By Scott Hammer
January 16, 2013
Not everyone has the luxury of fishing year-round. Don’t hate me, but I do. I actually have to make myself set aside time to tend to tackle and equipment house-keeping this time of year. For those of you stuck indoors, make the most of it by getting ready now for the spring thaw.
One of the most overlooked pieces of gear in my arsenal are my rods. Unless you’re using Ugly Stiks you have probably paid a pretty hefty price for this piece of equipment. Most guys I know remove their reels, set the rods in a corner and proceed focus on cleaning up their reels—greasing here, oiling there and taking care of general maintenance. Once finished the reels go back on the rods and they are ready to go. The rods themselves are forgotten and neglected.
I’d like to remind you to spend some quality time with your big investment. I think you’ll feel it pays off. The first thing I do is take a cotton swab and run it around the inside of the rod guide eyes. There are a lot of materials used in the eyes including titanium, ceramic and stainless steel. Please do not neglect a damaged or nicked guide. I cannot stress that enough. You’ll know a guide is not pristine and needs attention if it pulls cotton off the end of the swab. Short of the guide being completely gone, this is the most damage a guide can have. If it pulls cotton, it is either nicked or cracked.
If the guided is cracked, it is time to send it off to the repair shop. If it is a nick, I use a polishing cloth to smooth it out. A nick can and will slice your line (even braid). Nicks can happen when transporting or storing but should never happen because you used a guide as a hook keeper. Just in case you didn’t know what that little piece of wire is above the fore grip and before the first guide is, it is the designated hook keeper. Some guys will hook a lure to their reel but I don’t consider this a good option either. Use the hook keeper.
Let’s assume the guide eyes all check out un-damaged. Lucky you! I fish the Potomac River a lot and I can tell you the weeds, algae and muddy brackish water all leave a slime coating on the guide eyes that require cleaning on a very regular basis. To clean them, I use a biodegradable cleaner like Simple Green and a microfiber towel. To get to the inside of the eyes, another cotton swab comes in handy. I will also clean the rest of the blank with this cleaner and follow it up with a protectant such as an automotive spray wax like 303 Protectant or the fiberglass protectant called Bass Boat Saver (BBS). I like BBS because it has UV inhibitors, cleaners and wax in its formulation.
Now let’s consider the rod handle. There are two main types: foam and cork. Although there are different grades of both, for our purposes I will just say that these are the two main types. There is also a school of thought that believes that natural cork ought to be left alone because any cleaning only hastens the deterioration of the cork. I happen to agree with that theory and for the most part, my favorite rods have battle scars (and dirty cork).
If something happens where I lose a chunk of cork or the cork develops a crack, I will mix up a paste of fine chunk cork and wood glue to make a patch which when dry can be lightly sanded smooth. Aside from major damage, cork can be cleaned with mild soap and water, by lightly sanding or by using products like Magic Eraser. Foam is best cleaned with a mild soap solution.
Finally, the best advice I can give is to respect your rods. I see too many fishermen, both on tour and in person, who throw their rods around with disregard. All it takes is one small nick in a rod to cause catastrophic failure. I fish as a guest in a lot of boats and I use a rod sleeve on all of my rods when I transport them. I also use rod sleeves when storing them in my boat. It’s cheap insurance and helps extend the life of my investment.
Let me leave you with one statistic that was a real eye opener for me. It is estimated that 80% of rod damage is incurred transporting rods to and from the lake. Respect your rods and they will give you years of good service. Disrespect them and you’ll find out how good the warranty is.