Winter Lure Maintenance
Even though I’m more of a summer person and winter isn’t my favorite time of the year, there are few things I like about it - the beautiful, sparkling white nature and the way the clear, fresh air fills your lungs on your daily walk. The long dark evenings are cozy and invite you to slow down after an intense summer. It is time to relax and recharge your batteries.
Winter is also a preparation time for my tackle and gear. I maintain my equipment all year round but during winter, I dig deep into my tackle boxes, reels, terminal tackle and other gear. Now I have the time to make sure that everything is organized and in its right place, so I can easily find them during my fishing trips. I create spare leaders, check the status of my used lures and do everything, that has to do with being 100% ready for the next season.
Turn on some good background music, grab a hot cup of tea along with few boxes of used lures, tools, spare hooks and anything else needed and spread the tackle on a table. Now there’s something special for me. I guess all of that is not necessary, but it’s a chance for me to feel like that young kid again who used to spread out the lures, look at them and imagine how I could use them. I feel like there is also something more philosophical to it, since I feel happy and relaxed doing this.
Today, I will be caring for the wounded ones - the poor baits that have had their battle with the northern pike, or the water wolf as it often is called. Pike tend to puncture lures, bend hooks and rip rubber apart so today I will fix them, so they are ready for new battles after winter rest. This is of course something I do more than once a year, but often when a lure gets damaged, you change the lure and keep fishing. The pile of baits that needs repairing grows, so now is the perfect time to let the music take you away while you care for your buddies.
I will be checking the split rings and hooks on all the lures, as well as repairing and changing the rubber parts on those lures that have them. I will also have a general look of the lure’s status: if there are any punctures or cracks that leak and check all the attachments, so that everything looks good.
First off, we need to make sure we have everything we need. Nothing is worse than when you’re in the zone, tuning lures and you realize, you forgot something and need to go fetch it from somewhere. So, I like to make sure I have everything I need before I start. All tools, spare hooks, split rings and so on. I prefer using the Rapala Tool Organizer where I keep everything. That way, I only need to grab the tool bag, and can be sure that I have everything I need in there. It’s a big bag that can easily fit dozens of tools.
Here’s my checklist for maintaining pike lures:
-Strong split ring pliers like the Rapala RCD Mag Spring Split Ring Pliers
-File for sharpening hooks like the Rapala Angler's Hook File
-Strong pliers for straightening hooks like the Rapala RCD Mag Spring Pliers
-Spare X-Rap® Peto Replacement Tails for Size 20 and X-Rap® Otus Replacement Tails for Size 25
-Spare hooks. I prefer the VMC 4551 Rapala Pike Series, VMC 7554 or 7556 depending on the lure.
-Spare split rings.
-Lighter for mending rubber
-Epoxy for fixing leaks.
-Knife isn’t necessary but usually a good tool to have with you. In this tutorial I’m using the Rapala Folding Fishing Knife
I always start by going through one lure box at a time. I make sure to have plenty of space on my table, so I can spread out all the lures, leaving the box empty. When I’m done with a lure, I simply put it back in the box. This way I don’t lose track of which are ready, and which need my attention.
The first thing I do when picking up a lure, is to have an overall look of it. Are there any leaks, cracks or bite marks? These types of damages are common on balsa lures, such as the Super Shad Rap, but on hard plastic lures like X-Raps it is possible to find cracks which can take on water and ruin the action. Whilst it’s very rare, if I notice a crack, I keep that in mind and continue with the inspection. Repairing the leak will be the last thing I do, and you will soon understand why.
Next, I look at the hardware, by which I mean the split rings and hooks. The split rings need to feel strong when tested and they must hold tight. When split rings get worn out, they start to have a gap. If they are damaged, I replace them and throw the damaged one in the garbage. Don’t save the old ones as spares or just in case items, because they are no good anymore.
When looking at the hooks I check for a few things. First, if they are bent in any way. If they are bent outwards or sideways, I use a pair of strong pliers and straighten the hook. You must use your gut feeling and common sense when deciding if you will bend a hook back or if you need to replace it. If I think the hook is weakened or will be by bending it, I replace it with a fresh hook.
After that, I check every single point of the treble hooks. The ones that are no longer sharp, I sharpen with the Anglers Hook File. Again, if the point is too damaged and maybe even partly missing it is very hard to file it sharp, so I replace it with a fresh hook instead.
Now is the time to fix punctured hard lures. After the hardware is checked and repaired/replaced if necessary, I mix up some epoxy and apply it gently with an ear swab over any potential hole or crack. I try to fill the hole with epoxy, and I also apply it around the area. It’s better to use it too much than too little, but if you find that there is excess epoxy, you can always sand it off after it has hardened. NOTE: it’s important to make sure there’s no water inside of the lure. If there is, you’ll have to find a way to evaporate it out before sealing the damaged area again.
Working through my boxes of lures I have now sharpened hooks, replaced them, checked and replaced split rings and fixed leaks. We have the last category left, which is the baits with soft rubber parts. For me it’s usually the X-Rap Peto and Otus. These lures have a rubber tail which can and will take a beating from the sharp teeth of pike. It’s inevitable, just like some hard lures will get damaged. It’s to be expected when casting lures into mouths full of teeth and crushing jaws.
When the tail is completely bitten off, we need to replace the tail entirely. Luckily, we can get spare tails from Rapala without buying a new lure. Check out the X-Rap® Peto Replacement Tails for Size 20 and the X-Rap® Otus Replacement Tails for Size 25.
Changing the tail is super easy. We just need a split ring plier to remove the back hook and a split ring. These lock the tail in place and by removing them we can access the tail or paddle.
Simply pull it off from the serrated blade which is an ingenious thing truly keeping the tails in place and preventing rotation. Put on the new spare tail which also is fool proof since they come with premade slot so the tail will automatically be mounted correctly. Once in place reattach the split ring and hook again and you are ready to go.
When the tail isn’t entirely off or gone, we can luckily repair them very easily and save our spare tails until the original is truly gone. There are many ways of repairing the tails including glue and so on. But the easiest way and with the best results in my opinion is to melt the rubber with an ordinary lighter.
Just melt inside the wound until its sticky, this takes only a few seconds. Then quickly press the wound together so it will mend with itself. Keep pressure for maybe 30 seconds and you are done. Be careful not to burn your fingers on the lighter or the hot rubber, using tools when pressing together is sometimes the safest way depending on where the wound is located. Glue will make the fixed wound stiff and preventing motion but by melting it together it will be soft and have full range of motion afterwards.
This is my winter routine of how to keep my precious pike lures strong and healthy so they can keep fighting for me. Hope you enjoyed the article, now put on some good music and be that kid who plays with toys again!