Now that hunting season is over, and we are experiencing “pre-fishing season”, it is time to give some much needed attention to your Rods! When was the last time you cleaned, inspected, and repaired your rods?
Today’s newer fishing rods are made to be lightweight, strong, and inexpensive. Ultra-light and graphite rods tend to be more fragile than their older, less sensitive, but tougher fiberglass relatives. It is easy to just trash a rod when it breaks and buy a new one. In our “fast food society” that is the easy way to deal with our damaged gear.
Preventing problems with your gear is a smarter and less expensive plan. If you like your lucky or new fishing rod, treat it to a hard case of some type. My favorite style case allows me to leave the reels on the rods. Also, choose the rod case that won’t crush when a truck drives over it or won’t smash when bouncing down the highway. The case also protects the rod, reel, and line from solar damage. Place your name, phone number, and address on your gear as well in case it is found on the side of the road after bouncing out of the boat or truck.
During my lifetime of fishing and guiding fishermen, I have observed that most rods get busted at the boat ramp or truck. When fishing with my Dad and brother as a kid, my “first busted rod memory” came when my Dad rolled the window up on his Shakespeare Wonder Rod tip. “Crunch”, and my Dad yelling was the next thing we heard. Dad was not just angry about busting his favorite rod, but also because he couldn’t blame anyone but himself.
My Dad should have remembered that the case only works if you take the time to put the rod into it. I have seen dozens of expensive and favorite rods get chucked into the truck without using the case. Next came the chest waders, coolers, and tackle boxes and then, uh oh, CRUNCH!
Rods broken because of carelessness and laziness are not a “noble death” for a trusted fishing rod. If a rod breaks because you hooked Moby Dick, then perhaps the rod meets a more meaningful end.
Once in a while, I find a rod that just feels and fits me perfectly. After thousands of hours spent fishing together, a relationship between me and my rod has been forged. I just fish more confidently when using “Old Lucky”! This is not a rod that I can easily part with. “Rod Love” helps to strengthen this special bond between an angler and their rod.
Inspect your rod after each fishing trip so it will be ready for the next outing. Use a light, soapy sponge to wipe down the rod and handle. Check your guides for loose wrappings or damage. You may need to add a fresh coat of rod varnish. Use a Q-tip to swipe each guide. If there is a burr or groove forming, caused by fishing line, the cotton tip will hook onto it. You may then change the guide or smooth it out with an abrasive tool or emery paper. Ceramic guides can be buffed and polished smooth again.
Building rods is also a great way to treat “cabin fever”. There are some great U-Tube videos on how to build and wrap a rod. Many catalog outlets sell rod building kits that supply everything you may need. Local fishing clubs often have workshops where they help all fishermen learn the rod building craft together. This is also a great way to make a few new fishing buddies. Home built rods also make great gifts. Custom rods may even make you feel more confident and fish a bit luckier.
Another way to protect your rod is to use a cloth sleeve when placing the rod into the protective case. The cloth cover will tend to dampen vibrations which can cause your rod’s graphite fibers to separate. If you like to hang your rod in a truck’s gun rack, the cloth cover will at least protect it from the sun’s damaging rays.
Hook keepers are a great addition to your rod. Add a small ring or guide to your rod just above the handle. Some can be glued on or held by a rubber loop. Others may require that you actually wrap the hook keeper in place. This creates a place to attach a hook or lure when moving from one place to the next. Your rod will be easier to maneuver through the bushes when your hook is not hanging up on the trees. Many fishermen tend to jerk and yank on the snagged rod until something, usually the rod, breaks. This is a quick end to a fishing trip.
When walking along a path lined with bushes and trees, carry your rod in front of you and guide the fragile tip through the cover. When walking in the clear, carry the rod by the handle and backwards. If you trip or stumble, the rod will not get broken when you fall forward.
Carry a small Rod Repair First Aid Kit with you. This handy kit can save your fishing trip. I use a small plastic case that includes some electrical tape, extra guides and tips, rod tip adhesive, emery paper, matches, and a paper clip. The tape can temporarily attach a guide or cover loose guide wrappings. If your tip top gets loose, you can quickly re-glue it with the match-heated adhesive. The paper clip makes a great emergency guide that can be bent into different sizes and shapes as needed. Usually when you are prepared for the worst, no surprises will arise. Normally, I am the Rod Doctor for everyone else’s emergencies.
There is a downside to maintaining and protecting your rods from damage. You will not have to buy nearly as many rods. This money saved can now be used to purchase other cool and new fishing gear! Preventative care of your gear will also require you to change the usual excuses when telling stories about the ones that got away. Your new fishing stories will now have a new theme that describes “the ones that didn’t get away”! This new twist on your fishing stories may be hard to tell at first but, you will get the hang of it!
(Photo and article by Montana Grant)