The holiday season has passed and it’s a good bet that if you’re reading this you received some new piece of fishing gear.
I’m sure that you are looking forward to putting it to good use this year and it’s going to help you catch plenty of fish. But before we look at getting new gear ready to go, let’s talk a bit about reviving old gear and making sure it’s ready to use when you pull it out of the closet this spring.
We’re going to do some things to make our fishing tackle and other gear clean and safe to put away. That way, next time we go, our stuff will work as it should and there will be no unpleasant surprises.
Let’s start with the tools I like to use. First thing you will need is a small screwdriver. I got a set of precision screwdrivers from a store that sells freight in the harbor. It has multiple handles and dozens of screwdriver heads of different styles and sizes.
You will need reel oil. There are multiple products out there and they all work. The ones that are specifically for reels will have a small, blunt needle head at the top of the bottle. This allows it to be squirted into small openings. I recently have been using a kind manufactured by a brand well known for making lubricants for the racing world.
I like to have auxiliary lighting on my tabletop. If you wear reading glasses, have them handy. A magnifying lens would not be a terrible idea, nor would a long-handled magnet. You’re also going to want some high-quality, disposable towels that don’t shed fibers. The blue shop towels are perfect.
We’ll start with our reels. Since most of the fishing I do is with spinning reels, that is what I am going to talk about. They take a lot of abuse in saltwater, particularly so if you fish the surf. It’s a good idea to clean them up frequently. I also like to make sure the gears are cleaned and lubed so they operate smoothly. This has the added benefit of pushing sand and salt deposits away from the moving parts and keep them working. Rinse them clean and dry well.
Find the screwdriver head that works for your reel. We are looking to match up the head with the screws on the side wall of the reel. There should be at least three of them. Some newer reels also have a piece on the back of the reel that closes the gap between the two side plates and that needs to be removed first. Put the reel on a cleared off surface of a table in a well-lit environment. Carefully remove the screw holding on the rear protection piece. It will come out easily and want to jump up and fly away. Be careful. The plate will most likely not pull straight away, it may take some persuading. Wiggle it gently until it does. Place these aside.
You may notice at this point an extra hole in the rear of the reel body. Some reels have these and it offers access to the inside of the reel. You may want to see if you can put reel oil directly into this port. If one of these is not available on your reel you will need to loosen the side plate screws. Notice I said loosen. Do not remove. Time was, I could take a spinning reel apart and put it back together easily. The last couple times I did so, the reels did not want to be put back together. The tolerances in the modern reels are quite tight and there’s not a lot of room.
Now, I merely loosen the side plate screws, just enough so the needle of the reel oil bottle can squirt inside. Maybe three turns of the screw. Do not turn the reel handle while the side plate is loose. Squirt the oil in there and easily tighten the screws back into place. Slowly turn the handle. It may feel the same at first but the lube will work its way in and you will begin to feel a difference in how smooth it feels. Remove the spool by loosening the drag knob. Squirt some lube in the spaces between the shaft and the housing. Replace the spool. Squirt a little into the handle. Any squeaks will vanish. Squirt a little of the reel oil onto the outside and take a shop towel and wipe off the whole surface. Your reel should turn easily if it didn’t before and it will shine and the light coating of oil on the outside will act as a protectant.
Cleaning up your rods is a little simpler. Take a shop towel and get a little water on it and wipe the rod starting with the grips. Then do the blank and finally do the guides. Be on the lookout for nicks in the cork of the grips, loose windings on the guide wraps, and especially look for guides that have broken rings or loose feet. The new, super light rod guides have metal rings with silicon carbide inserts that are less inclined to be grooved by braided lines and add almost no weight to the rod.
A common problem is that the metal rings that hold the inserts in place will crack and the insert will fall out. If this happens to you there are a couple things you can do. First is to remove the entire guide and replace it. If you’ve never done this before, I will not attempt to describe it here. You may want to simply take it to a local rod repair shop. If you want to tackle it, there are bunches of videos on the internet describing how to do it.
Another thing you could try is a quick repair that I have done a couple times that so far has been holding up for me. Get some ultraviolet cure resin. I have the kind I use for fly tying. Use super glue to put the silicon carbide insert inside the ring. When that dries, put the UV resin over the cracked area and hit it with the light. Put a couple coats on there. I have done it with two different guides and the repairs have lasted a couple seasons. But who knows how much longer it will stay. The better option is to replace the guide entirely but this works in a pinch.
Check your line. If it’s monofilament and it’s starting to look a little gray and stays looped when you pull it off the spool. Replace the whole thing. With braided line, if the front of the line is looking thin and frayed, pull off a couple long casts worth. I will attach a new section of line using a double uni knot.
If you do these simple tasks now, your equipment will be ready to go when you get it out for your first trips of the spring. There’s nothing more disappointing than that first trip of the year and your reel is grinding or the handle won’t turn or the guide falls off. Never mind that you hook into that first big fish of the year and it breaks off because you’re still using old line!