If those tarpon are gonna start swimming that light line along the Skyway Bridge like they have since the bridge was built, and those snook are gonna start balling in the big passes we enjoy, or those largemouth bass are gonna be sitting in those freshwater beds like they did when Tobago Indians made hooks from deer bone and weights from heated coral, I should really clean my side of the road. I better do a maintenance checkup on my stuff.
Maintaining Tackle as a Way of Life
When my wife asks why my rod seems to be filthy, or she notices a rusty Owner hook and lets me have it between the eyes, I have the perfect excuse.
"I let that hook rust for a photo shoot," I tell her.
She knows I am full of bovine discard (crap), but I actually convince myself that when I finally write a story about how you are supposed to care for your gear, I could use those rusted $4 toys as props for my Nikon to show people what not to do. Do not laugh. If you are one of those completely tight and perfect anglers who keep a man around to clean your boat like Senators pay for elevator men with our tax dollars, that is cool with me.
I understand why captains have actually left the business because they felt their boats and rods and every lure needed sterile room perfection to be seen by their clients and there simply was not enough time in the day. I really do. I have friends that clean the inside curve of every hook on every lure they use with a q-tip when they take it from the box, and again once they tie it on a leader. They keep a dehydrator on their boat so those Mirrodines go back in that same tackle box cleaner than a government black-site handling smallpox. It is OK if your stuff is already perfect, and we will not take it personally if you ignore the rest of the article.
Our stuff? It always needs help. Here are a few things you should pay attention to if you want to keep your rods perfect, or as nearly perfect as your personality will allow you to spend time achieving. You do not need to be embarrassed if your stuff is in bad need of help because our stuff looks just as bad as yours.
But spring is here. Spring means feeds, and feeds mean bites. Bites lead to pulls, pulls lead to tasty fish on your dinner table, and the circle remains unbroken.
Techniques for Spring Cleaning a Rod
You gotta' also take care of your reels but that is for another story and a video or three. But let's talk about caring for your fishing rods. You can go through this list every single time you use a rod. It is not a bad idea. But we only do it once in a while. First, we always rinse everything with a gentle spray of fresh water. And when we say gentle we mean gentle! Dripping works. Do not spray hard or you will force garbage into the reel's interior. Do not force water into the reel with a hard spray.
Items You'll need:
- Cotton swabs. We call them Q-tips too.
- Bees wax (best) or a candle
- A hose set to gently spray fresh water. Do not force water into reels or reel seats or anywhere the pressure might leave residue or sand grains.
- Soap such as Dawn dish detergent.
- A bucket filled with clean water to dip the reel in when you remove it from the rod.
Clean the Rod Without the Reel on It
Remove the lures, squeeze off the dried and mummified baitfish or rope-like earthworms from the hooks, clip them off,, and retrieve all the line to your reel. If there is a connector lip – and most spinning reels have them –secure the loose line. If you have no lip, use a rubber band. Dip it thoroughly in clean fresh water three times, and put it aside to dry for now.
Wash the Reel Seat
A soft brush is best for cleaning the real seat. Use soapy water and brush it out. The feet of the reel sits below a cup on the connection. Make sure you wash it underneath the lip. Like everything you touch during the cleanup, wash it three times with fresh water.
Clean the Ferrules
If the rod is two (or more) parts, it has a male connection and a female connection. Rinse them well with soapy water and make sure you rinse them well. Clean the female with a Q-tip soaked in a little alcohol. There is a good chance you will see dirt on the cotton.
This is where the bee's wax comes in -- rub some on your fingers and rub all the surfaces of the male ferrule, and insert it slowly into the female connection. Pull the two apart and apply a little more wax on the male connector. The connection where the rod is glued to the actual ferrule might have an almost invisible ledge; make sure it is clean and has a little wax in it. You can click your fingernail on the edge and feel it. It is where the ferrule will begin to rust if you do not keep the rod clean. Higher end fly rods with bamboo rods and metal ferrules are particularly prone to a buildup at the ferrule.
Clean the Guides
Use a Q-tip and alcohol to clean each guide – both inside the ring and at the connection where the tread connects it to the rod blank. There is an edge inside the guides that can – and does – hold material. Clean them out. Run the insides of each guide with the alcohol and blow on it gently to dry it. Be careful not to leave any cotton threads at the connection points. If it catches a piece of that cotton, it will catch dirt.
Check the Guides for Nicks or Scratches
Springtime means feed times and here in Florida, as in most of our beautiful nation, the fish are turning on. Try this simple approach to cleaning your rods, and do it without the reels on them to make sure you clean the whole thing and do it correctly.