Written Dec 12 2005

Reel Maintenance
If you are, or want to become, an avid fisherman then proper maintenance of your fishing equipment will become of paramount importance to you. And the most important piece of fishing equipment you need to be concerned with is the reel. Reels have more moving parts and often are the most expensive single piece of equipment you'll have. A good reel is an investment. Take care of it, and it could last you a lifetime. Now matter how good the quality of the reel is, however, if you neglect it, it will fail. And if it fails, it rarely happens on that routine fish you've caught a million times. No, it will fail when you have on that fish of a lifetime.

Now, I must admit that there have been numerous articles written about reel maintenance. Some I agree with, others I do not. In fact, you may not agree with some of my points. However, I have had some degree of success and I have yet had a reel fail me. One of the biggest discrepancies between fishermen is the amount of use a particular reel may get during the season. I personally have almost a different reel for every type of fishing situation, so any one particular reel is not used too extensively. However, I fish a lot in all kinds of conditions, so each reel sees it's fair share of hard use during the season. What I write about here is how I approach reel maintenance. Your particular circumstance may be different, but the below should give you a general idea of how to approach it. It works for me, and keep in mind that even if you do vary from what I've written below, the most important point is that you take reel maintenance seriously.

At The End Of Each Trip
Rinse, Rinse, Rinse. This is especially true after saltwater use, but also is not a bad idea after freshwater use, as dirt, sand, and vegetation can get trapped in the reel. Take the reel off the rod, or by the end of the season it may become permanently attached. Now while some say a light spray is best, I give it a healthy blast and have yet to get salt or other debris into the internal mechanisms. Back off the drag and rinse again. Leave the drag very loose and allow the reel to air dry. Rinse the rod (especially the eyes and reel seat) and re-attach the reel.

At The End Of Each Season
Regardless of the amount of times I have used a particular reel, at the end of the season all the line gets stripped off. It is amazing how much damage heat, water, ultra-violet rays, salt, and various underwater obstructions and structure do to fishing line, particularly monofilament. I guarantee you that at the end of the season the tensile strength of your line is no where near what it was when it was first put on. With the line stripped off, I wash the reel exterior with a mild soap including the side plates, reel handle and arm, spool, and stand. This will remove all oils, dried vegetation, and dirt. After washing, rinse the reel and wipe it down with a soft, clean cloth. Let it dry thoroughly. Since I use many reels, I let the reels sit for a week or so, ensuring full dryness.

Now, each reel gets a thorough inspection. If it performed flawlessly throughout the season, and isn't due for a major overhaul, I lubricate all moving minor components including reel handle, drag knob, bar arm pivots and rollers, clicker assemblies and all oil ports with a top quality reel oil. Then the entire reel gets a bath in a water displacing lubricant like WD-40. I spray the entire exterior of the reel. It then gets stored for a couple of months until a few weeks before the start of the new season. At that time, I thoroughly wipe off all the excess WD-40, put on a fresh spool of top-quality fishing line, and tighten the drag, setting it with a hand-held scale.

Major Overhaul
Every three years for freshwater reels and every two years for saltwater reels, I perform a major overhaul where each reel is opened up and stripped down. The drag washers are closely examined for wear and are replaced or repacked. Old lube on the main gearing is removed and a close inspection of the drive gear teeth is performed. Major gears are replaced or repacked and a new coating of reel lube is applied. I also remove and inspect the bearings and bearing sleeve and replace, lubricate, and repack as necessary. The clicker and clutch assembly is cleaned, inspected, and lubricated. On spinning and spincast reels, the rotor and main shaft is cleaned and lubricated. All covers, sideplates, and gear housing plates are thoroughly cleaned. I place a drop of reel oil into each screw hole and then tighten everything down. A quick test to make sure I put everything back together correctly is made and then I perform the End-Of-Season maintenance on each reel.

For a quick and easy reel maintenance checklist, click here : Checklist

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