Given my moniker “Fishful Thinker”, I usually reserve this monthly space for some sort of deep down knowledge gleaned from years of steely-eyed woodsmanship, an in-depth breakdown of fishing’s mental game or some other equally robust topic. Not this time. Nope, keeping it simple this month with some tips I’ve managed to learn that make my time on the water go a little smoother. First things first – take care of your tackle.
If you fish much, your tackle will get dirty. Fish slime, water deposits and general filth will work their way into the reel handles, bails, level wind, etc. So, in order to both protect your investment and maximize its performance, clean it up. I’m not suggesting a complete teardown, just a quick external clean-up.
I take the Abu Garcia Revos I use off the rods and inspect them for visible grime or damage first. For spinning reels, remove the drag nut and spool and inspect them separately. If they are due for new line, I’ll remove the old stuff (more on that point in minute), before rinsing the entire reel under low-pressure hot water. You don’t want to power wash reels, as you risk damaging seals and getting water inside. Then shake the excess water off and spray the entire reel with a water displacing agent like WD-40. Allow it to do its thing for a couple of minutes, then wipe the reel down with a soft cloth (I use old T-shirts for their lack of fuzz). In some cases, I’ll use a swab or Q-Tip with a bit of alcohol to clean the level wind bar or inside of spinning reel spools. Lastly, I’ll very sparingly apply a drop of fine quality oil to the level wind bar on casting reels, the bail ends and spool shaft on spinning reels and the handle knobs shafts on all of them. While this all sounds complicated, I can clean up a dozen reels in about 20 minutes and you’d be surprised how much difference it makes.
I mentioned old line – old is relative to the type of line. Nylon monofilament, like the nation’s most popular Trilene XL, breaks down relatively quickly with use. Fortunately, it’s also very affordable so you can always have that fresh line feel and strength without spending a ton of money. Trilene’s great Pro Grade 100% Fluorocarbon doesn’t break down with U/V or water absorption as fast, so I don’t swap it as often, but I do pull off a cast length in a straight line, run my eyes and fingers down it, feeling for nicks or abrasion and then pinch it between my fingers while winding it back on the spool with tension. This will alleviate twist on spinning reels and lay the line nice and evenly on any spool. For superline’s like my Trilene Braid, which lasts virtually forever if not tangled, I use the same process as for fluorocarbon.
Incidentally, if you notice abrasion on your fluorocarbon or braid, you can either reverse the line on the same spool (pull it all off in a straight outside on the lawn to avoid tangling) or wind it directly on to another reel such that you are now using the other end of the line. There, I saved you some money!
Rods need love too, though not as much. My St. Croix’s get the full visual inspection and the guides are cleaned with alcohol on Q-Tips. If you notice any cotton sticking in the guide, inspect very closely for damaged inserts which will cause you serious heartbreak at the wrong moment. A Magic Eraser sponge works wonders for making cork handles look and feel new again.
While I’m cleaning stuff in the shop, I will also service my fishing pliers. Same as the reels, I rinse, spray with WD-40 and then lightly lube the hinge. The Berkley aluminum pliers I use have replaceable blades; I keep a couple of blade sets on hand and replace as needed to keep my braid cutting clean and efficient.
Now that the tackle is clean, consider a few of these quick tips. Keep a space in your boat or tackle box for lures needing service. I’ve found that if I do so rather than putting them back in the regular box, I’m far more diligent about replacing hooks or split rings as needed or remembering to replace them altogether if damaged beyond repair. Any balsa wood baits should be inspected for cracks in the paint/clear coat regularly to avoid water damage; coat with clear nail polish if you notice damage.
For the cold seasons, keep a box of chemical hand warmer packs handy. I put one in each jacket pocket and warm my fingers as needed. They also work great for keeping Gulp! supple or live bait from freezing.
Never underestimate the power of a hand towel to dry your fishy hands, clean sonar screens or generally dry stuff off. Keep one in your box or boat. And lastly, get a pair of high visibility bright amber sunglasses like my Costa’s Sunrise lens. Low light days and times are often the best fishing; take advantage by enhancing your prime-time vision. I carry a lens for low light and another for the bright times and it makes a difference.
Simple things? Yep, but I’ll bet you’ll be happy you tried them!