How to clean a baitcaster

You can use some Simple Green solvent and a toothbrush to clean the pawl/worm gear.
You can use some Simple Green solvent and a toothbrush to clean the pawl/worm gear.

A little TLC will extend life of reels

Most of today’s baitcasters are almost bulletproof, standing up to the rigors of the fishing environment and performing trip after trip.

But maintenance will ensure your investment (some of the best reels cost a lot of money) lasts for years. And that’s more than just spraying off your reel or dipping them in a bucket of water.

In fact, either of those methods will only drive grit and contaminants deeper into the workings of the reels.

Instead, just wipe down your reels after each trip.

For more-thorough cleaning, follow these step-by-step instructions.

Just remember to carefully open the cases, since there are springs and screws that can pop off and roll under the nearest piece of furniture or crack in your shop floor. I promise each of those pieces is needed for proper operation.


This is one of the most-neglected components in a reel, but a properly operating drag system can be the difference between landing that lunker and leaving it in the water.

After each trip, ensure you loosen the drags on your reels to prevent them from sticking. Grease is squeezed out of the drag washer each time the system is tightened, so loosening the star drag allows grease to reabsorb.

And at least once a year (twice a year for those of us fishing brackish and saltwater environments) the case should be cracked, the drag grease wiped off and replaced with fresh dab of Teflon-based drag grease. If there is visible glazing, use a flat-head screwdriver to scrape it off before greasing.

Anti-reverse bearing

Don’t oil this bearing. Ever. If you feel this bearing is causing problems, it’s time to turn the reel over to a professional.


Modern bearings are pretty much maintenance-free, but if the reel is sticking it’s probably a bearing issue. The only two bearings that can be a problem are the spool and pinion bearings located at each end of the spool. Just remove the side plate, dip a Q-tip in some alcohol and clean each bearing. Place a single drop of oil on each bearing and close up the reel.

Pawl/worm gear

You don’t really want to try and disassemble this part of the reel because it’s pretty tough getting it back together. However, you can use some Simple Green solvent and toothbrush to clean it. Dry it off with a Q-tip and add a drop of oil. That’s it.

About Andy Crawford 863 Articles
Andy Crawford has spent nearly his entire career writing about and photographing Louisiana’s hunting and fishing community. While he has written for national publications, even spending four years as a senior writer for B.A.S.S., Crawford never strayed far from the pages of Louisiana Sportsman. Learn more about his work at www.AndyCrawford.Photography.

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