Home | Advertise | Issues | Fishing Info | Tournaments | Buy a Photo | Delivery Locations | Merch | Send a Photo

Vol 46 | Num 2 | May 12, 2021

Chum Lines Delaware Report Ocean City Fishing Report Offshore Report Ship to Shore The Galley Issue Photos
Chum Lines

Article by Capt. Mark Sampson

Not all fishermen are boaters, but those who are know that this time of the year, getting their vessel ready for a new season can, at times, be quite a chore. Of course it kind of goes without saying that the one thing all fishermen do have in common is "tackle," in fact, you can’t hardly be a "fisherman" without it! And tackle, just like a boat, requires a certain level of winterization when the season is over and then de-winterization in the spring before the first line is dropped into the water.

Smart fishermen will have spent more than just a little bit of time at the end of last season disassembling, cleaning, and lubricating their tackle before properly putting it away for the winter. But I’d wager that most anglers probably came back from their last fishing trip, sprayed their rods and reels off with fresh water from a hose and then hung them in the garage or leaned them in the corner of a shed. Guess which group is going to be in a better position to catch fish this spring! Those who did what they needed to do at the end of last season should pretty much be ready to attach reels back on rods, spool on some fresh line, and head for the water. As for the rest of you…well, not so fast, you’ve got a little work to do before you can go fishing.

First, I’ll assume that those who didn’t winterize their tackle also neglected to remove the reels from the rods. It’s important to separate rod from reel at the end of the season so that the rod’s reel-seat and the reel’s foot can be properly cleaned. This connection point between rod and reel often collects a buildup of salt and corrosion that’s not prevented by routine freshwater rinsing. The only way to properly make sure that all is well is to take the two apart and if this hasn’t been done for a while I can almost guarantee that anglers will be surprised at how much “yuck” they’ll find under their reel.

By the way, though simple tools such as a few wrenches and a small flat and Phillips screwdriver are about all the tools needed for simple reel maintenance, every angler with more than just one or two rods should own a “strap-wrench” which is an inexpensive tool that’s available at most hardware stores and exactly what’s needed to either loosen or tighten the threaded rings that hold a reel to a rod. Without a strap wrench one must tighten the rings by hand and run the risk of them working loose or use a pair of pliers which will likely scar up or possibly even break the rings.
Besides removing the reel, two-piece rods should be separated and the ferrule cleaned. Stand-up or trolling type rods that separate above the butt should also be taken apart and a little bit of grease applied before being put back together. If a rod hasn’t been taken apart for a long time it might not be possible to separate it without applying heat. This, however, should only be done to metal-to-metal connections and, even then, very carefully! Too much heat transferred to a fiberglass or graphite rod can destroy it or any epoxy holding it together. In some cases, if a rod won’t separate it’s just best to leave it alone and consider it as a one-piece rod for the rest of its life.

If fishing line was left on the reel from the year before it should be removed so that the spool can be properly cleaned of any salt deposits that can pit the metal surface. Of course this should have been done back in the fall but we’re playing catch-up here so it’s the best we can do at this point. The line should probably be discarded, but if it’s deemed to be in decent shape there’s really nothing wrong with winding it back on provided it’s been wound off onto some type of spool that allows it to be. In fact, one trick of re-spooling used line is to run the line off one reel and directly onto another. Doing so flips the line so that the unused inner portion of the line becomes the outer “working” end on the second reel.

Once removed from the rod, reels should be wiped down and cleaned with a lightly oiled rag then checked for performance. Are all parts turning, rolling, flipping, clicking, or spinning as they should? Sometimes a few drops of oil applied externally on the reel are all that’s needed to get things working as they should. However, usually it will require going inside a reel to make such repairs. Most reels have some sort of cover plate that can be opened after removing four or more screws. Most spinning reels will require that the handle be removed first. With the reel open one can usually see if the internal grease has turned hard, evidence of salt or corrosion inside, or anything else that is out of whack that might need to be cleaned or lubricated.

In most cases a reel can be opened up and closed again without a bunch of parts falling out that require special knowledge to put back together. Anglers working on the inside of their reels should consider their own abilities and know when to stop disassembling if they won’t be able to reassemble what they’ve taken apart. Taking out gears and springs is usually pretty easy, putting them back and ending up with a working reel can be tricky!

Drag washers should also be taken out and inspected for moisture, salt, or corrosion. While doing so, anglers should make certain that for multiple disc drags, like those found in most spinning and star drag reels, the discs are re-stacked in the exact order they came out or the drag will not likely perform as it was designed to. Also, most drags are designed to operate in a clean, dry environment that’s also free of oil. So don’t add oil or grease to the drag washers!

Reel gears are usually lubricated with grease while other moving parts get a few drops of oil. It’s important that lubricants used are not just any-old oil or grease but products developed to be used specifically on fishing reels. The proper lubricants can be found in most tackle shops and have specific properties needed to protect and maintain a smooth running reel.

Anyone who doesn’t feel up to the task of repairing or even maintaining their own tackle should take it to a professional to have it done for them, the price will be pale compared to the replacement cost and certainly better than having a fishing trip ruined or a tournament winning fish lost because of an equipment malfunction.

With moderate use, quality tackle could last half a lifetime, but it’ll only happen for those who practice at least a bare minimum amount of routine maintenance before, during, and after each season. No one can go back in time and do anything about what they didn't do at the end of last season, but it’s certainly possible to get caught up now before the best of this new season is upon us.

Coastal Fisherman Merch
CF Merch



Buy a Photo