More times than we'd like to admit, on that first cast of the year, we let it fly (or at least we try) and a noise comes out of the reel that sounds like the spool is spinning in rocks. And we say in our minds, "Dang, I knew I should have gotten my reels cleaned!"

It's just about winter, and hunting is pretty much in full swing. A lot of outdoorsmen and women have moved their focus from fishing to hunting. Not that there aren't plenty of folks still on the water, but plenty of rods and reels have made their way to the closet.

It might seem like an odd time to bring up fishing tackle with hunting garnering its share of the outdoor world, but there is a logical reason. Those rods and reels will be forgotten until late February and early March when the light goes off, "Man, I need to get my reels cleaned and my rods repaired." Been there, and done that!

Late winter and early spring brings on the beginning of the bass tournament season. Also, the bass are beginning to move up to find a suitable nesting spot so even the weekend warriors are ready to hit the waterways in search of that "Big One" that we all dream about.

More times than we'd like to admit, on that first cast of the year, we let it fly (or at least we try) and a noise comes out of the reel that sounds like the spool is spinning in rocks. And we say in our minds, "Dang, I knew I should have gotten my reels cleaned!"

Another scenario plays out as well. You got the fish of a lifetime, you're in a battle, when it makes a surge and pops the line because the drag was stuck. We all like to be accurate with our casts as lure placement is a big part of our success. But it seems like the bait is landing a few inches short on every cast.

Let's face it. Our fishing tackle needs upkeep that includes some preventative maintenance. Unless you're mechanically inclined and have enough time to take your reels apart, finding someone to work on your reels is important.

I have a fair amount of perspective on this issue owning Lyle's Reel Repair when I lived in Prairieville for a fair amount of years. I always liked taking my own reels apart to clean or repair them and knew that lots of other folks needed that service. So the business was opened and successful over the years.

A few folks had the drill down pat and brought their reels in for cleaning and repair in the winter during hunting season, but most just let them sit in a closet or rod box. The panic button usually gets hit about a week before the first fishing trip or bass tournament is happening, and all heck breaks loose.

They would call me on the phone or show up at my front door with a pleading, sorrowful voice, "I need my reels cleaned by next week. Can you help a brother out?" The problem with that scenario is that I already had 30 or 40 reels dropped off by two or three other anglers with the same problem. They needed their reels cleaned and repaired as soon as I could.

The problem with this scenario is that a lot of folks that do reel repair have another job that supports the family and do the reel stuff on the side, which doesn't afford them or the angler the much needed component of this whole effort: time!

A proper reel cleaning takes a minimum of an hour to perform, most longer. The reel needs to be totally disassembled to ensure proper cleaning of every part. Then you have to put it back together in the same place they came from without having any parts left over.

Doing this properly doesn't give the mechanic enough spare time to clean a hundred reels a week. Man, they used to pile up in the early spring at the Johnson house. It would get to where I enlisted my wife and my son to help me take the reels apart.

Deborah saved all of the round, plastic butter and whipped cream containers to store them in so I could clean them and put them back together. So I begged and pleaded with all my customers that I knew hunted during the winter and stopped fishing to bring me their reels. Business was slow in the winter so I always dreaded the big rush I knew was coming.

Eventually I made a decision to run for political office a couple of times causing me to sell my business because of a lack of spare time. Folks still ask me about cleaning reels, but I don't do it anymore.

Although I never got into the rod part of the angling repair business, those need repair as well. During the year, a rod tip or two gets broken so just like the reels, they get put in the closet (I have one in my rod closet now). Then panic sets in when we need them right away.

So that's why I bring this subject to light. You're hunting or just don't fish in the cold months, and the tackle gets put out of sight and unfortunately out of mind causing panic to ensue a few months down the road.

Fortunately, we have someone in our area that performs maintenance and repairs on reels. David Bourque owns Olive Branch Rods that can handle both rod and reel repairs and builds custom rods as well.

His business is located on 39008 Whitfield Road in Gonzales just off Babin Road. He can easily be contacted at 225-806-0342, olivebranchrods@yahoo.com and on Facebook.com/olivebranchrodsllc. He'd love to service your tackle or build you a rod but like me, he'd ask you to bring in your reels in the off season.

Take it from me, get those reels out of the closet or rod box and get them to David Bourque at Olive Branch Rods and save both of you some headache! So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard, be safe in the outdoors, and may God truly bless you!

Lyle Johnson is a free-lance writer, co-host of Ascension Outdoors TV and Curator of the Louisiana State Fish Records. He can be contacted at reelman@eatel.net.

Outdoor Calendar

EASL Monthly Meeting: 3rd Monday every month, East Ascension Sportsman's League meeting held at Gonzales Fire Dept on Orice Roth Rd. starting at 7:00 p.m. A meal served and special speaker will be in attendance.

Squirrel & Rabbit Season: Oct. 5-Feb. 29, open statewide on private lands only. Daily bag limit 8 and possession limit 24.

Hunting Seasons: Ducks: Nov. 16-Dec. 8, West Waterfowl Zone. Ducks: Nov. 23-Dec. 8, East Waterfowl Zone. Deer/Modern Firearms: Nov. 16-Dec. 6, State Deer Areas 1, 4, 6, still-hunt only. Nov. 16-Dec. 6, State Deer Area 5, still-hunt only & bucks only except Nov. 29-Dec. 1 either-sex weekend. Nov. 16-Dec. 6, State Deer Area 9, still-hunt only & bucks only except Nov. 16-17 & Nov. 29-Dec. 1 either-sex weekends.

Open Recreational Offshore Fishing Seasons: Red snapper weekends only, including Monday, Nov.11 (Veterans Day) until further notice; and, all groupers except closed for the take of goliath & Nassau groupers in state/federal waters.

Fishing for Tucker Bass Classic: Feb. 1 held out of Doiron's Landing in Stephensville. Entry fee $100 per two angler team. $2000 first place payout based on 100 boats. All info on www.fishingfortucker.com or call Ryan Lavigne @ 225-921-9332.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net.