5 Steps for Winterizing Your Reel

5 Steps for Winterizing Your Reel

It’s not too surprising that many anglers don’t bother to prepare their reels for winter downtime. After all, nobody really wants to believe the season is over, and you may be hoping that there will still be a chance to squeeze some fishing in somehow.


This can be especially true if you live somewhere where the winters are mild.


But the truth is that you really should take care of your reel, especially if you’re not going to be using it for a while. And there is no better time to perform some necessary annual maintenance than the onset of winter.


So, let’s get that reel ready for a long winter’s nap.


Step 1: Draw the Line on Your Line


Depending on how much you fish, and how often you change your line, your line could be nearly new or on it’s last legs. Generally, winter is a great time to strip off old line so you can start fresh in the spring.

If you’ve just recently replaced your line and aren’t ready to trash it, you should still remove it from the reel. One way to do this is to attach an empty spool (you can also use an empty paper towel tube) to the chuck of a drill, fasten the end of your line to it, and then let the drill pull the line off your reel in just a few seconds


Step 2: Clean your Spool and Shaft


Now that you’ve removed all of your line, it’s time to get cleaning. Use a little soap and water to remove any salt or gunk from your spool. Be sure to remove the spool so you can also give the same cleaning treatment to your shaft.


If you stick to freshwater fishing, there shouldn’t be too much buildup. This step is much more essential when you’ve been using your reel in saltwater.


Just remember that this is your yearly maintenance, so be as thorough as possible.


Step 3: Take Care of Your Line Roller and Bail Assembly


Before you attack your roller and bail, take a moment to consider how they performed on your last couple outings. You may want to just perform a basic cleaning, much like you did with your spool and shaft, or you may need to go all out.


At a minimum, you’ll want to clean both roller and bail, and apply a few drops of oil. Just remember that if your line was clean when you removed it, it’s because most of the water is stripped off by the roller when it’s reeled in. Much of that water (and whatever it was carrying) makes its way into the line roller in the process.


So, preferably, you’ll want to remove the line roller, take it apart, and then clean and lube all bearings and bushings within. If there is any play on the bearing (i.e. it wobbles AND spins), then now is the time to replace it. 


One of the best arguments for performing winter maintenance at the onset of winter is that you have time to order and replace parts. You won’t want to be waiting for parts to arrive when the weather starts getting nice.


You should also examine the bail arm assembly to see if it is clean of any gunk and free of any corrosion. Give it a few drops of oil and work it in by moving the bail. 


Step 4: Handle your Handle and Bearings


Next, you’ll need to remove your handle, which should expose the bearings on both sides.

Once again, consider how your reel last performed when you used it. Does it spin smoothly without resistance? Is there any wobble on your handle? If the answer to either is yes, then you should definitely replace these bearings.

If your bearings are still good, then apply a small amount of oil to them. You may need to remove the outer seal in order to do so. 

Be sure to replace any seals, and then reattach the handle. Operate the handle to ensure that it spins optimally.


Step 5: Back Off the Drag


Finally, give some attention to your drag washers. Without overdoing it, apply a bit of drag grease, and gently work it in. Then replace your spool and make sure that you’ve completely backed off the drag. Like the rest of your reel, it’s worked hard for you throughout the season, and now it’s time to give it a well-deserved rest.

These basic steps will help you keep your reel operating at peak performance throughout next season, and all the seasons to come. It will also help ensure that your reel is ready to go as soon as the weather again starts telling you that it’s time to go catch some fish.