Even with normal usage and general wear, your gear still needs a little attention to help keep it performing as designed. Quality gear is expensive and somewhat durable, but some cleaning and lubrication will help protect your investment.
Rods and reels can pick up dirt and grime from just about anywhere. Tournament fishing or trips to a backwoods lake are a couple of reasons for regular gear maintenance. If you can't remember the past time you cleaned your gear, then you might need to grab some oil and a cleaning cloth.
Lube it up
"Regular reel maintenance should be about every 3-to-4 months," said Arlie Fortner, store manager for Shotgun Sports in Anniston. "Some reels can get pretty dirty with normal use."
Fortner said there are several points on reels that need oil. All of the bearings and contact points need a drop or two of quality oil designed for fishing reels. Quantum and Daiwa make a special oil for their reels, which can also be used on other brands. Regular machine oil or all-purpose oil is not a good idea on precision fishing equipment.
"Hot Sauce," made by Quantum, is a high-performance oil formulated for today's casting and spinning reels. The oil comes with a special applicator to deliver the precise amount in the desired location.
"One key area is the worm gear on the level wind on casting reels," Fortner said. "Turn the reel over and place a couple of drops of oil on the gear."
Fortner recommends avoiding the usage of grease or lubricant on the outside of the reel. Grease will attract dirt and grit and can actually do more harm than good. The lubricant is for inside the reel on the gears. Under normal conditions and usage, reels probably only need a complete cleaning and lubrication about once per year.
Casting and spinning reels each need oil on certain locations, and each type of reel is slightly different. We have mentioned the worm gear on the level wind for casting reels, but there are a few more points in need of some slickness lotion.
"The bearings behind the spool require oiling," Fortner said. "Remove the side plate carefully and look for the bearings inside the reel and on the backside of the side plate."
Fortner also suggested oiling the handles on each type of reel. Some of the high-end reels have bearings inside the handle. This will help keep the retrieve smooth.
On spinning reels, remove the line spool and place a couple of drops of oil on the shaft. Keep a lookout for a small drag washer on the inside of the spool. Give the handle several turns to incorporate the oil throughout the entire shaft.
The bail spring points on either side of the reel should also receive a touch of oil. After oiling the required points on either type of reel, always give the handle a couple of revolutions to allow the oil to work into place.
Easy does it
Fortner said that if an angler is going to disassemble a reel — especially a casting-type reel — he or she should pay particular attention to how the parts are removed. This is certainly true if removing the handle and drag mechanism and gears. There are several small and intricate parts that must be replaced in the same order for the reel to function properly.
"A good idea as you remove the parts is to lay them out in the order they are taken from the reel," Fortner said. "When you want to reassemble, just reverse the order of the parts."
He also said that if an angler is not comfortable tearing into a casting or spinning reel, he or she should take the reel to a qualified dealer or repair shop for a thorough cleaning and tune-up. This could save a lot of grief over the long haul.
Hold the salt
With vacation time upon us, some anglers might take the gear down to the gulf or beach for a little saltwater action. Heavy bass casting gear will work fine for light saltwater species. It is a lot of fun to tangle with some salty fish with bass tackle, but there is some cleaning that needs to be done after fishing in the briny waters.
"Use some dishwashing liquid and warm water to wash the reel," Fortner said. "Rinse the reel with tap water and shake off the excess."
Check for any salt buildup in the line guide and in any cracks or crevices on the reel. Pay close attention to the handle area, spool and reel seat. It is probably a good idea to remove the reel from the rod and rinse the rod as well.
Use some mild soap and water to wash the rod handles. You can use an old toothbrush on foam handles to get off the fish slime. Check the line guides and tip for nicks by using a cotton swap, such as a Q-Tip. If there is a crack, some of the cotton fibers will catch in the guide.
After all the cleaning and oiling is done, it is a good time to check the line condition. Examine several feet of line from the end for any nicks or abrasions. If the line is old or low on the spool, take the opportunity to replace it. When spooling line on a casting reel, hold tension on the line as you reel it on.
On spinning reels, lay the line spool on a flat surface and reel the line onto the reel, carefully applying some tension. Fortner says that if you are on the water and the line on the spinning reel has some twists in it, cut off the lure and let the line trail behind the boat while moving. Once the line is off, begin reeling the line back onto the spool. The water friction will supply the tension and the twists will be gone.
A little reel cleaning and some light oiling will help your equipment perform better and last longer. Keep your gear up and you will be ready for the big strike.