Rust Never Rests

For Gulf Coast anglers, protecting against the ravages of salt water on fishing gear is a constant battle. Here's a look at some of the newest weapons in that fight.

It was a perfect day of surf-fishing -- bluebird sky, light breeze and first bull redfish for several kids. It was inevitable something would go wrong. Sure enough, one of the youngsters neglected to firmly secure his sand spike, and a pricey rod-and-reel took a tumble into the brine.

Instead of giving the tackle last rites, I retrieved it from the sheepish lad and sprayed everything from reel seat to rod tip with one of the biodegradable miracle solutions that removes salt, leaving a residue that protects the rod and reel from the next dunking. The tackle performed flawlessly for the rest of the day. And best of all, I didn't have to worry about disassembling the reel for a total cleaning later that evening.

In my grandfather's era, saltwater tackle maintenance consisted of a freshwater rinse and a coating of heavy petroleum-based spray. He probably spent a fair amount of time cleaning his reels and a fair share of money on replacement parts, as well. Nowadays, we have new weapons in the fight against the harmful effects of moisture and salt. But first, let's learn a bit more about the foe.

Knowing The Natural Enemy
The metals used in fishing tackle and accessories exist in a temporary physical state. At some point -- after several years or several centuries -- they'll revert to the ore from which they were made.

Corrosion is the natural process by which metal returns to its original state. However, corrosion can't take place without a conducting solution, commonly called an electrolyte. Because of its chemical composition, salt water is the king of electrolytes.

The corrosion process causes oxidation on the surface of metals, resulting in the nasty brownish-orange substance we call rust. Once rust starts, several things begin to happen, none of which are good. The metal weakens, friction increases between corroded moving parts, and pieces of oxidized metal break free and lodge in moving parts that aren't corroding, causing them to malfunction.

The best way to defeat corrosion is to defeat the electrolyte -- in our case, salt water. If you replace the salt water with a different solution, you slow corrosion or even stop it in its tracks. Plus, you eliminate the residual salt crystals that cause further damage to moving parts, even those made from corrosion-proof composites.

A Weapon Against Salt
Fresh water, while still an electrolyte, is much less damaging than salt water, but sometimes a freshwater rinse is impractical or impossible. Plus, fresh water won't remove all residual salt. That's why many anglers opt for a salt-removal solution like Salt-X ( or Salt-Away ( These biodegradable, non-toxic and non-hazardous compounds dissolve salt through a chemical reaction and leave a residue that protects the metal.

Manufactured as a concentrate, these liquids are mixed at a prescribed rate with fresh water for a variety of applications ranging from spraying fishing reels to flushing outboard engines. A little goes a long way: A quart of Salt-X makes 16 gallons of product.

These salt-removal solutions can be used on any metal or composite commonly found in fishing and marine applications. Buy a few inexpensive plastic spray bottles from the local garden supply, fill them with diluted concentrate, and keep one on the boat, one in the tackle room and one in your vehicle.

A partnership between Penn Reels (, one of the best-known brand names in saltwater fishing, and X-1R Performance Products has spawned a line of products to help anglers win the corrosion war. Infused with the proprietary IR39 compound, the Penn Rod and Reel Cleaner is a one-application spray safe for all metals, finishes and fishing lines. I've used the product for the past year and have been pleased with the results.

After a freshwater rinse, I let my rods and reels air-dry before applying this product to reels, reel seats, rod guides and terminal tackle. I wipe down any excess and store, knowing it'll be ready for my next trip.

Line In The Brine
While we obsess about rods and reels, we often forget about the one thing that connects us to our quarry -- fishing line. Monofilament still dominates the scene, but superbraid lines continue to claim new converts. As the name implies, superbraids are composed of multiple strands of line, meaning there are plenty of places for those salt crystals to hide. Left alone, salt crystals abrade the coating of the line, leading to color loss, increased friction and eventually failure.

Typically, only the line on the top of the spool gets any benefit from a freshwater rinse or a treatment of the reel with anti-corrosion products. So it's prudent to periodically pull out a line and clean it with a product like Line and Lure Conditioner -- Saltwater Formula (

This product doesn't contain solvents or other compounds that can harm either monofilament or superbraid. Instead it removes any residual salt and leaves a polymer coating that's UV- and water-resistant. This polymer coating also reduces friction as the line passes through level-winds and rod guides, adding precious distance to casts.

Vapor Lock Your Tackle
Hooks, swivels, lures and other terminal tackle often corrode even quicker than line or reels. Imagine creating an anti-corrosion force field around these items. Sound like something from Star Wars? Metal manufacturers have been doing just that for years, using volatile-corrosion inhibition or VCI technology.

Application is simple: A cardboard or plastic material infused with an anti-corrosion compound is placed in the tackle box, reel-storage bag or other confined space. The anti-corrosion compound slowly releases into the space, creating a rustproof barrier on any surface contained within. These VCI compounds are non-scented, non-toxic and leave no harmful residues. The area covered and the longevity of the coverage vary from product to product

Three manufacturers have brought this technology from the industrial world to the sporting-goods world. A well-known name in lubrication, 3-IN-ONE, produces the NO-RUST SHIELD capsule (, which has a handy Timestrip gauge that tells when it's time to replace the unit. VCI Inhibitor Pro Chips are thin strips of cardboard that can be custom sized for any application. Zerust, in partnership with Flambeau Outdoors, produces a wide and multi-faceted variety of products for use by anglers and boaters.

If you want your saltwater tackle and gear to last longer, take advantage of t

hese new weapons in the fight against corrosion. A few dollars invested in prevention can mean far fewer dollars spent on replacements. Plus, next time you take to the water, you'll have confidence your tackle is ready for the fish of a lifetime.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

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