January is tackle month around my home in Ninety Six. Deer season has ended, there aren’t any tournaments to fish for another month or so, and boat shows and fishing shows are getting cranked up. All that combines to make it inventory time for me and my tackle.

I’ll take an entire weekend and go through everything I have. It probably won’t take you as long, but I check all of my rods and reels, break the reels down and lubricate them, take off the old line all the way down to the backing that I have on all my reels, and then try to organize things. I won’t re-spool, because I don’t want to have line on my reel for a month or so before I need to use it, but at least I’m halfway there when I get finished. When it gets time to go on the road, all I’ll have to do is fill the reels.

There’s no doubt that sometime during the year, I’ll get some baits in the wrong boxes; maybe I’ve got a topwater plug that I’ve just thrown in a box of jerkbaits, or a Buckeye jig I’ve cut off, flipped it into one of the storage boxes on my Phoenix bass boat and had it wind up in the spinnerbaits. I’ll go through all of those boxes and arrange all of my baits, see what I’ve got enough of and what I need some more of, as far as baits and colors are concerned.

One thing I always have to do is match up my rods and reels. I know that at some point during the year — probably three or four times — I’ve needed a certain rod, and I’ve taken a reel off another rod and put it on another rod, and by the end of the year, I’ve got the wrong reels on two or three different rods, and I’ll have to match them up again. 

Fortunately, getting the right reels on the right rods isn’t that difficult. Unlike a lot of bass fishermen, my reels are pretty simple. I use two different models of BPS Johnny Morris signature series baitcasting reels, reels with two different retrieve speeds. I like one reel with about a 5-to-1 ratio, which is about a medium speed, and one with about a 7-to-1 ration which is a fast reel. A lot of bass fishermen will match reels of three or four different speeds with different rods for different tasks. They like to turn the handle at a consistent speed no matter what bait they’re fishing, allowing the reel to do the work at speeding up or slowing down. I go with two basic speeds, and I adjust my retrieve by how fast or slow I turn the handle.

I’ll match my slower reels with the rods I use to fish crankbaits and spinnerbaits. I can feel a crankbait a little better with the slower reel, and it’s a lot easier on my hands and wrist during a long day on the water. It’s a lot easier to fish a spinnerbait slowly with a slower reel, and depending on the kind of swimbait I’m fishing, I might use a slow reel or a fast one.

I fish a worm, jig or topwater with a faster reel, even a jerkbait, because I’m moving it with the rod tip and don’t need to use the reel to retrieve one slowly. My rods are of all different lengths, and I’ll match them to the job at hand. If I need to make short, accurate casts, I’ll use a shorter rod. If I need to make longer casts, I’ll use a longer rod. A longer rod also gives you more power when you’re fighting a fish. 

Getting everything put back together and organized in good fashion gets me ready for my second-favorite winter deal: going to shows. I work a lot of shows as a seminar speaker, but I really love to go to fishing and boating shows to take a look at everything the vendors have.

When I have all of my tackle organized, I know if there are any holes I need to fill with maybe one kind of worm in a certain color of a jig trailer I might use in one situation. Normally, I can find exactly what I need at a fishing show if it’s not something supplied by one of my sponsors. I can go, take a look around, compare prices, and buy those two or three bags or worms or trailers I feel like I’ll need if BASS is going to Lake Erie for smallmouth bass or maybe if we go to the California Delta or Lake Guntersville.

I usually get an advance look at the new tackle and baits at the ICAST show, but for somebody who is not fishing all over the country, some of these January fishing shows are the only place they can go and get a look at the latest models and colors.

If you’re thinking about buying a boat, it’s a perfect time to look at the new models that multiple dealers will bring to shows, to compare features and costs and decide what best fits your style of fishing and your budget. I love my Phoenix bass boats, and I’d be hard-pressed to find anything better in terms of layout and fishability, but there are a lot of boats out there that are worth looking at. You don’t have to be ready to buy a boat in January; looking everything over in January may help you make your decision in August or September when you’re in the market.