Fishing in Illinois comes to a complete stop in the winter months. Well… usually. Some of you sadistic lunatics take to the ice – and that’s just crazy!
I kid, I kid…
As the temperatures drop and the smallmouth bass evacuate the little creeks for deeper holes located in the mighty rivers that surround us, it becomes difficult to keep your chin up. The little lakes that have been bustling with activity suddenly “turn off”, as if someone flipped a switch, making walking the bank completely unproductive.
These fish still have to eat of course… but not as much.
On a personal note, I’ve never liked winter. As someone that struggles with seasonal depression it actually insane to continue living in the cold frozen hellscape that is Illinois. The early sunsets, the icy roads, the cold wet slushy mess that surrounds us – it takes a toll on my mental state…
Many afternoons are spent daydreaming about warmer weather and wading or walking in LaSalle County fishing with simple, effective baits.
But sitting idle is a waste of time.
Here are a few tips to help you (and me) pass the winter doldrums productively!
1. Sharpen Your Hooks
My grandpa used to talk to me about this. I thought he was joking.
As you catch more and more fish, the barbs and points on hooks can bend just a bit, or dull. If you get into a catfish or a drum, they can literally destroy trebles!
Take this down time to sharpen or replace hooks, and get comfortable with repairing your tackle. Don’t be afraid to experiment and put bigger or smaller hooks on different lures, or replace trebles with single hooks like in the image above – just be prepared to test the action of your baits come spring.
(Sounds like a good “excuse” to get out, as if we need another one…)
It will make you a deadlier fisherman.
2. Repair Tools & Tackle
In addition to dull hooks – all of your tools can get pretty beat up over the course of a season. Rods can break, pliers bend, the batteries die within scales or other digital tools, electronics get smudged up and the GoPro mount on your backpack will likely get destroyed.
Take some time this winter to work on fixing the things you know you’ll need next season.
While you’re at it, get rid of the tools that you didn’t use to make room for more useful items.
Win-win, and if you happen to have a broken rod that you’ve been waiting to fix – now is the perfect time to get to work!
3. Find New DIY Fishing Projects
If you do some snooping, you will discover a completely new world out there filled to the brim with DIY projects in the fishing arena. Take for example the repainted spoons shown above and below – not that long ago I came back from a Wisconsin fishing trip, only to discover the paint had been removed from some of my favorite spoons that came into contact with Z-Man ElaZtech baits.
I was not amused.
However, instead of crying over spilled milk, I took the negative and turned it into a positive by picking up some inexpensive supplies and completely changing the look of my favorite fishing spoons.
This tutorial shows you how to do the same!
4. SET FISHING GOALS for the Coming Year
One of the greatest feelings in the world is the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing some form of self-improvement. Goals are important for this, because your goals are what gives you a way to measure your progress.
Be careful though, because a piece of paper with 500 items isn’t a prioritized set of goals – it is simply a wish list of things that can’t possibly all be achieved. This will not lead to a feeling of success – it will lead to the exact opposite. Despair, disappointment and a crushing sense of failure.
Selecting a few meaningful goals this winter will help you improve as an angler, and dare I say, a person as well.
Last year my goal was to catch 250 bass throughout the season. The year before that I had landed 193 bass, and the year before that… 9.
Yes 9. You read that correctly.
I destroyed my goal, catching a healthy 389 bass this season. This included my first few spotted bass and many smallmouth that were taken from small creeks nearby. Creeks that I never knew existed! Creeks I never would have found if I wasn’t working towards specific goals.
I was able to explore new waters, experiment with new baits, learn more about fish behavior and much more – all of which made me a better angler.
You can do the same – and I beg you to give it a try.
Goals for Next Year
This article wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t share my goals with you for this coming year. I promise, I’ll practice what I preach!
- Next year I am not interested in hitting a certain quantity of fish. I am however interested in finding new techniques to catch bass with more consistently here in Illinois.
- I have a Jon Boat that needs a new depth finder. I want to learn to use ever single feature on the one I select and install.
- This year I discovered many new areas to fish. Next year I want to find more new areas, and really learn more about the interesting spots I found this year that I didn’t completely dissect. I’ll use the techniques I laid out in this article on Fishing New Lakes in LaSalle County.
- I have a gutted Tuffy in my back yard. That boat either needs to be fixed up so I can use it to fish bigger water nearby, or sent to the junkyard. I don’t want to do the latter… so I better get to work.
Make sure to check out the YouTubes to see how it goes!
I hope you have a happy, productive winter while you wait for better things to come this spring.
Keep that chin up my friend.
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