How to Maintain a Fishing Reel

Last Updated: 13.08.19


Whether you’re a beginner or not, you need to know how to keep your reel in the best shape. If you’re the kind of person that likes to change the fishing gear often, you might be looking for some cheap spinning reels, and if that’s the case we have an article written on that.

Maintenance is one of those things that most people don’t like doing, but it needs to be done. Checking your reel, making sure it works and repairing it if needed will help you avoid unpleasant situations when your reel gets destroyed at the worst time. Here is how to maintain your fishing reel.



Your toolbox

First of all, you need to have the tools that will help you keep your reel in check, and you need to have this toolbox with you whenever you go fishing. It’s best if this toolbox is kept to a minimum size, but it still needs to offer you everything needed. Screwdrivers are a must and you will need both flat tips and Phillips heads to screw and unscrew the bolts.

If you feel that you need finer tools, a jeweler’s screwdriver kit will help you greatly by offering you the tiny screwdrivers you need. When you have to deal with large bolts, use an adjustable wrench. It’s best if your reel comes with special tools. Label those tools if you can’t remember their purpose.

Keep a set of hex keys with you as well, as they are needed for some reels. There are reels that have tamper-proof bolts and if you have one of those, you will most likely need to send them to a service department, unfortunately.

A small piece of wire sometimes called bodkin is needed for getting into those hard-to-reach places when you want to remove all the dirt. Tweezers will also serve you really well and you can find them nearly anywhere.

Don’t forget about the cleaning equipment. Q-tips, toothbrushes, and rags will be of great help.


Preventing wear

If you ensure your reel gets enough attention and maintenance every time you use it, you will end up spending a lot less on expensive repairs that come with time. One of the biggest problems that fishers face is the residue left by saltwater. Getting rid of that is difficult without getting water where it shouldn’t be, in the interior mechanisms.

Make sure that after every fishing trip you clean the reel with fresh water, you wipe it down and let it dry. Most reels will only need you to use some sudsy warm water. However, keep in mind that magnetic oil or anything similar doesn’t work well with detergents. If you haven’t used the drag for a while you can loosen it off, as this will increase its life.

Also, don’t forget to lube any metal parts that need that, especially the bail rollers. There are plenty of commercial cleaning products that you can use. They work really well, but if you have a reel that uses magnetic oil, check the products in detail before using them.

There are some preventative solutions that you can use to make your reel more durable. Some anglers treat the screws and bolts with anti-corrosive compounds. You can also spray the whole reel with a silicon compound that, when dried, adds an extra layer of protection and keeps corrosion and smudge away.

Reels should come with a warranty and if yours comes with it too, keep it as a proof of purchase. These warranties don’t cover everything but they’re still great in some serious cases when you need an expert to repair the reel.

Fortunately, you rarely need to replace your reel or take it apart. You only need to do that if it gets water in it or if you have to replace the bearings. To increase the life of the bearings, keep the reel lubed and inspected annually.

Unfortunately, all reels age and they function poorer after some years, but a daily routine of cleaning and checking them should keep them working for longer.


Equipment maintenance

There are times, however, when you need to do more than just clean the reel, and you have to take it apart to take care of all its small parts. Fortunately, most reels come with a diagram that shows their pieces in an “exploded” view. This helps you a lot when assembling and disassembling the reel.

When carrying out maintenance you have to work in a well-lit environment and you also need to have a towel or something like that under the reel so you don’t lose any parts. Also, if you know you don’t see that well, use a magnifying glass to help keep track of the smaller parts. The best practice is to clean and service the parts as they come off the real.

That’s how you keep them in check, although there are some springs or other parts that will jump around, but if your working space is well-organized, you won’t have any issues. The things that really affect the reel’s effectiveness are the bearings. When they get dirty or they wear out, the reel won’t work. So make sure they’re in working condition and if they’re not, replace them with high-quality ones.

Keep in mind that there are different types of bearings and the anti-reverse ones will work best when they are dry, so don’t oil them and keep them away from any kind of fluids. These bearings can be cleaned using solvent but that doesn’t always work.

The drag washers should be in pristine shape too, clean and flat. If they’re not, they should be replaced as well. If you have a big reel that has massive drag capacity, you will need to replace the washers more often.

Another area that needs great care and a lot of lubrication is that of the drive gears. When reels wear out they get a lot of play in the drive train, and if that happens you need to replace the gears.

But replacing all the parts that cause you issues can be hard, especially if you don’t have the reel’s diagram or you can’t find the part number. That is why it’s sometimes better if you just send the reel to someone that knows everything about reels and have this expert recondition the reel for you.



Common mistakes

Complex reels require special attention, but some anglers don’t have the patience to offer them the maintenance needed. One of the biggest mistakes that fishers do when repairing their gear is not using the correct tools for the task. This often leads to butchered screws or components.

Using too much force when taking the reel apart or putting it back together is another factor that leads to a lot of broken pieces of equipment. Make sure you’re calm when you start working on the reel and keep that calmness throughout the process.

Also, don’t forget to keep your working environment clean, otherwise you’ll have many small screws or springs missing. This leads to frustration when reassembling the reel and in the worst cases, it can mean that the reel doesn’t work anymore, leaving you wondering why.

Finally, don’t forget – keep the reel clean every time you use it and you won’t have to take it apart too often.



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