Cleaning a Baitcasting Reel
Bob McNally 03.09.16
Clean baitcasting reels are happy reels. And when they’re in peak condition, they allow long, pinpoint casts and never fail when putting muscle to fish you need to fill a limit.
Cleaning a modern baitcaster is fast and easy, and if done once or twice each season, it’ll perform well for years without major maintenance overhauls or failures.
Nearly every baitcasting model is a bit different in disassembling for cleaning. So if you have the original reel manual, reference it before beginning. If that paperwork has been lost, many reel manuals with diagrams can be found online.
As a general rule, however, most models have similar components with a palming side plate, reel handle side, and a spool that suspends and spins held between the two sides.
Most baitcasters also have a level-wind mechanism and a pawl designed to pack line evenly on the spool as the handle is wound.
A few simple tools can be helpful in disassembling and cleaning a reel. These include: a small pair of pliers (needlenose work well), a small screw driver, a clean cloth, rubbing alcohol (as a cleansing agent), a few cotton swabs, and a tube of special lightweight reel oil.
Have a well-lighted, level surface for use as a work area, such as a kitchen table, counter, or garage work bench.
Here’s the process to clean a reel, using an oversize Shimano 400 Calcutta as an example.
Step 1: Unscrew the pair of reel handle side-plate screws, and then slowly remove the side plate from the reel housing.
Step 2: This allows the reel spool to also be removed from the housing, resulting in three large pieces.
Step 3: Using cotton swabs liberally saturated with rubbing alcohol, scrub all exterior and interior surfaces of the reel. Be sure to clean the outside housing areas, plus bearings, gears, brake collars (on the spool, replacing any worn ones), and the level-wind gear.
Step 4: Wait a few minutes allowing alcohol to evaporate. Then with the reel oil, LIGHTLY put a single drop on the various moving parts, including the level-wind mechanism. Reel oil goes a long way; use it sparingly.