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NOW IS TIME TO TACKLE ORGANIZATION OF ANGLING GEAR

NEW YEAR'S resolutions are wonderful things, even though they seldom are kept beyond the first week of February. Well, OK then . . . beyond Jan. 5.

Even so, I still make those darn promises. This year, however, the list is simple. It reads:

"Organize Fishing Tackle."

Like most avid anglers, my tackle has always been "organized" -- despite what my wife says.

I really did know where everything was, though it sometimes took a few days to find exactly in which drawer (and in which chest in which room) the muskie lures were stashed.

Nonetheless, I was driven to this project after a few days at home last week.

Not relaxing, exactly, because after the first day I found myself doing "field research" for a scholarly paper on creative nagging. The result of that research is that finally, and for all time, I have organized my fishing tackle.

Last summer's Operation Bass/Red Man All-American gave me a good idea on procedure.

Those boys are limited to carrying one fairly small tackle box, and each day they'd fill it from their "stock boxes" -- some of which would fill the back end of a half-ton pickup.

Santa having been nice to me in the form of a couple of huge Plano boxes almost 2 feet wide, a foot deep and 14 inches high, I decided to tackle the tackle project in similar fashion.

The new boxes would become "stock." I'd use smaller kits to drag what I needed, when I needed it, for a particular type of fishing.

This seems to make more sense than having boxes marked "walleye" or "bass."

Keeping organized "species" tackle boxes requires duplicate, triplicate and quintuplicate copies of lures. A 5-inch silver Rapala can be used for any fish that swims around here, so filling those separate boxes can get expensive.

Having decided on this stock/daily-carry system, it took three days to sort and cull lures, fill the boxes and mark them.

Now all my plugs lie in one huge box, all my spinners and spoons in the other box with terminal tackle (like swivels, snaps, hooks and sinkers) stuck into little pocket-sized boxes judiciously distributed between the two larger storage bins.

That left a pile of jigs and plastic baits.

Five-drawer, slide-out parts files, sold in the auto-supply shops, solved that problem. The covered polyethylene trays can be slid out and tucked into a shoulder bag for daily use and each drawer can hold an assortment of jigs and soft-plastic critters in each of the rainbow of colors they come in.

The fly-fishing gear has always lived in a fishing vest, anyway. It only requires putting on the vest, grabbing a fly rod and starting the car to take off for suitable venue at a moment's notice -- most likely leaving the fly reel snuggled in the reel drawer in the storage cabinet in the garage.

That's where my baitcasting reels are kept, too -- waiting for the New Year's Day that I resolve to learn how to use them well enough to complete more than three consecutive casts without back-lashing.

My ice fishing gear has always had its own place: a plastic "angler's seat" whose outside pockets easily hold the three or four small boxes of tiny ice jigs. The seat's capacious inner storage compartment holds my ice-skimmer. I put the lunch and a Thermos in there in fishing days. The Swedish auger is "organized," too: Right there, in the corner of the garage behind the lawn furniture and the bicycles, ready any time I can burrow down to it.

I don't know where the horse-hide mittens went to, nor the picks I "always" carry to use should I fall in and need to drag myself back to solid ice.

But that's a minor detail. In general, I am now organized.

Just ask me where that collection of wooden top-water baits is. Or the Jitterbugs. Or the twin-blade, chartreuse spinner baits.

As of this morning, I even know where that collection of slim and delicate European fishing floats went to -- the ones I bought at the outdoor show three years ago and never used because I never got around to Euro-style live bait fishing from shore.

My wife (embarked on her own New Year's Organization Project -- involving closets) just found these expensive "bobbers."

Nestled away carefully with my knee-long, cross-country skiing socks.

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