Fishing Reel Maintenance: Covering the Basics – Casting & Spinning Reels

The warmer weather of spring is making its way to many parts of the country. Anglers from all over are organizing tackle, prepping their boats or kayaks, and getting ready for the bite to fire up. This is all well and good, but many overlook the importance of some basic rod and fishing reel maintenance.

Let’s face it, most of us are forced to put our precious fishing gear up after winter sticks its ugly head into our lives. This leaves our rod and reels sitting there unused for months. We also store them still prepped with the hopes we will get a few opportunities to get out, but it never really happens. Our poor rods are left in whatever condition they are in until spring arrives again.

This is why just a few tools, some reel oil, grease, and a rag will greatly improve the life and performance of your rods and reels. This leaves you in prime condition to land that new personal best this year.

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Fishing Reel Maintenance: Baitcasting Reels

We will start with baitcaster reels. Unlike spinning reels these are delicate and complicated pieces of gear, especially with many of the advancements in recent years. A complete breakdown is not recommended, just removing the side plates to access the gears and moving parts is all that is needed. I will demonstrate below with my Abu Garcia Black Max.

Fishing Reel Maintenance: Tools Required

  • 10mm socket driver or wrench
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Rag or wet wipes
  • A white towel or mat

Before starting to disassemble anything, always take lots of pictures. This is your insurance policy in case you forget how it goes back together. Placing parts on a white towel is also great as it keeps them from rolling off and makes them easy to spot when reassembling.

Start by wiping the entire reel down with a damp rag. Get into every nook and cranny you can using Q-tips if needed.

Fishing Reel Maintenance(1)

  1. Take reel handle bolt cover off by removing the Phillips head screw. Then loosen bolt with 10mm socket to take reel handle off.
  2. Spin drag completely off. Place drag spacers to side on towel in same order they came off in.

Fishing Reel Maintenance(2)     3. Spin spool tensioner knob off before removing all side cover screws.

     4. Carefully lift off side plate to access inner gears.

     5. Add a little grease to any metal gears to help keep friction down and metal shaving from falling into other                   parts.

     6. Add a few dots of oil to any other moving parts within the reel including the spool.

Fishing Reel Maintenance(3)     7. Reassemble in reverse order before giving reel a few good turns to ensure it is running smoothly. 

     8. Oil up the line guide and spool release buttons and your reel is ready for fresh line.

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Fishing Reel Maintenance: Spinning Reels

Spinning reels are a lot simpler and requires no tools for disassembly. All they really need is a little oil in the right spots.

Fishing Reel Maintenance(4)

Simply unwind the tensioner all the way out until the spool slides off. From there add a few drops of oil to each spot marked in a red circle in the photo below.

Fishing Reel Maintenance(5)

Slide the spool back on and tighten it down and give it a few spins to make sure it is operating correctly. It’s ready for some fresh line as well.

Fishing Rod Maintenance: A Basic Cleaning

Rods just need a little TLC to keep them in good shape. Wipe down the entire length of the rod from tip to butt cap with warm, soapy water. Pay extra attention to the threads in the reel seat to ensure a secure seat on your reels.

Inspect line guides for any damage before cleaning them with Q-tips and a little rubbing alcohol.

Doing these simple maintenance tasks a couple times per year will make a huge difference in the life of your rods and reels. It will help ensure smoother and longer casts as well.

Now get those reels apart, slap on some fresh line, tie on a new lure, and get to the water. The fish aren’t going to put themselves in the boat.

This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

Become an ANGLR Expert and apply here.

Alex Burton


The outdoors are literally my life, second only to my amazing family. Whether I am hiking through the woods or sitting in a boat, everything makes sense to me in the grip of mother nature. Fishing is what started it all and runs deep in my soul. Ever since I threw my first line in the water I couldn‘t resist always coming back to the water’s edge for more. Over 20 years later it still doesn’t matter what is pulling back on my line. It all melts the stress of the day to day life, and still gets me giddy with excitement. The only thing that makes me happier is seeing my own kids reel with the same passion as they bait their own hooks and whip them into the water.

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