How to Clean a Baitcasting Reel (Care & Maintenance 101)

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To clean a baitcasting reel, you need a brush, cloth, and lubricant. The next step is to disassemble your baitcasting reel so that you can remove dirt from parts such as bearings, drags, pawl gears, and handles. Dry out the reel using a towel and lubricate the bearings, bail, springs, spool, and reel body using reel oil before reassembling it. 

Finally, reassemble the reel and test it for smooth operation before using it again. Regular cleaning and lubrication of your baitcasting reel are essential for maintaining its performance and longevity. Below is a step-by-step guide to cleaning your baitcasting reel.

Gathering the Necessary Materials

To effectively clean your baitcaster, you need a set of materials for cleaning, and they include:

  • Brush
  • Cloth
  • Lubricant
  • Cotton swabs
  • Soap or degreaser
  • Clean operating surface
  • A screwdriver set

When choosing cleaning and lubricating products, always go for the best. You can use simple green cleaning compound or ronsonol lighter fluid and super lube grease, among other products. Shop from reputable stores, and only go for good and effective products.

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Cleaning the Various Parts of the Baitcasting Reels

Once you have assembled all the cleaning tools, you are ready to start the cleaning procedure. To start:

1. Disassemble the Baitcaster

For thorough cleaning, you must dismantle the fishing reel even if you do not use your baitcaster frequently. Always ensure you clean your reel on a regular basis with proper cleaning solutions so that you can lubricate the wire movement to increase its performance.

Dismantle your reel following your manual instructions, depending on the baitcaster reel type. Then clean the following parts thoroughly.

Anti-Reverse Bearing

For this bearing, you can wipe off any debris or dirt. Don’t oil it. If you notice it has worn out, the best option is to replace it or contact an expert.


Many anglers mostly neglect drags, which are vital for a baitcasting reel. Loosen the drags after casting to stop them from sticking. Then remove the excess grease, clean them and apply a fresh dab of Teflon-based drag grease.


If your baitcaster is sticking, then the problem will be the bearings. Try to remove the side plate, then immerse a q-tip in some alcohol, then thoroughly clean each bearing. Ensure you clean off the debris, oils, and grease, and then put one drop of oil on each bearing before you reassemble it.

Pawl Gears/ Worm Gear

You don’t have to dismantle this part of your baitcaster since it is difficult to reassemble. You can use a simple green solvent and a toothbrush to clean the worm gear.

Wipe the entire gears well and remove any excess grease. Then take a towel and use it to wipe it off and incorporate a drop of oil.


Remember to clean the baitcasting reel handles since they are subjected to impurities and salt. If you leave them out, they will rust the reel.

Please take out the handle by rotating it counter-clockwise direction. Then immerse it in warm water, add a degreaser, remove the oils, and wipe it.

Proceed to clean the handle’s inside using a cotton Q-tip dipped in reel oil or a cotton swab. It will stop corrosion and give your handles an elegant and shiny look.

While cleaning, ensure you handle the tools appropriately to avoid damage. Clean one tool at a time, and do not mix the disassembled fishing reel tools. Clean each part on its own to avoid confusion and damage when reassembling.

2. Wind up Cleaning

Ensure you have cleaned every part to maintain your fishing reel. If you are done, the next step is to lubricate and then reassemble. But before you reassemble, dry out the reel using a dry towel.

3. Lubricating the Baitcasting Reels

Lubrication is significant for the smooth functioning of your fishing reel as you fish. Using the right type and amount of lubricant will increase your fishing reel’s life, make it cast efficiently, and prevent corrosion of the reel.

Before you lubricate: Dry the spool, bearings, and the entire reel using a dry towel, then lubricate the parts using grease and reel oil. Apply one drop of reel oil to each part, including the joints of the handle. 

Reel oil will help moisturize, polish, and varnish the entire joints of the reel to increase speed when casting.

Remember not to overlubricate. After you are done with lubrication, let the reel dry for some minutes, then reassemble it and tighten the screws following your manual instructions. Ensure you have tightened the handles in the clockwise direction.


Knowing how to clean and maintain your fishing reel is significant for the entire functioning of the reel. It will make it serve longer and more efficiently.

Remember to lubricate the spool, bearings, and handle joints using reel oil for smooth operation and to avoid corrosion. If you do not know how to clean and lubricate your baitcaster, you can follow the above steps for great results.

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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