Posted by: socalsalty | December 14, 2010

Maintenance Time

This sculpin was upset I caught him this summer and tried to bite my foot

Summer is a bygone memory at this point.  Ling cod season ended Nov 30th.  Rockfish season ends Jan 1.  Pretty soon, we’ll be at a point where our friend the sculpin and the occasional sand bass will be the only game in town.  I may need to actually try out one of the freshwater “designer lakes” pretty soon.  They’ve recently been stocked with trout, and the striped bass bite is supposed to be off the hook!

So with things slowing down, now is a good time to maintain your equipment.  For those of you not familiar, I’ll review basic trip maintenance, and then talk about annual maintenance.

Trip maintenance is pretty simple, when saltwater fishing, you always want to rinse off your rod and reel with freshwater immediately after your trip.  I put a gallon jug of water in my trunk before a trip, expressly for this purpose.  I said rinse, while it may seem better to blast your reel with a strong spray, in actuality, that is a bad thing.  What it does is push that saltwater deeper inside, and then when it dries out, the salt will crystalize inside your gears.  Not a good thing.  Not quite the same thing, but when I was kayak fishing this summer, I accidentally dunked my Trinidad 12 in the San Diego Bay.  When the Shimano Tackle Tour hit Fisherman’s Landing in San Diego, they were doing free reel maintenance.  I took mine in to get serviced, and found out just how badly it had been damaged by it’s dunk.  It required a new bearing.  Getting it replaced cost Salty about $150.  Taking care of your equipment has the very tangible benefit of better operation, longer life, and less maintenance cost, so do it. After rinsing, towel dry and then put in a warm dry spot to completely dry it out.

Another basic maintenance task is to check your line.  You really only need to check the last few feet.  What you are looking for are abrasions in the line.  A fish bite, a rock scrape, tangling with other anglers’ line can all affect the integrity of your line.  If you find some rough spots in your line, snip it off just above the affected area.  Your line is what connects you to the fish.   With all the other variables that you can’t control, do you really want to lose a fish because you didn’t do this basic maintenance task?  I didn’t think so.

Speaking of line, if you haven’t changed it all year, now is a good time to do it.  The saltwater and sun degrades your line over time.  It starts to get brittle and won’t be at it’s full strength.  Also, it may start to retain the shape of your spool (ie, it’s all curlicued instead of coming off straight).  When this happens, it tangles up easier, so it’s a good time to change your line.  If you are fishing several times per month, you may have to do this monthly.   If you haven’t swapped out your line all year, guess what?  Change it now.  One thing to note here, braided line (or spectra) stays good for years.  Yes it is more expensive upfront, but you don’t have to change it out as often, and it has the added benefits of high strength and lower diameter…meaning you can put more of it on a reel than the same test for monofilament (mono) or fluorocarbon.   I’ll do a primer on braid vs. mono vs. fluoro in a future post.  For now though, I’ll just say that I use it and I think it’s worth it.

Before you change out the line though, since we are talking about annual maintenance, it’s a good time to drop off your reels for service.  Annual cleaning, and lubing is a good thing.  No matter how diligent you are about protecting your reel, dirt and grime happen.  An annual cleaning and lube will ensure a longer life and that it works properly when you need it most.  Some guys do this themselves.  I haven’t tried it yet.  It’s only @ $20-30 to have your shop do it.   I’d rather leave it to an expert.  Also, if you are going to switch out the line, and especially if you are going to put on braid, then they can spool it for you.  It’s critical that the proper tension be applied with braided line.  If it isn’t packed on tightly, it will cut into itself when you have a bite, causing snags, and maybe even degrading the line itself.  Having the shop spool it is one less thing that can go wrong because they have a machine that applies the proper tension.

Final note, after my rods and reels are dry, I like to put on a rod sock and reel cover.  Doing this just helps them stay in optimum condition as it keeps out any dirt and grime that may accumulate on them while waiting for your next outing.  Also, when you are taking multiple setups onto a boat, they’re easier to carry when you have them bundled together.  Having them all covered helps keep them from getting scraped up.  You may want to upgrade and sell them at some point, so taking good care of your equipment will help you get more of your money back.  I found a really great, local seller, Arthur Wu, who sells reel covers and rod socks under the Jaws label.  I first ran into these guys at a tackle show in Pasadena, and then I noticed the items on eBay. With their reel covers, I like how there is a loop to attach a hook to. I don’t know why every rod doesn’t have a little loop to attach your hook, but if not, the Jaws cover will solve that problem. They are also a heavy neoprene which provides a nice padding and they come in several sizes for both conventional and spinning reels. The stuff is well made, reasonably priced, and Arthur is really great about communication and quick shipping. Here is a link to his eBay store:

For rod wraps (to bundle up my rods in transit from house to boat), I like to use a combo of the Bass Pro wraps and the Open Water wraps.  I use one of the Bass Pro ones on the reel end, and an Open Water one on the tip end per bundle.

Take care of your stuff and it will take care of you. You will go out with the confidence that you’ve accounted for the variables within your control, and be ready to catch fish when your captain puts you in the right spot.  Tight lines!


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