SNYDER: It's time to clean fishing gear

  • A used toothbrush is a perfect tool to clean fishing rods.
  • To clean fishing reels, you'll need lightweight, waterproof grease, reel oil and hot, soapy water.

My son has given me a list of chores — as if I needed more.

As we toured the Great American Outdoor Show over the weekend, the 5-year-old tried his luck at the children’s casting pool. He ended up bringing home a brand new rod.

His smile was huge. And the rod was never far from him for the rest of the weekend. He even took it to the basement for several hours to practice his casting.

Then, however, he wanted to see my rods. He knew it was time for me to get them off their racks and do some mid-winter maintenance. With his brand-new rod in hand, he boldly listed everything I must do to get ready for spring.

Yes, he’s my son. And he’s right. Now is the best time to get your gear in tip-top shape for the upcoming fishing season.

Far too many anglers don’t take the necessary time to thoroughly clean their gear. Many believe it's not worth the hassle. Others are afraid to disassemble their gear, afraid of the myriad of gears and springs that lie beneath.

If you go about the process the correct way, it doesn't have to be a scary, time-consuming process. In fact, if you have the right supplies and know-how, it can be relaxing.

But before you go tearing apart your fancy gold reels, you need to gather the right supplies. First, you'll need lightweight, waterproof grease. You'll also need reel oil. And in order to wash your equipment, you’ll need hot, soapy water. Finally, grab a half-dozen or so cotton swabs and an old toothbrush from the bathroom.

The first thing you’ll clean is your reels. To properly remove a busy season’s dirt and grime from a reel, you'll have to disassemble it. It's not hard if you pay attention to what you're doing. I always draw a diagram.

Once you’ve got the reel apart, give it a thorough cleansing. This includes removing all of last year’s grease. You can use the same solvent you clean your gun with.

But what do you grease and what do you oil? The answer is simple. Put a light coat of grease on all gears, and just a drop or two of oil on anything else that moves.  Don’t go too heavy with the lubrication. If you do, it will attract dirt and slow the reel’s action, the exact opposite of our intent.

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Once you’ve gotten the reel clean and working smoothly, carefully put it back together. Make sure everything works as it should and put one final coat of oil on everything that moves. That’s all it takes for your reels.

The rods are even simpler. The key to a properly functioning rod is the line guides. But before you can test them, you must thoroughly clean the entire rod.  A toothbrush is the perfect tool to clean the pesky, hard-to-reach areas of a rod.

Once you're sure it's clean, stick a cotton swab through each of the line guides. If any of the cotton gets caught inside a guide, the guide should be examined.

Even the smallest crack or nick can create enough friction to part you and your line — at the worst possible time. If you find a suspect guide, replace it or get it replaced by an expert.

Just because most fish won’t be biting for months, doesn’t mean you can’t get out your tackle and start thinking about the upcoming season. My son has certainly spent plenty of time dreaming about warm days ahead.

What you do now to take care of your gear will help determine what type of season you'll have. Let’s hope it’s a good one.

It'll be here soon.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at