By the end of a long day on the water, you don’t want to do anything but get back to the marina, haul your cooler full of fish to the car and go home to relax before cooking up your catch.
But if you want to go out again next weekend and have just as much success, you better take a few minutes to service your saltwater rod and reel before heading home.
Don’t worry. It is pretty easy to keep your saltwater rod and reel in good working order. The most important thing to do is get the abrasive salt and sand off your gear and prevent it from working its way into the tiniest nooks and crannies of your rod and reel.
This way, you can be confident that your equipment functions properly the next time you have a big fish on your line. You don’t, for example, want your drag to stop the line unexpectedly while you are battling the fish of a lifetime.
1. Discard the Line You Use on any Given Day
Your line will inevitably weaken during a day of fishing as it slams into fish scales and rocks. The sun’s harsh UV rays will also go to work on it, mainly cooking the line while you fish.
And while it may hold up on your next day on the water, this is a gamble that most anglers are unwilling to take. Simply strip off the length of line you’ve used during the day, cut it off and discard it properly.
2. Rinse Everything with Fresh Water
The first thing you want to do after you are finished fishing is to rinse everything off with cool, clean water. Ideally, you’d dunk the various items under water to clean them but this is rarely feasible.
Instead, you’ll want to use a hand-held spray bottle to wash down your gear. A fine mist is better than a powerful stream and it will help prevent the water from forcing grit further into the crevices of the rod, reel, and lures.
3. Wipe Down the Rod and Reel with a Soft, Lint-free Cloth
After rinsing your rod and reel, you’ll want to wipe them down with a soft cloth or paper towel. This will help dry the remaining water and remove any remaining salt before you store the gear.
Be sure to use a piece of fabric that will not leave fibers on the rod. It is a good idea to purchase a dedicated microfiber cleaning rag or two for your fishing gear.
4. Clean the Reel Interior
Even though you’ve taken care to avoid forcing sand or salt into the reel’s interior, some dirt and debris is going to inevitably work its way in.
Each reel needs to be opened and cleaned in its unique way, so you need to follow the instructions provided by the reel manufacturer.
However, you’ll mostly need to remove and clean off the spool, as well as the surfaces that the spool contacts (many reels will also have a pinion gear that can be accessed and cleaned inside the reel).
The spool for a spinning reel can usually be removed by unscrewing the drag adjustment completely, while baitcasting spools are typically removed by popping off a side cover and then pulling the spool out.
Use a cotton swab to access all of the interior surfaces but dip it in a bit of rubbing alcohol first to help dislodge dirt and grime more easily. Make sure the components are all completely dry and then reassemble the reel.
5. Spray the Reel with a Thin Coating of Lubricant
A thin coat of reel lubricant can help protect your reel from dust and grit while sitting on your boat or in your garage. Don’t spray the lubricant into the reel’s gear mechanisms as these areas require grease for lubrication.
The spray-on lubricant may rinse away the grease which increases the chances of the reel locking up at an inopportune time and causing your line to snap.
6. Loosen the Drag between Fishing Trips
It’s always a good idea to loosen the drag on your reel a little bit before storing it until the next outing. This reduces the amount of tension on your rod, reel, and line and help extend the life of each.
Just be sure to make it a habit of setting your drag at the beginning of every fishing trip.
7. Store Your Rods in a Safe Place
You don’t want to go through all the trouble of cleaning and lubricating your rod and reel, only to have a line guide get ripped off while you are loading the rods into your car.
Many boats have dedicated rod storage areas which often work very well and alleviate the need to transport your rod as much. However, if this is not a viable solution for your circumstances, you have to invest in a good hard-shelled case for your rods.
8. Wash and Dry Your Lures after Each Use
Your lures may not be worth hundreds of dollars like your rod and reel are, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to take good care of them. Lures have many small parts and voids which serve as a great place for sand and salt to hide.
Accordingly, you’ll not only want to rinse them when you wash off the rest of your gear, but you’ll also want to scrub them with lukewarm soapy water and an old toothbrush when you get home.
Rinse them thoroughly with clean water and hang them up to air dry. Only store them once they are completely dry.
9. Have Your Reel Broken Down, Lubricated and Reassembled Every 6 to 12 Months
Even after taking good care of your equipment, you need to have it professionally serviced once or twice a year.
Not only will this help extend the lifespan of your reel, but you’ll also love the way it feels after being cleaned, lubricated and restrung.
Most high-end bait and tackle shops offer such services. The fees are usually quite reasonable, given the improvement in performance a complete cleaning can provide.
Share Your Thoughts
Are you good with cleaning off your rod and reel after fishing all day, or do you tend to throw your rod back up on the rack and forget all about it?
Have you ever suffered from any mechanical malfunctions because you failed to care for your rod correctly?
We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below. Also, don’t hesitate to share your cleaning and maintenance techniques.