Reel Care Part 1 the Do’s

Taking proper care of your baitcasting reels, between scheduled servicing and or cleaning, will help prevent additional cost in replacement of damaged parts and bearings. Specializing in Shimano reels, I have been cleaning and repairing all brands of baitcasters for myself and friends for the last 20 years. Over time, I have learned a few things that will help keep your equipment in the best shape possible between servicing.

Reel Care Part 1 the Do's


Just like a car, if you don’t take care of it, you are going to be left stranded. We all know this will happen at the most inopportune time, say in the first hour of a tournament. The next couple paragraphs will cover several things to do on a daily bass fishing trip basis to keep your reels performing to expectations.

One of the best things you can do to improve equipment longevity is to “store” it before road trips! All too often I see anglers leave rods and reels lying on the deck of the boat when traveling to and from the lake. This allows road grime to work its way into reels. Sand, dust, little pebbles, I have seen it all inside reels; much of this comes from leaving your equipment open to the environment while driving on roads to your favorite bass fishing waters. Even if the forecast is for clear skies, road construction, someone trying to make the road grow by watering it, or following a dump truck can all spread debris on the deck of your boat. Always put rods and reels in the rod locker, in the tow vehicle, or at least put reel covers on before hitting the road.

Through the course of a fishing day, a reel gets dirty for several reasons. Anything on your hands, from fish scents to lunch, gets deposited on the reel. However, the biggest culprit of dirtying up a reel is the fishing line. With each cast, the line brings back small particles of dirt, grass, oil, slim, algae, and pollen. It’s truly amazing what is floating on the surface of lakes and rivers. As  line comes back to the reel, these contaminants are splattered throughout the reel around the spool. Over time, this debris works its way into the reel’s housing and bearings. After each fishing trip, take the time to wipe reels down by hand with a damp cloth. Pay close attention to the area around the spool and the line guide.

There are two common braking systems on baitcasters; centrifugal and magnetic. Centrifugal brake systems use a pin and collar system; anglers can adjust the amount of braking by clicking brakes on or off. With more brakes in the on position, more braking effect is applied to a cast. Most anglers simply set these brakes and forget about them. Over time, the brakes in the on position wear and build up a dust residue on the pin holding them. This residue will prevent the brake from sliding back and forth on the pin and working properly. Once this happens, you may notice on one cast your reel works great, but the next you get a small backlash, and each cast is a little different. Every few trips change the brakes; if you are only using two brakes, turn them off and pick a different set to turn on. Also, every couple months place a very small drop of reel oil on each pin to prevent binding of the brake collar. Magnetic brake systems are relatively maintenance-free. It’s a good idea to periodically open the side plate and wipe off the magnets and the end of the spool shaft.

Disassemble, clean and lubricate reels at least annually. Depending on the amount of use and fishing conditions, a full cleaning may be needed every six months. Fishing in vegetation, rain, or from shore requires additional cleanings.

Lastly, in between servicing, it’s always a good idea to place a single drop of reel oil on each accessible bearing. Anything more than just a single drop is too much and will hinder performance more than help. Excess oil and grease attract debris and dust and will eventually bind up the internal workings of your reel and bearings.

To prevent damage or untimely failures, use these maintenance tips between annual cleanings. Today’s reels are expensive, highly tuned machines, with proper care you can expect a lifetime of service.

Get the Net It’s a Hawg
Mike Cork