Home > Kayak Types > Fishing Kayaks > Kayak Fishing Gear and Accessories > Rods and Reels > Fishing Reel Maintenance: How To Clean And Oil A Reel

Fishing Reel Maintenance: How To Clean And Oil A Reel

Mark Armstrong
Updated on:
- If you buy via a link on this page, we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you. Learn more
- Read our review guidelines

Fishing reels can be expensive (as you are probably well aware of!), which is why it can be a good idea to look after it properly.

Regular fishing reel maintenance can be a good habit to get into, as this can help to keep your reel in good condition so that it can continue to work efficiently.

Fishing Reel Maintenance_ How To Clean And Oil A Reel - Pinterest ImagePin

Maintenance can also help to prolong the life of the reel, meaning you can get the most out of the reel without having to repair or replace it as often. But what exactly do you need to do to keep your fishing reel in tip top shape?

To help you out, we thought we’d put together a quick how-to guide on how to clean and oil your reel to keep it in good working order so it’s ready for fishing whenever you are. While there are other types of reels, we will be focusing on spinning, baitcaster and spincast reels.

What Fishing Reel Care Is Important

What Oils To Use

There are a variety of fishing reel oils and greases on the market with a lot of them claiming to do the same thing.

Dedicated fishing reel oils will often have additives to help protect your reel, such as this one:

LUCAS OIL Product 10690 Fishing Reel OilPin

This can be a good size to keep in your tackle box and features a nozzle to make it easier to use.

Grease, such as this one:

Ardent Reel Butter GreasePin

…can also be used to lubricate the gears on your reel.

Reel oil should be applied to all moving parts of your reel to keep each part running smoothly. This means your spool should turn smoothly both when casting and retrieving, as well as the bearings and other internal mechanisms that allow the reel to function.

Having all your moving parts moving smoothly can mean reeling in a fish is a lot easier and there may be less chance of your reel seizing up in the middle of a fight.

> Rods for bass fishing (spinning/baitcast)

What Cleaners To Use

2 Fishing Rods - Pass fishing boatPin

You’ll probably notice that there are many types of rod and reel cleaners on the market, which can be ideal for cleaning salt and grit from your reel.

However, you might find that it’s just as easy to use clean water and a damp cloth.

As long as you leave your reel to dry properly before you store it, water shouldn’t cause any problems. Clean water can be efficient when it comes to rinsing off your reel and can be one of the most frequent types of reel maintenance that you do, as it should be done regularly after each fishing trip.

Even if you fish in freshwater, sand, grit and dust can still affect the functionality of your reel.

What You Need

  • Fishing Reel Oil
  • Clean Water
  • Cloth
  • Paper Towels
  • Screwdrivers (Both Phillips head and flat head may be required)
  • Cotton Q-Tips

How To Clean And Oil A Fishing Reel

Step 1: Rinse Your Reel

One of the most important things to help keep your reel in good condition is to rinse it off with clean freshwater after each fishing trip. This can be even more important if you’ve been fishing in saltwater conditions but you should rinse it even if you’ve only been freshwater fishing.

> Guide to saltwater spinning reels

You can use a hose to do this if you have a light spray setting, otherwise you may force salt and grit deeper into the mechanisms. But you might find it better to dampen a cloth with clean water and then wipe the reel down with the cloth before leaving the reel to dry.

Video: Saltwater Spinning Reel Cleaning & Maintenance

As well as being the first step before carrying out further maintenance on your reel, this can be done after each trip but remember to leave it to dry before you put it away.

Step 2: Grab Your Reel Assembly Instructions

If you’ve never taken your reel apart before, it can be a good idea to have the assembly instructions with you so that you can put it back together correctly.

You can also label or number the parts as you take them off, if you think it might help you remember where they go. It might also help to grab a container to keep the parts in as you take them off so that you don’t lose them.

Step 3: Remove The Spool

To remove the spool you will usually need to unscrew the cover plate. This should be fairly simple to do, with most cover plates being able to be turned counter clockwise and they should loosen and come off.

However, you may find that with some reels, for example, some spincast reels, you might have to unscrew the plate in a clockwise direction and tighten the drag system before you unscrew it.

Step 4: Clean The Spool

Clean the spool and the spool shaft with a clean damp cloth to get rid of any dust and debris that might have built up inside the spool.

Apply a couple of drops of reel oil onto the spool shaft and onto the pin or guide that winds the line.

Step 5: Oil The Reel

With the help of a cotton Q-tip gently wipe the areas where you’ve applied the oil. This should help to get the oil further into the reel and help the moving parts to work more smoothly.

Add oil to the rest of the moving parts and gently use a Q-tip or cloth to wipe it over. Move the mechanisms, for example, if you have a spinning reel, drop a little oil onto the bail mechanisms and flip the bail over and back, so that it gets into the moving parts.

With a baitcaster and spincast reel, drop a little oil onto the moving parts, such as bearings and move them after using the Q-tip to spread the oil over the parts. 

Video: Baitcaster Reel Maintenance ( Oil And Grease )

Step 6: Remove The Handle

According to your reel’s instructions, remove the handle on your reel. Depending on your reel, you may need a screwdriver to do this.

> How to set up a fishing pole

Step 7: Oil Your Handle

Add a couple of drops of oil to the handle and the mechanisms that turn the spool, and using a Q-tip gently wipe the oil over the parts.

It is possible to oil your spinning reel without having to completely take it apart, which can be convenient for more frequent maintenance when you don’t have the time to fully disassemble it.

Taking apart your reel for cleaning and oiling a couple of times of year can help to keep the mechanisms running smoothly and can make for more efficient casting and reeling.

Video: Spinning Reel Maintenance

Step 8: Put Your Reel Back Together

If you’ve got your reel assembly instructions with you, it might make this step a lot easier.

However, if you’ve labeled or numbered your pieces and kept them safe in a box then you should be able to reassemble your reel, usually in the reverse order that you took each part off.

Step 9: Wipe Your Reel Down

Now that you’ve put your reel back together, wipe it down with a clean cloth or paper towel. It can be a good idea to turn the reel handle to allow the mechanisms to move after they’ve been oiled.

If you have a spinning reel, you can finish off with a furniture polish and wipe it off with a paper towel.

Reel It In (Conclusion)

Carrying out regular maintenance on your fishing reel can help to keep it in good working order for longer. This can help to save you money on repairs and replacements and can make your fishing trip more successful, with less seizing up and more reeling in.

Remember, you don’t have to oil your reel after every time you use it, a couple of times a year can be sufficient for full reel maintenance, or whatever is recommended by your reel manufacturer. But it can be a good idea to rinse off your reel after each fishing trip and regularly add a couple of drops of oil to the moving parts, if you can.

How do you look after your reels? Do you do anything differently? Let us know. And remember to help your buddies keep their reels in top condition by sharing this with them.

3 thoughts on “Fishing Reel Maintenance: How To Clean And Oil A Reel”

Leave a Comment