How to Care for Your Fishing Gear

Taking proper care of your fishing gear can drastically prolong its life and save you money! Fishing Expert Alex Johnson guides you through the best practices for each product.

Someone holds a conventional fishing rod.

Photo by Clark Young

Taking care of our gear is perhaps the most important thing we can do to keep us on the water and in good shape in terms of the costs of fishing. It takes a considerable amount of time and money to accumulate the fishing gear we use and love, so making sure our gear is organized and working properly will save thousands of dollars in the long run, and make our fishing trips more enjoyable.

In this article, I will explain some simple steps and habits that can be implemented in order to take care of fishing gear in order to get as much use from it as possible. Here at Curated, we are obviously obsessed with gear, and we want to see it taken care of so that we can all have a great time doing what we love to do—in my case, catching fish!

Gear Storage

Gear storage is without a doubt the most important aspect of taking care of your fishing gear. Even if you fish almost every day of the year, the majority of the time your gear will still be sitting in storage. If you don’t have the right storage and organization habits, you can end up losing gear, your gear can go through unnecessary wear and tear, and you could end up with a mess that takes time away from fishing. Having to buy replacements for lost and broken items just because of poor storage care is guaranteed to cost you a lot of money, and headaches.

Best Practices

When it comes to storage, first make sure you are storing your gear in a dry area. It doesn’t have to be anything temperature or humidity controlled, but making sure excess moisture is not getting on your gear is extremely important. This can be a closet or room in your home, or a garage, barn, or shed.

Throwing your gear against the side of your house, or piling into an uncovered boat in your driveway is far from ideal. The rain and sun will quickly corrode and deteriorate the quality and longevity of your gear, causing you to replace items much sooner than you would otherwise need to. Additionally, leaving gear out in the elements will make it that much easier for thieves to take off with your hard-earned gear. It’s also wise to lock wherever you keep your gear, for the same reason.

Organizing Your Gear

In addition to dry and secure storage, keeping your gear organized is a must. Without proper organization, you can end up losing track of gear, and spending more money to replace it. Organize your gear in a way that it’s accessible and not cluttered. Rod racks are a great organization tool to keep your rods from being broken and makes them easy to grab on your way out to go fishing. It also helps to write down an inventory of all your gear. This can be on a spreadsheet or something as simple as a sheet of paper. Write down your rods and reels by brand and model, as well as your lures, terminal tackle, and miscellaneous items. Update your inventory sheet at least once per year so you can keep track of what you have, what you’re missing, and what gear you may need to buy.

The tip of a fishing rod.

Though not ideal, rod tip repair kits can save you hundreds of dollars. Photo by Alex Johnson

Rod Care and Maintenance

Since fishing rods don't have any mechanical components, they are pretty low maintenance. However, there are a few things you can do to keep your rods working properly and lasting a long time. First, as mentioned earlier, keep rods stored in a dry area away from direct sunlight. Additionally, never store rods with anything laying on top of them or with any flex in the rod. The ideal way to store rods is with a rod rack, and they can be stored either vertically or horizontally. Another great piece of added protection for your rods is to store your rods with Rod Gloves to help protect the line guides.

Rod Repair

The problem areas for rods and the areas that break the easiest are the rod guides and the rod tip. Make sure you keep an eye on these areas and check their condition often. Most of the time if a guide or rod tip breaks, you can save the cost of replacing the entire rod by fixing the guides and rod tips with repair kits. It’s fairly easy to do with a little research and will save you a lot of money.

Care for Rods Used Around Saltwater

Lastly, if you use your rods in saltwater environments, make sure to rinse your rods thoroughly with fresh water after each use. Saltwater is extremely corrosive to nearly all types of materials, and a simple rinse with fresh water can increase the longevity of your rods.

Reel Care and Maintenance

Spinning reel disassembled and ready for cleaning and lubricating. There are some Q tips laying on the table also.

Spinning reel disassembled and ready for cleaning and lubricating. Photo by Alex Johnson

Although rods don’t have any mechanical components, reels have many mechanical components that require care and maintenance. Reels have gears, ball bearings, and many other moving parts that can wear and tear over time.

A good quality reel can be maintained by simply cleaning and lubricating it periodically. The more complicated components should be left alone, as they are typically greased and assembled carefully by the manufacturer. Most reel manufacturers don’t recommend disassembling reels completely.

How to Clean and Oil Fishing Reels

To clean and lubricate your reels, you will only need a few things. First, you will need some paper towels or cloth for cleaning, Q-tips or a toothbrush for hard-to-reach areas, and lubricating oil such as WD-40, which is common in most households.

Spinning Reels

For spinning reels, first, unscrew the drag control completely and remove the spool from the reel. Next, unscrew completely the reel handle and remove it from the reel. Spray the spool shaft area with a little oil and clean with a cloth to remove any dirt or debris that may have ended up there. Use the toothbrush or Q-tip to get into the areas you can’t get to with the cloth. Once cleaned, spray a small amount of oil onto the spool shaft, where the bail pivots, and into the drag control cap. Next, clean the reel handle shaft and spray a small amount of oil into where the reel shaft goes. Lastly, reassemble everything and crank the reel continuously for 30 seconds to a minute to ensure everything is properly lubricated.

Baitcasting Reels

For conventional and low-profile baitcasting reels, first, if not replacing the line, make sure to tape down the line so it doesn't unravel from the spool. Next, remove the side plate of the reel and remove the spool from the reel. Next, take a Q-tip and remove dirt and debris along the edges and in any dirty spots. Make sure to also clean the brake ring, located in the side plate, and the line guide. Next, drop or spray a very small amount of oil on the bearing and shaft of the spool, around the brake ring, and in the bearing on the side plate. Next, unscrew the cast control knob completely and clean and oil the cap. When screwing the cast control knob back on, make sure to not tighten all the way down. Next, clean and oil the worm gear, which is the mechanism that guides the line guide along the spool. Finally, retrace your steps and reassemble all the components, and reel for 30 seconds to a minute to ensure everything is properly lubricated.

Replacing Fishing Line

It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on the condition of the line on your reels. Replace with new line at least once each season, or sooner as a result of heavy use. Monofilament and fluorocarbon line will need to be replaced more frequently than braided line, but keep an eye on braid for frays and knots. Even the best quality fishing line will weaken and fray over time due to use and exposure to the elements. The last thing you want is to lose the fish of a lifetime just because you had some old line on your reel that should have been replaced months ago.

Care for Reels Used Around Saltwater

Additionally, the same care and attention with rods used in salt water environments should be exercised with reels too. First, make sure you use reels that are designed for use in salt water. Even still, make sure to rinse them with fresh water after each use. You can thoroughly rinse your reels with fresh running water, but for added assurance, you can fully submerge them in a bucket of fresh water for at least an hour.

Tackle Care and Organization

An organized tackle box full of fishing gear.

An organized tackle box will save you a lot of headaches. Photo by Alex Johnson

Organizing and caring for your tackle is extremely important. Tackle and lures are very small items and can be misplaced easily, and because most tackle is made of or includes metal, it can easily rust and corrode without the proper care.

Tackle Box Organization

As with everything else, organization and storage is the first and most important component of caring for your tackle. Store your tackle and lures in watertight tackle boxes in a dry area away from direct sunlight. Tackle can easily become a mess of hooks and other gear, so make sure to organize by category.

Have at least two tackle boxes: one for terminal tackle such as hooks, sinkers/weights, swivels, beads, etc.; and one for lures. You may also have some soft plastic lures, which you can keep in their original packaging and store in large zip lock bags. Some other ways to organize lures would be by lure type. For example, a tackle box just for topwater lures, one just for crankbaits, one for jerk baits, and so on.

As with other types of gear, write down an inventory of all the tackle you own and update it periodically. When updating, be sure to make note of the condition of each item so you can fix or replace it as necessary. Often an old lure can be rejuvenated by simply replacing the old rusty hooks with new ones, or a lure with a faded color can be repainted.

Hook Care and Sharpening

A fishing hook in a clamp with a piece of sandpaper next to it.

Dull hooks can be salvaged by sharpening with a stone or file. Photo by Alex Johnson

Another important component of caring for your tackle is making sure your hooks remain sharp. A sharp hook can make a big difference on the water, and can often decide whether you land that fish of a lifetime or not. Check your hooks often for sharpness, unwanted bending, and if the tip is broken. When sharpening, use a file and work in one direction backward from the hook tip. If a hook is bent in an unwanted way, use a pair of pliers to bend it back into shape.

Miscellaneous Gear Care

Every angler will own other pieces of gear that are just as important for fishing as rods, reels, and tackle. Things like knives, pliers, sunglasses, and dedicated fishing clothing deserve the same level of care and attention as other gear.

Perhaps your most important piece of gear that you may not consider is your vehicle. Your car or truck is what gets you to your fishing spots, so make sure the maintenance is up to date, your tires are properly inflated, and your registration tags and insurance are current. Similarly, if you do most of your fishing from a boat, make sure your vessel is in proper and safe working condition.

As with all your other gear, keep an inventory of tools and other miscellaneous items that are necessary for a fun and effective day on the water. There is nothing worse than replacing an item just because you can't remember where you put it and can’t find it among a mess of other gear.

Dedicated fishing clothing and apparel are also as equally important as everything else, so make sure things like rain jackets, sunglasses, and UV shirts are organized and remain in good condition.

Gear allows us to accomplish our goals outdoors. Over the years, gear has come a long way with innovative technologies and special uses. Here at Curated, our Fishing Experts are obsessed with gear and want to help you find the perfect gear for your needs. Owning gear also comes with the responsibility of taking care of it, so that you can enjoy it for many years to come. We want to help you find the gear you want, but we also want you to take care of it so you can have it for the long run and have fun because that’s what it’s all about!

If you want to chat about the best setup or upgrade your gear, reach out to a Fishing Expert here on Curated for free, personalized advice and recommendations!

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Written By
I am a lifelong fisherman based in the Midwest, and I have had a passion for fishing and the outdoors for as long as I can remember. As a recreational fisherman, I have fished in many states across the U.S. in freshwater lakes and rivers, as well as some inshore and offshore saltwater experience. My...

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