Musky Shop Musky Season Readiness Checklist

Written on 05/16/2024
Musky Shop

Musky fishing opener is right around the corner and although you may have already been participating in the walleye opener, your musky gear may have been collecting dust in the off-season. Getting your fishing rods and reels ready for the season is crucial for a successful and enjoyable fishing experience. So, here’s a comprehensive guide to ensure your gear is in top condition from the Musky Shop.


Start by thoroughly inspecting your rods and reels. Look for any signs of wear or damage, such as cracks, nicks, or rust. Pay special attention to the guides on the rod and ensure they are smooth and free of any burrs that could damage your line.  It’s always a great idea to have a ceramic guide replacement set lying around for those guides who may have been overworked in previous seasons.  Cracks in the body of your reels typically mean water intrusion.  So, make sure any small cracks aren’t structural that could lead to malfunction in the middle of fighting your next Northwood’s trophy.



Clean your rods with a soft cloth and mild soap to remove any dirt or grime. For reels, disassemble them as per the manufacturer’s instructions.  Many reels come with an “exploded diagram” or one can be downloaded online.  These diagrams give detailed instructions for all of the tiny parts inside your reel.  Once your reel is disassembled, you can clean all parts with reel cleaner or soapy water. Make sure to rinse and dry everything completely. Apply reel oil to all moving parts of the reel, including the handle, spool, and drag system. This will ensure smooth operation and prevent corrosion. Use a light reel grease for gears and other internal components.  Check for any hard wear to bearings or gears in case of need to replace them.  Low-profile reels can be extremely complex, so you may choose to rid yourself of the problems associated with internal components by simply purchasing a new reel.  If this is the case, reach out to Musky Shop with any questions concerning newer models.  We would be glad to discuss any reel or rod questions on your mind.


Line Replacement

It is always best at the end of each season to store your rod/reel without line while they are not in use.  Line can dry rot when not in use and should never be trusted after holding over winter.  It’s best to start your season with a freshly spun reel to prevent breakage during an outing.  Make sure to tie on new leaders as well to ensure a fresh setup for the season opener.  Throughout the season, inspect your line as well.  Even without catches, the stress of wet and dried braid can greatly reduce line strength.



Drag System Check

After cleaning your reel and adding a new line, it’s a great time to check your reel's overall functionality. Test the drag system by pulling on the line. It should release smoothly without jerking. Adjust the drag according to the size of the fish you’re targeting. A properly set drag can make the difference between landing a big catch and losing it.  All drag systems aren’t equal.  The difference between a casting rod vs your trolling setup is notable, so make sure you are ready for all situations by making sure your drag wheel is functioning properly.


Reel Seat and Handle Inspection

Ensure the reel seat is secure and that the handle is firmly attached. Any looseness can affect your casting accuracy and control over the reel.  If you are planning for a lot of fishing for the season, it’s not unheard of to add a small drop of super glue to your real seat to ensure it doesn’t wiggle loose over time.  One drop is easy to break loose if you want to remove your reel for repair later, but it’s just enough to prevent any loosening while utilizing your set-up.


Assembling and Securing Rod Sections

If you have a multi-piece rod, assemble it by aligning the guides and securing the connections. Check that all sections fit snugly together to prevent separation during use.  As telescoping rods are becoming more and more popular, it’s also recommended to check your locking point for any damage.  Stress cracks can happen when rods are stored in damp over the winter from water intrusion and swelling.  Make sure you take a proper look at all points of connection for damage prior to use.


Terminal Tackle Preparation

Prepare your terminal tackle, including hooks, weights, and swivels. Make sure they are free of rust and sharp enough to penetrate the fish’s mouth.  Terminal tackle is one of the most irritating failures in musky fishing.  Nothing is worse than preventable breakage, that could cost a musky its life.  Make sure you aren’t reusing last year’s leaders.  If utilizing your own supplies to prepare leaders, make sure it is stored in a dry area.  All of your metal components must have no weak areas to prevent breakage.

Testing and Adjusting

Once your rod and reel are set up, test the entire assembly. Practice casting to ensure the balance feels right and make any necessary adjustments to the reel’s tension and the rod’s alignment.  Keeping a 6” piece of 1x1” with an eyelet or just an old retired lure without the trebles can assist you with the final step of gear maintenance.  Several bomb casts into your yard are crucial to checking the smoothness of the reel release and responsiveness of the reel/rod.  It always pays to make sure your setup is good to go.  And if you have a furry friend to pull a little on the other end, you can even test your drag. 

Taking the time to prepare your fishing rods and reels can greatly enhance your fishing experience. Not only does it help in preventing equipment failure, but it also ensures that you’re ready to handle whatever the waters throw at you. Remember, these steps are a general guide. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for specifics related to your particular gear. Now, with your gear prepped and ready, you’re all set for a fantastic fishing season!

Jodie Paul