months. Yes, the plastic jars with juice sloshing around inside do help the bait last longer, but over time, the jar weakens and breaks, spilling the odoriferous fluid on a seat cushion or carpeting. Less-volatile artificial baits also fade over time. You’ll catch more fish if you simply buy a new batch when the season starts.
Rubber bands and balloons: Have you ever made a 50-mile run offshore, only to be flummoxed when rubber bands break with little to no pressure, or balloons pop upon inflation? These simple, yet sometimes imperative items need regular replacement. The dawn of a new fishing season is the right time to throw away the old stuff and buy a fresh supply.
Pre-tied rigs and leaders: Yes, it’s painful to chuck those chunking rigs and toss the tandems. But if they’ve been sitting coiled for the past year, memory will plague them. If you fished with them extensively through the past season, they’re probably nicked or worn. And in both cases, like the mono on a spool, they’ve almost certainly deteriorated, simply because of age. Cut off the hardware, buy a spool of fresh leader and start retying those rigs.
Batteries: All kind of tools depend on batteries, including flashlights, headlamps, satellite messengers, handheld GPS devices and VHF radios. You can wait until the day you press the power button and nothing happens, or you can replace those batteries as a matter of annual practice.
The broken stuff: This is everything you should have replaced last year. You know what you let go for too long: the landing net with a hole big enough for a 20-inch striper to swim through; the rusty pliers that require both hands to pry open; the bait knife with the tip broken off; the reel with a drag as smooth as broken glass. “Delayed maintenance” is a term of endearment. If you looked at this stuff 12 months ago and knew it was shot, then take this opportunity to finally fix or replace it.
There’s your list. Now get out there and go shopping, you tightwad.
This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue.