Cold, rainy, winter days are perfect for cleaning and maintaining our spinning reels.
Although each brand and model of a spinning reel is different, and each reel will have specific parts and procedures for proper maintenance, there are some things anglers can do to maintain your spinning reel and keep it in top condition.
Proper reel maintenance is especially crucial for coastal anglers. That corrosive saltwater gets in all reels, and the salt and grit from fishing hard over a season can really put some stress on the mechanical parts of reels.
We asked our buddy, Don Ludlum of Ludstud Rod and Reel Repair in West Mobile, if he’d give us some advice on how to do basic spinning reel maintenance. He was kind enough to tell us how to do this important work properly.
“To maintain your spinning reel, I would recommend a thorough cleaning at least once a year, depending on the usage,” Don says. “If the reel is used two or three times per month or is stored around saltwater, you might want to consider having it cleaned more often. Salt spray from the water and even residue from your fishing line can cause considerable corrosion. Be sure and give the reel a light rinse after every trip.”
As noted before, each specific reel will have to be dealt with on an individual basis for major repair, but for routine lube and cleaning work, the following steps should be applicable for all spinning reels.
Let’s Get Started
We suggest removing the reel from the rod. This makes the reel much easier to handle when taking small parts off. Also, we like to work on a white towel placed on the workbench. There will be some small, easily lost parts removed, and little parts seem to stay put better on a towel than a hard surface.
First, to properly lube a spinning reel, we need to have the right lubricants. Putting the wrong stuff in a reel can cause more trouble than doing nothing. A set of reel oil and grease should cost about $7. This lubricant material is the right stuff to use.
A Few Simple Steps
Step 1 – Remove the handle. This is usually done by holding the reel and turning the handle counter-clockwise. The reel handle should spin freely and soon come loose. Then remove the cap from the other side of the reel. Use the same operation, turn the cap to the left to loosen.
Step 2 – Put a drop of reel oil in each bearing hole; don’t put too much oil.
Step 3 – Take the side plate off the body of the reel. Most spinning reels have three or four small screws that must be removed from the side plate to lift free. Either Phillips head or flathead mini-screwdrivers will work for most reels. Be careful to not let any internal gears slip out of place.
Step 4 – After the side plate is lifted free, put a drop of oil on the pinion and gears; not too much here!
Step 5 – Put a drop of grease on the gears. The tip of the screwdriver is a good tool to scoop just a drop of grease and then put it on the gears. The grease will be spread where it needs to be by the action of the gears.
Step 6 – Be careful to not take the gears out. Some reels have very specific gear alignments, and the gears can be very hard to get back in the right place and alignment.
Step 7 – Put side plate back in position and reattach with the screws.
Step 8 – Remove the spool. You may need to tape the loose end of the line down to the spool to keep it from spilling off and making a mess. The spool comes off by turning the drag adjustment knob on the front of the spool counterclockwise until the spool lifts free.
Step 9 – Put just a drop of grease on the spool shaft, and then put the spool back on and reapply the adjustment knob to the front of the reel.
Step 10 – Put a drop of oil on each of the reel’s two bail attachment ends. Make sure the bail roller (if there is one on your reel) is turning freely. A stuck bail roller can be very noisy to operate and can be a terrible line twister.
Step 11 – Put the handle shaft back through the reel body, and retighten along with the cover plate on the opposite side.
That’s it, we’re good to go. Of course, at this point, it’s always a good idea to make a line change and put fresh line on the reel so everything will be ready for the first spring fishing trip.
Some Final Advice from Don Ludlum
Some good things for an angler not to do to maintain your spinning reel comes from Don Ludlum. “Don’t dip your reel overboard thinking you’re going to clean it out,” he says. “Don’t over-lubricate your reel. Too much oil or grease can affect the action of moving parts such as anti-reverse dogs and anti-reverse bearings.
Don Ludlum recommends, “As a general rule, if you have to replace several parts on a reel and it exceeds more than 50% of the price of a new one, you might want to consider a new one, especially with the cheaper reels.”
“Don’t store your reel for any extended period of time with the drag tightened down. It might not release all the way when you use it again. Finally, don’t clean the reel with hard streams of water. You’re just pushing the dirt farther into the reel.”
Don also reminds us that many reels have small access holes in the sides of the reel that can be carefully removed for easy lubrication of the gears inside. These access holes will have small ¼ inch screw covers that can be removed and then oil added. But again, not too much.
For reels that need more work and recovery effort than this, it would probably be the best idea to contact Don Ludlum and make an appointment to drop the reel off for his professional care.
Putting a modern spinning reel together from scratch is not a job for untrained or inexperienced folks. It’s easy to mess up an otherwise good reel by incorrect disassembly and reassembly.
Finally, Don Ludlum recommends, “As a general rule, if you have to replace several parts on a reel and it exceeds more than 50% of the price of a new one, you might want to consider a new one, especially with the cheaper reels.”
Important Contact Information:
Ludstud Rod and Reel Repair