dock talk: cleaning and storing saltwater fishing gear

Are you considering spending some of your hard-earned cash on some new saltwater fishing gear? Or maybe you already have some nice tackle and want to keep it that way... 

SHAWN SMITH | GEORGIA | April 13, 2023

If you have spent any extended time in or around the ocean, you understand the toll that saltwater, heck even the salt in the air can have on things. On top of that, not that I have to remind anyone who has been to the beach before but if you even look at sand a certain way it will find its way onto everything you own and end up in every crevice imaginable.

I get it, you are here because you want to be sure that your new envy inducing saltwater fishing reel, those impressive new saltwater fishing rods, and everything else you plan to take on your next seafaring adventure stays in tip top shape for as long as possible.  

Modern saltwater fishing gear has come a long way in terms of how well things are sealed. Most are overbuilt in an attempt to stand up to the elements. However, whether you are deep sea fishing (offshore), inshore fishing, surf fishing, or just dangling a line off a pier, your saltwater fishing gear is being subjected to an exceptionally hostile environment.

There aren't many natural phenomenon on this planet that can wear down metal parts like saltwater. The gears in your reel, the guides on your rod, the hooks on your lures, we use a lot of metal parts when fishing and if not properly cared for they will all become victims of rust and corrosion in an impressively short time. But don’t fret, there are some things you can do to save your investment from such a horrible fate.  

The first thing you will want to do is break down all your equipment. Remove lures from line, remove reels from rods, remove line from reels, and empty any tackle boxes that may have salt or moisture trapped inside. This will minimize the chance that any minuscule salty sandy gremlins find safe harbor in a hidden nook or cranny. Once everything is separated, make sure you have access to a water hose or some other fresh water source.  

With your reel the first thing you will want to do is rinse off any loose sand, salt, or grime. For those of you using a water hose, do not turn that thing on jet mode. Higher pressures could push sand or salt into unwanted areas.

Once the reel has been rinsed, wipe it down thoroughly with a micro fiber towel and set aside to dry. Now, if you want to get into more detailed reel maintenance, check out this guide.

Quick note for the PENN folks out there, there is a rubber gasket under the drag knob so be sure to crank that drag down to create a good seal. Once you are done, loosen the drag, never store a reel with the drag cranked down.  

Your rods will get a similar treatment as your reels. Rinse them off with clean fresh water. Be sure to pay extra attention to the reel seat and the eyelets of the guides. Once you are convinced your rods are free of any briny contaminations, wipe them down with a microfiber cloth and set aside to dry.  

As mentioned above, your lures are not exempt from a rusty fate if not properly cared for. Rinse the lures with clean fresh water and blot dry with a microfiber cloth. It would be worth an extra pass with water around all hooks or other metal parts, pulling back on any soft sections of lures, when possible, to release any hidden debris.

You will want to rinse out the tackle boxes these road home in as well to be sure they are free from any salt or sand. Make sure both lures and boxes are completely dry before re organizing. 

Once all your gear is clean and dry feel free to reassemble. When you get home, store your equipment in a dry, ideally climate controlled area. This will provide the best chance at preventing the salt in the air from reaching your freshly cleaned gear.

It may seem like a hassle to go through this process outing after outing, but in the long run you will be glad you did. If you made it this far you strike me as someone who works hard for your money and takes pride in their gear. So, keep it clean and in good condition and it will be sure to serve you well for years to come.  

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Shawn Smith is a native of Northwest Georgia and a graduate of the University of Georgia. An avid outdoorsman, he was introduced to fishing as a child and has spent the better part of the last 25 years with a rod in hand while venturing throughout the United States. As the Ecommerce Marketing Manager for Pure Fishing, Shawn is able to put his passion into practice while sharing his knowledge and love for the sport with others.

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