Whether it’s Old Man Winter’s icy grip or the broiling heat of a deep southern summer, every angler experiences seasonal weather that curtails fishing activity. And it’s the savvy fishermen who use that time to make sure they’re ready to go when the action picks up again, according to Zak Jobes, fishing educator, competitive angler and Smithwick ambassador.

Jobes, who lives in Ohio, specializes in open-water walleye fishing on Lake Erie, which means his downtime is right now. “And I use it to prepare my gear for the spring,” he said, “because I truly believe that the more organized you are, the better you’ll do on the water; that’s true whether you fish tournaments or just go out to catch dinner. Here’s what I do.”

1. Clean And Organize Lures

Jobes does a lot of trolling for walleyes and owns multiple tackle trays filled with hardbaits. During the winter he wipes down each lure to remove grime and residues of the attractor scents he applied during the season. “At the same time, I inspect the hooks and snap rings on each bait, and replace anything that needs it.”

He then organizes lures by style and color in labeled tackle trays, so when he’s in the boat he can quickly identify and select any bait he wants. “Now’s a good time to take inventory and restock your tackle box, too,” he added. “You never want to be short on, say, a Perfect 10 in the Floyd pattern when it suddenly turns into the hot bait. I generally have 3 or 4 lures in each color, but you should least have a couple of them ready to go.

“It’s also the best time to shop for them right now,” he added. “You can usually find deals at the winter sports shows, including deals from outfits that offer custom finishes on lures.”

2. Reels And Rods, Too

Jobes’ next step is to wipe down every reel, lubricate all gears and moving parts, replaces line, and makes sure everything works properly. “This takes some time, but it’s worth it to know that you won’t lose a fish, or worse, because a reel didn’t work.”

He even goes so far as to calibrate the meters on his line-counter trolling reels against a measured 100-foot distance. “If the meter reads more than 100 feet, the spool doesn’t have enough line on it; if it reads more than 100, it has too much line,” he explained.

Now’s the time to check your fishing rods as well. Inspect handles and reel seats, and check the blanks for nicks and dings that could signify a weak spot. Most importantly examine the line guides for mono-shredding cracks and grooves.

3. Other Equipment

Side-planer boards are an important part of Jobes’ trolling program, so he carefully scrutinizes each one to ensure the line release, spring and indicator flag are fully operational. You may not use such specialized equipment, but it’s a good idea to take stock of every tool you do have in your boat.

A minute or two spent now cleaning and lubricating your needle-nose pliers, for example, might save you a headache later when you’re back on the water.

Instead of sitting and stewing over not being able to cast a line, use your downtime wisely. What you do now will only make your fishing easier and more fun later on.