January cleaning: with new equipment, revive the old


The surf environment is super harsh, even a beautiful day like this will have waves full of sandy water splashing your reel. Photo credit: Eric Medlin

The holiday season is over and it’s a safe bet that if you are reading this you have received new fishing tackle.

I’m sure you can’t wait to use it wisely this year and it will help you catch a lot of fish. But before we consider prepping new gear, let’s talk a bit about restoring old gear and making sure it’s ready to go when you take it out of the closet this spring.

We are going to do some things to make our fishing tackle and other gear clean and safe to store. So the next time we go our business will be running as it should and there will be no unpleasant surprises.

Let’s start with the tools I like to use. The first thing you will need is a small screwdriver. I bought a precision screwdriver set from a store that sells freight in the port. It has multiple handles and dozens of screwdriver heads in different styles and sizes.

You will need coil oil. There are several products and they all work. Those specifically intended for coils will have a small, blunt needle head at the top of the bottle. This allows it to be injected into small openings. I recently used a type made by a well-known brand for making lubricants for the racing world.

I like to have auxiliary lighting on my table. If you wear reading glasses, have them handy. A magnifying glass wouldn’t be a terrible idea, and neither would a long-handled magnet. You’ll also want high-quality disposable towels that don’t shed fiber. The store’s blue towels are perfect.

We will start with our coils. Since most of my fishing is done with spinning reels, this is what I will be talking about. They take a lot of abuse in salt water, especially if you are surf fishing. It is a good idea to clean them frequently. I also like to make sure the gears are cleaned and lubricated so that they work well. This has the added benefit of pushing sand and salt deposits away from moving parts and keeping them in working order. Rinse them well and dry them well.

Find the right screwdriver head for your reel. We are looking to match the head with the screws on the side wall of the reel. There must be at least three. Some newer reels also have a piece on the back of the reel that closes the space between the two side plates and which must be removed first. Place the spool on an open surface of a table in a well-lit environment. Carefully remove the screw that holds the rear protection piece. It will come out easily and will want to jump and fly. Be careful. The plate probably won’t shoot right away, it may take a bit of persuasion. Gently stir it until it does. Put them aside.

You may notice at this point an additional hole in the back of the reel body. Some reels are equipped with it and it allows access to the inside of the reel. You might want to see if you can put spool 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 up. Do not remove. It was about time, I could take a reel apart and put it back together easily. The last two times I did this the coils didn’t want to be wound up. The tolerances in modern coils are quite tight and there is not a lot of room.

Captain Gordon Churchill

Now I just loosen the side plate screws just enough that the needle of the reel oil bottle can squirt inside. Maybe three turns of the screw. Do not turn the reel handle when the side plate is loosened. Squeeze some oil inside and easily tighten the screws in place. Slowly turn the handle. It may seem the same at first, but the lubricant will catch on and you will start to feel a difference in the feeling of smoothness. Remove the spool by loosening the drag knob. Inject some lubricant into the spaces between the shaft and the housing. Replace the spool. Squirt a little into the handle. All squeaks will disappear. Pour some spool oil on the outside and take a kitchen towel and wipe the entire surface. Your reel should spin easily if it wasn’t before and it will shine and the light coating of oil on the outside will act as a protector.

Cleaning your rods is a bit easier. Take a tea towel and put a little water on it and wipe the rod, starting with the handles. Then do the blank and finally make the guides. Be on the lookout for nicks in the cork on the handles, loose windings on the guide wraps, and most importantly look for guides that have broken rings or loose feet. The new super light rod guides have metal rings with silicon carbide inserts which 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 off. If this happens to you, there are several things you can do. The first is to remove the entire guide and replace it. If you’ve never done this before, I won’t try to describe it here. You may just want to take it to a local rod repair shop. If you want to tackle it, there are loads of videos out there on how to do it.

Another thing you could try is a quick fix that I have done a few times and which so far have held me back. Obtain UV cured resin. I have the kind that I use for fly tying. Use super glue to put the silicon carbide insert inside the ring. When it dries, put the UV resin on the cracked area and hit it with the light. Put a few layers on it. I did this with two different guides and the repairs took a few seasons. But who knows how long he’s gonna be. The best option is to replace the guide entirely, but it works in a pinch.

Check your line. If it’s monofilament and starts to look a bit gray and stays curled when you take it off the spool. Replace everything. With a braided line, if the front of the line looks thin and frayed, do a few long throws. I am going to tie a new section of line using a double solid knot.

If you complete these simple tasks now, your gear will be ready to go when you take it out on your first spring trips. There is nothing more disappointing than that first trip of the year and your reel squeaking or the handle not turning or the bar falling off. It doesn’t matter if you grab onto that first big fish of the year and stop because you’re still using an old line!

About Patricia Kilgore

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