How to Clean and Maintain a Fishing Reel? Step by Step Guide

Blasting your fishing reel with water using your garden hose is no way to clean your expensive fishing equipment. If you are doing this, STOP!

This is doing more harm than good. It doesn't matter if the reel is being used in catching Freshwater fish or Saltwater, without proper care and maintenance, it will eventually get busted.

Fishing reels are expensive purchases that you have made and if you don’t care for your spending, then who will?

Caring for your fishing reel will increase its lifespan, and you would be able to use it more effectively.

In the sections below, you will learn about the materials which you will be needing for cleaning your fishing reel and how to clean your fishing reel in general.

Disclaimer: For those who are here to get a quick idea about the matter, the first segment of the article should be just fine but those who want to have a better knowledge about reel specific tips, keep on reading.

At the end of the article, I will describe how to clean different kinds of fishing reels and how to maintain them.

Getting Prepared with Basic Cleaning Steps

It is very important that you understand the importance of cleaning your fishing reel from time to time. A fishing reel is a critical tool to all anglers, and you must get that.

The frequency at which you will have to clean the fishing reel greatly depends on the kind of fish that you will be doing.

If you are more into saltwater fishing then my friend you will have to clean your fishing reel after every fishing trip. This is because salt water is the number one enemy for a fishing reel.

You won't have to clean your fishing reel inside and out though after every trip. Just make sure you wash the fishing reel with a sponge spoked in warm water and some soap, do the same for the fishing line that you use.

If you are more into freshwater fishing, you won't have to clean your fishing reel on a regular basis. It is advisable to follow the quick clean process suggested for reels used on saltwater fishing.

I have seen a lot of you doing this. Doing what you ask? Cleaning fishing reels with high-pressure water or just dipping it in water. Don’t you ever do that.

The process damages the gear and drag system which is present inside the fishing reel. It also removes the grease and oil which is used to keep operations of the gear and drag smooth.

Couple of screwdrivers, two tweezers and you would also need an old toothbrush if you have one lying around and if you don't, you will have to buy a new one. 

You will also need all the parts which came with the fishing reel when you bought it brand new. Word of advice though, only use products of high quality and make sure you are using the best ones to clean with.

General Cleaning & Maintenance

Time is important for everyone and keep that in mind this portion will give you a general idea on how to clean a fishing reel regardless of its kind.

For reel specific cleaning ideas, scroll to the bottom section of the article and read on how to maintain and clean a Spin caster, Bait Caster and Spinning Reel. Each kind will be explained thoroughly.

Some Tips to Cleaning the Fishing Reel For Beginners

After a few months of use, your fishing reel won't feel like new anymore and will jam from time to time which is why a full service of the reel will be a must.

Full service means, you will have to open up the reel and take every single component out in such a manner that you can screw it back again.

  • Once you are done with the dismantling of the fishing reel, you are ready to soak all of the components in turpentine. This mineral will remove any sort of rust of any other such impurities which may affect performance.
  • Soaking the parts for a few hours, rise all the parts with a solution of hot water and some soap, which is scrub of the turpentine.
  • Dry them in the sun, and you are all set to go. Don't use a dish cleaner or any other sort of electrical drier for the process as this may cause some of the tiny components to shrink in size.
  • After all the components have dried by the heat of the sun, collect all of them on a tray to reassemble them.
  • Replace any part which is damaged in anyway, even the lightest dent of irregularity inside the machine can damage the entire reel.
  • Grease all the moving parts that are inside the reel, make sure not to use too much grease as doing so will cause trouble for the mechanism to function correctly.

The advice here would be that if you are not good at assembling or dismantling a fishing reel, give the work to someone who can.

This is because a fishing reel has a lot of moving parts and misplacing or incorrect reassembly will damage the reel.

Don’t Forget the Rod

Keep in mind the amount of stress which a rod goes through. A fish large enough can pull in a force which is enough to pull a grown adult man off a boat.

This is the kind of force that a rod deals with in most fishing trips. Use of a rusted fishing rod will not only jeopardize your fishing trip, but it may also hurt you when the steel body backlashes.

How do you clean it then? The cleaning process is not as painful, just get some fresh water and rinse the entire rod with it. That’s it.

Time to Learn Some Reel Specific Cleaning

Cleaning different kinds of the reel can vary depending on the type of reel you are using. And to make that cleaning process easier, I will provide you with tips on how to clean and maintain that specific kind of spinning reel.

Spin Caster Reel

This is the fishing reel that most young fisher will start with. This is because the spin caster or a closed faced reel is really user-friendly. The parts and other essentials are locked behind a metal frame.

The frame is responsible for protecting the mechanism inside from physical damage. There is a hole in front of the frame which allows the line to come out.

Which is why if you drop your closed faced reel in water, the water will rush inside the body of the reel and flood the mechanism instantly.

Cleaning a spin caster is rather easy. No wonder why this is famous among beginners. Now, follow the steps below to start cleaning:

  • Start by removing the cover of the reel from the body.
  • Take all the parts out from the inside of the reel frame.
  • Use a small brush. It can be a paintbrush or even specialized brushes for cleaning the fishing reel.
  • Once you have scraped off the grease and grit off the internal mechanism, wash the inside with warm water.
  • After you are done washing and drying, use some sort of Lubrication which is light to lubricate all the moving parts.

The frequency of the cleaning process will depend on where you like to fish. As mentioned earlier, Saltwater fish will damage your fishing reel much faster than freshwater.

Casting Reel

This is an excellent fishing reel and using this requires a lot of practice and hard work. Casting reels are also more expensive compared to closed- faced reels.

The kind of reel is best for casting heavy lines and baits which are heavy. It’s more like a heavy-duty version of the closed face reel.

Maintaining this reel is not that difficult if you do it on a regular basis. Just wipe the reel using a dampened cloth. Also, oil the pinion gears and rivets of the handle. Disassembly on a regular basis is not required for maintenance.

If you are involved in saltwater fishing as I have repeated several times already, you will need to maintain your reel on a regular basis and clean it once a month thoroughly.

Spool must be cleaned on a regular basis if your reel is affiliated with saltwater fishing. Let me explain you now how can you thoroughly clean your fishing reel:

  • Starting process is the same, start by dismantling the reel.
  • After the reel has been dismantled, take all the parts and soak it in a turpine solution for two hours.
  • Rise and rub the items of the mechanism with a brush.
  • Wash with warm water and let it dry.
  • A thin layer of oil must be used on spool shafts, front and back end.
  • Oil should be added to the handle of the knobs.
  • Don’t forget the release mechanism of the spool.
  • Finally, lubricate the bar which is used for stabilization and balls which are used in the bearing mechanism.
  • Now comes the greasing part, start with the chief gear.
  • Apply grease to the pinion yoke.
  • Light grease should be applied on the shaft part of the worm guard and the gears.
  • And lastly, clean the slider which holds the release mechanism and the bushings of the reel.
  • Once everything is done, reassemble all the parts of the fishing reel, and you are good to go.
Spinning Reel

This kind of reel is a major player in the fishing reel industry. Spinning reels are more accurate than a spin casting reel and can support lines as heavy as twenty pounds.

The things the reel can do along with it being user-friendly has made many amateur anglers switching for the device.

For maintenance on a regular basis just like the other fishing reels, you will have to use a damp cloth, brush and some warm water. This is more than enough to clean most of the grits and debris.

For a thorough cleaning process follow the following tips below:

  • Open up the reel.
  • Take the mechanism out.
  • Wash it with warm water and soap.
  • Rinse and dry.
  • Use oil on knobs of the handle.
  • The pickup pin should also be oiled.
  • How can we forget the arm lever and the kick lever?
  • Now, go for the clutch screw and the mechanism which releases the spool.
  • And oil the bearing balls at last.
  • Next, go for the greasing process.
  • Start with the Crankshaft, then comes the crank gear.
  • Central shaft is also a must.
  • Light grease on the pickup arm and wheel roller.
  • Lastly, grease the spool washer and bushing.
  • Reassemble the reel, and you are good to go.

Final Words

That was all you needed to know about the cleaning procedure. Many of you might not be familiar with the dismantle and reassembly of the fishing reel, so I would suggest watching video tutorials or ask a pro on how to do it.

If you feel it’s too much of a hassle to do it yourself, get to your local fishing reel dealership. They will do it for you.

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