How to Maintain Your Fishing Reel: Comprehensive Cleaning Tips and Guide

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Is your reel not performing as it should? Chances are it’s due for a bit of reel maintenance. However, it could feel a bit daunting if you’ve never done it before. In this article, we cover tips and steps for getting your reel back to acceptable working order.

exploded view of spinning reel

If you’re not careful with your fishing reel maintenance, it could cost you a lot of money.

How To Restore An Old Reel

You should always apply the appropriate lubricant, grease, and oil products because using the wrong one can lead to serious problems instead of making them last longer.

The best technique is to purchase the right maintenance kits specially made for your reels.

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The necessary parts of a maintenance kit from a manufacturer are:

  • Handles
  • Rods
  • Oil bearings
  • Ball bearings
  • Reel shaft
  • Grease, oil, and lubricants

Also: Check out the best grease for fishing reels

Steps to Properly Clean Your Fishing Reel

man working on spinning reel
Spinning reels are the hardest to maintain.

Step 1. Spray water mist on your fishing reels and use a soft rug to get rid of dirt, sand, and salt.

Step 2. Remove the spool’s top cap and then the spool from the reel shaft. 

Step 3. Take out any debris and dirt anywhere near the spool top, and caps drag washers

Step 4. Apply one drop to the spool shaft’s base and move the handles to make the shaft accessible to the oil. 

Step 5. Return the cap and spool and detach the handle to clean it.

Step 6. Apply oil drops to the body handles insertion to make sure it doesn’t get stuck up

Step 7. Use a q tip and apply Clenzoil to clean the roller guides.

Step 8. Use a cloth to wipe off excess sprays while putting back all the loosened parts.

Oil Your Fishing Reels Regularly

cleaning fishing reel
To maintain your fishing reel, don’t forget to oil and grease it regularly.

It may not be pleasing to learn how to grease your fishing reels, but this will come easily once you follow the steps. 

Do not use cleaning agents such as soap bars and other random degreasers as residues may not be completely set off and lead to serious reel break. There are many kits to pick from, and here are the things you can use:

  • Reel oil
  • Disinfected cleaning cloth
  • Gentle bristle brush
  • Cleaning solvents
  • Cotton

Steps to Properly Oil Your Reel

Step 1. Assemble your working area.

Step 2. Tidy up and apply oil to the bail. After opening the bail, use your cleaning solvent to its fishing line rollers and connecting parts. Scrub it using a bristle and spread reel oil to the connecting parts. 

Step 3. Tidy up and apply grease to the spool. Detach the drag knob and then take out the reel body spool. Use your cleaning solvent for the drag knob, spool, and other areas.

Step 4. Apply grease to reel body bearings.

Step 5. Apply grease to the reel body. An extra light coating of grease can double the protection and completely dry it out from water when in use.

Other Tips to Maintain Your Reel 

cleaning fishing reel
Make it a habit to clean your fishing reels.

It would be best if you made it a habit to perform basic cleaning on your reel four times a month for freshwater fishing and every other fishing trip for saltwater fishing.

Anyway, repeatedly doing so can help you develop this habit.  

1. Always Remember to Loosen Your Drag after Your Fishing Activity

Loosening the drag can help alleviate the pressure off the drag washers. This is the way to help them last longer.

It can also help keep the drag mechanism from getting stuck in a rigid setting. It might be a hassle to loosen it once you have already started fishing. 

2. Do Not Disassemble Your Reel

Although you might be tempted to disassemble your reel, it may not be ideal to do because you might not be able to reassemble it back in a short time.

In times of emergency, make sure you have researched it to get it right. A helpful tip to note is which reel parts you have taken apart first so you will have an idea of which goes first in reverse order.

Spinning reel and screwdriver

3. Clean the Reel Exterior with a Spray Bottle

Spraying gently on your gears is the best way to tidy up the exterior parts of your reel when it gets muddy or comes in contact with saltwater.

Use a soft cloth to wipe. Another precaution is to ensure that the sprayed water is just in tiny droplets, or it may get contaminated with dirt and salt particles and get to your reel’s insides.

4. Make It a Habit to Respool Regularly

This may depend on the fishing line you are using and the number of times you fish in a certain period. It’s recommended to spool a reel as often as a month. 

5. Tighten the Screws

Having a loose screw in the middle of your fishing activity can lead to serious problems. There are existing reel handles that can be easily screwed on and off, so it’s important to ensure they are all screwed in place. 

6. Keep Your Reel Storage Away from Direct Sunlight

When keeping your reel in storage, make sure to wrap it in a big cloth and find a place where there is no direct access to sunlight.

Schedule Your Maintenance

Conducting constant equipment maintenance can help preserve the quality of your gear. Also, it can help save money on unwanted replacements and repairs. Be sure to review your service manual, so you follow the recommended manufacturer instructions.

You won’t have to worry about the success of your next fishing adventure. It will also help you feel confident with your fishing reels. 

Remember that you don’t have to exceed the necessary times to oil your reels. Doing it a few times yearly is enough for proper reel maintenance.

Diana Nadim
Fishing Expert
Diana began fishing at the age of seven, as it has been a long-time family tradition. From catching small bullheads to catching strippers on the backwaters of Bighorn, she loves to get out in the wild and have a marvelous day on the water. Her dad was an expert angler, and he taught her fishing along with her two siblings. They used to go to the Bighorn River in Montana and Henry’s fork, Idaho. As a pragmatic person, she is obsessed with creating well-researched and practical guides and reviews of the best fishing methods and gear.
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