Proper maintenance is the ‘reel’ deal

Reels won’t explode when you expose their inner-workings. (Photo by Mike Schoonveld)

I couldn’t make up an anecdote this close to the point.

I was talking with a fellow fishing fanatic a few weeks ago and he asked me what I’d been up to. “I’ve been lubing my reels,” I said.

Long story short, he told me, “Other than changing line on the reels, I never touch them. I’ve been using most of these reels for years and they just keep going and going like the Energizer Bunny.”  That’s the exact quote – including the quip about the Bunny.

A couple of days ago we were talking at the boat dock after a day of fishing. Again, condensing a long story, he told me. “I had a really big one on but it broke off.”

“Really?” I asked. “Didn’t you have fresh line on the reel?”

“Yes,” he said. “I don’t know what happened, something froze up inside the reel.”

My friend wasn’t using an inexpensive reel; in fact he was using a very high-quality reel, which was likely the reason he was able to get years of trouble-free/no-maintenance use out of it before it broke. However, his “deferred maintenance” not only cost him a big fish, it’s going to cost him whatever a trip to the reel repair shop runs or the price of a replacement reel.

His excuse? “Those reels are so complex inside, I’m afraid if I ever took one apart, I’d never get it back together. It would be ruined, for sure.”

Wow! I bet auto makers (or at least auto repair shops) wish they could get motorists to adopt the same attitude.

Is my friend right? Are reels so complex inside they should only be opened by a trained technician?

I’m not a trained technician and I’ve opened dozens of reels made by most of the major reel makers. None of them explode into a pile of springs, gears, levers and other parts when they are taken apart. Sure, a reel can be dismantled into a pile of components, but just removing the screws that hold the end caps on revolving spoon reels (baitcasters and trolling reels) or the covers at the back end of spinning reels only exposes the inner workings. It’s the inner workings that need maintenance and lubrication and nothing inside needs further dismantling to do that job.

Once the guts of the reel are exposed, what do you see? Dirt? Oil and grease everywhere? Dry as a bone? None of these are good.

In the first two cases, the dirt and/or oil and grease need to be cleaned out. WD40 will do the job as will automotive brake cleaner applied with paper towels or Q-Tips. In either case, once the reel is cleaned, allow the “fumes” to evaporate for about 10 minutes. Then get to work oiling and greasing the innards.

Yes, you need both oil and grease but which part needs which product is a simple code. Gears need grease, bearings and bushings need oil. It’s probably best to use grease and oil made for lubing reels and most reel makers also make lubrication products for their reels. There are after-market reel lube products, as well. Don’t worry about using Brand X lube on a Brand Y reel. I do it all the time. The important thing is to use something to keep your reels lubed and working. Actually, using general purpose “household” oil and wheel bearing grease will work.

The important thing is to do it.

Don’t let a big fish teach you that lesson.

Categories: Blog Content, How To’s, Michigan – Mike Schoonveld

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