Winter can be a painful time for those who troll the big lake. However, it doesn’t have to be! I use my free time in the winter to prepare myself for the coming spring season (and all of the madness that goes along with it). My tasks include re-spooling my reels, adding fresh fluorocarbon leaders, organizing and thinning my tackle, and working on the boat. If you are doing it right, the work never ends!
The most important “yearly” task we do on our boat is re-spooling with fresh line. Putting new line on yearly is a cheap and easy insurance policy against unnecessary break offs. The elements, specifically UV light, wears your line down during the year, especially if you store your reels out in elements. Also, constant wear from clipping into releases and from fighting fish makes the line brittle. I really like berkely big game as a main line, though everyone has their preference.
For my surface rods, I will use 10-12 lb main line, and for my rigger rods I use 15 lb test. A trick is using a label maker to mark what line each reel has on it. This can help identify patterns of line failure during the year.
On every rod, I use fluorocarbon leaders. Spring time trolling requires light leaders; we use 8 lb test. For the rigger rods and junk rods (copper, leadcore) a 15 lb leader should be fine. We may switch over the heavier leaders later in the season for salmon- 20-30 lb test is common.
We tie our fluoro to the main line using tiny SPRO swivels, which are small enough to fit through the reel guides. I cannot stress how vital fresh line is; it is completely unacceptable to lose a fish due to tackle failure. Line is cheap, so don’t let something so simple ruin your chance at a good fish.
Winter is also a good time to organize tackle. I like to use clear, flat Plano boxes, organized by size and species. For example, I have a box with natural stick baits, one with brightly colored sticks, and one with deep diving stick baits. It is good to go through tackle each year and thin them out as well, especially things that are rarely used.
Another good project for the winter is re-tying fly rigs. I prefer to tie my own tournament rigs, and will use different lb test line for different circumstances. I then wrap them around a pool noodle for storage. It is cheap and easy, but you have to know what you are doing. I believe that Yankee Troller has a video showing how this is done (link).
I also use the winter as a time to reflect on the last season, and plan for the next season. We keep a detailed log of every fish caught, including the time, location, depth, bait and speed. This is a great reference, and I review it often. Check out this Video we made of the Niagara Pro am last year, if you want to get pumped up!