Spring is in the air! Actually, it's only mid March in Minnesota yet it feels way more like summer than it does spring, really it should feel like winter but no complaints here, the lakes in the metro area are ice free! This weather is sweet!
I've been chomping at the bit to be fishing ever since I got back from competing in the Bassmaster Open event down on Lake Lewisville near Dallas, Texas in early February. I've gotten away a few times to a couple different Minnesota "secret" open-water spots and the fishing was so good it drove my anticipation for ice-out through the roof! To pass the time, I've been going through my tackle and restoring my old and most favorite baits.

Rust is killer to your tackle and I have so many baits that in my heart are truly irreplaceable. I have old pre-Rapala Wiggle Warts, high end Japanese tackle and other hand crafted crankbaits. I also have proven winners such as the Biovex Deep Runner and Biovex Wake that I have so much confidence in that I can't bear to see these baits get ruined. I need to show them love so they produce for me when I need them the most!
I did a lot of research on restoring overused or old baits. This is a very simple process that requires very little expense, basically you'll need just a few things for cleaning and replacing terminal components. Basic equipment includes a Eagle Claw Lazer Split Ring Pliers, a fingernail clipper, white distilled vinegar, Huggies Natural Care Wipes and paper towel. I also had the new Trokar treble hooks in both the round bend and wide gap in several sizes 2, 4 and 6, as well as Eagle Claw's Split Rings in size 3 and Eagle Claw Lazer Oval Split Rings in size 3 as well.
The first step is emptying all baits out of their respected boxes and thoroughly expecting each and every one including the box as well for any signs of rust. Usually hooks and split rings are the first to show signs of rust but if left for a long period of time, the rust will actually move to the body of the bait and other baits in close proximity as well as the tackle box itself.
The Eagle Claw Lazer Split Ring Pliers is an excellent tool for removing all tainted hooks and split rings. I keep one of these in my boat as at all times as it makes switching trebles on the fly a breeze. Next I fold over some paper towel and generously apply vinegar and I use this to thoroughly clean each and every bait and then leave it sit to dry. I also take that same vinegar rag and clean out every compartment in my tackle trays. It's important to leave these sit out over night to dry thoroughly. There's also a few decisions to make as vinegar will work extremely well at cleaning and counteracting rust but it will not completely remove it. Since the rust is usually fed by cheap hooks and split rings, removing them should do the job but if a bait is just too eaten by rust it's best to get rid of it all together. This holds true for the tackle storage box as well, if it has a lot of signs of rust, get rid of it. It's probably time you flipped the extra ten bucks and bought yourself some new ones anyways.
I use vinegar because it's an excellent cleaning agent and it's environmentally friendly but also won't leave long lasting scents on your baits. I'm very weary of chemical cleaners as they could leave a bad scent or possibly even ruin the finish of the bait. After much searching I found Huggies Natural Care Baby Wipes to be a scent free wet wipe that doubles up as an excellent crankbait cleaner and polisher. I thoroughly clean the baits and polish them up with the wipes and leave to again dry overnight. I do the same with whatever tackle storage containers I deem safe for future use. It's important to again leave everything out to dry overnight as moisture is one of the reasons your precious plugs got rust covered in the first placed.
This brings me to another point, though moisture is probably the most likely candidate for rust it's not the only one, cheap components are equally to blame. In fact, I've had some old school crankbaits that never have left their original box and hooks have already begun to rust. This is just a sign of cheap hardware and though I won't throw any present tackle manufacturer's under the bus, let's just say it's not all old bait companies that are guilty of this. Even though a present day "popular" company employs cheap components doesn't mean they don't produce a great bait, you just need to pay attention and have the proper equipment to fix this situation. This is also why I always carry extra Lazer Trokar hooks and Eagle Claw Split Rings with me every time I'm on the water as I will also need them for when a hook goes bad or dull. Even a company like Biovex who uses top of the line components can't always help when a hook gets hung on a rock and having spare Trokar hooks fixes that problem before I loose a fish over it.
Once everything is fully dry, the next step would be putting the baits back together with quality components. I start by putting on new Eagle Claw Split Rings, generally I always go with size #3. For the line tie, I use Eagle Claw Lazer Oval Split Rings as I think they give the bait a little better action and again I use a size #3.

When it comes to putting on new hooks I really like the new short shank wide gap trebles that Trokar just released. Fish bite these hooks and stay pinned all the way to the boat plus the short shank allows me to size up my hooks by a full size. The only exception to this is with topwater and jerkbaits when instead I tend to favor the Trokar Round Bend Treble. The reason for this is that these baits are notorious for bass "slapping" them instead of actually engulfing them. Crankbaits are generally eaten when dredging bottom or ricocheting off of an object and bass tend to eat them whole making the Trokar Wide Gap and excellent choice. However, being that topwater and jerkbaits are more of an open water presentation, I think bass tend to kill the bait first by slapping at it and that's where the round bend will do an excellent job of stapling the fish from it's mouth to it's tail.
Well that's all for now! I got a boat to get full of fresh new pimped out crankbaits for my upcoming weekend down on Table Rock Lake for a little pre pre practice for the upcoming Bassmaster Open held there the end of April! With ice-out on most of the Twin Cities lakes I can finally say once again, see you on the water!
About the Author – Josh Douglas is a professional tournament bass fisherman and a full time guide on Minnesota's, Lake Minnetonka. He's got the Bassmaster Opens, FLW Evertstarts and the NABC Tournament trail slated for the 2012 season with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the tour level. When not on the water, Josh enjoys writing about his passion of bass fishing through numerous outlets including his personal website, www.joshdouglasfishing.com.