No matter whether you’re a full-time professional fishermen like I am or a weekend fishermen like I was at one time — I figure most of you fit into this category — it’s a good idea to set aside at least some time every year to take a day and organize all of our fishing tackle and lures.

I think January is a perfect time, for a couple of reasons. First, deer season is over, so most of us have a little time on our hands. Second, most of the real bass fishing won’t begin until late February or March. Third, the winter is when most of your bigger boat and fishing shows are scheduled, and it’s a great time to make purchases you discover you need.

A free Saturday, when you have one, is a perfect time to take on this task. The first thing I do is take a look at all my tackle. I’ll check all the guides on my rods to make sure there are no nicks or notches that can cut line when you least want it to — like when that 8-pound bass hits your Mop Jig about six weeks from now. Next, I’ll look at all of my reels. If I have any reels that have been acting up, I’ll break them open and really clean them; some years, I’ll do this for all my reels if I have plenty of time. Some years, if I haven’t had any problem with them, I’ll just do a quick lube on the spool and the worm gears. The equipment we use is so expensive, we can’t afford not to keep it in good, working order. What good is a $200 reel if it’s not working? If I’ve got a beat-up, old rod or reel I need to replace, I’ll take note of exactly what model it is and what I use it for, so I can replace it with one that will does the same job.

After I take care of my rods and reels, I’ll look through my tackle boxes. If I need to replace hooks on some crankbaits because they’ve either rusted or maybe a barb got bent flat, I’ll do that. I might spray some WD40 on my hooks. I’ll look at all the baits I finished the fall season with and see what I’m missing. Did I break off one of the crankbaits in a certain color I really like? Am I down to only a handful of green-pumpkin Senkos or black jigs trailers? I take notes on exactly what I’m missing and what I need, so when I go to a fishing show, I’ll know what I need to buy. And it’s not just people who have thousands of dollars’ worth of tackle who need to do this; if you have one tackle box, you can organize it.

When you get things organized and you have them fresh on your mind, it’s time to go to the fishing and boat shows and find the dealers there. You’ll probably get the best prices there on what you need, because you’ll have several dealers under one roof, and you can go around and compare what they have and what you need. This is especially important if you’re in the market for a boat. It’s a great time to shop and compare products and prices. You have multiple dealers on site, so you don’t have to drive hundreds of miles to different dealers to see everything.

A lot of dealers will have professional fishermen or guides on hand who use their boats to talk to fishermen. If you show up at a boat show, you might find me in the Palmetto Marine Center booth showing fishermen the Phoenix bass boat I’ve been driving for several years. We can answer questions about how different boats perform and help you find the right one to meet your needs.

When it comes to lures, you can save a lot of money by spending it only on what you need. It’s good to take an index card with you with written notes on exactly what your tackle box is missing. You spend so much more money when you make an impulse buy when you see some new lure or new color.

It’s my opinion that the average weekend bass fishermen should have a minimum of three baits of every kind that he knows he’s going to use a lot. I probably make sure I have a half-dozen, but my inventory needs as a pro fishermen is different. I’ll make sure I have three of every crankbait I really use, like a Shad Rap or a DT-10, and I’ll make sure I have them in shad, bluegill and crawfish colors. I’ll make sure I’ve got three of each size Mop Jig in the colors I’m going to use. Most everyone should have 3/8- and ½-inch jigs, and depending on how and where you fish, you might want to add ¼-, 5/8- or ¾-ounce baits. But I’ll make sure I have them in the green pumpkins and browns, black/blues and crawfish colors, plus trailers.

What you need to do is make sure you have the inventory you think you need and are going to use, and don’t be impulsive and buy any more. I’m not gonna tell a high-school fisherman that he’s got to have 100 of every worm in every color.  Be realistic, and don’t be impulsive, because a lot of guys, including me, waste a lot of money on impulse buying at tackle shops or marina stores. You see something you don’t have, or a different color. It might be okay to buy one and try it out, but don’t buy three or six. Go to these shows with an idea of what you need.

So take some time this month and get ready for the coming season by getting your gear ready and filling in the gaps. It will be worth the four hours — or in my case, four days — it takes, and it will save you money in the long run.