Prepare for Next Year Now


The best way to organize for next year’s ice-fishing season is to put your equipment away today as if it were going to use it tomorrow.

W hen it comes to being the poster boy of organization, I must admit, I’m about as far away from perfect as anyone can be. With that said, let me tell you that one of the most overlooked aspects of being a successful angler, no matter the season, is being prepared well before any trip.

For me, late winter/early spring is my window of opportunity to sort out more than just my thoughts after a busy season of ice fishing and seminar engagements. Now is the time I put away my ice-fishing equipment properly so that I can easily manage it the moment I need it when first ice appears next winter.

It’s this time of year when the ice has deteriorated so much that safe travel is no longer an option. However, it’s too soon to launch my Lund as shelf ice still hampers the boat ramps.

Away with You!

The best way to organize for next year’s icefishing season is to put my equipment away today as if I were going to use it tomorrow; in a manner that it all will ready to go at a moment’s notice.

The first thing I do is take everything out of my Otter portable shanty and set the unit up, out of the elements, so as to go over everything on it and make sure I didn’t accidentally damage any of the material of its shell. I then rinse any dirt off it with water, and if need be, a mild detergent for stubborn stains. (Hint: If you use soap, make sure to rinse it off completely as dust will cling and soak into any leftover residue, even when the item’s not in use.)

I then keep the shanty erected for several hours to make sure it’s totally dry. Once arid, before folding it up and putting it away, I spray silicone lubricant on any moving parts, including the zippers, so they don’t seize up during inactivity.

As soon as I raise the shanty to air it out, I also open up my Plano tackle totes and let them ventilate, as well. And I keep them that way overnight. Unbeknownst to many anglers, hooks can rust this time of year just from condensation due to the extreme temperature transition. A thorough airing out will remedy this possible problem.

If I open my Plano tote and find my hooks have already gotten a light dusting of rust on them, I’ll wipe them off with a clean towel. However, if the rust has been on the hooks of my lures long enough to start pitting the steel, which weakens it. I’ll replace them with like-size razorsharp Daiichi hooks rather than using an abrasive material such as steel wool, which will damage the finish on the lures from over-rubbing.

The rust residue within my Plano tackle totes, for the most part, can be wiped clean with a damp cloth. However, if stains have infiltrated into the microscopic pores of the plastic, I’ll replace them rather than clean them with a rustremoving solvent as the scent from the chemical will eventually penetrate into the lures, thus will repel fish the next time I use them.

The Stripper

The next thing I do is put away my rods and reels. And if this is not done correctly, it can render then useless next season.

If my ABU Garcia reels were filled with monofilament, I’ll strip it from their spools. Monofilament line, you see, will expand in the heat of summer and a spool can be damaged from the pressure of the swelling.  If the spool is filled with Berkley FireLine, I’ll strip off a few feet and check for nicks or frays and remove it if any are detected.

While the line is off is a good time to oil and grease my reels, and then wipe off last season’s fish slime and minnow scales. I also make sure to loosen the drag knob to almost falling off so as not to damage the rings of the drag itself.

I do the same intense cleaning to my ice rods, as well, paying special attention to the cork handles.  A couple sprits of a mild cleaner/degreaser, such as Simple Green, will help remove oil that transferred from my hands, as well any fish slime. Just as I mentioned above about making sure to rinse any mild soap residue of shanty fabrics, you’ll want to make sure to remove all cleaner residues off the rod handles so as not to attract the mire while it’s in storage.

Next I take the reels off the rods, especially if I’ve used any electrical tape to help hole the reel in place, as summer’s heat will react with the sticky substance of the tape and it will imbed in to cork or foam and ruin it.

But I make sure the blanks are perfectly strait during storage as both fiberglass glass and graphite blanks can get a memory to them, and if stored bent, they’ll stay that way forever after.

The best way I have found to store my ice rods is in an Otter Rod Case (making sure it, too, is totally dry beforehand). The case is foam lined and protects my ice rods from damage whether on the ice or stored in my garage.

Long Haul

In general, you’ll get longer life overall out of a battery if a full charge is kept in it. And power augers will work years longer without needing a major tune-up when put away right, as well. Before storing my Lowrance Hook-5 Ice Machine, I make sure to charge its battery full (actually, I do this after every use). I then unplug the unit’s wires from the battery, check for corrosion, and store the unit in a place where I can get to them easily in mid-summer, so as to be able to connect the charger mid-summer and give the battery a boost.

I also remove the Navionics mapping program SD card from the unit’s reader so that I can use it in one of my two Lowrance units in my Lund.  Except for storing, I do the aforementioned to my MarCum underwater viewing system, too. The reason I don’t tuck my MarCum away is because I know I’ll be using it throughout the open-water season, as well.

As for my StrikeMaster gas-power auger, I’ll empty out the majority of the gas. However, I’ll leave just a little in with a dash of fresh fuel stabilizer, and then run the unit, which will suck the additive-mixed gas through the head. And my StrikeMaster electric auger will get a full charge before being stored.

Put it Away Right

Overall, to be ready for next season as soon as the ice forms, I put my ice-fishing gear away today as if I were going to use it tomorrow. Shanty: dried out and lubed. Tackle: aired out and hooks replaced, if necessary.

Reels: Stripped of line, lubed and cleaned. Rods: tape off, wiped off and stored strait. Batteries: Charged. Power auger: gas stabilized and/or unit tuned-up.

Mark Martin is a touring walleye tournament professional and an instructor with the Fishing Vacation/Schools (, who lives in Michigan’s SW Lower Peninsula. Check out his website at