Rob Fort continues his beginner’s guide to kayak fishing, turning his attention to reel choice and maintenance.
It’s possible to stay warm and dry if you have the right gear for the job, which was covered in previous parts of kayak fishing series. Now it’s time to tackle the sharp end of kayak fishing.
Before we start discussing reels, it’s worth mentioning just how demanding this style of fishing is on equipment. Most kayak fishing is done in close contact with the saltwater environment, which is the harshest on reels, rods and tackle. Some kayak anglers who are just starting out prefer to purchase cheaper alternatives as they are new to the sport and want to get used to the change in gear before spending large, or because they are on a tight budget. However, this typically results in a false economy as the reel won’t last and will need replacing much sooner. On top of this, the item is discarded and ends up in the landfill, which isn’t ideal. At first, the more expensive option may seem unjustifiable; however, its quality means you get better value for money. The higher quality option will also require less maintenance, which will save you both time and money. If you have your eye on something cheaper, then try be patient and save a little more because in the long term it will pay off.
Good quality gear offer greater lifespans and require less attention than cheaper options.
There are certain features a kayak angler should look for in all of their equipment, and durability should be top of that list. When it comes to reels, only purchase models that can get wet. Reels are very susceptible to water contact and damage, and if their design is not watertight, then it’s just a matter of time before something goes wrong. Kayak fishing reels also get put under a lot of stress from big powerful predatory fish, so it’s essential to have a reel which can handle a bit of adversity.
When selecting a kayak fishing reel, durability should be one of the first things you look for.
It’s quite easy to find suitable reels for the job in both spinning and overhead styles, with most major brands providing models that fit the kayak fishing criteria. Here are some basic fundamentals to look for when making selections.
Sealed waterproof drag systems: In spinning reels, look for rubber O-rings on the inside of the drag thumb screw.
Waterproof construction: Some reels offer IPX4 rating (and greater), which is perfect.
Anti-corrosion paintwork protection: The finish is also important, and poor paint and anodising will allow salt to get underneath and cause corrosion.
Quality materials: Examples of this are stainless screws, a solid metal body construction and polished aluminium.
Before purchasing a reel, do your homework and thoroughly check its suitability, avoiding anything that may not make the grade. Remember, compromises come at a cost so a good starting point when it comes to spin reels is looking at the $200 mark and above. Anything in this price-range is likely to have the required features. Overhead reels, including baitcaster types, also need to be resilient and provide some degree of water resistance. Their design can allow some water to get inside at times, so they require regular servicing.
Overhead and baitcaster style reels are both effective options for kayak fishing.
Sealed bearings, and particularly those treated with something that repels saltwater, are an excellent choice and can be used in both spin and overhead reels.
The key to reliability and lifespan is a decent service regime, but there are also things that can be done straight out of the box. A preliminary pre-treatment using grease and other lubricants can provide further protection but will require gaining access to the working areas. If you are confident enough to do this then you can carry out the pre-treatment yourself. Alternatively, there are plenty of specialists out there who can do the job. Some reels come ready packed with extra grease and don’t require treatment and others are sealed using a specialist sealed system which can only be worked on by authorised agents. With this in mind, it’s best to check the manufacturer’s reel warranty and any details on servicing before carrying out any work yourself.
To treat a spin reel, pack grease into the main body of the reel, ensuring all parts are well covered. Remove the spool and rotor and squirt extra oil into the roller bearing. The bail arm bearing also requires some oil and this part of the reel will need a lube every month to keep it working well.
As far as overhead and baitcaster type reels are concerned, a different approach is necessary. Overhead reels contain many more moving parts that need to operate freely, so you must be careful with grease as it can cause them to stop working. Baitcaster reels with a level wind system require regular lubricant applications and even greater internal care. Putting extra oil on the moving parts and greasing the gears where they mesh together is certainly not going to do any harm for its future.
This baitcaster reel is still going strong after ten years of use because it had the right treatment before hitting the water.
With pre-treatment completed, the reel is ready for use. However, before taking it on the water, it is advisable to give any exterior surfaces an extra protective coating to combat the water contact. A light coat of products like Inox or Pro EPT spray are perfect for providing this barrier.
Make ongoing reel upkeep part of your kayak fishing regime. Cleaning up after a fishing trip is by far the most crucial part of the process because it requires the removal of any saltwater which has dried on the reel. Always tighten the reel’s drag to ensure a good seal, preventing any water from getting inside. Getting rid of the salt requires rinsing the reel; however, I do not recommend using high pressure water. This can often drive the salt and water further inside the reel, which can cause damage. Using warm water in a spray bottle with a fine mist is a much more effective way to dissipate any salt residue. Allow the reel to drain and then give the reel handle a few spins to move any remaining water, before wiping it down with a dry cloth.
In my experience, product additives like Salt Away work well to combat salt residue and give even greater results when followed with a rinse of warm water. Products like this not only dissolve any salt residue when applied but also form a protective barrier if allowed to dry. When the reel is not going to be used for some time, apply a thin coat of Pro EPT spray to the exterior and oil to any moving parts like the handle to keep things working.
The amount of pleasure you get from using a beautifully engineered reel fully capable of tackling decent fish is second to none. When you have one in hand, it’s easy to see why other anglers take pride in owning them. To date, some of my own fishing arsenal has endured more than ten years of hard-out use and I’ve landed plenty of trophies. Not only is their longevity a result of quality and careful selection but also my initial effort to prepare them for fishing.
In the next article, we’ll look at further gear care and which rods are right for our reels.
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