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How-to Content • Updated Thu, Jul 13, 2023

How to Clean and Care for Your Fishing Gear

Proper maintenance of fishing gear is essential for extending the lifespan of your equipment, saving money, and catching more fish. Well-maintained gear performs better, ensuring your tackle doesn't miss a beat on the water.

Image courtesy of Jack Collett

Image courtesy of Jack Collett

This article covers:

  • Preparing for Cleaning
  • Cleaning Fishing Rods and Reels
  • Caring for Fishing Lines
  • Cleaning and Maintaining Fishing Hooks
  • Fishing Tackle Maintenance FAQ

Preparing for Cleaning

  Below is a list of some good supplies to have handy before cleaning your fishing tackle:

  1. Mild dish soap or specialized fishing gear cleaner
  2. Soft-bristled tooth brushes 
  3. Microfiber or cotton cloths
  4. Reel oil and grease (for reel maintenance)
  5. Ferrule wax (for rod maintenance)
  6. Water source (sink, hose, or bucket)

Identify a clear area where you can clean your fishing gear comfortably. Ideally, choose a well-ventilated space with good lighting. A workbench, table, or outdoor patio can serve as your cleaning station. Always lay down a clean towel or mat to protect your gear from scuffs and provide a clean surface for the cleaning process.

When cleaning your fishing gear, it's important to take certain safety precautions for you and the gear:

  1. Work in a well-ventilated, well lit space.
  2. During cleaning, avoid excessive force or pressure that may damage delicate components.
  3. Set aside small parts in a safe place to prevent loss.

Cleaning Fishing Rods and Reels

How to clean your fishing rod

Start with a gentle freshwater rinse, or by wiping your rod down with a damp microfiber cloth to remove any salt residue and grime. Inspect the rod guides for any debris, like dirt or sand. Use a soft-bristled brush to gently wipe components like rod guides and ferrules. Avoid applying excessive pressure to your rod guides to prevent damage. Wipe away any dirt or grime accumulated on the reel seat area. After cleaning, ensure your rod is thoroughly dry before storing it. Use a soft, absorbent cloth to remove any moisture, and allow the rod to air dry completely in a well-ventilated area. Depending on use, you may want to apply some ferrule wax to the male part of each rod section. This helps to prevent sticking and subsequent rod damage.

How to clean your fishing reel

To deep clean your reel, start by removing the line from the reel spool. Use a soft cloth or brush to remove dirt and debris from the reel body, handle, and other exterior parts. If there is stubborn dirt or grime, dampen a cloth with mild soap or specialized fishing gear cleaner and gently wipe the affected areas. Do not submerge the reel completely in water unless absolutely necessary.

On occasion or after extreme exposure to the elements, you may want to re-lubricate some of the components of your reel. For a spinning reel, apply a small amount of reel oil to the moving parts of the reel, such as the handle knobs, bail arm, and spool release button. Refer to the reel manufacturer's recommendations for the appropriate lubrication points and type of oil to use. Use reel grease on gears and other high-friction areas. Apply a thin layer of grease to ensure smooth operation.

Caring for Fishing Lines

Regardless of what type of line you use or what type of fishing you are doing, properly caring for your fishing line is essential for success on the water. For more specifics on types of fishing lines, leader material, and more, check out our other articles.

Cleaning Monofilament and Fluorocarbon Fishing Lines

Regularly inspect your monofilament lines for signs of wear, such as fraying, nicks, and discoloration. Make sure to cut and retie damaged sections. To clean monofilament lines, dampen a cloth with water and gently wipe the line from the reel to remove dirt, salt, and debris. Avoid excessive rubbing or twisting to prevent line damage and kinking.

Cleaning Braided Fishing Lines

Braided lines may require regular cleaning to remove dirt and debris, especially when fishing in heavy vegetation. Use a soft cloth or sponge dampened with water to wipe the line, removing any accumulated dirt. For deeper cleaning, create a mild soap solution and soak the braided line for a few minutes. Rinse thoroughly with clean water and dry with a soft cloth or towel. 

Cleaning Fly Fishing Lines

Cleaning your fly line is crucial to maintaining its performance and lifespan. Start by removing the line from the reel and rinsing it in warm water to remove dirt and debris. Then, use a soft cloth or sponge with mild soap or fly line cleaner to gently clean the entire length of the line. Rinse it again to remove any residue and dry it with a clean towel. Optionally, you can apply a fly line dressing for added protection. Once dry, reel the line back onto the reel, making sure it's properly secured.

Cleaning and Maintaining Fishing Hooks

How to Sharpen Fishing Hooks

Regularly sharpening your hooks can help increase the number of fish you hook on the water. Dull hooks can lead to missing bites and frustration, so use a hook sharpening tool, hook hone, or a fine-grit sharpening stone to carefully sharpen the point of dulled hook. Follow the original shape and angle of the point. Make a few light strokes along the point, testing its sharpness periodically against a fingernail. The hook should catch slightly when dragged across  Be cautious not to over-sharpen, as it can weaken the hook. If you hit any objects while casting flies, lures, or bait, check your hook point to make sure it's in good shape and the hook point isn't turned over.

How to Store Fishing Hooks

Always properly store your hooks for organization and effectiveness. Use tackle boxes or hook organizer containers with individual compartments to keep hooks separated by size and type, and to prevent damage. Do not store wet or damp hooks, as moisture will eventually lead to rusting and corrosion. Ensure hooks are dry before storing them in tackle boxes or containers.

Fishing Tackle Maintenance FAQ

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