DIY: get that rod cork clean

by Justin Hoffman | September 14, 2017

DIY cork grip before after

Dirty rod cork got you down? Here’s a quick and easy fix.

As anglers, we subject our fishing rods to a fair amount of abuse. Whether bouncing in the bow of the boat, heaving under the pressure of a powerful fish, or simply getting acquainted with a closing car door, rods are – for the most part – surprisingly resilient.

Speaking from a cosmetic standpoint, however, one unsightly issue all anglers deal with is dirty rod cork. Fish slime, sweat, and general grease and grime discolour cork over time, making a once-pristine handle lacklustre and fade. Not to mention, the ‘tack sticky grip’ is all but lost when muddied. Here’s a simple trick to restore that cork to its former glory.

Sand away grime

DIY Clean grips

The most effective method I’ve found for cleaning rod cork is to use sandpaper. Start with a low-grit paper (100) for the brunt of the work, gently sloughing away the built-up dirt. Once you’ve given it a good going over, finish with a high-grit paper (300) to ensure a pristine and smooth surface.

Keep in mind, sandpaper can scratch plastic components, so if you’re unsure of your sanding ability, wrap painter’s tape around reel seats or other parts to protect them.

Once the sanding is complete, which shouldn’t take more than a minute or two, a sponge bath with warm water and a drop of dish soap will remove all cork dust. Voila – your rod cork has been restored – both in appearance and grip.

Depending on how dirty your grip is, the results can be quite dramatic.

Selling tip: If you’re looking to sell any of your rods, I highly recommend a cork cleaning prior to posting them. You’ll fetch a better dollar if you do.

Rod blank and guides

I clean the cork on my rods a few times each season. It’s during these DIY sessions that I take five extra minutes to inspect the entire rod.

Visually, look over the rod blank for cracks, if one is found discard the rod as the construction and strength has been compromised. If none are found, give the entire length a wipe down with the sponge you used for the cork. You’d be surprised at the amount of grime that builds up on a rod.

Inspect your rod guides for cracks, fit, and alignment, as well as missing ceramic inserts. A quick swipe of each guide with a Q-Tip will alert you to any ‘burrs’ present. Once any issues have been identified they can be fixed or replaced.

Finish up with a once-over of the reel seat. With the reel removed, use an old toothbrush or Q-Tip to clean vegetation and dirt out of the cracks and crevices.

There you have it. Pristine cork and a rod that looks like new. Make this part of your prep each season, and even if the fish aren’t biting, your rods will be shining.

Refresh your rain gear with this simple DIY. 

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