Spinning Reel Maintenance


 Made Easy
By LEE MCCLELLAN, the Fishing Wire     Captain Mel, looking over his properly maintained fishing reel.

Over the past couple of fishing trips, your spinning reel feels like it is slowly filling with sand. The handle sticks in one spot on the retrieve, making rhythmic presentations difficult. The reel binds after getting wet. You figure it is time to replace the reel, not a popular suggestion at home with money tight.

But, an hour with some grease, an old toothbrush, rubbing alcohol and a quality reel oil will make your reel feel like it did right out of the box. Winter is a great time to do some reel maintenance.

Spinning reels take a lot abuse, especially if you fish for trout or smallmouth bass, or if you float-tube ponds. They get dunked often. Dunking a reel in a stream, lake or pond removes valuable oil and grease and replaces it with crud.

Over the past couple of years, reel oils and greases that form a molecular bond with the metals they contact have appeared on the market. They cost twice as much as traditional reel oil and grease, but they make a reel sing. They are worth every penny. You’ll be astounded at the difference these new lubricants make in the performance of your spinning reel.

Grab a used egg carton to store the parts you remove from the reel. Nothing in the world is as frustrating as searching for a tiny screw in Berber carpet. The tiny ultra-thin washers in spinning reels are nearly impossible to find if they drop on the floor.

Take off the spool first. Clean the spool shaft and add a few drops of reel oil. Again, use the new molecular oil or reel oil, not household oil. Household oil thickens and hardens much quicker than reel oil and can form a layer of crud on reel parts. Check the nut at the bottom of the reel shaft to make sure it is tight.

Squeeze a few drops of oil on the roller guide that wraps the line around the reel spool. Oil the area where the bail spring meets the reel spool housing as well.

Remove the handle by either a screw or by rotating the handle backwards. Apply a few drops of oil on the handle knob shaft and the shaft that fits inside the reel.

Take the side plate off with the small screws to access the guts of the reel. Right in the middle is the main bearing. Lift this bearing off the main gear and remove the main gear if possible. Drop the main bearing in a degreaser, kerosene, rubbing alcohol or lighter fluid to dissolve old grease and sludgy oil. Clean the teeth of the main gear with an old toothbrush and soapy water or degreaser.

Allow the parts to air dry and apply oil to the bearings and a tiny amount of grease to each tooth of the main gear. Check the inside of the reel for crud, sand, dirt, fibers or any other gunk. Do not spray the inside with harsh chemical solvents or use gasoline. This may damage some of the plastic parts and push crud into the inner recesses of the reel.

Grease the spiral worm gear in the bottom of the reel and the gears in the front of the worm gear with a light coating of oil. Grease any part that slides along another part. Use grease sparingly as it attracts dirt and sand and negatively impacts the performance of your reel. Applying too much grease makes the reel feel like it is full of mud.

Put the reel back together, spray the outside with WD-40 and wipe it down. Now you have a smooth spinning reel that will last you for many fishing trips to come.

Author Lee McClellan is an award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.