Get Your Fishing Gear Ready | Great Days Outdoors

For anglers, a little time in the shop can pay off big for your fishing gear.


Let’s be honest here. I’ve lost some really good fish because I had neglected my fishing equipment.

Sometimes, I had a reel that didn’t get proper attention and it froze up during the last hard run of a big fish. I’ve had rods break during the fight with good fish, and I’ve had rods that broke during a fishing trip before I even made a cast.

As much as I’d like to blame these lost fish on equipment failure, I have to admit that these fish were lost due to angler failure—my failure—to pay attention to the care and maintenance of fishing gear.

“Too often, Don must try to reclaim a rod or reel that, had it been given proper care by the owner, would never have broken down at all.”

I’m willing to bet that a lot of anglers treat their fishing gear exactly as I do. Use it. Pitch it in the back of the truck. Forget about the gear until the next fishing trip. Then expect it all to work perfectly. I know for a fact that this method of rod and reel maintenance is not the best.


Don Ludlum of Ludstud Rod and Reel Repair in Semmes, Alabama spends a lot of time in his shop repairing fishing gear and keeping it functioning properly. Too often, Don must try to reclaim a rod or reel that, had it been given proper care by the owner, would never have broken down at all.

Anglers can prevent a lot of the repair work Don does by taking care of business on their own. We talked to Don and got his thoughts on the proper care and maintenance of fishing equipment as we get ready for this upcoming fishing season in Alabama.

The fishing reel is an important part of fishing gear.

The many parts in fishing reels need care to work properly.

GDO: So, Don, what are the basic maintenance steps that all anglers need to do to keep their rods and reels working right for the upcoming season?

Don: If they are in need of cleaning or repair work, it should be done as soon as possible.  If reels are allowed to sit up with salt and corrosion in them, it will only get worse when you do get around to using them. It’s best to store them in a climate-controlled environment. Otherwise, the reels should be covered to prevent dust and dirt getting in them.

GDO: What kind of lubrication needs to be done to reels and when should it be done?


 Don: Most reels should be cleaned and lubricated at least every six months, even if they seem to working right. It will amaze you to see how much salt and dirt can accumulate in one. A very light oil such as the ones made by Penn, Shimano, and Ambassadeur all work fine for bearings and worm gears, but only use a few drops.

More is not always better.  Never use grease on the worm gear; it will kill your casting distance if the type of reel you use does not disengage the worm gear. Reel grease should only be applied to the main gears inside the reel.

GDO: What needs to be done if a reel’s drag starts grabbing when a big fish pulls line?

Don: This usually indicates a problem with the drag washers. They may be dirty or worn. Normally, they can be cleaned and re-greased, depending on what they have been through. If corrosion has them frozen in place, it can limit their tension and release. After cleaning, a small amount of light synthetic drag grease can be applied to most drag washers. There again, the smaller amount the better.

GDO: What needs to be done to keep rods in best shape?

Don: I so often see people with a wad of rods sticking out of the bed of their truck or their boat. This can easily damage the surface of the rod, and with the new high-tech modulus rods, every time the surface is nicked it becomes a weak point.

Also, if you have a weight on your line, try to make sure it is anchored close to the reel so it won’t beat against the rod while being transported. And stay within your line rating on your rod. This will help prevent breaking. Just because the 50-lb braid is the same diameter as 12-lb mono, it doesn’t mean your rod or reel will hold up to the added stress.

Make sure to clean rust from your fishing gear.

Rust and corrosion can cause rod guides to break

GDO: Don, can the average angler replace broken rod guides or is that best left to professional repair folks?

Don: It’s best left to the professional unless the angler just wants to try his hand at it. By the time you buy all the materials necessary to do one guide, you will be spending more than what it costs to have a professional do this. If the guide has to be specially ordered, then you have the added cost of shipping.

GDO: I dropped my reel in the saltwater. What should I do to keep it from being ruined?

Don: Get it cleaned as soon as possible. Most factory bearings are not waterproof, so water will have already entered every nook and cranny on your reel. If you know it hit bottom, chances are there is sand in it and you shouldn’t even try to use it until you can get it cleaned. Sand can damage the gears and bearings in a very short time.

GDO: What about changing the line on a reel. How old is too old for fishing line?

Don: That would depend on the frequency of use and manner of storage of the reel. If the reel sits up for a long period of time, dry rot and line memory can become a problem. If it gets used on a weekly basis, then wear and tear will reduce the amount of time it should remain on the reel, especially if it is used around structure that could cause nicks or fraying.

The average angler can get many months of use out of most quality lines. If you run your fingers up and down about twenty or thirty feet of line and feel any imperfections, then the line most likely needs replacing. A good magnifying glass will reveal a lot, too.

GDO: What brands of reels tend to last the longest with the least amount of trouble for anglers?

Don: Not necessarily in any order of dependability, but Penn, Shimano, and Ambassadeur seem to be the most durable. A number of reels on the market have more bearings than those reels noted, but they also have a lot of lighter-duty parts, which can result in more maintenance and shorter reel life.

GDO: Now, Don, what’s your best advice to anglers who want to maintain their fishing equipment in the best shape for fishing?

Don: Never put the gear up dirty. Mix up some freshwater and just enough mild soap to create suds and give your rod and reel a gentle scrubbing with a soft, long-bristled brush. Follow with a gentle misting to rinse, and then dry with a soft cloth. Be sure to tighten the drag before cleaning to prevent any salt or debris from entering, especially on spinning reels. Be sure to back off your drag before storing as this will help prevent the washers from sticking together.

Penn makes a good rod and reel spray (Penn Rod and Reel Cleaner) that helps prevent corrosion if you want to take an extra step for protection.

A lot of rods don’t have their guides completely sealed around the guide feet, and a little application of the Rod and Reel Cleaner in that area will help prevent moisture from getting under the epoxy.

Rods and reels are best stored indoors. Exposure to the sun for extended periods can cause fading of the threads as well as cracking and peeling of the rod finish.

By spending a little time in learning and taking care of our fishing equipment after each trip, we anglers can do a lot to make sure that our next fishing trip will be successful and we’ll have a great day outdoors on the water.

Important Contact Information:

 Ludstud Rod and Reel Repair

Don Ludlam


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