Winter is officially over, and chances are, you’re itching to take advantage of the mild weather to reel in some prize catches. However, before you can get out on the water, it’s important to do some spring cleaning—on your fishing gear, that is.
Performing proper maintenance on your fishing gear is crucial when it comes to keeping your equipment functioning properly. That goes for your fishing line, tackle, and yes, those prized (and expensive) rods and reels.
Below, are some of the most important steps in ensuring your gear remains capable of earning you some trophy fish this season—and any season—for years to come.
To prevent the buildup of any debris or algae that could damage your line, it’s important to thoroughly clean your guides using a dry cloth. Do NOT use a damp cloth, since moisture is algae’s best friend.
Use a towel and rubbing alcohol to clean around the reel handle area on your rod every time you take your reel off to ensure that you clean out the dirt and other particles that may have built up on the inside.
Any time you remove your reel from your rod, take a cloth and some isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) to clean this area of any dirt or grime.
Ideally, when not in use, you should always store your fishing poles on a quality rod rack, like those sold by Big Daddy (above), which you can find here. However, if you don’t have one of these, be sure to keep your rods upright, wherever you decide to place them between fishing trips. Without a proper rack, storing them horizontally may lead to them bending over time.
Your reels should be cleansed with fresh water after every use. And no, this does NOT mean dunking in whatever pond or creek you’re fishing from. It’s another big no-no to spray your reels with a hose or spray bottle, since this is a surefire way to shoot any debris toward the inside of your reel, causing more damage. Instead, fill up your sink with tap water and submerge them there.
You’ll want to lubricate your reels periodically, with the frequency depending on how often they see action. For example, if you’re out on the water every other day, you’ll want to oil up your reels every couple of weeks. On the other hand, if you’re more of a casual angler who might get in a trip occasionally, it’s a good rule of thumb to lubricate your reels every time you fish. This will ensure that all the inner workings continue to run smoothly, and you don’t pull any muscles trying to reel one in. While you can use specialty lubricants, WD-40 or a basic silicone oil will work just fine as well.
Be sure to purge any old fishing line before a trip. Expert tip: if it looks old, it probably is. If it coils up nastily when you pull an arm's length of line from the spool, it’s time to toss it. However, if you think your line could stand up to a second use, use some line conditioner to further fortify it. If after a few test casts you are still confident in your fishing line, you’re good to go. If there’s any doubt, it’s best to cut your losses and go for a new spool.
Make sure the spool you’re using contains an appropriate amount of line. Both too little and too much line will impair a reel's performance. Replace or add line if it doesn't come close to the rim (1/8 inch or less). If you want to add line by splicing new line to the line already on the spool, be sure to add enough line so that you won't have to deal with a splice knot when casting or battling a fish. Always add at least 50 yards of new line at a time while adding new line.
Tackle and Lure Maintenance
Hard Lures: Scrub with a wet toothbrush, being mindful to reach all the small nooks and crannies, and dry with a cloth.
Plastics: To avoid meltage and color loss, take care to store your plastics in a cool, dry area.
Weights: Be sure to store weights separately from your other lures, where they won’t bump into and damage your other tackle.
Hooks: It is important to make sure your fishing hooks are sharp before use, as dull hooks tend to giveaway bait. A good method to test this is by dragging it softly along your fingernail to see if it catches. If it doesn’t, then you’ll want to sharpen it or grab a new one. To prevent your hooks from becoming dull, consider using corks to cover the sharp end while not in use.
Cleaning up your fishing gear might not be as fun as being out on the water, but it’s a necessary evil. And you know what might be even less fun? Wasting money on equipment that becomes useless from lack of maintenance. So, we beg you, please take care of your gear, because if you want to get down and dirty out on the water, it pays to clean up first.