In the past, I’d usually just let the season creep up on me and I’d end up crying on my boat or at the streamside when my frayed line, dull hooks or poorly maintained rod and reel would cost me a bright shiny lunker. The next day I’d be whimpering down at the local sporting goods or bait shop, bemoaning my rotten luck and plunking down a few bucks to get everything back up to snuff.
This is especially easy to do with the rod and reel that you shove in a corner of your RV and forget about till you motor into some place where anglers are hauling in the big ones. Then you’ll snare a little bait and tackle, get off a cast, and watch in horror as that bird’s nest that you forgot about pops out of the reel, or your bail falls off, or your rod tip slides down the line into the river.
Cast Out the Old
First thing to do is strip all the line off your reels. I know, it was all new last year, but it doesn’t cost much for a new spool, and the stuff you left in the closet has formed a real good memory of lots of tiny circles and can’t wait to tangle and make casting and fishing miserable. Once you get your new line on the reel, tie the end to something stationary, let out all your line and put some pressure on it. A few good minutes of stretching will do wonders for ease of casting and fishing.
Then give the reel a good cleaning. The outside is pretty easy, a little soap and water and a touch of polish and it will shine like new. After all, it’s made to get wet, so get off all the slime, seaweed and bait scales you forgot to clean off before you put it away.
Getting inside is a little tougher. Most level-wind reels are pretty easy to handle. You get instructions on cleaning and oiling with the reel. Most have small ports designed for oil and grease. Some of the gears are a little tricky, but if you keep them oiled and clean, you shouldn’t need to get inside all that often anyway.
The big problem comes when you try to take care of your spinning reels. These reels are a lot of fun for cast-and-retrieve fishing. I don’t particularly care to use them for trolling; it puts a little too much pressure on the bail, and I like to be able to thumb a reel in more open waters, but if you do a lot of casting, especially with lighter weights, they are the only way to go.
Most of us learned on a spinning reel; you don’t need to worry about a backlash or setting the spool tension just right. Kids take to them readily and within a few minutes are casting them from the shore with only occasional problems. They can, however, be real devils to maintain.
Much more than bait-
casting outfits, spinning reels subject their gears to a lot of centrifugal force. If you use them for pretty active fishing with large fish, they soon have most of the grease thrown clear of the major gears. They start to grind, and it can be miserable. The reel locks up; it feels like you are chewing up coffee beans inside your spool. You can’t retrieve your line fast enough to get in the slack, and you cringe each time you have to crank the handle.
At first, I thought the problem was that I was getting bait, slime, sand or something else awful in the gears. After a few post mortems I found that it was nothing so complex, just a bunch of unlubricated pieces of metal that were having a heck of a time meshing with each other.
My level winds have places to squirt grease to the gears; few spin reels have any such luxury.
To make matters worse, the instructions don’t usually give you any tips about how to clean and lube your reel. I’ve got dozens, and all of the paperwork suggests a yearly cleaning and recommends a licensed dealer. This suggestion has two major downsides. First, the only licensed repairman I could find was 90 miles away! I think we only have a few in the whole state. Secondly, most repair folks charge at least 20 bucks for repairs and cleaning, and that expense is pretty much the same as buying a brand new reel!
I figured I had to be confused and called up a few of my buddies who are fishing guides and charter skippers. What do they do when their reels get cranky? “Heck Bob,” replied my most mechanical pal, “I just toss them. I repair all my level winds, they aren’t much trouble, but for the cost of a spinner, I’ve got better things to do!” It seems like the reels are made to be disposable items!
I know what he means, the screws are tiny, there are dozens of them, and they get stripped easily. But I just can’t toss most of mine when I’m done. The problem is, I’ve got some really great spinning reels. One nice thing about writing for you folks is that I get some great bargains on gear and have some wonderful equipment that is way too good (and expensive) to toss after the reel gets “grindy.”
But I do have a solution. I very carefully take apart the reels, clean off the gears, and clean the metal with solvent to get it ready to be reassembled and greased. Never in a million years could I get the parts back together in working order! Then I leave the whole mess on the kitchen table and whine every time my wife comes by. That display and a nice dinner out usually do the trick. She is a great natural “fixer” and has the touch to get everything greased up and put back in place. It still costs me the twenty bucks but I don’t have to ship the reel and wait a month to get it back!