Some fishermen are pretty fussy about their tackle, while others fish with a tackle box full of rusty junk, and their equipment looks like it came from a rummage sale. As a guide, I try to keep my equipment in top-flight condition, but even if I were not fishing professionally, my preferences would be the same.
I can’t fish with a reel that sounds and feels like it’s full of sand, or with beat up rods whose guides are missing inserts or are otherwise bent and broken. Since I’m not fishing for dinner, the reason to be on the water is to enjoy it — working equipment adds to the pleasure of the experience, and ensures you the best chance of landing that big fish when it comes your way.
Grease New Reels
Let’s start with reels. Regardless of what you pay for them, most reels leave the factory with an absolute minimum of grease in “the guts.” I’ve heard that the reason is they don’t want any grease spots on the reel box, because consumers won’t buy a fishing reel in a greasy box. I don’t know whether that’s true, but I do know if you take the side plate off a new reel, you won’t find much grease. So, the first thing to do after purchasing a new reel is to take the side plate off and shoot some reel grease onto the gears and bearings.
With some spinning reels — take Daiwa’s Black Gold series for example — this is a snap. The handle screws off by reeling backward, and the side plate is held in place by only four screws. Access is easy, and moving parts are minimal. Other reels are way more complex — Shimano reels come to mind. If you have to remove the rotor to get inside, it’s probably best to crack the side plate open and feed the grease in as best you can, either on the tip of a toothpick or small screwdriver. I also like to remove the spool and grease the shaft, and both ends of the drag washer assembly. I grease every set of bearings I can get at, even the sealed type. Corrosion resistance is just as important as lubrication. Do this with a brand new spinning reel, and I can almost guarantee you will extend its life by a third or more.
Hose Rod, Reel Off
A good, quality spinning rod will come equipped with stainless steel guides and some type of ceramic rings. The problem with some guides is that the ring reacts to stainless steel in the saltwater environment. The frames will rust and crack, and when that happens the only solution is to replace the guide.
To minimize the problem and extend the life of the guides, always hose your rods off after using them in saltwater. It’s a good idea to do this after every trip, and then spray the rod down with silicone, tip to butt, making sure to cover the entire reel. This helps displace any moisture, and will keep your spinning reel from chirping like a bird. I carry a can of silicone spray on my boat so I can spray any offending reel. I hate squeaks. And I don’t worry about spraying the line. I understand some anglers use the stuff as a fish attractant.
Next, let’s look at terminal tackle — the hooks and lures we affix to the end of our line, often connected to a leader. The modern fishhook is a marvel compared to the hooks of as recent as 20 years ago. Black chromed, chemically sharpened stainless steel hooks rule the saltwater fishing scene now, and for good reason — they work! The points on these hooks are so fine, just looking at them makes the tips of my fingers bleed! The fine point is great, but it’s also delicate. Examine your hook’s point every time you catch a fish. If it has been broken, dulled, or bent, replace it. Chemically sharpened hooks do not hone well, and they are the least expensive part of the equipment equation. At the end of the day, a freshwater rinse is in order for every lure used. If you don’t do this, the hooks are sure to quickly rust.
Use A Uni Knot On Leaders
Finally, most saltwater anglers use a leader. I connect my leaders to my line with a double uni knot. It’s small and compact enough to go through the rod tip and the guides, but I prefer to tie my leaders short enough so that I don’t have to reel the knot through the tip. Casting the knot through the tip-top will eventually jar the insert loose, and if you don’t have a replacement on hand, that can ruin your day. Also, keep an eye on the leader a couple of inches above the hook after landing every fish. If it’s chafed and discolored, it’s more visible and weakened. Cut it back and retie.
By keeping equipment in top flight condition — reels well lubricated, spooled with fresh line, rigged with carefully tied leaders, and extra sharp hooks, you can take your best shot at the biggest fish you may encounter and bring it to heel.
For a fine assortment of fishing gear, click here.
Captain Fred Everson has been a licensed fishing guide on Tampa Bay in Florida for 13 years. He has also written three books, and is a 20-year active member of the Outdoor Writer’s Association of America. You can visit his website for more information at http://tampabayfishingguide.com/