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Alan Hawk Reel Care

The Master-Baiters’ guide to Reel Care

Of course the title of this blog entry doesn’t mean that it’s only for those who use bait. It’s for everyone who uses spinning reels, because regardless of your fishing technique, you have all mastered the art of luring and catching fish, so you are all master-baiters even if you wouldn’t admit it!

I divide reel care into three categories; daily care, periodical care, and seasonal care. I will explain how I personally do each of these.

Daily Care

By that I mean things that should be done at the end of each fishing day, even if you are on a multi-day trip and the reel is going to be fished again the next morning.


Tighten the drag knob and the handle, then hold the reel horizontally and rinse it thoroughly with freshwater from a tap or a bottle, using your finger to rub away any visible salty stains or bait/blood smudges. Give the line on the spool an extra bit of rinsing since it holds a lot of corrosive saltwater, and the line roller should receive extra rinsing as well. If the reel is sealed it could be held in any way during rinsing, but a perfectly horizontal position is the safest for unsealed reels as it minimises the chances of water intrusion.

After that shake the reel hard to get rid of excess water and leave it in open air or near a window to dry. Never put a wet reel inside a plastic bag or a sealed container. That’s all, and now the reel is ready for another day of fishing.

Periodical Care

The frequency of doing this depends on how the reel is fished and what type of reel it is. It is first and foremost to maintain the smooth reliable operation of a reel and reduce wear, but it also provides protection against corrosion therefore older reels would need it more frequently than newer reels since modern materials and finishes resist corrosion better. I personally do it every about 60 or 70 hours of fishing a reel, which would generally be 6 to 8 fishing days.

Firstly, do the rinsing and drying routine explained in the first part of this article, unless you h
ad already done it at the end of the last fishing day.

Secondly, lubricate the reel. Before I explain this, I need to warn that WD40 is NOT a lubricant2

WD40 is a powerful solvent that dissolves lubes, so it should be used only to clean reel parts before applying lubes. Unfortunately a large number of people think it’s a lube and that does a lot of harm.

To properly lube a reel you need oil and grease, and these are the steps to do it;3

Oil both bail joints, and open and close the bail a few times to make sure the oil spreads as far as possible into the joints.4

Drop a couple of drops of oil on the screws of the bail joints, and open and close the bail a few times as well.


The line roller needs extra care because braid sprays saltwater into its tiny gaps and that leads to rapid corrosion of the roller and bearings. Oil the roller very well, and give it a few turns with your fingers for better oil penetration. If the line roller is too narrow for your finger like the one in the photo above, get a small piece of mono and run it beneath the oiled roller to make it spin and take the oil deeper. IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not oil the line rollers of reels that have a mag-sealed line roller (only a few Daiwa reels have these currently). For these reels only rinse the line roller thoroughly with fresh water.


Oil the handle knob’s joint.


If the knob is the open type then oil both sides.


If the handle is jointed, oil the joint.

That does it for the oil, and we move to grease;


Extended the main shaft all the way forward, clean it with a tissue, then with your finger rub some grease on the visible area of the shaft below the spool hub. Even if the reel has a shaft seal, a thin layer of grease is still going to stick to the shaft and reduce the friction as it goes up and down.


If the drag knob has a seal, rub some grease with your finger all over that seal.


Knob seals comes in various shapes, all should be greased.


And if the handle has a seal, put some grease on it as well.

That’s all. It sounds complicated but if you read it a few times you’ll see it’s easy to memorise and it takes exactly 3 minutes to do the whole thing. After lubing, wipe the reel with a clean tissue or a cloth to remove any excess oil and you’re done and ready to go online and post about your fishing trip, inflating the size of fish you caught by 30% as usual!

Seasonal Care

This is the full service of a reel. For most anglers who fish their reels hard this needs to be done once a year. Occasional fishermen could go 3 to 5 years without the need for it, and reels that belong to charter boats might need it done every few months. This involves disassembling the reel to clean and lube it inside. Naturally there are no global instructions for this since each reel has its own procedure for disassembly, so I’m going to speak in general here. A word of caution though, don’t take down a reel unless you know you can do it successfully. It might be easier and safer to send it to an authorised service centre if you have doubts.

Spray some solvent on a cloth, and carefully wipe down the drag washers with the cloth to clean them off gummy residuals and burned grease. Do not apply solvent directly on the washers. After this apply a thin layer of drag grease on the washers, wipe the excess, and place the washers back. If the drag washers were originally running dry, in most cases it’s better to leave them dry and only wipe them with a dry cloth to remove any fragments.

An instant anti-reverse clutch needs to be cleaned with a solvent, then shake and dry it if possible and lube the innards and brake discs with thin oil. Oil the clutch’s sleeve as well.

Ball bearings should be left alone as in most cases they would run for many years without the need for fresh lubes. If the bearing is contaminated and needs cleaning, then remove the shields and remove the old grease with a tooth brush and a few sprays of solvent, then shake and dry it before packing it with grease and putting the shields back. Some ball bearing shields are press fitted and if pried open the shields can’t be put back, so special consideration needs to be done before removing those shields. The ability of the bearing to run open without a shield depends on many variables and there are no firm rules for this. In the case of sealed bearings there wouldn’t be any contamination because of the seals, but anyway most bearing seals can be removed and put back successfully.

Gears and oscillation components should be cleaned with the solvent and tooth brush, then dried and greased with quality grease.

The seals of a reel should be checked for cracks and they should feel soft. If they are alright, then rub some grease on them using your finger and put them back. If those seals display cracks or feel dry or brittle, change them.


Some reels have service ports, and people usually drop oil in there. I advise against this. The only thing that should go through a service port is spray grease.


And a final tip, if the reel is going to be left unused for a while or stored, remove the line and thoroughly clean the area that was occupied by the line. This is one of the parts that corrode easily because the line traps salt that slowly damages the finish of the spool. Do not store a reel with a line on, and while this sounds like a lot of work, it could be done easily by using a second reel that has a plastic spool or a super crappy reel that you don’t care about to pull the line off the original reel.

This is all. Now I will talk about the care products I prefer.


WD40 is the most common one and it works fine, but I prefer Ardent Reel Kleen. If you don’t have access to solvents, you can use petrol but only limit that to gears and unfinished metal parts. Don’t use petrol on the finish, don’t let it touch plastic or rubber, and don’t use it on drag washers.



Use synthetic oil only. I like Ardent reel oil, Shimano’s reel spray oil, but my favourite is Quantum’s Hot Sauce oil. The quality of all these oils is excellent and expensive oils are not needed.


Penn’s Precision Reel Grease is cheap and readily available, but it’s petroleum based so I only use it on cheaper reels. Good synthetic greases I use are Ardent grease, Shimano’s spray grease, but my favourite general use grease is also Quantum’s Hot Sauce grease. For my most expensive reels though I use Daiwa’s Molybdenum grease on the gearing. This is the very best grease available for a reel’s gearing in terms of metal protection and wear reduction, but it should be used with care as it could ruin ball bearings if it gets inside them. In the past I used to use expensive lubes from Dupont such as Krytox 205 and 225, but I no more need this as advances in technology meant that cheaper and easily obtainable greases now perform perfectly for the application on hand.

Drag Grease

Cal’s is pretty good, as is Shimano’s Star Drag Grease, but the best drag grease available now is Daiwa’s 555. I used to use some excellent drag greases from Fisherman in the past, but the 555 is something else and to me it’s vastly superior to anything available. From my experience in a cold drag all perform similarly, but it’s when the drag gets hot that I feel the 555 shining and maintaining better drag consistency. It also lasts longer before needing a change.


To finish up this “reel maintenance” article, I will follow the example of the pamphlets that come with reels which show you things you shouldn’t do with the reel. Here is my list of things NOT to do with your reel as they could affect the performance.

Don’t shoot the reel with a firearm.

Don’t cut the bail wire to see if it’s really hollow or not…

And if your reel feels tight don’t put it on the stove to “free it up”!

Hope this blog entry will prove useful to you.



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