The great tackle tidy up: Top tips for getting your gear in order!

Does your garage look like an explosion in a tackle shop? With lockdown in place for the foreseeable, now is the perfect time to get organised! Angling Trust blogger and self-confessed tackle hoarder Dominic Garnett has a host of useful advice to clean up your act and save time and hassle in the long run!

1. Must-haves for a tidy tackle den!

Before you start to get your kit in order, it’s worth getting ready with a few essential items. Among a whole raft of these, half a dozen or so bits I use time and again! So what finds a permanent home in my garage?

First up, my own journey from anarchy to order has been helped by better labeling. A sharpie marker and sticky labels are great for this. There’s nothing more annoying than finding rigs or a spare reel spool, for example, only to realise you can’t remember which line you used. I also keep a can of WD40 handy for various purposes. It’s a real godsend when reel seats on rods get stuck, or when any screw type fittings seize up. You can also use it sparingly to lubricate reels- although dedicated reel oil is better.

Next up, whenever I buy household items that come with silica gel sachets, I always stash them away. Whether it’s a box of hooks and swivels, or my camera equipment, they’re great for removing moisture and reducing the risk of rust. I’d also be lost without gaffer tape which does various jobs. It’s great for cutting into little squares to stop line spilling off spools, but is also ideal for running repairs (and in one match I even used it to create a makeshift pole cup!). Finally an old toothbrush is just the thing for cleaning grubby reels, pole sections and other gear.

2. Be secure and don’t forget to insure any valuables!

Before we get on with other tasks, another great piece of advice for anyone with expensive tackle is to double-check your security! Do make sure your locks and doors are up to scratch and be sure to add any expensive items like cameras and poles to your insurance. We have lots of great advice on this in our previous blog post on avoiding theft. Do have a look, because it could save you real heartbreak one day!

3. Rack up your rods

My rod storage: the wall racks are made up with very simple wooden planks with sections of hose pipe to grip the rods. The “proper” rod rack then stores tackle such as lure rods, or any rods I want to store tackled up and ready to go.

Rods can easily get lost or broken without careful storage! The solution is to get them upright and organised. A rod rack is one great investment here, and these can cost as little as £30-£50.

Failing that, another great solution for the garage or shed wall is to make your own. Hose pipe sections just an inch or two long are cheap as chips- and all you need to do is snip one side and carefully nail into place for a very efficient solution.

4. Get organised and think inside the box!  

Fishing tackle how to tidy organise
Getting your kit organised is sure to save stress and fishing time later!

If you own a lot of gear, it can quickly descend into a bit of a mess without a basic system in place. One great shout is to get plenty of reliable, tough plastic tool or tackle boxes and organise these by theme! This way, you won’t be digging through spinners, stick floats and flies for that missing key item.

One excellent strategy is to put all your bits for each style of fishing in one place. So in my collection, I have a dedicated box with all my bits for waggler fishing, another for carp sessions and, as my wife will tell you, about hundred and one boxes of lures and flies! Nobody’s perfect I guess, but at least they’re dry and semi-organised these days.

5. Speak to your line manager

Fishing line is one of the most important items we own, but it’s so easy to store it badly. Exposure to light will weaken even the best line over time, so it’s critical to keep it shaded. This is why pole winder boxes tend to be dark tinted; like the brown glass in beer bottles, this stops the contents spoiling.

How to store fishing line
Does fishing line age? The answer is yes, and quite quickly if you expose it to sunlight. Get yourself some dark cloth bags or suitable containers and it will last much longer.

Reels should preferably be kept in drawers or other dark places when not in use. As for spools of line, do yourself a favour and retain them in dark cloth bags or even an old stocking. Kept in the dark, they will last much longer and age better.

If you have old line that looks dodgy, the best advice is not to take the risk. Similarly for tangles or bits of line you’ve picked up on the bank, don’t forget that the excellent Anglers National Line Recycling Scheme is a much better option than landfill. There are collection points all over the country now, or you can even post your old line to them.

6. Hooks, hooklengths and rigs

There’s nothing quite so annoying as losing the hooks you need, or indeed wasting valuable time on the bank tying fiddly rigs. These days there are so many practical and often cheap systems to keep things orderly. 

Hooks themselves are best stored in either a dedicated dispenser box, but if you prefer to keep them in their original packets, I like a rig wallet (above). For other rigs, the pin-board type systems are ideal.

The only fatal flaw with so many of these systems is the British climate! Whether it’s returning from a rainy trip or a damp garage, hooks and components suffer in the wet. One great shout on this score is to get yourself some little packets of silica gel, which we mentioned earlier, because placing these inside your boxes of hooklengths and rigs will eat up any moisture and prevent rust.

From fine hooklengths to pike rigs, keep them dry and clearly labelled.

7. Winding up orders

Another key area for most coarse anglers, and especially pole fishers, is to keep a selection of rigs on winders. First up, do invest in some tinted winder boxes, some sticky labels and a marker pen. It’s so easy to forget precicely what you tied, so give each winder a sticky label with line diameters, hook sizes and possibly a brief description (i.e. “canal silver fish” or “margin carp”).

It’s rarely good practice to keep rigs season after season, because they will deteriorate in time. That said, if the rig is still in good shape when you put it away, you could always just freshen up the hooklength to save you tying the whole thing again.

8. Treat your flies and lures to some TLC

Storage of artificial flies and lures is another big concern for many of us, but let’s just start with the advice to invest in quality boxes! The best of these should close snugly and be water tight. After all, if you’re a boat angler or sea fisher, that cheap box could lead to dozens of your favourite lures or flies getting ruined. Hardly a saving! I have no particular brand loyalty, but some of the best I have bought so far are Spro boxes, which are certainly not the cheapest, but have excellent, water tight clasps.

Buy the best boxes you can afford. Sea and boat anglers, especially, will want lids to be totally water-tight, to prevent rusting.

Another must is to pay close attention to hooks and fittings. One of the most underused tools ever in this regard is a hook sharpener. Indeed, it’s odd that we use favoured lures and flies many times but seldom touch up the points. If you don’t do this, you are virtually guaranteed to hook fewer fish!

Hook sharpener

As with my other tackle, my flies and lures get their own categorised boxes, whether that’s “lures for perch” or “reservoir trout flies”. Last but not least, if  you come across any hooks, flies or components that show traces of rust, be ruthless and get rid! A crummy old hook could cost you the fish of the season, after all.

When it comes to well-loved lures, treat yourself to some quality hooks and replace old for new. These days, I change a lot of my trebles for singles, and there are special patterns available that sit perfectly on split rings. I find these a lot kinder to clothes and fingers, not to mention the fish I want to catch and release (and these days it’s only an occasional mackerel that tends to get a splitting headache).

9. Take reel care of spools and lines

With the abuse we give some of our fishing reels, it’s a testament to how well made they are that they last so long. How often do most of us even clean them? With fixed spool reels, the job is easy- just use warm water and perhaps an old toothbrush and cloth. Detergent is not always a great idea because it can degrease line and make it sink; not ideal for trotting or floater fishing, for example!

Fly reels demand even more care, especially seeing as a quality fly line can often cost over £40! Again, stick to simple warm water in a tub. Do take any spools of line you’ve recently used off the reel and use a cotton or cloth pad to work over the line and remove dirt. Old floating lines often start to sag, but a quick dab of mucilin over the last few yards will make them sit crisply on the surface again. A few minutes well spent.

10. Store your bait with care (and beware of mice!)

Bait storage is another key area for so many anglers, and one where our laziness can lead to big trouble. Anyone who’s had issues with moths and mice will tell you this! Do invest in a storage unit that mice can’t get into to keep your unused bags of bait dry and safe from intruders. Sealing bags of groundbait and pellets is also must, because moths and other critters will often find even the smallest opening.

These days, anyone with a garage would also be wise to have a bait fridge freezer. Mine came courtesy of the local free-cycle scheme. It’s not pretty but it does the job and has saved many an argument with the wife!

11. Nets, waders  and unwanted passengers

You’d hope that in the present age, the vast majority of us were well aware of the risks of taking nets and other wet items between fisheries. Indeed, just one careless trip between fisheries could transfer invasive species or even deadly diseases, so do please take care! Thankfully, the solution to avoding risks is not only simple, but easy to remember with the CHECK, CLEAN, DRY formula. Nets, waders and stink bags are a particular risk; if in any doubt clean them off between trips and leave them in the sun until they’re bone dry.

How to store fishing nets bags and waders
Have a dedicated spot to dry your nets and waders in the garden! Sunlight will kill most undesirables once these items are bone dry.

12. And finally… finish each session as you mean to go on!

As a final tip, the battle to keep your tackle collection from becoming a tip is not only about an occasional tidy up, but how each session ends. Packing away carefully and methodically after every trip is a great habit to mend your ways here (and I’m as guilty as the next man!). Not rushing and giving every item a “home” will always serve you well. In fact, the only time it’s fogivable to chuck it all in a heap is in horrid weather- in which case you can always have a sort out when you get home.

Here’s wishing you a tidier fishing shed or man cave this season, and better times on the bank as a result.

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