Copper Maintenance and Repair

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I just finished working on my copper reel set-ups that I use every year on Lake Ontario while trolling for trout and salmon. I have 16 different set-ups ranging from 100-750 ft. in segmented lengths. This past season was an exceptionally bad one and put a lot of wear and tear on my coppers. I ended up having numerous splices on many of them and some reels had numerous splices on each one.

One of the maladies of fishing copper sets especially the longer ones is that sooner or later you are going to get tangles. When fishing flasher and flies, these tangles can get pretty bad; so much so, that untangling them is almost impossible or at the very least way too time consuming. When we are running Lake Ontario fishing charters or fishing tournaments, time is of the essence. This leads us to one of the beauties of fishing copper because all one really needs to do is cut out the bad tangled section(s) and splice in a new one which can be done rather easily while still fishing on the boat.

One of my yearly chores is to strip the old copper off of my reels checking both for splices and for proper lengths. A great money saving trick is to make sure you start with the longest coppers first and here’s why. Most tangles occur on the flasher or bait end of the line and work their way back towards the reel. This usually results in the loss of the first one to two hundred feet or so of copper as it tangles and twists from front to rear back towards the boat. So if you have a splice in the bait end that’s one to two hundred feet long and remove it, you could end up with three to five hundred feet of good sections of copper that can be re-used on the smaller copper reel sets.

Winding spool to strip lineHere’s my procedure for getting the old copper off. I use an electric drill. In it, I chuck a 3/8” threaded rod that from drill side forward has a wing nut, a flat washer, a section that is built up with tape to accept an empty spool, another flat washer, and finally another wing nut. Attach the copper with a piece of tape to the empty spool  and use the power of the drill to strip the copper off of the copper fishing reel. All the copper is transferred onto the empty spool. I then check and re-tie the swivel that connects to the Fins backing that I use and highly recommend.

Line winding Jig to apply to reelsOnce I have all the copper loaded onto the empty spool I then utilize a line winding jig that I obtained from South Chatham Tackle. The particular model that I use is this one ! It is one of the best investments that I have ever made when it comes to accurately spooling line onto reels. I take the now filled spool of stripped copper and put it onto the South Chatham line spooler and set the tension. Next, I take another empty spool and put it onto the threaded rod that’s chucked into the drill. I zero out the line counter on the spooler and transfer the copper onto the empty spool that’s on the drill paying particular attention to where the splice(s) are and how much of the copper line is still usable.

By starting with the largest of my filled copper reels I can often salvage between 2-6 hundred feet or more of copper that can be re-used. I can also verify what reels do indeed have splices in them or damaged, as well as their actual lengths. Using the South Chatham line spooler not only allows me to salvage my copper lines from reel to reel, but also allows me to accurately load up my reels drawing copper line off of bulk spools. I also make up replacement spools of different lengths of copper in case I need to replace or refill a reel in the field do to a break-off or other misfortune.

I usually refill stripped or empty reels using the line spooler and reeling the line onto the spools by hand. I have used an electric drill with an adapter before to power the crank handle on the reel to get the line wound up on it. Winding the line up by hand kind of keeps me in shape and also reminds me of being out on Lake Ontario fishing and running charters throughout the summer. Now if just spring would get here!!!!

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