How Often Should You Oil Your Fishing Reel?

Is taking care of your fishing reel a top priority? If it isn’t now, it should be. Today’s reels aren’t cheap, so you want to do a little preventive maintenance to maximize your good years with them. To help you out, we will go over some of the tools necessary for oiling and cleaning reels, as well as the main dos and don’ts of precautionary reel maintenance.

How Often Should Reel Oiling Take Place?

This would depend on how often you fish. If you fish once a week, you want to clean and oil your reels every other trip. If it is less frequent than that, doing maintenance once a month is usually enough to keep your reels running smoothly.

Nevertheless, whether reels you use reels frequently or keep them sitting in the garage most of the time, they will need regular oiling. That’s because when in use, spool bearings release oil with every cast. On the other hand, when you don’t use them, they can develop rust and start to corrode.

It is especially important to oil reels taken on trips several times a month. The constant exposure to sand, dust, and rain gives you all the more reason to oil or even clean out the plunge completely.

Does the Reel Oil Brand Matter?

The short answer? Yes, it does. Reel oils aren’t created equal, and how well reel maintenance goes depends highly on the oil brand you use. There are oils specially formulated for reel care. You can purchase them individually or as part of the reel maintenance kits you will find at most fishing gear stores.

Tools You Will Need

Before you dive into the actual steps, make sure you have gathered all the right tools. Here’s what you will need to do things correctly:

  • All-in-one cleaner, lubricant, and rust-prevention solution
  • Soft, clean rag
  • Philips head and flathead screwdrivers
  • A good brand of reel oil
  • Q-tips

Another important reminder before getting started is to make sure you are capable of putting the reel back together once you take it apart. If you aren’t confident you can do this, it might be best to leave the task to someone else. Many times, people find themselves unable to assemble their reels completely after disassembling them.

How To Clean and Oil Your Fishing Reel

steps to oil a fishing reel

Although you can have professionals clean and oil your reel for you, you could do just as good a job using the following steps:

Step 1: Once you get out of the water, spray your reel with fresh water.

There are two important reminders for this step. First, spray your reels lightly; don’t submerge them in freshwater. Next, using too much pressure can damage your reels. Both these actions can push salt further inside your reel, damaging its inner workings. Hence, you want to keep water running lightly when washing saltwater and sand off the reels.

Step 2: Remove the spool before you start.

Before you start oiling, make sure the spool is free of sand or any sort of debris. If you see some, wipe them off with a soft, clean rag. Another reason why the spool shouldn’t be attached to the reel for this step is that it could get some of the grease and chemicals on your line.

Step 3: Place a drop of reel oil on the part of the shaft where the spool is.

Once this is done, crank the handle several times to ensure the shaft is completely covered with oil. Take note that a “drop” or a “dab” of oil is enough, as it is never a good idea to go overboard with the oil amount.

Step 4: Oil the area where the handle rotates.

Again, a drop is enough. Wipe the excess off so that it doesn’t make its way to your hands.

Step 5: Put oil where the handle connects to the reel body.

This is a very important that step that most people sometimes forget. As a result, they soon end up with a handle that refuses to budge.

Step 6: Clean and lubricate the roller.

The roller on the bail is among the most crucial parts to maintain. That’s because, under immense tension, lack of mobility in this area could break the line that touches the reel.

Step 7: Tighten the screws on the reel.

Check if there are any loose screws on your reel so that you can tighten them up and prevent your reel from falling apart. The last thing you want is your reel parts breaking off with the first prize on the line.

Step 8: Wipe down the reel using the all-in-one solution.

Let the all-in-one solution do its magic on your reel. This product can reduce corrosion and extend your reels’ lifespan considerably.

Why Reel Care Matters

It doesn’t matter if you use your reels frequently or barely. Taking care of them guarantees they perform better and last longer. If you often fish, cleaning and lubricating your reels every other trip should keep them functioning the way you want on the water. If you only fish occasionally, once a month of maintenance should be good enough.

What’s the best way to clean your fishing reels?

Since good fishing reels don’t come cheap, you want to take good care of your fishing equipment to keep its efficiency for the longest time. Cleaning the fishing reels is crucial for their durability and performance. When the fishing reels are dirty, grime and grit will get to the moving elements and eventually cause damage.

What’s the best way to clean your fishing reels

Cleaning freshwater fishing reels vs. cleaning saltwater fishing reels

Cleaning the fishing reels when using them in saltwater isn’t different from using them in freshwaters, except for washing the fishing reels with fresh water and soap after each use in saltwater. You will have to wipe the reels with a soapy rag to remove all minerals and salt on the reel after the saltwater has dried up and removed entirely.

How to properly clean the fishing reel after every use

You don’t need to follow a complex process to clean your fishing reels after every use. We recommend you clean the reels also if you haven’t used them in a while as they collect dust when stored.

  • Tighten down on the drag to reduce the risk of water intrusion
  • Use a gentle spray to rinse off the reel. Never use a pressurized stream of water because you will push water inside the reel.
  • Towel dry or let the reel air dry
  • Use a lubricant to reduce the risk of corrosion. Spray it on the real and spread it with a clean rag. Use a dry rag to wipe down the metal parts as well.
  • If you have a spinning reel, you need to remove the spool and drag cap before cleaning. Use the rag to wipe them too.

What steps should you take for deep-cleaning the fishing reel?

Every few months or once a season, make sure you deep-clean the fishing reels. The frequency of deep cleaning depends on how often you use them. If you start hearing strange grinding noises when using the reel or sense that it’s difficult to crank, you should deep-clean the fishing reel. You will also need to do it if the spool no longer revolves as smoothly as before.

  • Take the reel out of the fishing rod and down the foot.
  • Clean the reel as before
  • Take out the handle and use a saturated rag to wipe the metal elements. Read the manufacturer’s recommendations on how to lubricate the metal elements
  • Take out the side plate, clean and remove any excess lubricant. Put fresh new lubricant instead. If the reel is conventional, you will be able to get to the parts of the spool and driveshaft. According to the type of reel, you will be able or not to clean and lubricate parts such as clicker assembly and the spool bearing. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on cleaning and lubricating these parts. If you add the wrong lubricant to the spool shaft, you will alter the performance by lowering the free-spooling abilities.

Oiling and cleaning help with reels’ durability. Will proper storing help as well?

Oiling and cleaning your fishing reels are crucial, but you also need to store them when not in use properly. We recommend you follow our tips when keeping your fishing reels—it will expand their lifespan. More importantly, when you store your fishing reels accordingly, they will perform as expected the next time you use them.

Oiling and cleaning help with reels’ durability. Will proper storing help as well

Prepare the reels

Here’s how to prepare the fishing reels for storage


When you’re not going to use the fishing reels for many months, start by removing the fishing lines from the reels and storing them separately. It’s the best way to ensure that the lines don’t tangle or kink.

Dial down the drag

Commonly, bait casting reels and spinning reels don’t include many mechanical parts. You should dial down the drag the lower the stress of the elements and the risk of failure when using.

Clean the reels

Detach all removable components and use some soapy water to clean them. Use an old toothbrush to remove grime, sand, and salts from the reels. Rinse the elements and let them air dry. Put them back in place once they’re completely dry.

Lubricate all moving parts

Now it’s a good time to replace the worn-out gears and springs. Continue oiling and greasing all the movable components as you don’t want them to rust.

Store the fishing reels

There are all sorts of methods to store fishing reels. From wrapping the reels in newspapers on shelves to storing them in shoe bags, people are very creative in storing their fishing reels. Here are the most common methods, to our knowledge:

Store in bags

You can easily store the fishing reels in the bags they came in. If you’re not happy with the quality, you can always get bags specially made for storage. Make sure to leave a small gap when closing the bag so that the moisture can escape.

Store in cabinets

You can make a cabinet solely for storing the fishing reels. You can organize your recently cleaned and dried reels in the cabinet and leave some space in between as well. You can add some silica desiccants or other items to absorb moisture inside the cabinet. Remember to lock the cabinet.

Try a wall mount storage

You can try vertical or horizontal wall mounts for the fishing reel. You can either make your own or buy them. The best advantage of this storage method is that you no longer need to dismantle the fishing rods and leave the fishing reels on.


Can you use any fishing reel with your rod?

Fishing reels are supposed to match any fishing rod. The most crucial aspect to consider is that the line, rod, and reel are compatible and can work as a system. Once you put them all together, they should work together.

Do fishing reels come in various sizes?

Spinning reel sizes can be tricky as professionals use two different size classifications. Some reel manufacturers classify reel sizes that start with 10, 20, 30, etc. Some manufacturers start the classification with sizes 1000, 2000, 3000, etc.

Reels come for right and left-handed. How do you know how to choose?

Similar to spinning, if you’re right-handed (you cast and hold the rod in the right hand), you can use a reel with the crank handle on the left side (it’s labeled as “left-handed”). If you’re a left-handed angler, you need to buy a reel with the crank handle on the right side—look for “right-handed” models.

What’s the best way to select the size for the reel?

Selecting the proper reel size is similar to choosing the fishing line you plan to use most of the time. The lighter the line you plan to use, the smaller the reel you should buy. A ten-pound test line is the highest strength and diameter for a spinning reel.

What’s the perfect gear ratio for a fishing reel?

A slow reel is a perfect option for crank baiting. A reel with a 5:1 gear ratio is excellent at getting your baits to the maximum depth and confidence for success. You will have the most accurate image of what will happen with the lure.

Robert Dwayne

Robert Dwayne

To say that I am an outdoors enthusiast is probably an understatement. I am hyper passionate about everything outdoors: hiking, survival, hunting. On this website I am sharing my stories and experiences, and I hope you'll find inspiration to take up your own adventures!