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Main Content

Rod and Reel Repair

Jimmy Boss helps fishermen hold on to their prized, old fishing gear

Story and photography by Brian Bruzewski

Though we live in what many might call a throw-away society these days, some things are worth maintaining and repairing.

Just ask a fisherman.

Jimmy Boss knows this first-hand. He runs a rod and reel service in Buchanan, Tenn., near the shores of majestic Kentucky Lake, where he does repair work for fishermen who love their gear so much, they don’t want to replace it.

Boss’ work involves “just about anything to do with a rod and reel,” he says. He builds custom fishing rods, but seems to get the most satisfaction from his service work.

“I have more fun in the repair side. I like repairing things. I like the look on people’s faces when they bring a reel in there that sounds like a winch and when they get it back (they say), ‘This thing casts better than it’s ever cast before,’” he says. “That fits my ego more than anything. There’s more satisfaction there.”

“There’s a lot of performance left in a reel if you just know what to do with it.”

With rod repairs, Boss fixes anything from tips and eyes or replacing a reel seat, all the way up to a major rebuild.

With custom rods he works one-on-one with the customer.


“There are so many things that go into a true custom rod,” he says. “If someone gets a custom rod from me, he may make three or four trips to me so we can get everything right. Custom rods are very user specific; they need to be detailed to that customer.”


‘The Only Constant in My Life’


Boss is a Florida native who got into working on rods and reels when he was about 12 years old with an unexpected job offer.


“I fished all my life. I loved fishing and I was always hanging around the tackle shop and the guy asked me if I wanted a job,” he says. “I started working there for a while just after school and weekends.’


“I’ve had life changes like everybody does. I’ve done drag racing and round-track racing. I was a firefighter for a while, a reserve deputy for a while. I was in the military. Fishing’s been the only constant in my life. About 7 years ago I decided to get back into it and stay in it.”


He’s found his niche. One customer, a semi-pro bass fisherman, was so pleased with the work Boss had done on his reel that he returned with two more boxes packed with reels.


Saving More Than Money


Fishing competitively requires a lot of gear that gets a lot of mileage. Professional-level reels can range from $100 to more than $500, so it makes sense to keep them working as long as you can.


But many times, there’s more to consider than just the cost.

“If somebody’s bringing it to me, it’s important,” Boss explains. “Sometimes there’s sentimental value. It might be a Christmas present from one of his kids…


It might be gold to him.”


“I do the best I can do with it and I do everything I can with it, and I hope that he’s happy,” he adds. “I do the same thing to a $50 reel as I would to a $500 reel.”


On average, Boss spends about two hours cleaning and lubricating a real to make it cast like new.


“I don’t do more reels than I feel comfortable with in a day. I want that customer to know that he got two hours of me making it the best reel he can have, and not just rushing it through in 45 minutes,” Boss says.

He likes helping his fellow fishermen stretch their dollars, too.


“I would rather that person know he saved $200 on having to buy a new reel, and instead,” Boss says, “he only spent $16, and he’s got a reel that’s better than new.”


Jimmy Boss’ Rod and Reel Maintenance Tips


Do it yourself or find a qualified tech, but have your reel serviced every year just like you would a boat or a truck. You probably already have the household items on hand to clean and maintain your rod and reel.


Boss suggests these tips:


Clean and oil it.


Use a good quality synthetic oil.


Furniture polish isn’t just for furniture.


Any kind of furniture polish works. Spray into a microfiber rag and do the blank area and around the guide feed to put a protective finish on your rod. Micro-cracks can occur around the foot of the guides because of flexing of the rod blank. The polish fills in those micro-cracks and keeps water out. Do it twice a year to keep your rods looking new.


Rubbing alcohol and a microfiber towel can work wonders.


Take your reel off. Clean your reel seat and threads and look for cracks. Wipe down any cork and scrub with alcohol, or extra fine steel wool if it’s being stubborn. Let it dry naturally.

Use a cotton swab for your rod tip.


Run it through your guides and see if it pulls any of the cotton threads loose. If it does, the guide probably has a crack in the ceramic and it needs to be replaced. Do all the guides and don’t forget the tip.


Check the usual suspects.


Some parts are more prone to wear and tear. If you have an old reel, it may be time to replace the pawl. It’s like a fan belt; if you have one that’s worn, it might work for a while but eventually it will break down. Also check the worm gear that goes across the front and carries the pawl. Without that little piece, everything else is worthless.