It is very important to routinely maintain spinning reels when they are being used in saltwater in order to ensure optimum performance. The last thing that you need when fighting the fish of a lifetime is for the reel to fail due to poor maintenance.

Recently I stumbled across an article on spinning reel maintenance while visiting the Alan Hawk website. The Alan Hawk website (www.alanhawk.com) is well worth visiting if you are looking to purchase a high end spinning reel and are looking for a comprehensive, independent review of one of many of the reels currently available in the market. The reviews are incredibly detailed and each reel is completely stripped down and analysed.

I’ve reproduced the daily and periodical care sections of the reel maintenance below but if you want to view the full article then click on the following link:- http://www.alanhawk.com/blog/care.html


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.

You’ll need to do an extra step if you have one of the following reels; 2014 Saltiga Expedition, 2015 Saltiga, and 2015 Saltiga Dogfight. The 2016 Catalina is not included.


These reels do not have rubber seals at the handle’s openings anymore, and instead have a mag-sealed ball bearing at each side, so you need to unscrew the handle and remove the cap from the opposite side, then let a gentle stream of freshwater enter each opening to rinse away any salty deposits. Do two or three rinses for each side, and follow each rinse by pointing the rinsed side downwards to let the water get out. You can skip rinsing these openings if your reel remained dry during fishing and was not drenched or sprayed.

After you have rinsed your reel of any brand or model, shake it 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.

Note: This entire rinsing routine is for reels fished in saltwater because of its corrosive effect. If your reel was fished in freshwater only, you do not need to rinse it and can instead wipe off any debris, blood, or bait stains with a wet cloth.


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 had 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 lubricant.


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; 

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. 

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;

If the handle is jointed, oil the joint. That does it for the oil, and we move to grease;

Extend 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. 

Handle knob seals comes in various shapes, all should be greased.

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!”

The various products that Alan Hawk recommends for cleaning and lubrication are:-

  • Solvent – WD40
  • Oil – Ardent reel oil, Shimano reel spray oil, but my favourite is Quantum Hot Sauce oil.
  • Grease – Ardent grease, Shimano spray grease, but my favourite general use grease is also Quantum Hot Sauce grease. For my most expensive reels though I use Daiwa Molybdenum grease on the gearing.
  • Drag grease – Do not grease drag washers that are made of felt, rather lightly oil them with synthetic oil if needed. For carbon fibre drag washers, Cal is pretty good, as is Shimano Star Drag Grease, but the best drag grease available now is Daiwa 555.

My procedure for cleaning tackle when returning from a flats fishing trip is slightly different and is summarised below. Typically it takes about 10 – 15 minutes to thoroughly clean and dry all of the tackle used after a saltwater spinning session.


The recommended cleaning procedure for spinning tackle is:-

  • Fill a sink with warm water (40 – 45oC) containing a few drops of domestic dishwashing liquid.
  • Take an old piece of towelling. Wet a corner in the soapy water, wring out the excess and gently wipe down the rod blank, guides and fittings. Make sure that all visible salt and sand residues are removed. Gently repeat the procedure with a dry corner of the towelling to remove any soapy water that remains.
  • Place the clean dry rod into a rod bag and store in a dry area.
  • Clean out the damp portion of the towelling thoroughly in the soapy water.
  • Before cleaning the reel ensure that the drag mechanism is done up tightly.
  • Wring out the excess soapy water and carefully wipe down all of the reel surfaces. Take care to make sure that all visible salt and sand residues are removed from the bail, bail roller and spool.
  • Holding the reel horizontal carefully run a dribble of warm water onto the line to remove any vestiges of salt that are trapped between the line wrappings. Ensure that this water does not enter the reel mechanism.
  • Gently repeat the procedure with a dry corner of the towelling to remove any water that remains on the reel. Release the drag mechanism. Note that I only tend to oil and grease the reel after every 7 – 10 sessions and if the reel is not going to be used for some time I apply a light coat of a spray lubricant (such as INOX or CRC Tackle Guard) to the surface of reel to prevent corrosion during storage.
  • Place all of the used lures and terminal tackle into this warm soapy water and soak for several minutes. Remove the lures and terminal tackle from the soapy water. Pat dry and return to tackle box. If the lures are still warm when they are patted dry then any residual moisture will evaporate off as the lures cool.


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