January is the Perfect Month for Tackle Maintenance
One thing that was drummed into my head when fishing in saltwater environments was to be sure to
thoroughly rinse my rods and reels after the fishing trip to get rid of the saltwater residue, which will attack any metal parts of your fishing tackle.
One example of one angler's bad luck, or bad tackle maintenance, and my good fortune happened a few years ago when I went to an event at the Alabama Wildlife Federation headquarters in Millbrook.
There was a box full of fishing reels of all makes and models that had been donated to the AWF to do with what it wished. AWF decided to offer the reels at bargain prices. I rummaged through the box and found a potential treasure, a green Shimano Curado baitcasting reel, probably my favorite reel of all time.
The old green Curados went away several years ago after Shimano completely wore out the molds making them because they were so popular.
As soon as I picked it up, I knew there couldn't be a Curado reel in the bargain bin unless something bag was wrong. Indeed, the reel handle wouldn't move even a smidgen. I quickly speculated that somebody had fished with the reel in saltwater and had neglected to rinse the saltwater away.
I paid the $2 for the reel to take a chance that I could repair it. After getting it torn down in my shop, it was obvious the roller bearing was corroded and not salvageable. I found a replacement bearing online for $12 and a week later, I had a practically brand new reel for a $14 investment.
Hopefully, these tips will keep you from trashing a reel that has been damaged by saltwater. If you haven't been particularly meticulous about rinsing your tackle, it's time to take a few steps to make sure the reel will turn in the spring.
For spinning reels, I unscrew the spool and inspect the drag system, cleaning if necessary. I take the sideplate off to check for saltwater intrusion, I make sure the gears are greased and bearings oiled properly and then seal it back up and check for proper operation.
On baitcasting reels, I basically perform the same operations, except the baitcaster has one gear that can be overlooked. The worm gear moves the line guide from side to side to keep the line in even distribution on the spool. Turn the reel upside down and look at the bottom of the line guide. You should be a small shaft with criss-crossed grooves that guide the levelwind back and forth across the spool. Apply a small amount of grease to the worm gear and turn the reel handle to ensure the levelwind is working properly. If the levelwind hangs up or doesn't travel smoothly, the pawl that fits into the worm-gear grooves may need to be replaced.
Now it's time to check the rods, mainly for cracks, or potential problems in the reel seat. You certainly don't want the reel to come off in your hands while you're fighting a fish, but I've had that happen before. I looked like I was stripping line on a fly rod as I tried to get the fish in, which I did, by the way.
Then it's on to the line guides. I lost the largest tarpon I've ever had on because of a chipped line guide that frayed the line after an hour-long battle. Look for any cracks or chips that could fray your fishing line.
Replacing damaged line guides is best left up to the professionals at your favorite tackle shop on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Those same tackle shops will service your reels as well.