How to Main­tain Your Rod & Reel

Sport Fishing Gear Guide - - Contents - BY JOHN SCHIPS

OK, you have in­vested your time in choos­ing that per­fect rod and reel combo, and you want to make sure it be­comes a fam­ily heir­loom, right? That can hap­pen; I still have an old cork- han­dled fiber­glass rod from my great un­cle. In this ar­ti­cle, I am go­ing to go over three easy steps to en­sure that your rod and reel stay in great con­di­tion year af­ter year!


This might seem like a no-brainer, es­pe­cially if you are fish­ing salt wa­ter. How­ever, many of us fin­ish our trips with a hap­haz­ard clean­ing of the gear. Depend­ing on the fre­quency of use or stor­age con­di­tions this can be the most im­por­tant part of main­tain­ing your rod and reel. Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief it is not good to com­pletely sub­merse the rod and reel in wa­ter af­ter use! I love to fish bass on the East Coast lakes, and I have a buddy who will dunk his rod and reel in the lake each time we fin­ish a good ses­sion. At this point we smile at each other; I have spent many hours on the wa­ter try­ing to ex­plain that when he com­pletely sub­merses the reel, wa­ter will en­ter the com­part­ments and cause is­sues. Be­yond that, even if the lake wa­ter looks clear and clean, there are mi­cro- sed­i­ments in­her­ent to any nat­u­ral wa­ter source float­ing around, wait­ing to en­ter those sen­si­tive in­ner work­ings of your reel. Some­times (es­pe­cially by our launch ramp, where he al­ways dunks the reel) I know there is even a small amount of gas or oil from old out­boards. Let’s talk about how to clean your rod and reel prop­erly.


You may think a sim­ple rinse might be all you need to main­tain your rod, but a lit­tle at­ten­tion will not only ex­tend the life of your rod but im­prove your fish­ing. Be­sides, you prob­a­bly want to spend more time out­doors and less time fix­ing equip­ment.

The line guides of your reel can be­ come nicked or scratched, and this can contribute to a line break when land­ing a big fish. Ex­am­ine the eyes with a mag­ni­fy­ing glass. If you note a groove or scratch, use fine-grained sand­pa­per to smooth out the in­ner ring of the guide. A bit of paint will en­sure your guides do not rust and this will re­move one sim­ple cause of line break­age.

Clean the en­tire rod with warm, soapy wa­ter (a vine­gar so­lu­tion will work as well) and rinse with clean, fresh wa­ter. Al­low the rod to thor­oughly dry be­fore stor­ing prop­erly.


A reel is a very com­plex piece of modern ma­chin­ery and can be in­tim­i­dat­ing to a novice an­gler when taken apart. If you are not fa­mil­iar with re­mov­ing and re­plac­ing parts on your reel, head to a lo­cal tackle shop or ask an ex­pe­ri­enced friend for some guid­ance the first time you ser­vice your reel.

Never use gaso­line or petroleum- based prod­ucts to clean your reel. This can dam­age sen­si­tive plas­tic

parts. I pre­fer warm, soapy wa­ter; nat­u­ral prod­ucts like Sim­ple Green can work well too. Be sure you only use a cloth or fi­bre brush to clean the in­ner work­ings of your reel. A good rule of thumb when deal­ing with the sen­si­tive parts of your reel is to never touch metal to metal; a wire brush can throw off the del­i­cately bal­anced parts to the point that your reel will no longer func­tion cor­rectly. I like to use an old tooth­brush with a small head to reach in­side.

Re­mem­ber to re­move the spool of fish­ing line be­fore start­ing to ser­vice your reel. The soapy wa­ter will re­move the grease or oil from the reel, so once you are fin­ished, al­low the rod and reel to dry and head straight for STEP TWO.


There are many great prod­ucts on the mar­ket to lu­bri­cate your reel af­ter you have thor­oughly cleaned it. I pre­fer grease, al­though it does re­quire a bit more at­ten­tion to de­tail to make sure you have prop­erly cov­ered the gears. I find us­ing a tooth­pick works very well to reach in­side to all of the teeth of the many gears your fish­ing reel will con­tain.

In­sider tip: If you are us­ing oil to lu­bri­cate your fish­ing reel, start from the bot­tom of the gears and work your way up. This way you do not ac­ci­den­tally ap­ply too much and can ad­e­quately lu­bri­cate the reel. Be sure to work the grease or oil into your reel by turn­ing un­til you feel the ac­tion glide “like new.” It should feel nat­u­ral and with­out fric­tion.


Depend­ing on your reel, the bear­ings might come sealed from the fac­tory or ac­ces­si­ble to ser­vice. Again, if you are un­fa­mil­iar with ser­vic­ing bear­ings find a rep­utable source to guide you through the first time. Once I have the bear­ings free, I clean them with lighter fluid (be sure to re­move all lighter fluid af­ter to pre­vent dam­ag­ing those plas­tic parts in­side your reel) and then grease them care­fully.


A prop­erly stored rod and reel should never be ex­posed to dust, salt, or hu­mid­ity. These fac­tors can contribute to the cor­ro­sion of the met­als and de­stroy the care­ful work you have done in Steps One and Two. So be mind­ful of where you are stor­ing your rod and reel. Stor­ing your rod and reel in the travel tube is not a good op­tion. These tubes are most likely sealed and can hold in mois­ture, again con­tribut­ing to the break down of your reel’s com­po­nents.

You should al­ways store your rod and reel with the drag loos­ened, the reel hang­ing down, and out of the el­e­ments. If you de­cide to use your base­ment or garage be sure the area is free from dust, or salt from ice re­moval, or winds from a salt­wa­ter source.

Never store your rod with ten­sion; I like to re­move any tackle and se­cure the line to the spool to en­sure there is noth­ing that can bend the rod from the nat­u­ral po­si­tion.

With these three easy steps, you can make sure your rod and reel are func­tion­ing per­fectly for years to come.

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