So, it's the end of another successful trip. A beautiful day on the water and fish were caught. You celebrate the moment and then gather your gear. Lets be truthful. How many anglers store their rods and reels without cleaning? I bet most do.
There are easy ways to take that salt water film off your rods and reels. A simple spray of freshwater at the least. I find it best to use a pump sprayer that I bought from a local hardware store. Best 10 buck investment for protection of my rods and reels. Cheap, effective and great insurance to help keep your tackle in good working order. I keep the sprayer in the back of my truck and clean rods and reels and other gear with the mist spray. I find this method easier before I load up as saltwater dries and leaves a film forcing the use of a heavier spray hose that would risk pushing saltwater particles into the internals of a reel making more work and poor performance. Most of us drive an hour just to fish that hot spot. That long drive home in the summer will dry out that salt water and the damage will begin. It's much easier to deal with salt water in a liquid state and then let dry in a cool area ready to go for the next trip. Along with freshwater in the sprayer I add a product called Salt-X. This additive helps take the salt off as well. Do not use this product if you have a Magnesium reel casing. Also, if you do add a salt water chemical fighter to your sprayer, be sure to label it, NON-POTABLE, so that others know what is inside. This means water that is not suitable for drinking. Even though a product like Salt X is labeled as nontoxic, we don't want anyone getting sick in case of accidental ingestion.
Lets not forget the rods. While washing down the rod, point that sprayer inside the seats and guides. Inspect for cracks at wrappings. If a wrapping is cracked and saltwater stores underneath you may see rust stains that will develop and get worse over time as it eats apart your guide. It's best to catch this before it happens. If you don't have a sealer for rod wrappings I have used head cement out of a fly fishing kit that dries solid and seals the crack up. Worst case the guide will need to be replaced and re wrapped. If you have to send the rod out of repair that could be two weeks before you get that rod back.
Lets face it, kayak fishing is hard on our tackle. Even if a sprayer is used you still may have to do periodic openings of reels for inspection. Not an easy task for most. Some reels are very complex with a lot of moving parts and special tools may be needed for a full maintenance. In the heart of the season we can't afford the time to send out reels for cleaning or simple maintenance with a one week or more turnaround when the fishing is red hot. Time and money is involved here with roughly a 20 dollar fee from most local tackle shops. Most reels come with schematics. If you misplaced your schematic, most reel manufacturers will have an on line schematic in a PDF file. This schematic will help you in case of problems while taking apart your reel or when you need to identify parts to order. I suggest to everyone to have a small screw driver set, bearing oil, reel grease, Q tips, and lighter fluid. Lighter fluid helps remove existing oil from bearings and also will help take out sand if agitated with a Q tip in a small container. If your reel takes a dunk for a short or long period, especially in the surf, you will need to perform this maintenance on the bearings. Bearings are tricky. It's important to use lube that is specific for bearings. I use a product called Rocket Fuel (Yellow strength). Only one drop is needed. Q tips help to get into places where sediment deposits accumulate. Another great tool to have is compressed air or air in the can, used for computer key board cleaner, to help get into tight areas in your reel. I keep everything in a little container ready to go if needed. On average I inspect my reels externally after every trip and internally once a week. Water is a solvent and after a period of time you may need to re-lube bearings, handles, bail workings and grease gears. External maintenance is simple and effective. I use a product called Super Lube after every trip on the reel handle, bail components, anti-reverse, etc. If your a Shimano Reel owner it would be wise to pick up their drag grease. Shimanos Drags, at least on the Stradic series needs to be lubed periodically to maintain top drag performance. For me twice a year.
Most fly reels are pretty easy to maintain. The pump spray does most of the maintenance. Pay attention to the spool release button. If this seizes you will not be able to take off your spool or worse, it will become frozen and not hold your spool on and could come off on a running fish. Most spool release buttons or levers are operated by a spring. Most of the time you do not need to lubricate the spring. Taking the spool off the cage and dunking in a pail of water will help get the salt off. Feel the bushing when you release the spool and see if it needs oil. Teton reels recommends a light sewing oil on the bushing. Very cheap and very effective. You can find this product in the sewing section of a fabric store or sewing machine store. Costs less then 2 bucks for a small squeezable 1 oz tube.
Its also helpful to have a multipurpose tool while on the water. You never know when a nut or screw could come loose and shorten your trip or worse loose that big fish on a long battle. I use a no name brand stainless steel tool that I bought for 2 bucks at a flea market. It has screwdrivers and wrench built in and I keep in a tackle box on board. It has come in handy not only with reels but parts on the kayak that have come loose while on the water. It's better to be prepared.
I hope that you find this article helpful in the battle against the effects of Salt Water.