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Gears in Motion

Never Neglect Essential Reel Maintenance

Capt. Steve Dougherty March 6, 2019

With manufacturers incorporating advanced technologies in the design and development of modern fishing reels, anglers have more at their fingertips than ever before. Regardless of brand loyalty or target species, proper maintenance and care is essential in ensuring your reels stand the test of time while propelling you to angling feats once unimaginable.

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Repeated exposure to saltwater has devastating effects on even the highest quality tackle. Reel longevity is greatly enhanced with simple care.

Saltwater is extremely corrosive and will leave its mark on anything it encounters. And, if we are lucky, we expose our tackle to extreme daily tests. Regardless of how often they are used, the investment in our equipment is enormous and with the proper maintenance and care, tackle and equipment will provide many seasons of exciting angling action. It doesn’t make a difference where you encounter nature’s salty ale. If you’re an aficionado and take fishing seriously, then make it a point to avoid equipment failure. This begins with a low-pressure freshwater rinse after each and every use. If you use a powerful jet, harmful contaminants will only be pushed and lodged deeper into your reel’s crevices and internal components. Make sure you pay extra attention to the drain holes in the bottom portion of the reel, making sure they are free of grease and dirt. After a good rinse, chamois the reels dry so there are no water spots. Lightly spray with a non-abrasive cleaner and wipe of the excess with a dry rag and store them out of the sun in freespool to prevent flat spots on your drag washers.

While a simple rinse will wash away exterior contaminants, there comes a time when your reels will need more care and attention. You wouldn’t neglect to have 100-hour servicing performed on your outboard, so why would you neglect to properly care for your fishing reels? And although basic cleaning and lubrication can be performed at home, unless you are mechanically inclined and very familiar with your reel’s internals, then it might be in your best interest to consult the professionals before loosening any screws.

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Photography: Doughertyphotos.com

The key to longevity starts with a regular maintenance schedule. If the thought of servicing your own reels gives you anxiety, or you have a reel that is clearly damaged internally and beyond your capabilities, then it’s time you turn to the professionals. When our reels need servicing, we rely on 4 Reel Services (4reelservices.com) in Boynton Beach, Florida. A certified warranty center for Accurate, Fin-Nor, Quantum, Zebco, Okuma, Shimano, Abu Garcia, Penn, Maxel and Tsunami, as well as an authorized service center for Diawa, Avet, Lew’s, Alutecnos and more, this crew of experienced anglers has been servicing the fishing community since 2006 and has the knowledge to repair, remedy and rejuvenate nearly any reel in your arsenal.

Recently, one of my TLD 30s had a problem with the anti-reverse, and upon dropping off my reel and touring the facility I was happy to see multiple clean workspaces with ample lighting. All of the necessary tools were also within close reach including screwdrivers, both standard and Phillips head, pliers, reel lubricants, clean rags, Q-tips, and any specialized tools supplied by the various manufacturers. Bulky pliers and one size fits all screwdrivers are a sure way to damage fragile parts and strip tiny screws. It’s also important to note that lubricants with various viscosities serve different purposes. As a rule of thumb, grease is reserved for a reel’s main gears and oil is used for bearings and other moving parts. Too much grease may attract dirt and grime and can actually do more harm than good.

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Photography: Doughertyphotos.com

Conventional reels aren’t standardized and the brand and design of your particular reel will determine its precise dismantling procedure. However, the basics are relatively similar and the skilled technicians at 4 Reel Services know every reel on the market inside and out, making quick work of my TLD. Accessing the anti-reverse begins with removing the preprogram dial and the lever shaft body, then moving on to the lever quadrant and side plate bolts. Quickly separating the frame, spool and side plate, the malfunctioning anti-reverse was easily diagnosed and remedied with a deep clean and thorough lubrication.

Going above and beyond a quick fix, my reel was completely dismantled, with every part cleaned with their proprietary self-rinsing, peroxide-based environmentally safe and powerful cleaning agent. From here, oil was added to the anti-reverse pawl and spring. The carbon fiber drag washer was inspected for wear, and then light grease was applied to the inside of the spool. Before putting the pieces of the puzzle back together, every bearing was examined for noise and binding. Thankfully, everything else looked right and the reel was restored in less than 20 minutes. When more serious damage or neglect is uncovered only factory parts from the original reel manufacturer are utilized, with over 90,000 units in stock. A timely five to seven business day turnaround is available for most reel repairs, helping anglers get back on the water fast. Not long ago, a fishing reel was simply a place to hold line and the spool’s capacity determined the type and size of game fish that could be pursued. Times have certainly changed, with modern fishing reels providing significant enhancements enabling anglers to close the gap inch by inch. However, the combination of sun, sand and saltwater will destroy even the costliest fishing reel and it is absolutely imperative that you keep your reels clean and lubricated or risk losing trophy fish with the introduction of equipment failure.

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