You can’t pick the time when a big fish hits. So make sure your gear is in good working order at the start of the season and throughout the year.
Experts suggest checking all reels, rods and line before the season starts and do regular maintenance throughout the season. Replace line, repair line guides on rods and perform reel maintenance twice a season if necessary, particularly on those rigs that get a lot of action.
To make sure I do not lose a big fish, I perform the following maintenance before the season starts. I like to paraphrase Vince Lombardi, the great football coach, who said that football games are won in the summer when training is done—I say big fish are caught in the off season when proper maintenance is done.
Give your reels a good cleaning, particularly when the line is off. Grease where directed by the manufacturer, often times. If the instructions are long gone, do not hesitate to stop by your local bait or tackle shop to ask where to grease. Do not grease the drag. It is not meant to be greased, and if you do, it will not work.
George Poveromo, host of George Poveromo’s World of Saltwater Fishing said, “As a rule of thumb, a reel should be brought to an authorized reel center at least once a year.” And, with reels that get a lot of action, perhaps twice a year.
“Today’s fishing reels have more moving parts than ever, more parts with dissimilar metals, and this is how galvanic corrosion sets in,” said Mike Bucko of Bucko’s Tackle Service in Fall River. Anglers should wash reels with soapy water after each use, rinse and dry the. But this alone is not enough to prevent galvanized corrosion. According to Bucko, only an internal cleaning can prevent corrosion. The company totally dismantles reels, puts all parts through an extensive cleaning process and then reassembles the reels for use. Visit them http://www.buckoparts.com.
Each year, replace used line. “Used” is a judgement call. The braid line I spooled on two rigs at the end of the season is still ok, however, I took line off at the beginning of the reel that was showing signs of wear. Experts say to cross braid line when spooling onto conventional reels to prevent the line from digging into the spool when a big fish is on. Another tip is to re-spool lead line putting the used portion on the reel first, this way you use line that is new as most anglers rarely use more than three to four colors (90’ to 120’) of line. Replace all the monofilament line on reels at the start of the season. Monofilament line has memory so it tangles easily and creates bird nest tangles when it is old or has been sitting in the cold for a while. Also, stretch the first 100 feet (of monofilament line) to relax its memory and avoid tangles. When you change any type of line it is important to spool tight or the line may slip on the spool. To prevent braided line from slipping on the reel, first spool some monofilament backing to the reel as it will not slip, tie braid line to the monofilament, then spool the braided line onto the reel.
Examine the rods for cracks and stress marks. Closely examine the eyes for chips or cuts that could cause line to snag, rub or break. Do not place hooks on the eyes or they will eventually create cracks that will cut line as it passes through. Place all baits at the base of the reel as those hooked to an eye brace will bang on the rod and may cause microscopic cracks in the rod blank that could lead to a broken rod.
I get tackle ready in chronological order according to when certain species are fished… so I go through tautog rigs first, then the striped bass, bluefish, fluke, sea bass, etc. Make sure you have enough rigs to fish each species. Hooks should be clean and sharp, with no rust, and strong enough for the size fish you are going after. Often hooks that come with lures are not quality hooks, so I replace them with stronger hooks.
Use wire leaders for bluefish and monofilament or fluorocarbon for striped bass, fluke, sea bass, etc. Blues won’t bite though the wire and other species will find it harder to see the monofilament or fluorocarbon leaders. As a rule I replace all used leaders at the beginning of the season. During the season make sure leaders have no nicks or stress marks. If they do, replace them. I switched most of my hooks to circle hooks, designed to hook the fish at the corner of the mouth and not down in the belly, so I can safely catch and release undersized or unwanted fish (particularly striped bass).
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association and a member of the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Visit Captain Dave’s No Fluke website at www.noflukefishing.com; his blog at www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org .