Take care of spinning reels during winter lull

9:14 am January 3rd, 2014

By Bob Brown
It probably would be a safe bet to say during the winter only about half of Washington fishermen go fishing. The prospects of getting up before dawn, standing around on some river bank in waders that probably have seen better days, fishing in ice-cold water that causes ice buildup in the eyelets of the rod and maybe catching a fish may not be as appealing as a warm living room and comfortable chair. However, winter idleness need not be a wasted interval between seasons. It is the perfect time to do some reel maintenance.
Open-face spinning reels are subjected to a lot of unintended abuse. They get immersed in streams, lakes and ponds that remove the oil and grease in reels and replace it with fine grains of sand, dirt and an assortment of crud that can jam the spool, handle and worse, the gears. When the handle sticks in one spot on the retrieve or making rhythmic presentations difficult and the reel binds up after getting wet, some anglers might think it is time to replace the reel. Not a very popular decision when money is tight.
A couple of years ago, Lee McClellan, associate editor for Kentucky Field magazine, wrote a pretty good article on spinning reel maintenance. McClellan said an hour with some grease, an old toothbrush, rubbing alcohol and a quality reel oil will make a reel feel like it did right out of the box.
Over the past couple of years, reel oils and grease that form a molecular bond with metals they contact with have begun to appear on the market. They cost twice as much a traditional oil and grease, but they make a reel sing, and are worth every penny. Before removing parts from the reel, McClellan suggests using an egg carton to store the parts. There is nothing more frustrating than searching for spinning reel tiny, ultra – thin washers that are nearly impossible to find if they drop on the floor.
The first step in reel maintenance is to remove the spool. Clean the spool shaft and coat it lightly with a few drops of reel or molecular oil. Do not use household oil that thickens and hardens much quicker than reel oil and can form a layer of crud on reel parts. Be sure to check the nut at the bottom of the reel shaft to make sure it is tight.
Squeeze a few drops of oil on the roller guide that wraps the line around the reel spool, and oil the area where the brail spring meets the reel spool housing. Remove the handle by either a screw or by rotating the handle backwards then apply a few drops of oil on the handle knob shaft and the shaft that fits inside of the reel.
Remove the side plate to access the reel innards. Right in the middle is the main bearing. Lift this bearing off the main gear and remove the main gear if possible. Drop the main bearing in a degreaser, kerosene, rubbing alcohol or light fluid. Clean the teeth of the main gear with an old toothbrush and soapy water or degreaser. Allow the parts to dry and apply oil to the bearings and a tiny amount of grease to each tooth of the main gear. Check the inside of the reel for crud, sand, dirt, fibers or any other gunk. Do not spray the inside with a harsh chemical solution or use gasoline. This may damage some plastic parts and possibly push crud into the inner recesses of the reel.
Grease the spiral worm gear in the bottom of the reel and the gears in front of the worm gear with a light coating of oil. Also grease any part that slides along another part. McClellan cautions to use grease sparingly as it attracts dirt and sand and negatively impacts performance of the reel. Too much grease may make the reel like it is full of mud. Put the reel back together, spray the outside with WD- 40 and wipe it down. With this last step, you should be good to go.

Attention, clammers

The Washington Department of Fishing and Wildlife has tentatively scheduled a new series of evening razor clam digs through February. Various beaches will be open for 13 days in January and five days in February. All digs are scheduled on evening tides. The schedules can be found on the department’s website.
To all, a Happy New Year!

Outdoors writer Bob Brown can be reached at

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