Last updated: February 14. 2014 4:13PM - 850 Views

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When hunting seasons begin opening in the fall, I pretty much quit fishing. This quirk in my outdoor nature should give me plenty of time to perform routine and not-so-routine maintenance chores before my fishing gear morphs out-of-sight, out-of-mind for the winter.

It’s a great plan. Alas, a week or so ago I followed a trail of melting snow across my garage floor only to find it had wrapped itself around the butts of my favorite catfishing rods, which were leaning against a wall with their reels and terminal tackle still attached. I hurriedly raised them above the water with a scrap block of 2-inch x 10-inch lumber. Several crappie outfits soon joined them.

Oops! I’ve done it again. But while I may have missed my chance to enter the new year ready for spring, if I quit procrastinating, all is not lost.

There are somewhere north of 30 reels awaiting my ministrations. I suppose there’s someone somewhere who thinks any number of reels over 25 borders on too many, but “spares” come in mighty handy if a reel malfunctions during the season. Then too, four of those reels are actually Amber’s.

The universal first step in reel maintenance is to thoroughly clean the reel’s external surfaces. Liquid dish soap applied with an old toothbrush, followed by a generous clean water rinse is the safest method. Numerous solvents, including lighter fluid, are also effective cleaners, but they can be harmful not just to fishing line and certain other nonmetallic parts, but also to the user.

After the outside of the reel is sparkling, it should be disassembled, cleaned and lubricated, according the manufacturer’s directions. This is also the time to deal with any operational problems. (If you’ve misplaced your owner’s manual or need to order parts, the Internet will come to rescue.)

I never skimp when it comes to the quality of the line I use, but even the finest lines eventually deteriorate. There’s more than one right solution to the problem of when to change line. I usually change monofilament testing 8 pounds or less every year and fluorocarbon of similar weight every other year. Heavier monofilaments and fluorocarbons should last twice that long under normal usage. Braided lines last for years, but, as I found out to my great sorrow one day last summer, even they eventually give up the ghost.

Those varying intervals have come together for me this year. Fortunately, it’s not necessary to replace all of the line on reels that won’t used to fish for species capable of making long runs. In fact, stripping off enough old line to allow the addition of about 75 yards of new line is sufficient.

I keep 48 rods stored where I can get at them easily, and, yes, all of them will see at least occasional use sometime during the year. Maybe it’s because cleaning reels is more interesting, but it’s easy to overlook the fact that rods also get dirty.

A generous application of soap and water will restore the luster of a rod’s handle and shaft. Clean the rod’s line guides with a pipe cleaner dipped in warm soapy water. Rinse them thoroughly to keep from replacing one scum with another. Check each guide for nicks or broken inserts–either of which can slice through the most abrasion resistant line on the market—and replace damaged parts.

By the time I’ve finished with my reels and rods, I hope I’ll still have enough courage to take a peak inside my tackle boxes. By the end of the season, my once well-equipped and well-organized boxes will have metastastisized into masses of tangled lures (some of which have damaged or missing hooks), wads of bait hooks (some of which are bright and shiny and some of which most definitely are not), and other items, usually including “science experiments” that had been snacks several months ago. mortal remains of a couple of granola bars.

After having tried it both ways, I’m now convinced that it’s far less frustrating to untangle repair, or replace lures, hooks, and other accessories in my garage than it is in my boat. Over the years this point has been driven home a few–OK, several–times when it became necessary to scavenge hooks off one lure to put on another in the middle of a hot bite.

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