NATURE DICTATES THAT A LARGE number of avid fishermen must store their fishing gear during cold weather. Taking good care of it pre-storage is less expensive than replacement. Here are some tips from the experts on the best way to prolong your tackle’s lifespan.
Reel seats and clamps tend to hold salt, dirt and algae like a magnet. Remove the reel from the rod, then wash and dry both thoroughly, making sure to tighten the drag completely on the reel first, to prevent water intrusion.
Today’s rods may be stronger and lighter than rods of old, but they’re also more fragile. Even the tiniest nicks and scratches can cause catastrophic failure. Likewise, ceramic guides, though tough, can fracture, ultimately abrading your line and resulting in lost fish. Inspect your rod carefully for cracks in the finish. My grandfather taught me to run a piece of old nylon stocking through each rod guide. Damaged guides will snag the pantyhose and alert you to the need for replacement. Replacement guide liners can be found at most tackle shops, big-box sporting goods stores and Bass Pro Shops.
Ben Secrest, the vice president at Accurate Fishing Products in California, stores his rods straight upright so as not to put any bend in them. “Do not lean them on
anything,” he said, “since doing so will most
likely put a set in them over time.”
Other rod storage methods include resting them horizontally on pegs against a wall or suspended in hooks on a ceiling. Both methods require careful installation. The pegs must be aligned at exactly the same height to support the length equally. Likewise, hooks on a ceiling must be aligned so as to not induce a curve in the rod.
Secrest additionally squirts some WD-40 on a soft cloth and wipes down metal reel seats and guides. I like to follow that up with a drop or two of gun or reel oil on a rag to coat the metal.
And of course, never store a rod with the reel, line and lure attached and under tension. That surely will ruin your stick.
Before getting into deep cleaning and maintenance, be sure to remove all the line from the reel. You should be re-spooling it several times a season anyway.
Noted Northern fishing journalist (and the most hirsute member of Hobie’s Kayak Fishing Team pro staff) Dave Mull has perhaps the most important storage suggestion. “Back off your drags,” he said. “You don’t want to let your reels winterover with the drag washers all mashed together. Your once-smooth drag can get pretty rough.”
Mull stores his tackle out in his barn. “I wrap my trolling reels in plastic bags before putting them in outdoor storage — the rafters of our barn — where dust might be an issue,” he said, adding that anglers storing tackle in their garage might do likewise. “Many light tackle reels come in ‘socks’ that you should keep and use for storage.”
Secrest goes considerably further. “I oil all the common corrosion spots with Corrosion X or Boeshield T-9,” he said. Those spots include screws on the reel feet, two-speed mechanisms, the drag tension knob, and both the bolt and shaft of the handle arm.
Just before putting it away, Secrest tests the reel to be sure all parts are moving freely and advises anglers to do the same. “One way to do this is to back off the drag, hold on to the spool and turn the handle,” he said. “Doing so makes sure bearings are free and the internal gearing of the spool turns smoothly. I back the drag off to a light setting, or you can put the reel into free-spool and put the clicker on. I store my reels in a room in the open air. I prefer not to wrap them in plastic, in case they have any water or moisture in them.”
However, he adds, in a salty environment — say, by the beach — reels stored in the garage would be better off in a cupboard, box or drawer.
Like rods and reels, all terminal tackle should be washed with fresh water and dried before being returned to the tackle box. If it rains into your open box while you’re fishing, make sure you remove everything and dry it thoroughly. Then add a moisture absorber or three to the box before storing.
Storing lures in inexpensive Tupperware boxes layered with paper towels to absorb moisture also works well.
Secrest uses waterproof Plano boxes for hooks and lures. “I make sure I wash my lures in fresh water,” he said, “and before I store them I spray them off with WD-40, which helps them get through the winter.” (Many commercial fishermen spray their baits with WD-40, claiming it is an effective fish attractant.)
All this preventive maintenance will ensure proper winter storage, help prolong the life of your tackle and save you money in the long run, which your significant other will surely appreciate.