Tackle Tinkering 101By Glenn Walker
The long winter months in the Midwest for some can be filled with ice fishing, skiing or other outdoor winter activities. Others (like me) dread these months and just count down the days for warmer temperatures and open water. One thing I like to do over the winter months is to do some tackle tinkering.
Not only does this keep me busy and help pass the time, but it also allows me to prepare myself for next fishing season and modify some baits that will help increase my catch. Just one small minor tweak or touch of creativity can take a normal store-bought lure and turn it into a top-secret, fish-catching lure. I also prefer to take care of these tasks now, so when I’m on the water I can focus on fishing and not messing around with tackle.
One of the easiest and most common things an angler can do is to change out the split rings and treble hooks on crankbaits, jerkbaits and topwaters. By doing this project now, you’ll have an ample supply of fish-catching lures ready to go and not have to waste time in the boat making these changes.
Swapping out the standard split rings on a bait, for a heavy-duty split ring will prevent a big fish from pulling the treble hook out of that split ring. On the majority of my baits I put a #3 heavy-duty split ring; this has worked very well for me. At this time, I also put the new Trokar treble hooks on the baits that I know will see action during a tournament. These treble hooks are extremely sharp and come in a wide gap or round bend model.
On my topwater plugs I like to use a dressed treble as the rear hook on the bait. These hooks can be purchased with a bucktail or flashabou dressing, or you can set yourself up with a fly-tying vise, materials, thread and glue and create your own dressed treble hooks. This is a great way to save some money and experiment with different materials and colors to create a custom hook.
Many anglers want to tackle this project, but run into a road block and become frustrated when they have difficulty making a split ring or treble hook change. This project can be accomplished and simplified into a quick procedure by having a good pair of split ring pliers. There are several models on the market that are made up of heavy-duty metal and have a comfortable handle.
The soft plastic frog has morphed from its simple original design that had many flaws, to the now high-performance, fish-catching machine that so many anglers rely on throughout the summer months. Since these baits are so popular, fish are seeing more and more of the same lure, which is why making modifications to a soft plastic frog is a good idea.
A few of the things I like to do to my Snag Proof frogs include adding additional rattles in them. I like to use jingle bells, because they are loud, won’t break and they add some additional weight to your frog for increased casting distance.
Two other things I’ll do to my frogs over the winter include wrapping some lead wire around the shaft of the hook. This extra weight allows me to make an extra long cast when I see a bass blow up in the slop and I can’t get my boat within range for a close cast. Using markers, I also like to put some red, chartreuse or orange markings on the bottom and sides of my frogs. These colors will help emulate a bleeding baitfish or a bluegill swimming in the shallows.
Using paints or dyes on your other baits is another area where tinkering pays off. Using soft plastic lure dyes such as Spike It or J.J.’s Magic allows you to add just a hint of contrast to the tip or tail of your plastic bait, or you can completely change the overall appearance of the lure. Two of my favorite colors to add to soft plastic lures include chartreuse and orange.
Now that I’ve given you some possible tackle tinkering projects, you’ll be able to stay busy during the cold Midwest winter and be prepared for open water fishing!
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