How to Clean a Fishing Reel

At some point, every angler is going to have to clean his fishing reels if he wants them to last. Like most fisherman, I have my favorite fishing equipment I use regularly, take care of after each use and put away nicely.

But I also have a collection of rod-and-reel combos I pull from the garage a few times per year when our whole crew takes to the boat, bridge or shoreline. You know, the gear that requires untangling almost every time it’s used. The gear I end up replacing when something breaks because it’s just easier to buy a new one. The gear I picked up at a local hardware store while out of town because the kids found a fishing spot during the trip.

This is the gear that gets dirty, corroded, worn and abused – and is in bad need of a cleaning. Here’s how I clean a fishing reel.

Step-by-step instructions for cleaning a fishing reel

Remove the line spool

When cleaning a fishing reel, start by removing the line spool. This prevents the line from unraveling and creating a bird’s nest on your workbench. It also prevents the line from accumulating the cleaning agent, grease or oil and leaving a trail in the water after your next cast.

Clean the reel body

Apply a thin coat of a good cleaner to the reel body. I use AMSOIL Metal Protector. Wipe down the reel body with a clean rag.

As the images show, AMSOIL Metal Protector does a fantastic job.

Dirty fishing reel pre cleanup.

Clean fishing reel after using AMSOIL Metal Protector.

Metal Protector Spray

Buy AMSOIL Metal Protector

Grease/oil the gears

Next, disassemble the reel to expose the gears and see if greasing/gear lube is needed. Check with the reel manufacturer for lubricant recommendations. A good gear lubricant or NLGI #2 grease should do the trick. I use AMSOIL 100% Synthetic Firearm Lubricant and Protectant. Apply a little lubricant to the gears.

Buy AMSOIL Synthetic Firearm Lubricant and Protectant

Lubricate pivot points

With the reel disassembled, I also like to apply a little AMSOIL Metal Protector to any pivot points or other components.

Reassemble the reel

Once everything is cleaned and lubricated, reassemble the reel and send it on its way for another weekend of fishing.

After cleaning our fishing reels, our crew had a successful weekend on the water. A couple people commented on how nicely the reels worked, we had no mechanical issues and, best of all, we caught our share of bluegills and crappies.

If your family is like mine, you love to fish. No matter how busy our schedules get with work, hockey, football and other activities, we always make time to get on the water. The last thing you want to do is waste that precious time messing around with a reel that doesn’t work.

Follow this process for cleaning a fishing reel at least once a year. It’s quick, simple and effective. If you get skunked, at least you won’t be able to blame your reel.

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