A fishing rod can be subjected to a substantial amount of use in a season and for this reason preventative maintenance should be priority number one. Your fishing rod is your most useful tool as an angler. Even though this tool has no moving parts, does not require fuel and is relatively maintenance free it is still important to care for your rod to ensure proper performance and many years of fishing enjoyment!
Cleaning of your rod is pretty straight forward. Knock off any dirt, sand or grime with a soft bristle brush, such as an old tooth brush. Then mix up a solution of warm water and detergent. Using the same old tooth brush, gently scrub the rod paying special attention to the cork handles and the reel seat. Rinse with water and dry with a soft cloth. After the cork is dry you can add a thin coat of Tung Oil or Birchwood Casey’s Tru Oil to the cork handles. This is not necessary but will provide a thin layer of protection from dirt and stains as well as enhance the look of your grips. Next take a soft cloth and either paste wax or spray furniture wax and lightly coat all remaining surfaces of the rod. This adds a protective layer to your rod that will repel water and dirt as well as making your rod look brand new. NEVER in any circumstance use any product that contains SILICONE or ACETONE as these chemicals will destroy your rod in a heartbeat!
Care for your rod hinges on understanding the principal purpose of the rod. The rod is meant to apply a load (resistance) to a fish as well as store and release energy during a cast. Your rod IS NOT meant to be used as a winch to free a stuck lure or as a depth gauge! Putting more than a 90° bend into your rod is like playing Russian roulette! If you must break your lure off do so by winding the line tight and pointing the rod tip at the stuck lure taking all pressure off the guides and the rod and gently pull straight away from the lure until the line breaks. This ensures no damage will be done to your rod or its components. Just watch out for the lure as it may come screaming back at you!
Hook keepers are meant to be used so use them! Be aware that leaving weights or a heavy lure on your line and then securing it to your hook keeper will cause damage over time due to the weight banging on the graphite rod and causing stress fractures in the individual fibers. This will result in a break in the rod when it is least expected!
Also pay close attention to your guides. Look for grooves that have been worn into the rings, especially if you use a braided line and are not using ceramic rings! Take a close look at the epoxy coating on the thread that secures the guide foot. If it is cracked or chipped then the thread may be exposed to the elements which will cause your guide foot to either rust or come loose at the wrong moment! Have a local rod builder make any necessary repairs.
If you follow these recommendations and use a little common sense and care, your rod will last many, many years of hard fishing!