Use the off-season to get your gear ready for the fish
If you’re like me, you tried to fish all the way to the end of the season. So your tackle was never put up properly.
Now that there’s little angling left, outside of possibly a little pickerel action, it’s time to care for your tackle. The chore is necessary if you expect to hit the ground running in the spring.
Get a sponge, some good dishwashing detergent and thoroughly clean each of your fishing rods, hitting the guides with an old toothbrush. Cork grips should be scrubbed with a cleanser, like Ajax, Comet or the environmentally friendly Bon Ami, and reel seats gone over with a good, soapy brush and rinsed.
Pickerel and plenty of them are the best news of the month. The Severn and its many tributaries are producing reports of really nice 20-inch-plus fish. The Magothy is getting good reports as another source, as is Bodkin Creek just south of the Patapsco. Just about any Bay tributary should hold pickerel up nearer the headwaters where the water is sweeter.
Ducks: thru Jan. 26
When the rods have dried, apply a heavy-duty marine grade of silicone or silicone spray the whole length of the rod tubes with particular attention to the guides, then the reel seats. In a pinch, you can use other types of preservatives such as WD-40 or a lubricating oil, but they are not intended for this application and won’t provide optimum protection.
Nicks, scars or scratches in the cork grips can be repaired with a wood filler, such as Elmer’s in Golden Oak color. Afterwards sand the grips lightly with 220-grit sandpaper. Saturate all your cork grips with neatsfoot oil. It will keep them young.
Neoprene and other types of rod handles can be simply scrubbed lightly with a brush, soap and water and, when dry, sprayed with the same heavy-duty silicone to renew their appearance and keep them soft and lasting a good long time.
Your fishing reels deserve extra-special attention. During the year, your lines will accumulate and concentrate surprising amounts of salt, which can eventually cause spool corrosion. Replacing old line is a good idea. Strip off and discard all the line if you intend to replace it.
First, strip off all the line and discard it if you intend to replace it in the spring. Otherwise, saturate it with a good line conditioner. I like Line and Lure Brand Saltwater Formula. Blakemore‘s Reel Magic is another choice. Both will neutralize the salt accumulation, keep your monofilament and fluorocarbon from becoming stiff and brittle and improve your casting distance for all type lines when you start out next year.
After attending to the line, scrub the reels themselves with a small brush saturated with marine-grade silicone, blown off with a can of compressed air, then buffed with a clean soft cloth.
Do not directly spray your reels with WD-40. This household favorite is really a solvent-based, anti-rust compound and only a light, temporary lubricant. Applied too liberally, it will get into your bearings, bushings and drags and dissolve their grease and oil. Apply this compound, if you must, lightly, with a cloth or soft brush and only to the exterior.
Spinning reel spools should be removed and the reel and spools carefully cleaned with a brush and Q-tips. You can anoint exteriors with a light machine oil, but all lubricants should be wiped off with a cloth.
Examine your line roller assemblies to be sure they spin freely. If they don’t, apply a solvent-based cleaner, then blow them clean with a can of compressed air. Repeat until they spin freely. Lubricate them with a good reel oil. Rocket Fuel, Reel Butter and Hot Sauce are a couple of the better brands.
Never coat the outside of your crankers with grease or heavy oil. While it might be great protection against the elements, it will also attract and hold dirt and grit and eventually cause wear and performance problems.
Casting- and trolling-reel level-wind worm gears should be cleaned and lubed with oil or grease, the handles scrubbed clean and lubed and the entire reel closely examined for corrosion. Then lightly lube the reel and wipe clean.
All bearings should be lightly lubricated. Bait-casting and trolling reels are far more mechanically complex than spinning reels and much more dependent on proper servicing to ensure long life and trouble-free operation.
Once these chores are done, you should store your reels in their covers or wrap them in cloth and then put them in away in a drawer until springtime. Reassembling the reels on the rod and leaving them in the open will only re-expose your tackle to dust and dirt, which creates a new source of fouling and performance failures come the new season.