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Winterizing Fishing Line

Storing Fishing Line For the Winter


We have prepared the storage of our fishing gear not related to fly fishing. In that preparation, we were looking at the various items that need cleaning, inspection and possible maintenance- preventative or otherwise.

Those items include a few parts and pieces that are common to all mechanical fishing gear: line guides on rods, gears and other moving parts on reels, and the items in your tackle boxes that you don't want either gunked-up or rusty when next you open your gear.

Presuming you've emptied, cleaned and carefully re-packed your vests, the remaining item is one that is subject to a dozen different theories: the fishing line itself.

As the only direct connection between the angler and his quarry, the line is the single point of failure that can stand between you and that monster trophy fish - or dinner. No matter what method of fishing you follow (catch-and-release or batter-and-fry), losing one because of line failure ranks as the most frustrating. There are many rationalizations, but the simple fact of the matter is that with a little basic line maintenance all year long, your chances of losing a fish are significantly reduced.

But what's reasonable maintenance?

That's the question for the ages - or the experts.

To get an answer, I turned to Pure Fishing's line guru, Clay Norris. His answers are based on a career learning about line and perfecting the multitude of offerings from Pure Fishing.

When it comes to line spooled on reels, Norris recommends "winterizing" - stripping monofilament or fluorocarbon back to leave twenty to twenty-five yards of "backing". He says that makes it easy to tie on and spool fresh line in the spring. It also keeps you from having to recycle line that may have been on the reel, but is otherwise new.

He also offered the answer to a question that I've wondered about for some time: is there a problem with line strength or "line memory" if you leave the line on the reel?

The answer is a conditional "yes."

If you leave nylon and fluorocarbon monofilament on the reel, it will not lose strength over the winter. If, however, you leave it stored for long periods on small spool arbors and put it through extremes of temperature, it can induce line memory.

That small arbor and extreme temperature is the reason that some of your reels put out that frustratingly looped line during the summer. Cooking and cooling it in your car, your boat, or wherever you keep your gear induces that line memory. After all, it's superheated resins drawn into thin strands in extremes of heat. Re-heating the line will, logically, alter the shape of the line. Not enough to give you a lump of resin, but more than enough to induce line memory.

And braided line?

There's no problem with memory in braided lines, but there are a couple of other items that might lead you to want to strip down your reels.

According to Norris, braided lines' major problem would be wear during the course of a fishing season. It's strong, but everything is subject to the wear and tear of friction. Braid is also subject to discoloration and color loss simply because of what is the equivalent of frequent washing over your fishing season.

Those facts in mind, Norris suggests you simply strip off the top portion of your braided lines so that you get to the fresher color and better conditioned line that has not been dunked and dried all summer long.

There you have the basic winterization preparations for the bank- or boat- fisherman. Taking care of your gear will pay off in more ways than one -but one of the most important ones is not letting the big one get away.

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