If you have a bad case of cabin fever, but it’s still too frigid to go fishing, try this tried-and-true remedy: dig out your tackle boxes and stock them for the spring fishing season.
The bags usually come with three or four plastic boxes; the neat thing is that you can buy extra boxes, which means you can swap out the three boxes you’ve filled with lures and terminal tackle for spring fishing with the other three boxes you’ve loaded with summertime baits. You can also set up boxes with tackle for various species, such as bass, walleye, trout or panfish.
If you’re fishing for multiple species, stock up on an array of hooks in different shapes; each will be ideal for a certain type of bait. Some essential hook styles: O’Shaughnessy (good for plastic worms), Aberdeen (for live minnows), straight-shank round bed (for plastic worms and soft plastic jerkbaits), circle (for live-bait catfishing and small soft-plastic grubs and worms), treble (for dough balls and prepared catfish and trout baits), and baitholder (best for live night crawlers, leeches and crickets).
You can use a jighead tipped with just about any kind of soft plastic to catch all sorts of fish, so make sure your box has several jigheads ranging from½ to 1 ounce in size. A skirted bass jig is the most effective lure for catching a big bass from your favorite lake.
To trigger strikes from bass, pike, muskie and walleye, use spinnerbaits. Smaller versions also work on crappies and panfish, so make sure you have plenty of these blade baits in your box. A tandem-blade spinnerbait, such as the Strike King Premier Plus, is one of my favorites for catching bass, especially in the spring and fall.
These plugs trick multiple species, so always include deep, mid-range and shallow divers in your tackle box. Check with your local bait-and-tackle store to find out the most productive colors for the waters you fish most often. A Rebel Wee-R crankbait has been productive for me, whether I’m fishing murky water for bass or clear water for walleye.
Your box should also contain some floating, suspending and sinking jerkbaits, such as the Original Rapala or the Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue. I’ve caught a variety of species on these lures while twitching them in clear-water lakes and rivers throughout the country.
Out of all the lures you stock, topwater plugs will provide the most fun. There’s nothing more exciting in fishing than watching a fish blow up on the surface to engulf your lure. Make sure you load your box with an array of chuggers and poppers, as well as walking-style and propeller baits. I love to watch the sashay of a Heddon Zara Spook walking across the surface and the suspense of waiting for a bass to explode on it.
Complete your tackle box with an ample selection of soft plastics in natural colors, such as green pumpkin and watermelon, as well as some basic hues, such as white, yellow and chartreuse. Some of the most effective soft plastics for fishing nearly anywhere in the country include plastic worms, curly-tail and double-tail grubs, tube baits, swim baits and frogs.