My eyes were really opened in January.

We were fortunate enough to be invited for three weeks of fishing in Florida, and of course we accepted.

The first few days were devoted exclusively to fly fishing, but my awakening came on the day I was handed a spinning rod for tossing jigs.

It was a very lightweight 7 foot rod rated for 1/8 oz to ¼ oz lures. In spite of its light weight it was surprisingly stiff.

The reel was suitably small for a small lightweight rod, and to my surprise it was loaded with braided line. I had no prior experience with braided line on spinning reels, so I followed my host’s instructions with some care.

The line seemed impossibly thin, and he reported it was “only” 14-pound test. To my eye it was about as thin as 4-pound test monofilament.

Sure we had to use special knots to attach a monofilament leader about 3 feet long, but an interesting point was raised by my host. He advised that rather than simply turning the handle to close the bail for a retrieve, I should reach over with one finger and close the bail by hand.

“If you don’t, the limp line has a tendency to loop up off the spool and cause tangles on your next cast.”

Huh…. When in Rome do as the Romans.

A bigger surprise came when I made my first tentative cast with a 3/16-oz jig. We were casting into the shallows adjacent to mangroves across a deeper channel, then retrieving back into the depths of the channel.

My half-hearted flick of the wrist sent the light jig across the channel, past the shallows, and about 20’ up into the mangroves! Wow.

I got to practice my new knots while attaching a new monofilament leader and a replacement jig.

The biggest surprise of all came when I got my first hit.

That little rod bucked and I set the hook. The rod tip snapped back toward the water and almost 4 feet of gleaming tarpon erupted from the surface. After a spirited fight I managed to land it, and in the next hour hooked four more between 30” and 40”, landing two of them.

I kept looking at that sweet little rod in my hands. Anyone in the world would call it a “trout” rod, yet there I was handily landing tarpon. On and off over the following days I also landed snook, sea trout, jack crevalle, redfish, saltwater catfish, mangrove snapper, grunts and small grouper. In the freshwater canal adjacent to our host’s home, I also landed largemouth bass and panfish.

That light little outfit with its skinny braided line did it all!

I said my eyes were opened by the fishing experience.

In truth it was more a case of exposing my ignorance. I’ve never before tried braided line on a spinning reel, and I’m more than a little out of date on recent advances in spinning rods and reels.

If I’d handled that outfit in a store, I never would have conceived of using it in Alaska for anything but Dolly Varden. Now that I’ve fished with it, I’d be happy to take on silver salmon, and even king salmon in rivers.

The timing for my awakening couldn’t have been better.

Last fall I decided that we needed to add a couple of spinning rods to our boat for the convenience of guests who have trouble with conventional tackle, even if they’re skilled with spinning tackle. I’ve also found a few places where there will be advantages to casting for kings and silvers rather than trolling, whether with conventional tackle or spinning gear.

I was inclined to buy larger rods and reels and fill them with monofilament, but no longer. While I’m likely to opt for rods rated for lures up to a couple of ounces or so with matching reels, they’ll be as light as I can possibly manage. And the reels will be filled with braided line!

It’s always fun to plan for, buy and use new outfits, but it goes without saying that most of us already have a lot of rods and reels at our fingertips. And likely as not, we have a lot of money tied up in them.

Some of it needs replacing periodically, but seldom as often as we might think. In fact, if you put away your rods and reels without cleaning and lubing last fall, even the newer ones may feel as though they’re nearing the end of their lifespan.

Winter storage is hard on tackle if you haven’t maintained it.

I made that mistake a year ago. I maintained most of them, but a couple missed the treatment.

I recognized my mistake the following spring, and my troubles were just beginning. I could barely loosen the nuts that held the reels in place. Then once loosened the little “feet” would not turn loose of the reels. Both reels were virtually frozen to their rods, the salt and corrosion completely invisible on their outer surfaces.

Once they were free and rods were cleaned, I looked closer at the reels.

The handles felt stiffer than I remembered, and the spool releases were stiff too. Then the spools seemed to lag when released and line pulled from them.

It was time for serious cleaning and lubing!

I was lucky with one reel, but not so lucky with the second.

I found the manual for one in the first place I looked, but could not locate the second anywhere in my files. Thank goodness most reel manufacturers have reel part diagrams and even disassembly instructions somewhere on their websites!

Manual?

Disassembly?

Remember that little folder or pamphlet that came in the box when you first bought the reel? If you hope to avoid the expense of a replacement reel, it’s time to go hunting for the original or online version.

Inevitably salt and grit can work their evil paths into any reel. Even if those two villains weren’t attacking the inner works of your expensive reels, the original lubricants break down over time.

If you aren’t opening, cleaning and lubricating your reels on an annual basis at the very least, the chances are good that the reel will fail long before you think it should.

After you have the rod and reel cleaned and maintained, you’re ready to go fishing. Right?

Not so fast.

Fishing line fails surprisingly fast, whether braid or monofilament.

Monofilament breaks down quickly when exposed to light for long periods, and fortunately it’s cheap. I make it a habit to replace the monofilament line on all my reels at least once a year. If the reels are seeing a whole lot of use and sunshine, I’ll even replace the line midsummer.

Braided line is more subject to wear from friction. The tiniest nick or fray is a certain weak spot.

No, I don’t replace all the braided lines on my casting reels each year. But I do spool off the first 100’ or so about twice each summer and replace it with new line.

I’m guessing I’ll have to do the same when I replace the monofilament with braid on all my spinning reels.

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