The Sporting Life
by Dennis Doyle
Taking Care Of Winter Business
While it’s horrible outside, prepare your gear for the long winter’s sleep
November is a cruel month for an angler. Days reminiscent of more temperate times are inevitably followed by extended torrents of icy rain and relentless wind, and we know it will only get worse. But while it’s horrible outside, it does provide us opportunity to prepare some of our sorely abused equipment for the long winter’s sleep.
Salt is the prime enemy, and if equipment has been on the Chesapeake, it has acquired some. Any amount is trouble. Even stainless steel and anodized aluminum are not impervious. The salt will draw in moisture from the air, make a nasty little soup and slowly eat away at virtually any metal it contacts.
Even if you’re a sweet-water angler, your equipment deserves a good cleaning before retiring it for the season. Common water scum and dirt will degrade tackle. With proper care, it will certainly last longer and perform well for you next year.
So get a toothbrush, a can of marine-grade silicone spray, WD-40, some soft rags and let’s get at those tired rods. Run the length of each rod section under tepid water. Rub with a wet soapy rag, rinse and dry with a soft towel.
Next scrub the base of each guide with a brush soaked with WD-40 until there is not a hint of dullness. Stubborn stains or green deposits (sure signs of salt) can be removed by adding toothpaste to the scrub. Rinse and towel it off again. Apply the marine silicone lubricant to the entire rod, let it set for a few minutes and buff it with a fresh towel until it looks like new.
If you’ve got roller guides, make sure the rollers spin. If they don’t, you can easily remove them and soak them in WD-40 or any light lubricant until they free up. If they don’t free up, replace them. Frozen rollers will wear weak spots in your line while you are trolling
Take a look at the grips. Foam grips are easily cleaned with a vigorous brushing of soapy water. Cork is more demanding. It is a wonderful material, soft, warm to the touch, durable and a perfect material for the grip on light tackle rod. But it is not impervious to weather, and it attracts dirt and fish scum like a magnet
The first step is to wet the cork down with tepid water, take a piece of fine grit (220) wet/dry sandpaper, apply water and a little liquid detergent to it and go over the entire grip. With extreme cases you can add a little kitchen scouring powder to the mix to speed things up. Be especially careful not to scrub the metal reel seat or the rod itself.
Once you are satisfied that you’ve gotten the grime removed, rinse the entire grip thoroughly, especially the reel locking mechanism; you do not want any residual grit trapped there.
When it dries, the cork will look surprisingly close to new. If your cork is bleached out and brittle dry from excessive exposure to weather, apply neatsfoot oil. Wipe the excess off after it’s had a few moments to absorb.
Do the WD-40 and toothbrush routine to the reel seat, being careful to reach all areas, especially the reel-seat hoods, locking bands and threads. Towel dry. You can apply a good grease to the threads if you’d like, and work it under the locking bands.
Last, if your rods are multi-piece, rub a candle stub over the male ferrules. Lightly twist the sections together to distribute some of the wax inside the female unit. Next season, you will find that the wax coating will make assembling the rod far easier, and it will keep the rod sections from coming apart in use. It will also prevent them from sticking together when you are breaking your rod down.
Your rod is now ready for storage. Choose a dry place with even temperatures. Keep each rod as vertical as possible (or lie flat) to prevent a possible set.
This may seem like a tedious affair, but keeping your gear in top shape will produce many rewards. When springtime comes and your gear fairly leaps from its place of storage, gleaming and ready for action, you’ll be glad you tucked it in so carefully.
Fish Are Biting
This has not been a good month. The weather has not helped. Rockfish have been restless, showing in one area only to leave and not return. Big fish are scattered. Perch are jumbos one day only to be replaced by their junior cousins the next. Southern sorties as far south as Point Lookout are proving far more productive than the mid-Bay. Fishing may not be great right now, but it’s the last inning of a pretty good season. Stick with it. Rockfish season ends December 15.