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Each winter when the lakes ice over, I like to get all my equipment cleaned up and ready to go for next year. Here’s my method of cleaning my fishing rods to make them look and feel like new again. To get started there’s a few things you are going to need: Pledge lemon wipes, a Magic Eraser (or baby wipes), a sanding sponge (180-200 grit), dental swabs (or cotton swabs), cork sealant, painters tape, and a brush.

The first step in the cleaning process is to wipe down the rod blank and line guides with the Pledge lemon wipe. You do not want to make contact with any foam or cork grips in this step as it can leave behind residue. The pledge wipes will remove any dirt or grime stuck to the rod as well as leave a thin coat of polish on your rod blank. Next you can use the dental or cotton swabs to clean around the line guides more thoroughly. Dental swabs are great as they don’t leave behind any lint like the cotton swabs might if they make contact with any kinks around your guides.

Moving on to the handles, for cork you can use either a damp magic eraser or baby wipes to wipe them down and remove any dirt or residue that has built up over the course of the year. I find that the magic eraser works a bit better than baby wipes as you don’t need to use as much elbow grease when running it along the handle. Once your corks are clean, I suggest taking the extra step and getting your cork sealed with a cork sealant. To apply the cork sealant I tape off the cork handles protecting the rod blank with blue painters tape. I then apply a light coat of cork sealant to the handle with a foam brush. Do not over-apply and try to make it as smooth as possible. Too much sealant or an uneven coat can appear later as little discolorations sort of like a sunburn that is ready to begin peeling. Once you finish applying the sealant, allow it dry for about 20 minutes. Remove the painters tape and you are all done. Sealing the cork is something you only have to do once in the lifetime of a rod. You will notice that your cork handles will stay much cleaner throughout the new season, and when it comes time for your next cleaning, all you need is a wet washcloth to remove any built up residue.

When it comes to foam handles, you can sand off the top layer of handle while removing all the residue that has built up over the year. To do this apply water to the foam handle and a high grit sanding sponge. Lightly wipe down the handle with the sanding sponge and this will remove that outer layer leaving your handle looking like new. Doing this unevenly can result in a bit of streakiness so take your time to make sure you sand off the entire handle evenly until you reached the desired look.

Now that your rods are all cleaned up and looking like new you can consider doing some preventative maintenance throughout the year. Utilizing rod gloves and spraying down rod blanks with a can of pledge spray can keep your rods looking sharp year round, requiring less maintenance when it comes time to clean them again.