Pre-Season Tackle Maintenance
By …. Bob Jones
There’s no doubt that the change in weather over the past few weeks has most of us chomping at the bit to get back out on the water. But, there are a few simple tasks that you might want to take care of to make sure your gear is up to the challenge of the season’s first hook-up. Other than basic cleaning – which should have been done at the end of last season – there’s not a lot of maintenance required for fishing rods. But, there are a few simple steps that will assure that they’re ready to go when the local action really starts heating up.
Start by inspecting the reel seat and guides to make sure they are in good working order and free of sand, grit, corrosion and salt. Pay special attention to the guides, inspecting for tiny cracks or other rough spots. While tiny defects, especially those involving ceramic guides may not be easy to see, they’re one of the most common causes of excessive line wear. The easiest way to check the guides is to rub them with a cotton swab. The cotton will find snags that are too small to see or feel. If the inspection turns up a worn or damaged guide, have it replaced before using the rod again.
If you haven’t already given your reels a good going over, this is another task that’s better done before than during the fishing season. Break the reel down, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, removing all grease and dirt with a soft cloth and cotton swabs. While the reel is apart, check for and replace any worn parts. Lubricate with fresh reel grease and reassemble it.
While some fishermen are strong believers in the notion that they need to spool their reels with new line every year, most modern mono and braid will provide a couple of seasons unless they are exposed to extreme conditions. If your gear does not get heavy use, and you store your rod away from heat and direct sunlight, quality lines can be replaced every other year. If, on the other hand, you’re an avid angler who has the time to get out on the water two or three or more times a week, you should change your line at least annually, if not more often.
The final, and probably the least pleasant chore that needs to be done before the fishing season really get rolling is a thorough cleaning, restocking and organizing of your tackle boxes. Start by completely emptying the box, discarding broken tackle and conducting an inventory to determine what’s missing or needs replacement. Once it is empty, give it a thorough cleaning with warm water and dish detergent, followed by a good rinse with plenty of clean water to completely remove any soap residue that may give lures and tackle an off scent. When the box is dry, lightly oil the hinges and tray support brackets, and check the latches and handles to make sure they’re tight and in good working order. As you re-stock the box, check hooks, lures and other tackle for damage. It’s a lot easier to repair or replace damaged gear now that it is when you’re out on the boat and the fish are biting.
While gear maintenance is not a chore that any of us really look forward to, taking a few hours before the spring season really gets underway will help assure that all of your equipment is ready to go when you hook up with the first trophy of the year.