Some of the best fishing reels on the market today are built to last a very long time while simultaneously maintaining their usefulness. With that being said, however, there are many environmental and manmade elements and situations that can dirty and corrode your reel, sacrificing its overall performance.
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to ensure that your reel continues to work in good order so that you will never lose that prized fish. One of these steps, which will better ensure your reel’s proper functionality for many years to come, is to clean and maintain it.
To help you do this, below we have outlined some of the basic cleaning and maintenance strategies for fishing reels, and explained why it is so important to keep your reel clean and operating at its very best.
Why Is It Important to Clean Your Fishing Reel?
Fishing reels are perhaps the most important piece of fishing equipment, allowing you to cast your line and retrieve it when a fish bites on your bait, lure or fly. For this reason, the process of cleaning and maintaining your reel is one you should undertake regularly.
Fishing reels are made up of a lot of moving parts that work in conjunction with each other to make everything happen. However, when those parts or elements are exposed to particles in the air and the water that can potentially do damage them; they often have a tendency to slow down, reel slower, and prevent good and accurate casts and more.
If you fish regularly in saltwater, it should pretty clear that the briny salt from that water can do damage to your reel over time, corroding the inner and outer parts and causing them to malfunction. However, even when fishing in freshwater your reel can quickly or over time become exposed to all kinds of harmful elements—elements that are potentially harmful to reels. These include dirt, fibers, stagnant water and plant life.
Over a period of time, the corrosion caused by these particles and elements will cause your reel to lose some of its efficiency and efficacy. When retrieving your line, for example, you may notice the reel jumping or skipping, the line may lie evenly, and your normal cranking power will be greatly diminished. Eventually, if not tended to, any one or a collection of these maladies can cause your reel to fail altogether.
So how do you prevent this from happening? Actually, the answer is pretty easy and straightforward but the process can be a little intimidating. By cleaning, degreasing and re-applying grease to your gears and oil to your bearings you will find you can greatly extend the lifespan of your reel. But while this sounds all well and good, the thought of disassembling your reel for these purposes may sound like a very technical chore.
Fear not. The lion share of reels on the market today will not have to be fully broken down or disassembled to engage in the cleaning and maintenance process. To illustrate this, below we have compiled some easy steps for cleaning and maintaining your fishing reel—steps that will prevent you from having to completely disassemble the reel.
Cleaning Your Fishing Reel: What You Will Need
As you prepare to clean and perform maintenance steps on your fishing reel you will need to assemble a few tools and materials in order to do the job properly and correctly. Some of these include:
- Warm water. To be used in cleaning the outside of the reel.
- A bowl. To hold the warm water.
- Soap or detergent. Also used when cleaning the outside of the reel.
- Rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol works great as a cleaning agent on fishing reels, as it helps to remove stubborn salt and dirt particles.
- Cotton Swabs. These will be needed to apply the rubbing alcohol.
- Old Toothbrush. An old toothbrush can come in really handle when you need to scrub off gears and spools.
- Toothpicks. Many anglers use toothpicks when applying grease to the gears of the fishing reel.
- Tools. Among the tools you will need to properly clean and maintain your fishing reel are a flat-head screwdriver, Phillips head screwdriver, needle nose pliers and even hemostats if you have them handy.
Oftentimes, a reel will come with tools specific to that reel, and it is always helpful to hold on to them for this scenario. If your reel comes equipped with these tools, always use these rather than any other tools you may have in your possession.
Choose your tools and materials very carefully. You shouldn’t just use whatever is handy, as some cleaning solutions and materials can be harmful to your fishing reel. Also, you shouldn’t use oil and grease on every part of the reel, as both grease and oil can negatively affect some parts of the reel.
The manufacturer of the reel will have clear instructions on what products should be used—and not used.
Cleaning the Outside of Your Fishing Reel
Cleaning your fishing reel is the best step you can take to keep it in good working order, as regular cleaning will help keep salt, dirt, dust and other particles from finding their way inside the internal mechanism of the reel where they could really do some damage.
Step 1: Remove the Fishing Reel from the Rod
To begin cleaning your reel, start by removing it from your pole. This will ensure you can clean completely around the reel without any hindrance from the rod. In most cases, reels can be removed just by loosening the two screws on the rod’s reel holder and sliding the reel out.
Step 2: Remove the Spool Assembly from the Fishing Reel
The spool assembly can be easily removed by removing the drag dial giving you access to the spool shaft. Even if you are just cleaning the reel (and not performing any other maintenance steps), removing the spool assembly can help you better reach some of the salt and grime trapped within.
Step 3: Towel Clean the Outside of the Reel
To towel clean the outside of the reel you are going to want to start with a soft, non-abrasive towel (microfiber towels are perfect for this job) and a bowl of warm soapy water. Simply dip the towel in the water and begin methodically washing the various parts of the reel with the warm soapy water. Most of the dirt and dust will come off during this stage, but for stuck on salt and other particles you may have to use other tools or solutions to loosen the particles.
Step 4: Use Rubbing Alcohol to Remove Stubborn Stains
Place a dab of the rubbing alcohol (you can also substitute lighter fluid) onto the cotton ball, and again go over the entire reel, adding more alcohol as needed. The rubbing alcohol is great at removing stubborn stains and particles and it won’t damage other parts of the reel. It will also leave your fishing reel looking like new.
Step 4: Rinse
For this step, you are going to want to place the reel on a hard clean surface such as a cement patio. Place a low pressure fitting on any regular garden hose, and carefully rinse off the entire reel, moving it occasionally to ensure it is entirely rinsed. The pressure from the water will do a great job at removing any stubborn particles like dried salt.
Cleaning and Maintaining Spinning Reels
Before we describe some of the cleaning and maintenance steps for spinning reels specifically, it is important to remember that a lot of reels come with a convenient maintenance port into which anglers can apply oil to the reel. If your reel has this handy port, we recommend adding a drop of oil to the port every 4-5 outings with the reel for the continued health of the gears and bearings. Also, be sure to check that the oil you are applying is recommended by the manufacturer.
When cleaning and maintaining a spinning reel, you will first want to remove the spool assembly if you have not already done this in the previous step. With the spinning assembly off, you can easily access and oil the line roller assembly and bearing as well as the bail arm assembly.
Next, remove the handle of the reel by unscrewing it. Once that part is removed you can simply access and oil the drive gear bearing that sits directly in the port where the arm of the reel is attached.
Again, most reels will also have an oil port that will allow you to lubricate the internal components without having to completely disassemble the reel.
Cleaning and Maintaining Baitcasting Reels
Baitcasting reels are much more closed off then their spinning counterparts but you can still access some parts for easy cleaning, oiling and greasing. For instance, you can easily remove the plate opposite the handle on the reel to gain access to the spool and the spool assembly. Once that is removed, you can carefully clean the spool and the pinion gear, as well as the centrifugal brake collars. These cleaning tasks can be handled easily with an old toothbrush.
It is also quite simple to access the drag and gear system on the opposite side of the faceplate. Once this is off, you can use your [recommended] oil to lubricate the drag and other support bearings and grease the main gears using a toothpick as the applicator. As you do this, however, make sure you keep any parts you may remove handy and in the proper order so as not to forget which piece goes where.
Performing all of these cleaning and maintenance steps on a regular basis will keep your spinning or baitcasting fishing reel in tip-top order and ready to respond to that next big bite.