How to Oil a Fishing Reel: A Step by Step Maintenance Guide

Fishing reels are arguably the most essential piece of equipment in your fishing setup. It is vital that you provide proper maintenance and care to your fishing reel to ensure that it is functioning correctly and that it lasts a long time.

The best things you can do to prolong the life of your fishing reel is to clean your reel after each use and to oil your reel once every couple of weeks, depending on how much you use your fishing equipment.

If you live somewhere that has four seasons and you store your equipment for winter, you will absolutely need to clean and oil your fishing reel before you place your equipment in storage.

Below we are going to discuss how to clean your reel, what supplies you will need to clean and oil your reel, and most importantly, how to oil your fishing reel.

Step 1. Clean the Fishing Reel Before You Oil

Supplies You Will Need

You may not need everything on this list, but here are our recommended tools and cleaning supplies that you will need to properly clean and oil your fishing reel. 

The main things you will need are; something to dismantle your reel with, the proper reel oil, some sort of cloth or paper towel, and access to water. 

We are going to describe a thorough way to clean and oil your reel using some of these additional items on the supplies list. 

This is what you will need:

  • Philps-head and flat-head screwdriver.
  • Tweezers.
  • Any special tools or wrenches that came with your fishing reel.
  • Soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Toothpick.
  • Cotton swabs.
  • Instruction booklet and diagram that came with your fishing reel.
  • Masking tape and a black marker.
  • The correct type of lubricant for your fishing reel.
  • Reel cleaning solvent.
  • Terry cloth rags.
  • Paper towels.
  • WD-40.

Also Read: Best Fishing Reel Oil and Grease

How to Clean Your Fishing Reel

Before you are ready to oil your fishing reel, you will need to thoroughly clean your reel. You should do this after each fishing outing anyway, especially if you are fishing in saltwater.

  • First, remove the reel from the fishing rod and loosen the drag as far as it will go.
  • Second, run your reel under a sink faucet and let the water remove any built-up of dirt or sand and any possible bloodstains from fish. 
  • Next, use a damp cloth to rub-down the exterior of the reel and to get any of the dirt or sand that the running water is not strong enough to remove.  Once you are satisfied that all the grime has been removed, take a different dry cloth to completely dry your fishing reel. 
  • Lastly, apply a light layer of WD-40 by spraying the solvent onto the reel and by evenly applying the solvent to the exterior of the reel. This will help repel water, sand, and dirt from your reel. Be careful not to get any WD-40 onto your fishing line.

Let your reel air dry for 15 minutes and then you will be ready to oil the reel. 

For another way to oil your reel and additional tips and advice, check out this video below from our friends at Okuma Fishing Tackle USA.

Step 2. Are You Now Ready to Oil Your Fishing Reel? A Step by Step Guide

Step 1. Set Up Your Work Space: Find a nice well-lit area with a large flat surface and lay down a towel for you to lay all the parts of the reel onto. 

There are many small parts to a reel and keeping everything on the towel will ensure you do not misplace anything or have any pieces roll off the table. 

Step 2. Disassemble the Reel: The first thing you will want to do before you disassemble your reel is secure your fishing line to the spool with a piece of masking tape. 

This will prevent the line from getting tangled or from falling out while taking apart the reel.

Identify what tool you will need to disassemble your reel. If your reel did not come with a special tool, you should be able to use a flat-head or Phillips-head screwdriver, and an Allen wrench.

As you disassemble the reel, take out the masking tape and lay strips down on your towel. 

For each part that you remove from the reel, lay it down next to a strip of masking tape and then write down a number on the tape to help you remember in what order it was removed from the reel. 

This will help you when it is time to reassemble your reel. 

If you have the original instruction booklet and diagram, you may be able to skip writing the numbers on the tape. 

Also, use the tweezers to remove wire clips and springs that can either shoot out of the reel and onto the floor or that you may drop. This will reduce the chances of losing any parts.

Step 3. Oil the Bail: Open the bail and using the soft-bristle toothbrush, begin to rub in a few drops of the oil onto the metal line roller. 

Then apply oil to the bail connection points and slowly open and close the bail many times to let the oil work into the joints.

Step 4. Oil the Spool: Remove the drag knob, remove the spool, and use a cotton swab to apply oil to the main shaft and gears. 

Step 5. Oil the Bearings: Remove the screw cap and the reel handle. Using the cotton swab, apply a few drops of reel oil to each bearing and the joints on the reel handle

Step 6. Oil the Entire Reel: Once you have oiled all the smaller moving parts like the bearings, gears, and joints, take a dry cloth and rub in a few drops of oil to the entire body of the reel.

Step 7. Reassemble the Reel: Using either the numbered pieces of tape or a diagram in an instruction booklet that came with your reel, reassemble your reel. Make sure to take your time and do it correctly.

A Quick Note: As you are disassembling your reel, you will want to clean the newly exposed areas the same way we discussed at the beginning of the article before applying the oil.

There is no one way to oil a reel, however, the basic principles we just discussed apply to every method of oiling a fishing reel. 

Also Read: Best Fishing Reel Brands

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Sean Ward

Hey there, my name is Sean – OnTrack Fishing is my site. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch bass in the States, barramundi in Australia, trout here at home, and carp on the Danube delta. If I’m not fishing, or talking about fishing, then….I’m probably asleep.


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