1. Take a look at all of your lures. There are likely a few you never tied on. Here's an idea: Get some lure paint from a fishing craft store such as Jann's Netcraft and change the color of the lure to match up closer to ones that produce. If you don't want to do that, just give them to a kid to use or another fishing buddy.
2. Next, examine the hooks on your crankbaits and topwaters and replace them or sharpen. With spinnerbaits, sharpen hooks and take a look at the rubber skirts. Replace them if necessary. A tip: Tying some nylon thread above the rubber collar on the skirt will keep it in place.
3. Organize. Inventory. Stocking tackle over the winter gives you a great running start in the spring.
4. If you're a bit more organized, you can take your reels apart to clean, grease and oil.
5. If you decide to remove the line completely from a reel, you don't want to re-spool until you go fishing again next spring as line memory makes it harder to cast.
Another school of thought that may save a little time and money is to not remove all of the line, leaving some "backing," or a permanent length of line on the reel. This way, you don't have to replace all of the line every year.
To leave the correct length of backing, make one long cast and then cut the line. Then tie the lure or weight on and make a second long cast, cut the line and repeat this process one more time. Now that you've gotten about three cast-lengths of line removed from the reel, you're ready to tie your new line onto the end of the backing line.
No matter which route you go, try to recycle your discarded fishing line.
6. Back to the reel. After you clean the exterior, pay attention to areas where line passes. On baitcasting reels, it's the line guide. Use a Q-Tip or pipecleaner dipped in WD-40.
For spinning reels, it's the line roller. To lubricate, put a drop of oil or grease on the worm gear, on the spinning reel line roller, and on the bail pivot points. It's also a good idea to clean the handles and oil the axles.
7. For rods, check the guides and wraps. If a guide has a scratch, nick or groove, replace it. Some anglers brush a Q-Tip inside the guide to see if a piece of cotton is left behind. I use a magnifying glass. I want to see what's really going on. If the guide wraps are loose or exposed, repair this area. Again, your tackle retailer has all the supplies.
8. Winter is also a good time to take a hard look at what you're carrying in your tacklebox. Is there something in there you don't use? Something you've needed? Winter allows you the time to research new lures, or even a new tacklebox.
9. Beyond tackle, there are a few other items you may want to think about having in your tacklebox: basic first-aid items, an extra mini-flashlight, spare knife, a small bottle of bug repellant, an emergency space blanket and perhaps some extra cordage. Just make sure it's serviceable.
10. This last tip isn't for your tacklebox, but it's an important one and something I do every year. If you use inflatable life jackets, I like to test and replace my re-arm kits in the fall when we revert back to Standard Time. That way, it helps me remember to change my smoke detector batteries and re-arm my life jacket at the same time.