Generally speaking, things break for a reason. Around salt water, the breakdown usually starts with a lack of maintenance or proper care, leading to lost fish or even worse, fishing days. Over the years we’ve learned a great deal to keep our tackle in top shape, not only in appearance, but mechanically as well. All the rod and reel manufacturers have gladly shared information about preventive measures anglers can take to keep their equipment in top shape.
Several years ago, we produced a video tape on the proper care, maintenance and field repair of Penn Spinning reels. We spent a lot of time with the experts in the Penn service department, who’ve just about seen it all when it comes to maintenance abuse. They’ve been researching the failures and the causes of failures for years. Not so surprisingly, by far the largest amount of failures are due to lack of maintenance, while the most routine maintenance nearly all but eliminates the need for repair. However, like any other mechanical tool, a reel needs service. The amount of service and the in-operation time frame until the reel is ready for service are directly related to the amount of use the reel gets.
Getting to the fishing grounds can be tough on your offshore gear. We start protecting our gear when we assemble the reel to the rod by putting a layer of thin grease between the reel seat and the rod butt. Drags are always locked in full so the drag plates are locked together on the way out and back. This reduces the possibility of salt water gathering between the plates, which creates an uneven and jumpy drag, We try to never have the rods in the covering boards on the way out or back, as the direct spray splashing into the reel will drive salt deep into the reel. We place the rods either in the fighting chair, rocket launcher or in the rod holders along the back rail of the bridge or t-top. We also use cheap plastic shower caps held on with rubber bands to cover the reel and keep the direct spray from hitting the reel.
To protect rod butts from rubbing against the metal arms of the chair, we whip the chair arms with parachute cord and use rubber hose on the divider. This prevents the chafing of the metals while protecting not only the butts, but the chair. On rough days when rods riding in the chair are bouncing around, we secure bent butts or straight rods by joining them together with rubber bands. Two or three rubber bands looped together and placed over a guide on each rod make a great tether and reduce the bouncing and rocking back and forth. If you do this as routine when you leave the dock everyday, you won’t be caught off guard and be forced to do it in a heaving sea while getting wet with spray.
Corrosion Never Sleeps
At the end of the day, we begin a thorough cleaning and drying to assure that we have no salt remaining on the equipment. Vinnie Holmes of Penn Reels advises, “With spinning reels, simply immersing the reel in a bucket of fresh water is the best way to dissolve any salt that may have accumulated on or in the reel. With conventional tackle, immerse in a bucket when possible, or lightly run the hose over the reel without a pressure nozzle.” The drags should be engaged in full for this process as well. Thoroughly dry excess moisture with a chamois or towel. The fresh water immersion is fine for the internal parts of the reel as it will evaporate. If salt water evaporates inside the reel it leaves salt deposits which will build up and eventually necessitate repair.
Jeremy Sweet, Product Development specialist for Shimano also recommends a two tiered “Do Not”, approach to reel maintenance. “First, we recommend that you do not use high pressure spray from a water hose as this will only drive the salt deeper into the reel. Secondly, do not directly spray reels from a can of spray lubricant as the spray contains some form of solvent which once inside the reel begins to break down and displace the reel lube, allowing it run dry.” Using some form of lubricant or anti-corrosion protectant in-between trips is a good idea, however it should be applied to the equipment with a rag and gently wiped on. These same methods also apply to maintaining roller guides on your rods.
There are several different viscosities of lubricant used inside and outside of you reels. Heavier than spray lube, yet not a paste grease, tubes of Penn Reel Lube are excellent for lubricating lever drag mechanisms such as the lever itself, the preset dial, freespool clicker and the detent button. When using level wind reels, be sure to thoroughly wash the line guide carriage and worm. Inspect your reels, reel seats on the rods and roller guides after each use and tighten any loose screws or parts. This quick and cursory review after each use will aid in the overall reliability of your gear, day in, day out.
Having a proper rod and reel storage system on your boat is also a vital part in the overall care of your equipment. When not running to the fishing grounds, you need a secure and safe place to store gear where it will not be banged around and risk being broken or damaged when in transit or just at the dock. Storage space is also critical and usually short aboard, so finding the most efficient means of safe storage is key.
Several manufacturers produce mounting and storage systems for tackle of all kinds. On the Brier Patch, we use a system made by Du-Bro. (www.dubro.com) Their Trac-A-Rod system is completely flexible for the different types of tackle we carry at the same or different times of the year. This track system holds brackets called, Tournament Rod Holders that are adjustable to fit any big game reel by clipping to the reels harness lug with a spring loaded clip at one end. This locks the reel securely in place without rattling or swinging. This system helps keep our rods and reels from rubbing together or moving in their holders and also helps maximize the amount of space we have for the amount of rods and reels we carry.
There are also bracket systems available from Rupp Marine (www.ruppmarine.com) that are made to fit specific reels and lock them in place without risk of damage. Rupp’s gear is as industrial strength as their riggers and works great for when you have the same tackle on board all the time.
Maintaining your tackle is simple – clean it properly, lubricate it wisely and protect it securely for years of trouble free fishing and enjoyment. It takes less time to care for your tackle properly than having it repaired.