Updated: Oct 17, 2022
If you’re a keen saltwater fisho then some form of basic cleaning and maintenance should be considered mandatory practice to ensure the longevity of your fishing gear. Like it or not saltwater is a highly corrosive substance that will quickly result in breakages or even complete gear failure. This not only results in further outlay of money for repairs or replacement parts, but it also poses the potential to lose some quality fish along the way.
Regardless of when you’re planning to head out next, cleaning your gear should be practiced religiously after any fishing trip. This process can be as thorough or nonchalant as you like, but the most important factor of all is that you make some form of concerted effort to begin with.
Maintenance on the other hand can be practiced much less frequently and almost on an annual basis. Winter is often the best time of year to perform this as anglers prepare to dust off the gear after a long hiatus from the water. There’s nothing worse than pulling out the tackle after a period of hibernation only to realise that things aren’t looking as good nor working as smoothly as they should be!
With all this in mind let's look at the basics of keeping your gear in good working order, which is perfect timing with our prime fishing months ahead!
THE RINSING PROCESS
Rinsing is what I would consider routine practice following any trip to remove any salt residue. Lay your rods and reels somewhere out in the open and ensure all reel drags are routinely wound up tight to avoid any water intrusion. This is not so important for water sealed reels, but I suggest keeping it routine if you’re not sure.
For me the trick to rinsing involves using a garden hose nozzle but on a very fine mist setting. I avoid blasting on a high-pressure nozzle setting as this may drive salt further into exposed parts where it is out of sight and almost inaccessible. Any untreated saltwater will reduce the life expectancy of your gear.
Once the rods and reels have been rinsed, give them a wipe down with a clean, dry cloth and back off the drag pressure. It is important to do this as storing your reels with a locked-up drag will wear the washers much quicker, resulting in a ‘sticky’ drag which can cause major issues when fighting fish.
Rods and reels need to be adequately dried. This process can be somewhat sped up by removing the spools from reels, wiping any hard to get to places and placing them onto a towel. Avoid leaving your gear rigged up and then spinning the reel under a loose drag setting. Many fishos do this to remove excess water droplets on the spool but this type of action will cause line twist which will inevitably cause a massive headache down the track.
ANTI-CORROSIVES Anti-corrosive sprays are often a hotly debated topic for fishing gear maintenance, and I can only offer a point of view based on my own experiences. Many anti-corrosives double up as degreasers, meaning they have the potential to strip any reel bearings of lubricants over time and should therefore never be used as lubricant itself. This can lead to clunky reels and more part replacements or services than typically needed.
For me it has always been routine practice to treat my gear with Inox, but the trick I’ve found is to use it sparingly. Rather than forcing it into reel joints or bearings with a direct spray, dampen a cloth and give the gear a wipe over, concentrating on the non- treated metallic parts of a reel and the rod guides. This process may not necessarily need to be repeated after every single fishing session, but if there’s likely to be a bit of a break between trips then I would highly recommend doing so.
ROD & REEL STORAGE
My preference is to store rods and reels separately in their original covers or boxes to keep them protected and away from the elements, especially if I’m planning to be off the water for an extended period of time. This can also make it easy for transport purposes and reduce the risk of damage when lugging your gear around the place.
Avoid leaving any rods rigged and stored upright against the wall with all the pressure on the rod tip as this may very well damage or weaken it in the case of carbon graphite rods. I also cringe when good quality gear is stored uncovered in sheds or garages as the dust and grime exposure can accelerate wear and tear
or really clog up the reel. You may call me somewhat anal in my ways, but I do take pride in my gear, and it is yet to fail me as a direct result of angler neglect.
Lures are best treated in a bucket of soapy water, followed by a quick rinse, and then left to dry on a towel or table. Once dry I prefer to again treat the hooks, split rings, and lure eyelets with an anti-corrosive agent to prevent the build-up of rust which greatly diminishes the strength and quality of any metallic or moving parts.
Unlike fishing reels there’s much less risk involved with using anti-corrosive agents so feel free to direct your spray onto the lure with a quick wipe down to finish. The important part before stowing any lures is to ensure they have completely dried, otherwise you may find the extra moisture content in your lure cases will not only speed up the corrosion process, but it can also spread and affect adjacent lures. It’s disheartening to pull out lures when on the water next only to find the hooks have rusted through.
While the above practices are regular in frequency, some other maintenance procedures can be performed a little more periodically and now is a great time to be considering them. Here I refer to oiling reels and freshening up lures.
Lures can easily be freshened up with the addition of some new hardware, often in the form of hooks/trebles and split rings. Reel oiling however is a little more delicate in nature but can still be performed by the less experienced fisho. Oil will help maintain smooth operation but also protect against corrosion. Bail arm joints, line rollers and handle joints can easily be oiled in most reels, but it’s worth checking with the manufacturer or local tackle shop as I do believe some mag-sealed line roller models should not be oiled.
Fishing gear will inevitably require replacement over time as it can certainly cop a hiding in a relatively unforgiving environment. Looking after your gear as best you can mean you will uphold your end of the bargain. Leave any unexpected malfunctions or more intricate maintenance and servicing to the professionals.
The benefits are there to be had by enjoying your gear and fishing with confidence knowing it shouldn’t let you down because of angler neglect. Now is the perfect time to ensure your gear is up to speed for hopefully hectic sessions ahead this warmer season!
This article first appeared in Issue 60 Fishing SA Magazine Oct/Nov 2018. All back issues are available for download from the Fishing SA digital magazine app.