Caring For and Protecting Your Gear From Saltwater

Caring For and Protecting Your Gear From Saltwater


Recreational Saltwater Fishing is a $68 Billion industry. Much of the cost comes from the gear used to target fish in this corrosive environment. With new improvements in technology; reels, rods, and baits are more resistant than ever, but neither perfect nor guaranteed. The costs that accompany saltwater fishing can be insanely high and difficult to sustain. What can be done to prolong the life of your gear in the unforgiving world of saltwater sportfishing?

Research Your Equipment

A proper first step to protecting your gear is to understand its attributes. This may sound obvious, but lack of understanding is the best way to ruin equipment. Staying away from gear with cheap materials is a necessity. Certain materials will rust and corrode far quicker than others. Looking through the reel's features on the manual or manufacturer’s website will give you a great idea of the corrosion resistance. Some new reels such as the Daiwa Lexa HD 300/400 utilize greased bearings which are amazing at holding up to the elements. Others have even begun using bushings (composite solid bearings) to replace standard stainless ball bearings. Knowing and understanding these choices by the manufacturer are also vital in servicing. Having this comprehension will allow you to make the correct choices down the line in terms of servicing. Most modern reels can handle salt water to some extent, but all will rust eventually if not cared for. Rods and tackle are no different. Avoiding cheaper materials will make the task of salt-proofing much easier. 

Properly Clean Your Gear

There is never “too much” cleaning you can do. You can read every opinion in any forum on how often to service your equipment and typically, they are too scarce. Here are some tips to keep your gear nice and clean. 

-Rinse your gear with fresh water after EVERY USE. 

Not after every other trip. Do it every time. A hose is perfect. If you do not have a hose, use a bucket with water from the sink. Make sure to get your rods and even your tackle if you are that worried. 

-Make sure not to use high water pressure.

The goal is to rinse all the salt off the outside surfaces, not pressure wash it inside your reel. Usually, your reel will keep most if not all of the salt out on its own. Blasting it inside will let it sit and eat away over time.

-Wipe it off to dry and put it away.

Do not leave it outdoors in the elements overnight or for a couple days because you got lazy and forgot (we’ve all been there). 

-Take it in for servicing, or learn how to do it yourself.

We like to service our gear internally after every 3 or 4 trips. This includes re-greasing, oiling, and surfacing of drags. This can be expensive to have done at a tackle shop repeatedly. During peak seasons can mean you won’t have your gear for at least a week. YouTube is your friend. Learning to clean and process your own gear saves copious amounts of money in the long run and arguably makes you a more well-rounded angler. 

-Always detail your gear after every season.

If you plan on hanging up the rods for a while, doing a deep clean of your reels is vital. Sitting in the garage with even the slightest amount of salt in them is not a smart move. 

What if my gear is already showing signs of corrosion?

-DO NOT just throw it away. 

Hard to believe this is such a big issue. Some damage and noises are far easier to fix than they might seem. A single 8$ bearing can make a reel feel like garbage or even seize up. Sometimes it’s a very easy and cheap fix. 

-DO NOT throw a can of WD-40 at it. 

In some cases, yes it may help, but it can damage plastic and other composite materials that are essential. It also seems to attract every spec of dust within a few square miles. WD-40 also changes the chemical composition of grease that is used to lubricate main gears in fishing reels, rendering it useless. 

-Use proper replacement parts and materials. 

Having gear fall victim to corrosion is also an opportunity to make it better than new. Upgrading wasted parts such as bearings and gears is a fantastic way to make the best of a horrible situation while also avoiding issues in the future. Speaking with your local tackle shop or calling the manufacturer’s support line will point you in the right direction. 

Battling the salt doesn’t stop when you reach the dock. Not putting in the time to clean and care for your gear properly will lead to avoidable headaches and expensive replacements. If you consider yourself as a hands-on person, learning to so service your own gear is a fantastic way to dive deeper into the hobby. Also a great way to save some money in the end!