Why Clean a Baitcasting Reel

There is nothing more frustrating than to be on the water bright and early, the sky is perfect, the breeze is comfortable, and your baitcasting reel malfunctions. While spending the next few minutes trying to figure out what’s wrong or swapping it out for another reel, those perfect conditions slip away. Reels will be ready for anything a fish can deliver with routine service, cleaning, and repair!

Why Clean a Baitcasting Reel

Cleaning and maintenance are vital to the longevity of freshwater baitcasting reels. Fishermen spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to fill rod lockers with top of the line equipment. Taking care of this investment should be high on an angler’s priority list. With regular servicing, the flawless performance of todays technologically advanced baitcasting reels can be assured.


Several things happen to baitcasting reels with normal usage: Anything mechanical is going to wear, it is going to get dirty, and lubricants will break down. It’s just a fact of life; every cast wears the bushings and bearings of a baitcasting reel. This wear happens so slowly it goes unnoticed, until one day several months later the reel just isn’t working like it used to. It might be making noise, maybe it doesn’t free spin as easy, or the drag isn’t as smooth as it was in the past. As internal parts of a reel wear, small particles and dust mix with the lubricants in the reel, and cause them to be abrasive. This contamination creates a snowball effect that greatly speeds the deterioration of a reel with each cast and turn of the handle. If left too long, there are only two options: Buy a new reel, or have it cleaned and replace the broken or worn out parts. Today’s high precision bearings are very costly to replace. Regular maintenance will prevent unnecessary parts replacements


A reel is going to get dirty. Contaminants enter a reel through use. Reels get rained on. We leave them on the decks of our boats unprotected from dirt and grime as we drive to and from lakes and…Fishing! When retrieving a cast, the line is bringing in all the particles of debris floating in the water. Even when fishing ultra clean water, dust and fine particles on the surface of the water collect on line. These super fine particles build up on the reel’s spool. Contaminants built up on the spool and line work their way between the spool and spool housing. Once inside the housing, contaminants are free to enter bearings, gears and bushings and wreak havoc on a reels performance! The bearings in today’s reels have extremely close tolerances. Since these tolerances are so close, the slightest particle can slow them down or even stop them.

Over time, lubricants break down, run off, or simply become dirty. We’ve all experienced a squealing baitcasting reel during a cast. Some anglers will spray WD 40, Reel Magic or Line Conditioner on the reels bearings, and the squealing stops for a while. If the bearing was so dry that it was making noise, it was also eating away at itself. Once this happens, tiny particles of the bearing race or ball bearing have been worn off. Now these particles are inside the bearing, and every cast is eating away at the performance. After a bearing has been run dry, the damaging particles and dust need to be removed, and a proper lubricant applied.


Cleaning and re-lubricating reels on a regular basis removes contaminates that steal a reel’s performance and protects moving parts from excessive wear. Whether the reel is getting dirty from normal use or extreme conditions, the results will end up the same; sooner or later the reel is going to fail. Don’t let the failure be on a picture perfect day with a personnel best fish on the other end of the line. The fix is simple—-service and clean reels regularly!

Get the Net it’s a Hawg
Mike Cork