How to Fix Fishing Reels

Modern fishing reels are designed to withstand an enormous amount of wear and tear. From heavy duty bearings and gears to specialty coatings applied to help ward off the impact of abrasives and corrosives such as salt, reels today are designed and engineered to provide reliable and lasting operation. However, there may be times when reels do not operate at their optimum performance and it becomes necessary to do a thorough cleaning or evaluation for further repair.

Begin by thoroughly wiping the entire exterior of the reel with a clean soft cloth to remove any debris or dirt. It may be necessary to use a mild solution of soap and water or a mild degreaser. This is a good starting point as a buildup of dirt and debris may inhibit the proper operation of some parts.

Remove the spindle. This may be performed differently based on the type of reel such as a spinning reel, bait casting reel, fly reel or spin casting reel. In most instances it will be necessary to remove a retaining screw or locking device. Once the retainer is removed or open, simply slide the spool from the reel.

With the spool removed, gearing for the spool may now be accessible based on the model of reel. This gearing often times will accumulate debris from the water and build up which may interfere or slow the gears operation. Wipe the gears clean with a towel and use a small brush if necessary. Inspect for any broken or chipped gears or parts. If all appears to be functional, apply a small amount of reel lubricant such as Reel Butter to the gears and moving parts.

Wipe the spool down thoroughly to remove any buildup of scum or other water debris. Pond scum and algae, if present, may become attached to the fishing line and then transferred to the inside of the spool. This buildup will slow down and impact the performance of the reel during casting and may even be abrasive to the line itself. Inspect the spool for nicks, dents or chips, which may require a new spool. Replace the spool on the reel and secure.

Remove the handle from the reel, if possible. This typically involves removing a small screw on the opposite side of the reel or may be as simple as turning the hand in the opposite direction. Refer to the owner's manual for specific information.

Many reels may have the handle assembly sealed from the main body of the reel. Remove and clean any debris or dirt from the handle, threads and insertion point on the reel body. Apply a small amount of the Reel Butter or other reel lubricant to the threads and reassemble.

Using a small screwdriver, remove any screws necessary to access the main body of the reel. Thoroughly clean any old grease and build from as much of the interior as possible. Carefully inspect the gears and moving parts for any damage or breakage. If the parts seem intact, apply a small amount of reel lubricant to the gear and reassemble the reel. Wipe the entire reel down with a multi-purpose oil such as WD-40.

A thorough cleaning and lubrication will fix many problems associated with reels. Damaged reel handles or spools are simply do-it-yourself fixes. However, if you observe damaged gears or working parts you should refer the reel to a qualified repair technician.


  • Use caution when using oils and lubricants and avoid prolonged breathing and contact with skin. Avoid all contact with eyes. Use in a well ventilated area away from all open flames.


  • A thorough inspection and cleaning can not only pin point problems but help save money should the reel need to be sent in for repair.

About the Author

Tara Dooley has written for various websites since 2008. She has worked as an accountant, after-school director and retail manager in various locations. Dooley holds a Bachelor of Science in business management and finance.