Thursday, November 13, 2008
Making The Most Of The Off-Season
So you’ve fished your last tournament of the season and now you have a long 3-month hiatus before the new season starts. What many of you might do is winterize the boat, move your tackle into the house and pick up that trusty 12-guage to go hunt waterfowl for the rest of the year – without much concern for your gear.
Photo: FLW Outdoors/Jeff Schroeder
FLW Tour pro Charlie Weyer uses his off-season time to repair his gear and rejuvenate his tired body and mind.
Then there are the anglers that live in the warmer climes who, as their regional tournament scene ends, move on to fun-fishing or small jackpot tournaments for a few weeks or months before the next full-blown regional season begins. By way of continuing their fishing they may not pay a great deal of attention to their gear.
Have you ever trailered your boat to the first tournament of the season only to get there and realize your steering system has ceased during the winter months? Have you ever gotten to the lake, launched the boat and realized you forgot to send in your favorite reel for servicing and now it doesn’t work? Or have you pulled into that first spot of the morning and went to grab that bag of Senkos you knew you had and realized there were only 2 in the bag and the other bags you knew you had where nowhere to be found?
If you’re one of these anglers, then this next series of Recon articles could be for you.
BassFan has sat down with three pros and picked their brains on what they do in the off-season to make sure these little gremlins are kept to a minimum. In this first installment, we talked with FLW Series pro Charlie Weyer about his off-season rituals and how he uses that time to ready himself for the coming year.
Here’s what he had to say.
Boat and Tow Vehicle First
“I’m probably a little different with my winter boat ritual than a lot of regional anglers in that I sell my boat after each season,” Weyer said. “But that doesn’t mean I neglect my boat prior to selling it. In fact, I go through what I would normally go through if I was keeping it."
After emptying his gear he goes over the boat bow to stern and makes sure everything is in working order. If it isn’t, he repairs everything needing a fix.
“I make sure every screw is tight on the boat, the batteries are in good condition and the electronics are in working order,” he said. “I want the boat to be in pristine shape just like I’d want it for the next year.
"I also have the engine serviced by my mechanic and make sure all my trailer lights work, the tires are properly inflated and the wheel bearings are repacked and ready to roll. That’s one piece of equipment (the trailer) a lot of anglers overlook until they’re stranded on the side of the road with a flat or an overheated bearing.”
The same goes for your tow vehicle.
"Today’s boats are heavy and put a lot of strain on your tow vehicle,” he added. “It’s important to service your vehicle during the year but, unless I have a problem during the season, I have my truck gone through head to tail as soon as the season ends.”
Rods and Reels
“Once I get my boat and truck serviced it’s time to look at my rods and reels,” Weyer said. “I go through all my reels and make sure they’re all in good working order. Then I check my rods and make sure they’re in good condition. I also make a note of the rods I used during the year and if there’s a particular rod I didn’t use much, I get rid of it. There’s no sense in carrying something you won’t use. Replace it with something that you use a lot of or something new you’ve wanted to try out."
“The next step for me is I do a complete inventory – and I mean complete – of all my tackle,” Weyer said. “I categorize everything and make sure it’s all in good working order before next season.
“This means I change out hooks on my hard baits, skirts on my spinnerbaits and determine what worked for me and what didn’t. If I haven’t thrown a bait or haven’t had much luck on it, I get rid of it. Baits that you don’t use or don't have confidence in just add clutter in the boat and also add to confusion on the water.
“Another important thing for me is to go through all my hooks, weights and other terminal tackle like swivels and such,” he said. “Make sure everything is in pristine condition and dry. If you leave it until the next season your hooks will rust.
“After this is all completed, I make an inventory of the tackle I have and make notes on what tackle I used that year. With this I can then figure out what I need to buy for the next season and also get rid of tackle I didn’t use.
“Lastly, I buy new boxes to replace old broken ones and to also have a few on hand as boxes break during the next season.”
“I get a new boat every year so I’m always changing my electronics,” Weyer said. “But a lot of anglers upgrade their electronics in the off-season and they should use this time to get to know their new units. I study my owner’s manuals and learn how to use my equipment before the season starts.
“I also take and download all my waypoints and data from my units and back them up on my home computer and spare memory cards,” he said. “That ensures that if I lose a card I have backup not only with me at the lake, but at home, too.”
Research and Planning
“My research for the coming season starts as soon as the schedules come out, but it goes into high gear during the off-season,” Weyer said. “I study my maps and aerial photography and try to find out specific baits and techniques that work on the body of water at the time we’ll be there.
“I also read old tournament reports and try to fish the lake prior to the pre-practice cut-off date if I can.”
He also uses this time to arrange housing and his pre-practice schedule during this time.
“I’ve found that if you can make your housing arrangements months in advance you’ll get a better price,” he said. “In fact I have already set up my hotels for next year for both my pre-practice and my tournaments.”
“The business side of tournaments is so important now and if you’re serious about this game, you have to be serious about sponsors,” Weyer said. “At the end of each season I make appointments to talk with my current sponsors and possible new opportunities that have arisen during the year.
“This aspect gets more and more important as time goes on.”
Fun Fish and Experiment
“The off-season is a time to have some fun,” Weyer said. “It’s a time of no stress so if you can, get out on your favorite lake and catch some fish. Fish with your buddy that you haven’t fished with in a year or someone that’s special to you.
“I also use this time to try new gear, tackle, learn my electronics and maybe a new technique that I want to master or an old technique I need practice with. All of these are great things to do on your favorite body of water where you have confidence you can catch fish.”
> Weyer also logs each of his tournaments on his computer so he can easily go back and see specific conditions, what the tournament was won on and how he did.
> He also changes out his old reels for new reels each year, but offers this suggestion to other anglers: “I send all my old reels to Shimano for repair as soon as my season ends and then I sell them and get new ones. But the repairs that Shimano does essentially makes the reels like new. So for the anglers who can’t afford new reels each year, definitely send them off for cleaning and repair during the off-season.”
> “I also check each guide on every rod I own with a Q-tip for cracks. If there’s a crack, the cotton will pull away from the Q-tip. I send the rods that have cracked guides to a rod repair expert and have them fixed. This is not just at the end of the year, but before and after each tournament I fish.”