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Pro Tips For Maintaining Your Fishing Gear

Fishing equipment will last a long time with proper maintenance.

Gear needs care. Simple as that. And right now, with winter setting in, is a good time to think about maintenance. Even if you're a 52-week angler and never stow your gear for the season, weather surely will knock out a fishing day some time soon. Invest that day in tackle maintenance and commit to establishing good care routines. In the long run, you'll save fishing time, lessen the likeliness of lost fish and make the gear you have invested in last longer.

A small stiff brush is useful for getting lube down into the gears of a reel. Proper lubrication improves the function and extends the life of reels. –ª Photo courtesy of TTI/Blakemore.

Reels, which are delicate and somewhat complex, offer a good place to start. They should be wiped down and dried after every use and occasionally opened for basic lubrication and to check for any debris that might have gotten inside the reel, said Joe Davis, an engineer for Quantum.

TJ Stallings of Blakemore, which makes Real Magic Reel Lube, has spent more hours than he'd like to remember taking apart fishing reels. While Stallings was growing up his dad ran a tackle shop, and reel repair was part of the store's offerings. In addition to giving Stallings an early understanding of the basic workings of fishing reels, it gave him a major appreciation for the importance of proper care.

"Reel maintenance needs to be ongoing, not just a season-end thing," Stallings said. "The life-giving parts see a lot of use and need to be taken care of on a regular basis."

If you opt to do a total breakdown for cleaning and lubrication, keep the exploded parts view from the manual in front you. Modern reels, especially baitcasters, have far more parts than most anglers would expect. Stallings advocates laying down a piece of heavy white paper to place all the parts on because you can see each part well and you can write on

the paper if you need to take notes about specific parts. Lubrication should be according to manufacturer recommendations.

"One big myth is the petroleum jelly makes a good reel lubricant," Stallings said, having seen far too many reels that were stiff or even locked down because they were "cleaned" or "lubricated" with the products that weren't designed for use on fishing reels.

Even dedicated reel-care products have specific functions. Reel Magic Reel Lube, for example, is excellent for lubricating a reel's gears, but it's not designed for something that needs to spin freely, such as the spool shaft on a baitcasting reel. That requires a light oil, and a heavy lube or grease will slow the spool and shorten casts.

"For parts that mesh, such as gears, use reel grease. For parts that rub, use oil," said Davis, explaining that grease differs from oil based on thickening agents that help it stay in place on gears.

When you do clean your reels, be sure to check the line. If you'll be stowing your rods and reels for a couple of months, strip the line and leave it off until just prior to your first trip of the new season. That way you'll know you are starting with fresh line when you begin again. If you're just taking a maintenance day and will be fishing again soon, strip the line and re-spool.

Line lasts a long time on the original spool, in the basement. As long as it stored in a relatively cool place and out of direct sunlight it should be fine. The lifespan of line on your reels is much shorter as it wets and dries, sits out in the heat and gets twisted and nicked with use. The amount of line on the spool also gets smaller as you change lures, lose baits to snags, cut off line because of "twisties," etc. Unless your line has been very freshly spooled, there's no reason to not start fresh as long as you're working on your gear anyway.

Rods are much simpler than reels and don't require much maintenance. Rubbing a rod from end to end with a damp cloth and then a dry cloth does help keep a rod in good condition, but the most importance bit of rod care is a simple check-up. Look at every rod from end to end to make sure reel seats and handles remain secure and that all the eyes are straight and have inserts that are fully intact. A tiny chip in an eye insert can fray your line, and you may not know what happened until it is too late.

Looking past the rods and reels to lures and terminal tackle, the first important step is a good organization session. Whether all your gear is in a single tackle box that you carry everywhere or your boat or basement serves as a giant tackle box filled with smaller stowable boxes, ever thing should have a place. Unless you are uncommonly organized, things tend to fall out of order as you fish, and occasionally you need to stop and resort.

Beyond the obvious on-the-water value of quickly finding a certain color of Spook when the fish suddenly start schooling, putting things back in their places reminds you of items that have run low, hooks that have gotten bent out of shape and need replacing and other upkeep tasks that need to be done. Make a list of things you want to replenish and visit the tackle store or place those orders right away so you don't suddenly remember that you had run out of worm weights as you're about to tie on a Texas rig in the spring.

This is also a good time to re-evaluate your sorting system. If you've gotten more into jerkbait fishing than you had in the past, for example, those baits might be overflowing and it might be time to start a dedicated jerkbait box. If you do use some sort of stowable-box system, sorting baits and terminal tackle by category and putting easy-to-read labels on the edges makes you much more efficient on the water. Labels don't have to be fancy. A roll of masking tape and a permanent marker do the job just fine.

By the time all your baits are back in their place, you should have a pretty good feel for what else needs to be done to get everything in good working order. Beyond replenishing supplies, the biggest job that might need doing is hook sharpening. If you have boxes filled with baits, testing hooks for sharpness and honing them with a sharpening tool can seem somewhat tedious; however, it's a far better option than setting the hook on a big fish and coming up empty.

While you're in the sharpening mode, it's a good idea to pull out a stone and sharpen your pocketknife and filet knife, lubricate your pliers or multi-tool and make sure other accessories are in good working order.

Finally, once all the tackle is in good working order, take a peek out your garage door and see if the weather has improved. Now that all your stuff is back in good condition, you might want to go fishing!

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