To ensure you don't lose the big one when you finally get him on the other end of your line here are some rod maintenance tips to reel him in with:

Are the thread guide wraps starting to unfurl on your fishing rod? Cut off loose ends and coat the entire wrap with clear nail polish To check your rod guides for abrasion-causing chips or cracks, inspect them visually and pull a piece of pantyhose through each eye. If it snags anywhere, you've found a rough spot.

I If your fiberglass fishing rod has a permanent bend in it from years of fishing, here's how to get it back in shape. Lay it across a desk or table, with the bend facing up and the top third of the rod sticking off the end. Hold it in place by putting a couple heavy books on either side of the largest eye and one across the butt. Then clip a I-ounce weight to the tip to put pressure in the direction opposite the bend. Take weight off and check it daily; very heavy rods take up to a week to straighten out.

Line abrasion can weaken your line. To test your line for wear, gently run it across your tongue. You tongue is much more sensitive than your fingers are, and you'll feel any nicks or cuts in the line.

The cork handle on your rod got bloodstained. No problem. Use some 400-grit wet or dry sandpaper. Or, if you're careful, paint the handle with diluted bleach to lighten the stain and the cork to a uniform color. Use a weak mixture (1:10) and wash it thoroughly afterward; if you leave it on for an extended period, the bleach will crack the cork.

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