Reel Care Part 2 the Do Not’s

The first article of this series talked about the “Do’s” of fishing reel care, now lets discuss some do not’s. There are many things that will cause Baitcasting reels to fail, lack of or improper cleaning being one of many that we will discuss. As an example, everyone describes the Shimano Curado 200B (Greenie) as being a bulletproof reel; while it can take being extremely mistreated, it can fail if not properly maintained.


Have you ever fished with a guy whose reel is making noise every cast? “Oh, it just has some dirt in it,” then dunks it in the lake a couple times and says “that should do it.” Yes, the noise is gone for a little while, however, it comes back. Dunking a reel in the water is probably the worst thing you can do to your equipment. Submerging a reel in the water saturates the drag washers, washes away gear lubricants, and flushes oil out of the reel’s bearings. Eventually, this reel will lock up from lack of lubrication and corrosion. Dunking the reel also affects the drag washers. Drag washers are compressed between the drive gear and the drag plate; this compression creates the reel’s drag capabilities. Combining water saturated drag washers with compression, create a reaction called oxidization. This oxidation will cause your drag system to lock completely up, and you may loose the fish of a lifetime.

Let’s recap: Dunking a reel flushes oil out of bearings that will lead to seizing. Dunking washes grease off gears allowing corrosion and teeth to break or strip. Drag washers soak up the water and cause oxidization, and the drag system locks up. Sounds like bad mojo to me! Don’t dunk and fish!

Oversized Handles have become a trend in “Amping up” fishing equipment. One goal of oversized handles is to increase the gear ratio and make it retrieve faster. While this is true, it also changes the stress management factor of the gears inside the reel. Most reels will be able to support this added stress, however eventually the gear system is going to fail. Most failures are either a fractured tooth or a crack in the gear itself. It will take a heavy load to cause this to happen, but guess when that load will be, when you are trying to retrieve the fish of a lifetime. The manufacturers of today’s reels have a lot of technology along with countless hours of field testing. They have squeezed every ounce of performance out of today’s reels. If a faster gear ratio is needed, look at changing the drive gear and pinion gear or a different reel. Changing the handle is a risky proposition in today’s bass fishing tools.

Many reels on the market today have brake systems that allow you to turn on or off a set of 6 brakes that rotate at the end of the spool. When adjusting a system such as this, try to keep the brakes symmetrical. With 1 or 5 brakes applied, symmetry is impossible. However, with 2, 3, and 4 make sure to have them as symmetrical as possible to make sure the spool maintains the best balance. When making a long cast with a heavy lure, the spool is rotating at a high rate of speed. The slightest bit of imbalance can cause vibration and reduce the reels performance. So keeping the brakes (that are heavy in relation to the performance of the reel) as symmetrical as possible is very important to maximum casting and overall performance.

Do not remove the brake tabs from a reel with a centrifugal brake system. These types of reels were designed to use these brakes whether on or off. The best analogy I can give you is a figure skater on ice. When a skater goes into a spin, the tighter their arms are to their body, the faster the spin. If the skater extends their arms, they slow down. If the skater wants to speed up the spin, they bring their arms in again. Back to a baitcasting reel, by having the weights next to the spool shaft it is achieving a faster spool rate. A spool with all the brakes in the off position will spin faster than a spool with all the brakes removed. With that said and a good thumb, a reel with the brakes in the off position will outdistance a reel with the brakes completely removed.

Don’t engage the reel in the middle of a cast? On the same note, make sure the reel is completely disengaged before casting. One would think this is a no-brainer; however, I see angler’s fish with very dirty reels that are having problems with the spool release system. This is the single most damaging event that happens to a reel. In the middle of a cast, the spool is traveling at a high rate of speed. If the pinion gear is engaged suddenly, something has to give. There are two places on the pinion gear where damage will occur: First, the cross hatches that engage with the spool and second, the teeth that engage with the drive gear. Reels that are not performing properly need attention before serious and expensive damage occurs.

Don’t use motor oil as a lubricant. Although it sounds like a great idea, Motor oil is too heavy. I mean look at the technology put into these modern products; these things are small. Motor oil is too thick to effectively penetrate the micro bearings being used in most reels today. Motor oils will cause your reels to loose performance, and greatly reduce casting distance. Another factor, because motor oils are heavy, they gather dust and debris very quickly and damage bearings or gears.

We have all heard WD40 is the fix all, right? Wrong, WD40 is a cleaner with penetration qualities and quickly dissolves grease and oils. If you have your reel disassembled and want something to clean it with, WD40 works. However, I recommend Simple Green. WD40, as an aerosol can save the day by cleaning dirt and debris from a gear or bearing. However, make sure to have it serviced as soon as possible after a situation like this. By spraying your reel with WD40 you have dissolved everything in it that was protecting it.

Bottom line, if your reel is making a strange noise stop casting it, this means something is wrong. Continued casting only damages it further. These damages will lead to costly repair bills,  quite possibly more than the value of the reel. With a steady hand, and some basic knowledge of reel maintenance, more than likely you can fix your own reels. However, if disassembling a reel is not a comfortable proposition, take it to a professional and have it repaired. Many times if you take immediate action the repair is very simple and not very expensive. Conversely, I have seen a screw inside a reel loosen up and cause issues that resulted in a pricey repair bill. If immediately attended to, it could have been a simple screw tightening!

Get the Net it’s a Hawg
Mike Cork