By Neil Dootson –
The information provided in this article is based in my own research and does not reflect the views of any other person or company. The reels spoken of in this article and the issues I have found with them are not a direct reference to any specific reel manufacturer. With that being said, all the information contained within is strictly from my years of experience repairing and servicing fishing reels.
I have to start by saying that fishing reels are fine tuned pieces of equipment that need to be properly and consistently maintained if they are expected to continue to function to their full potential for years to come.
Most of us will agree that they “just don’t build things the way they used to.” Well that old saying applies to fishing reels also. The older rock solid reels of the past have been replaced by lighter, faster, precision tuned works of art. The days of dropping your reel in the water or sand, brushing or wiping it off and continuing to fish with it that way for the next few years without incident is a thing of the past. Today’s reels require constant upkeep and attention to detail is of the upmost importance if you plan to keep your reels in the best working condition possible.
Let’s consider a few facts. It is safe to say that reel manufacturers have no idea whether the person who buys their product will have the product serviced properly every year. Therefore, they produce their products in a manner that is consistent with the reel being able to perform for years without being serviced. This means that more than the required amount of oil and grease are added during the manufacturing process. Now this is a good thing if your plan is to not have your reel serviced at the end of each season, but it is also a very bad thing if you’re the type of angler who relies on maximum daily performance in place of longevity. It boils down to this – a stock reel off the shelf performs to about 50% of its potential, mainly due to it being over oiled and over greased as previously mentioned. Today’s newer reels operate on very fine tolerances which essentially means that the spacing between moving parts is so minute that even the smallest amount of interference (in this case extra grease or oil) can greatly reduce the reels performance.
*** Be mindful that the photos displayed below are magnified for viewing purposes. The spacing (tolerance) between moving parts appears to be very small. The spacing or tolerance is actually much smaller than what it appears when these pieces are viewed at their normal size***
This photo shows what the inside of the average spool tension cap should look like when properly lubricated. (Cap style will vary based on reel make, model and manufacturer) The black insert is the spool tension spacer. The tension spacer is responsible for applying pressure to the end of the spool tip (when the cap is tightened or loosened) making possible the adjustment of free spool speed to control casting lighter/heavier lures. All it takes is a single drop of oil to lubricate the spacer. Be sure that the inside of this cap as well as the threads and spacer are kept free of debris. The spool tip needs spin freely against the spacer to ensure proper performance. DO NOT pack this cap full of grease or oil like I have seen some anglers do. The grease or oil will not only reduce your spool speed and casting distance by the excess friction created at the spool tip, but also by the excess grease or oil being absorbed by the bearing located beneath the cap. (The next illustration will explain how and why).
In this photo essentially what you are looking at it how a spool end seats inside a bearing. This is your standard 3x10x4 bearing which most manufacturers use on either ends of their spool. On bait casting reels this connections is used in two locations, one being under the spool tension cap located on the handle side of the reel, and second being on the inside of the side plate you would remove to access the spool. In the photo note the lack of space between the spool pin protruding through the bearing and the bearing opening. Over oiling or even worse adding grease to this area will greatly reduce spool speed thus impeding casting distance.
This photo shows the connection between the pinion gear (gold) and main drive gear (black). Note again the lack of spacing between the two. I come across the issue of this area being over greased time and time again. A customer (who had his reel serviced incorrectly elsewhere or hasn’t had it serviced at all) will say “ When I spin the handle and let it go it doesn’t keep going the way it used to, it just stops” One cause for this issue is too much grease on these gears. After servicing a reel I’d say within 10 turns of the handle any excess grease applied to a main drive gear gets transferred to the pinion gear building up beneath it.
This photo is the same as the photo above with the exception of the added spool shaft protruding through the pinion gear. Most anglers are not going to be breaking down their reels this far to clean the pinion gear themselves (which is where we come in) however ensuring the spool shaft is free of all debris (including oil and grease) when reinserting it after spooling will greatly reduce if not eliminate any build up inside the receiving hole of the pinion gear. If and when build up occurs excess friction is created which greatly reduces free spool speed and smoothness. Reduced free spool speed = Reduced casting distance.
Pictured here is the side plate (opposite the handle side) which anglers can remove to access the bearing or spool mounted mechanical brakes as well as to remove the spool for cleaning or spooling purposes. Under no circumstances should you apply this much grease to the inside of the side plate. You can notice the grease has already found its way to the bearing and most likely the tension spacer below (spoken of earlier) and without a doubt is greatly reducing this reel performance as it relates to casting distance. Also notice build up of grease on the inner silver ring in the photo. The outer most edge of the spool seats around this ring to remain plumb and centered. Same principal applies here the excess grease creates excess friction and slows the spool speed drastically. If you wish to lubricate the housing the spool rides in I recommend a drop or two of oil on a Q-tip which you can use to lightly coat the area. A little oil goes a long way and when used properly will help increase casting distance.
Even if you can’t remember any of the advice contained in this article try at least remembering these simple guidelines for basic reel maintenance:
- More Oil DOES NOT = Faster bearings. More Grease DOES NOT = A smoother reel.
- Bearings get oiled. By oiled I mean a ½ of a drop to 1 drop per bearing (especially when applying oil to upgraded performance type bearings like our Sinista Series Ceramic or Stainless Abec 7’s)
- Gears get grease. By grease I mean a thin coating pressed into the teeth of the gear.
- Carbon Drag Washers can be installed dry or slightly greased. I find using grease = a smoother drag. Dry installation = A stronger drag. The key is to experiment until you find the correct amount of grease to achieve a strong smooth drag. Every reel will be different.
- Avoid adding grease to the exposed worm gear on the front of your reel (the long gear that drives the line guide back and forth). Grease tends to grab and hold any debris that contacts it. The location of the exposed worm gear makes it a magnet for debris. Instead add a drop of oil to each end of the gear and if you wish one in the center. This will ensure that in the event dirt or debris does become lodged in the gear a squirt bottle on stream (not spray) containing plain water should be enough force to remove it after which you would then re-oil the gear.
- Spool shaft and ends should be free of all debris. I prefer to use an alcohol prep pad to clean the entire shaft. I will touch the end of the spool tip with a lightly oiled Q-tip after cleaning. Wipe clean the outer lip on both sides of the spool as well as the corresponding area on the frame before re-installing the spool.
- Never hose your reel off after use, use a spray bottle to lightly spray down the frame, and then towel dry. Never submerge your reel in water.
- A drop of oil on the underside of the handle knobs quiets that annoying squeak.
- Never oil an Anti Reverse Bearing. Oiling or greasing these bearings incorrectly will lead them to begin slipping backwards.
- Never use any reel containing Magnesium parts in brackish or salt water.
- Back your drag off when storing reels away for extended periods of time. This will relieve the compression of your drag washers.
Regularly scheduled reel maintenance at the end of each season will ensure proper functioning equipment for years to come. Competitive anglers as well as those of you who fish more than the average angler does, you may also want to have your reels looked over around the mid way point in your season as a precaution.
There are many brands and forms of Reel Oil and Reel Grease on the market today. Choosing which to use is a decision you’ll have to make yourself. I prefer to stick with reliable brands like Shimano’s Reel Grease & Cal’s Drag Grease. For oils I prefer Reel Butter or Hot Sauce. Again I am not sponsored by any of these companies, my opinions are a result of years of hands on experience using and testing new products that make the market every year.
Those of you interested in having your reels serviced by Dark Side Reelz may do so by establishing contact with us via one of the contact methods listed below. As always tight lines my friends.
“Don’t get caught with your drag slippin”
Neil Dootson A.K.A. Sinista The Resurrector
Founder & CEO of Dark Side Reelz
Phone : (508) 373-4783 M-Sat 9am to 5pm
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: http://www.darksidereelz.com (contact us form)
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