THERE ARE only a few more weeks until the official kick-off of the 1986 fishing season. But before you start dreaming about catching the big ones, take the time to get your tackle in shape. Most angling catastrophes can be avoided with just a few hours of simple maintenance.

The most important item between you and the fish is your line. Since the advent of monofilament line, there have been some dramatic changes. For instance, casting distances have improved substantially thanks to advances in chemical technology that softened the texture of the line, making it sensitive to the slightest tap at the end, while still maintaining fine diameter and strength.

However, in doing that, manufacturers had to make a few compromises, which shorten the line's life. So, you should replace the monofilament line you used last season. Although you may think it's still strong enough to hold that struggling lunker, chances are the breaking strength has decreased significantly over the winter.

The best way to replace your line is to take it to a local tackle shop with a winder. They can quickly remove the old line and replace it with premium quality mono for about three or four cents per yard. The line is also spooled on at an even pressure and to the correct level, which prevents those monofilament basket balls when casting. The $20 you'll spend on line now could save you a bundle in aggravation later.

Fishing reels take a tremendous amount of abuse during a normal fishing season, especially those used in salt water. They should be completely disassembled, cleaned with WD-40 or a similar agent and lubricated with silicon reel grease before re-assembly.

If you've never taken your reel apart before, take a good look first at the diagram. If you didn't keep it, it's a good idea to place the parts in a row on a clean cloth during removal. Then it's just a matter of replacing them in the reverse order during re-assembly. Be sure to clean and lubricate the drag assembly thoroughly. A "bumpy' drag will ultimately cost you lots of big fish.

Fishing rods are often neglected, mainly because they don't show evidence of wear. But the line guides are critical and should be carefully inspected regularly. The best method is to draw an old nylon stocking through the ring. If the stocking snags, that means the guide will cause undue wear on your line and should be replaced. Roller guides, those used on heavy trolling rods, often bind from saltwater corrosion. They can be repaired easily by removing the roller screw, cleaning with WD- 40 and lubricating with silicon oil before re-assembly.

Reel seats are usually made of anodized aluminum or chrome-plated brass. Both face the same corrosion problems as roller guides. To clean them, simply wash them thoroughly with dish detergent and lubricate with WD-40. Loose reel seats, those that have broken free from the rod blank and rotate on the handle, can be repaired with a few drops of slow- drying epoxy cement. Using a hypodermic syringe, inject the glue under the reel seat and allow it to dry overnight. The slow-drying epoxy will ooze into every crack and crevice, making a bond that will hold up for years.

And when was the last time you took inventory of your tackle box? More than likely, you'll need such tackle items as hooks, sinkers, split shot, swivels, steel leaders and bottom rigs. Rusty hooks on lures should be replaced and sharpened. Tarnished spoons can be polished with fine steel wool or silver polish to look like new. Take stock of your spinners, plugs and other popular lures. Try to calculate the number of trips you'll be taking this season and just how many lures you'll likely lose.

If you're an average salt or freshwater angler, you will make nearly 35 fishing trips during the year. If you lose just one lure on every other trip, you should expect to buy at least 17 to 20 replacements.

Last, but by no means least, head to your local tackle shop and pick up a 1986 fishing license.

And now you're all set for the ones that won't get away.