What I wish I knew about cleaning my fresh water fishing reels

With most of us, when we start to fish for sport, we get a basic general purpose rod and reel and some line and hooks. But now you are a serious angler with serious equipment. You are ready to take your fishing experience to the next level. This season, you are going lake trout fishing or walleye fishing. Nice reels are critical to your success out on the water. Take care of them so that they will perform for you and last as close to forever as possible. If you are nervous about cleaning your reels, relax. I’ll walk you through the process below. Read the whole article before you start.

Fishing Reel.jpg

Prepare some space where you can give your reel some love.

Select a space that is at least 2 feet square that you don’t have to share with other people. For example, don’t use a dining room table. Let me mention here that there is no single lubricant product for all the parts in your reel. Everything needs at least wiping with a light oil lube, but gears and bearings need a bit more viscosity. They need gear grease. Be very careful to select lubricants that all specifically formulated for fishing reels. There are a lot of “pro tips” out there saying a specific petroleum product is great for this or that. Avoid them, they dissolve plastic parts.

Put heavy white paper down to work on. You can write notes on it.

Gather your tools; two small screw drivers (Phillips and flat tip), tweezers, a toothpick, an old toothbrush, the wrench that came with your reel (or one from your box end set), the parts list that came with your reel, masking tape, a pencil, reel cleaner, reel lubricant (a light oil), reel grease for gears, and a piece of clean soft cloth. A few paper towels will come in handy.

Take your reel apart and clean it with care.

Allow yourself plenty of time to do this. Hurried people make mistakes. If time is tight, wait until it isn’t.

1. Secure your fishing line. If you don’t, it will find a way to foul up, providing you with extra work you don’t need. Either tape the end of your fishing line to the spool or take the line completely off the spool so you can clean that as well (recommended). Put the line aside, if you removed it.

2. When you take parts off the reel, put them down in a straight line. Number them on the paper as you go. 1, 2, 3, etc. This is so you can put all the parts back on your reel in the reverse order you took them off. You won’t forget any parts and you will know what part goes back on next.

3. Don’t try to remove or handle the springs and wire clips with your hands. They will misbehave and fly away from you. Use the tweezers to remove them, hold them, and when you put them back on.

4. After all your parts are off and on a numbered spot on your work space, clean them with reel cleaner. Put each part back on its numbered spot. Don’t use gasoline or petroleum products to clean your parts!

Scrub them with a Q-tip and a toothbrush. Use a toothpick if you need to get into a tight space. A toothpick is wood and softer than metal, so it won’t scratch your parts. Avoid sharp metal objects to clean with. They will scratch the parts which are machined to precise dimensions and fit together with very tight tolerances. Don’t mess with that. Carefully dry them or allow time to air dry.

Reassemble and lubricate your reel.

1. Put enough lubricant on the soft cloth to leave a thin film on a part when you wipe it. Emphasis on thin.

2. The last part you took off your reel is the first part you put back on it.

3. As you pick up each part in reverse order of taking them off, wipe it with the soft cloth. Metal, fiber, plastic, and rubber all get this treatment. Add more lubricant to the cloth as needed.

4. Grease the gears. Wipe the gears with the soft cloth so the top of the teeth have a very thin amount of lube. Then apply grease only to the bottom of the teeth. Avoid getting grease on the top of the gear teeth or you will be wearing grease the first time you cast your line. A toothbrush works well for this.

5. Each bearing will spin freely if it is clean. When lubricating the bearings, each ball needs a drop of oil. Avoid overloading the bearing with oil. That won’t make it spin faster, but it will cause excess oil to travel to other places you don’t need it to go.

6. Never assemble two metal parts together. Your reel is designed to have metal parts next to fiber or plastic parts. Check your parts diagram, if parts get out of order.

Spool fishing line onto your reel.

I am going to describe one way to spool a new line onto your reel. There are other ways.

  1. Put the reel back on your rod.
  2. Open the bail.

3. Save the tape holding the line down on the new spool. Loop the line around your spool and tie an overhand knot like you are tying your shoe. Tie another overhand knot and pull it tight. Cut the tag end as close as possible to the knot. Take the tape that secured the line on the new spool and press it over the knot to hold the line firmly against the spool and keep the tag end out of the way.

4. Set the new spool of line on the floor with the label up. That will cause the line to come off clockwise which will match how the line needs to go onto the reel.

5. Work the handle on the reel with one hand and have the line pass through your fingers of the other hand that is midway up the rod.

6. While pinching the line to provide some resistance, spin the reel at a moderate rate.

7. Stop when the line on the reel is 1/16 inch from the rim. It is full. Cut the line.

8. Retrain the line’s memory of the large spool that it came on to the smaller diameter spool on your reel. While holding the line to keep it from unwinding, take the spool off the reel. Wrap the end of the line around the line tie on the spool to hold it. Place the spool in a glass of hot water from a faucet. No hotter than tap water. Leave it for 10 minutes. Now your line won’t jump off your reel and foul up on your first cast. Take it out of the water, let it dry, and put the spool back in the reel. Good luck lake trout or walleye fishing!

Wildewood on Lake Savant is a fishing adventure resort located in remote wilderness of Ontario, Canada. Andy Kerecman manages their blog (https://wildewoodonlakesavant.com/about-resort/blog/) that celebrates the pristine landscape around the lake and the amazing trophy fishing that can be had.

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