I haven’t been fishing for very long, but I’m a keen fisherman. Recently, while unpacking my gear and tackle at the beach (after a far-too-long break between fishing trips), I noticed that my favourite reel had started to corrode and wasn’t functioning smoothly. It put a damper on the trip, so I was wondering if you’ve got any advice on how best to maintain a fishing reel?


To take your point even further, imagine this scenario: You’ve got a sailfish on the end of your line – a once-in-a-lifetime hook-up. It breaches, pulling more line, and you hear a sound that your reel doesn’t normally make. Suddenly, the spool grinds to a halt, your line parts with a crack, and the fish gives one last, mocking leap before heading home to its school friends.

Definitely not an ideal experience, which is why we need to make a habit of cleaning our reels every couple of months. It takes only about five minutes per reel, but those five minutes can mean the difference between landing the catch of a lifetime, or watching the line snap free.

Carefully rinse your reel after every salt-water outing, and give it a proper strip-down every couple of months. Remember that most fishing reels aren’t waterproof. They contain gears and bearings that need to be looked after, and which are commonly destroyed by water. That’s why, when rinsing your reels, you want to do it gently.

Rinse the reel under a slow, but steady, running tap. Don’t use high pressure, as this could force salt, water, and dirt into the reel’s housing. A strong stream of water can also displace lubricants, and you should never soak the reel in a bowl of water.

Once you’ve rinsed your reel, let it dry and then give it a light spray of Q20 to protect it from water ingress. Try not to get any Q20 on the line.

Q-IN-ONE can also be used for those hard-to-reach places, or, if you want to apply lubricant to a specific area.

There are a few tricks to keeping your reels running smoothly, and to ensure that they last as long as possible. In addition to rinsing after every trip, give your reels a basic service every few months.

1. Remove the spool by loosening the drag dial.

Fishing reel maintenance

2. Remove the handle. Unscrew the screws holding the side plate in place, (making sure to remember which screw fits into which hole) and remove the side plate.

Fishing reel maintenance

3. You now have the internal gears of the reel exposed. Examine these for any damage, and remove any dirt. Use a toothpick to add grease to the gears – a little extra blob will do. These fast-spinning internal parts need a thicker lubricant than Q20, so use someting that has been specifically formulated for the job. Now replace the side plate.

Fishing reel maintenance

Remove all signs of dirt and/or sand build up.

Fishing reel maintenance

4. Clean the handle and the outside of the reel with a toothbrush and a gentle detergent. Rinse and dry.

Fishing reel maintenance

An old toothbrush makes for a perfect cleaning tool.

5. Hold the reel with the shaft pointing away from you and lightly spray both sides with Q20. Wipe around the shaft, but try not to get any Q20 on the actual shaft, which is greased. Give a light spray of Q20 into the moving parts of the handle, roller and bail arm. A little squirt in the anti-reverse lever is also a good idea. Using a rag, wipe the Q20 all over the outside of the reel.

Fishing reel maintenance

6. Pop the reel into a clean bag and store it away for your next trip. The Q20 will keep the reel moisture-free and ready for the next big fight.



1. Dirt. Don’t leave your reel on the ground. Dirt or sand will stick to the wet reel and will grind away at sensitive parts, or stick in moving parts.

2. Salt water. Nothing corrodes a reel like a bath in the big blue. Rinse it with fresh water as soon as you can.

3. Fresh water. Yup, even fresh water can damage your reel. Water can remove the lubricant from bearings and gears, which will then rust. Make sure reels are dry before you store them.

4. Too much lubricant. Go easy when you grease or oil your reel. Too much might not damage the reel, but it will affect its operation.

5. Tight drag. When your reel is not being used, loosen the drag. This will prolong the life of the drag system.