How to Clean a Reel After Saltwater Fishing


Saltwater fishing puts a reel through a lot of wear and tear. Corrosive salts and minerals dissolved in sea water will gather on a reel and quickly seep into the gears and bearings. The resulting rust is the single greatest cause of equipment failure and the reason some anglers replace their gear more often than necessary. The solution is to clean the reel after every saltwater fishing trip. Once the boat is moored securely for the night and the fish are cleaned, the next order of business should be cleaning your equipment. Saltwater reels can provide years of service--or merely a few months. The choice is up to the angler.

Things You'll Need

  • Saltwater reel
  • Clean, cold water
  • Liquid dishwashing soap
  • Old towels
  • Screwdriver
  • Cotton swabs
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Reel oil
  • Detach the reel from the rod by unscrewing the locking nut on the back handle of the rod behind the rear reel foot.

  • Soak a towel in clean, cold water and squeeze about a tablespoon of dishwashing liquid onto the towel.

  • Wipe down all exposed surfaces of the reel to remove salt, slime and flecks of seaweed.

  • Rinse the reel in cold, running water to remove soap, salt and loosened dirt.

  • Remove the spool on a spincasting reel by unscrewing the lock nut on the top of the reel. Remove the spool on a baitcasting reel by unscrewing the knob on the side opposite the handle or by removing the screws on the reel side opposite the handle to separate the two halves so the spool can slide off.

  • Use cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol to clean the spool spindle and metal parts inside the spool housing. Alcohol will help dissolve and remove dried salts and minerals that can corrode and grind down metal parts.

  • Rinse the spool and fishing line under cold, running water.

  • Place the reel and spool on a clean, dry towel and allow it to air dry completely.

  • Add a drop or two of reel oil to the spool spindle, the reel handle and on either side of the line bail on spincasting reels. Add a drop of oil to the line level on a baitcasting reel. The line level is the wire loop that glides back and forth on the top of a baitcasting reel to add line evenly to the spool.

  • Replace the spool with line and reattach with the locking nut on a spincasting reel or the screws or side nut on a baitcasting reel.

  • Wipe down the reel with a towel to remove any excess oil or residual moisture.

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