Going from freshwater to saltwater fishing requires a change in attitude about water and reels. In fresh water, dunking a reel is a relatively minor issue since most reels get rinsed off regularly anyway.
But a dunking in salt water is more serious, and doubly so if you’re at the beach. A beach dunking usually means sand in the reel, and that’s a problem that should be avoided if possible. Sand and salt inside the reel and behind the spool cause corrosion and loss of grease that will soon lead to failure.
As kayak anglers, we recognize that one of the most common excuses for dunking a reel is while clearing a tip wrap. Sure, other things happen, but not as often as a tip wrap. Here are a couple of ways to reach the tip to untangle the line and still keep the reel out of the water.
One way is to push the reel end of the rod onto the front of the kayak, which lets you bring the tip closer to work on the problem. The only issue with this approach is that the reel might slip off the kayak while you’re focused on the rod tip. The splash that happens after it falls into the water signals most anglers that this reel might stop working at any moment, so a spare reel would be a handy thing to have aboard.
Another way to hold a rod while clearing a tip wrap is to grip the rod near the first (largest) guide with the palm of your hand under the rod. This will make it easier to keep the reel up and out of the water as you reach for the tip with your other hand. It’s much harder with your hand above the rod. Try it and you’ll see what we mean.
While we’re on the subject of fixing reel issues in a kayak, when (not if) you find a loop down in the spool that needs to be cleared, loosen the drag to almost nothing and pull line off the reel to the side with the bail closed. Let the line fall into the water and not into the kayak to prevent tangles. Braid is more likely to form loops on the spool, and the water will lubricate the line as you wind it back onto the reel after clearing the loop.
Disassembling a reel is not advised while in a kayak. Waiting a few hours before cleaning is usually OK, just don’t put it off for days. The first thing needed is a gentle rinse with fresh water to remove most of the salt and sand. You could use your water bottle sparingly while in the kayak for this.
While chasing snook on our local beaches recently, we witnessed some incredibly dumb things people were doing to their reels. We saw folks drop their gear into the salt water while holding fish and then leave it there while the waves buried it. We saw people try to prop a rod up by sticking the handle into the sand. This dropped the reel into the sand almost immediately.
It’s sad to see new tackle buried in shoreline sand and being washed around by the waves. Without a major cleaning, most of the equipment we saw mistreated will be nonfunctional in a few days if not sooner. Immersion in sand can freeze up a reel in minutes. Most of the folks guilty of this mistake tried to “rinse off” the reels in the next sandy wave, not realizing the continuing damage they were causing.
We often see anglers balancing their rods on something to keep the reel off the sand. These efforts usually fail, and the reel falls into the sand anyway. If you must set a rod down at the beach, we have found a better way to keep the reel off of the sand: Just set the rod down on the sand with the reel propped up by its handle. This keeps the reel off of the sand. A reel can’t fall off anything if it is already down on the sand and elevated with this technique.
Back home, near some fresh clean water, take the spool off the reel and rinse any sand from inside the spool and the drag washers. More mechanically inclined anglers can dissemble the reel to gain access to the drive gears but for most of us, this might be better left to an expert. Its amazing how many little screws and springs are inside most spinning reels. It’s common to find a few extra parts after reassembly with no idea where they belong. After cleaning, apply a lubricant, and remember to try harder to keep your reel out of the sand next time.
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of the waterproof “Angler’s Guide to Shore Fishing Southwest Florida” and “Angler’s Guide to Kayak Fishing Southwest Florida,” contribute these columns to promote the excellent fishing available in Southwest Florida. Their books are available at most tackle shops in the area, AnglerPocketGuides.com, or Amazon as a download or hard copy.