How To Fishing Blogs

Names Withheld To Protect the Guilty, Or . . .

. . . an afternoon in the life of a reel guy.

In this thread I will show what irregular reel breakdowns/cleanouts/re-lubrications lead to, for reels that are heavily used in the salt water environment. I receive LOTS of reels in for service, or tuning upgrades, most of which I’ve serviced before. I’m a little picky as to which/who’s reels I’ll work on, as I’ve learned over the years that for what I work for (basically free labor in most cases, just the cost of parts), its not worth hours of my time to have to undo the effects of a poor maintenance regime.

The reels I’ll show in this thread are owned by guys I know and in some cases fish with, who will remain nameless, basically because I like them all. A lot. But that’s no excuse for not following the maintenance schedule that in most cases they themselves have asked for. Oh well, I can only make recommendations, its up to them to make it happen.

For the most part the reels that I normally see are actually engineered for FW use. Oh sure, a manufacturer slaps a few "Corrosion Resistant" bearings in some of them and calls them SW-safe, but that’s really not the case, as the following will show. Reels of this type include all the Abu Revos and Revo Toros, the popular Daiwa Zillions, Lexas and Lunas, all the many Shimano low-pros and Calcutta variations and of course last but not least all, and I mean ALL of the Abu round reels – which happen to be my "Speciality," as Inspector Clouseau liked to say.

The first reel is a doozy. A formerly gorgeous Daiwa Lexa 300PWR that gets fished hard and put away wet, inside the damp cabin of the owner’s boat, no less. I do not doubt that it gets a rinse after every trip, but this is simply not enough, given the use and storage that it endures. This reel was almost completely locked up, and the free-spool was basically non-existent – the spool barely turned at all. Normally I would reject such a mess, telling the owner that its best to send it back to the manufacturer for overhaul, or more probably, scrapping. But this reel is owned by a friend of a close friend, who asked that I give it a shot before shipping it off to Diawa. O.K., so I’ll give it my best effort.

When I get into a reel, especially a low-profile, I always begin with the left side plate – really, the one on the opposite side of the reel from the handle. My thinking is that any mechanisms inside that side plate are relatively simple to service and are not normally exposed to the same large amount of SW intrusion as the components inside the handle/gearbox side. Umm, sometimes not. Take a look.
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So what we have here is a reel that was put into service straight out of the box, running only the "factory original" lubrication – and its easy to see the outcome. A severely rotted magnetic braking system and "corrosion resistant" spool bearing. Nice stuff, no? The magnetic system was toast, no saving it, so out it came. No need for it anyway, as the user doesn’t use this reel for casting. The left side spool bearing was removed (no small task, as the stainless outer race was rot-welded to the aluminium side plate. Soaked first in WD-40, then degreased with automotive brake cleaner, then blown out with compressed air, and finally re-lubed with a few drops of 3-In-One oil. A spin-up revealed that the bearing, while slightly noisier than a new version, was serviceable. A cleanup of the rest of that side plate, and good to go. Normally I would use Reel-X on a friend’s bearing, or TSI-321 if I KNEW he was diligent about his maintenance, but not in this case, the heavier 3-In-One will provide better corrosion control, at the expensive of a slightly "slower" free spool – a non-factor in this case as this reel is intended for bottom fishing, with fairly significant sinker weights.

Next up was the handle – just removing the handle nut cover screw cleanly was a minor miracle. Usually, if not hit with a SW-proof lube prior to beginning SW fishing, that screw, being made of chromed brass or stainless steel, will galvanically weld itself to the much less "Noble" aluminum handle shank. Some people incorrectly refer to this type of corrosion as "electrolysis," but that is the wrong term for this type of deterioration. In this case, using two different screwdriver sizes, I was able to get that tiny screw out of the handle. That almost NEVER happens.

Here’s what it looks like when no lube is schmeared on the handle shank, before locking down the brass handle nut:

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Not super horrible, right? removing that nasty milky stuff however reveals some serious degrading of the aluminum. To separate this particular reel’s handle from the drive shaft was no easy task. It had chemically welded itself onto the brass shaft – and to remove it I had to use a mechanic’s steel punch and large screwdriver’s handle as a "hammer" to drive the shaft down and out of the messed up handle’s hole. My buddy was shocked at the violence it took – as his reels are flawlessly maintained and never need this sort of triage. Actually he was stunned by the entire cleanup process. Such a nice, but somewhat naive guy he is.

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Anyway, salt water has penetrated the anodizing and attacked the aluminum of the handle. Not much can be done about this, other than cleaning up the crud and squirting down the damage with WD-40, and then wiping it all off with a brake cleaner-soaked towel. If done so, it normally ends up like this:

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A thick coating of Yamaha marine grease will provide raw aluminum protection – on re-assembly:

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Time to get into the gearbox – the guts of the reel. There are four screws that secure the right side plate to the frame. Again, using a combination of different types of screwdrivers, and some fairly substantial hits to the top of the screwdrivers to loosen the screws in their bores, they all came out without major drama. Normally side plate screws in a reel that’s in this kind of poor shape will strip while attempting removal. This then requires carefully drilling them out on my office’s mill, followed by re-tapping, utilizing a set of metric micro taps that I keep around for such nastiness. But Praise the Lord, these came out without incident.

End Part One

Next up is a fairly sharp Shimano Tekota 500, again the owner of which shall remain nameless. This one came to me with zero complaints - no grinding, no skipping anti-reverse. No nothing needed, other than a "normal season-end going-over." Yeah, um, not so much. I could tell there was sumpthin' goin' on inside - just a few turns of the handle made me bewy, bewy suspicious. Mind you this is a reel that I see every Fall, and its never super screwed up, just a regular disassembly/cleaning/re-lubing and its back to the owner. Not this year.

Opening up the reel this time showed what was really going on. Severe salt water intrusion, with a nice mix of salt crystals and old lube. Take a gander at that anti-reverse bearing - owww-faaa! When it left my bench last Winter, all the grease was green, not rust red. Wow!:

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And here's a right side plate from yet another Tekota reel, along with a look at the "running gear" - you can see that this amount of crud inside is something of a pattern - more spray, more maintenance please!

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That these last two reels live in a spray-filled environment goes without saying. Obviously, if a reel is going to be subject to this level of spray exposure, it needs more maintenance attention than a single end-of-season tear down. Miraculously, both of these specimens only needed a proper cleaning out and thorough re-lubing - all components were reused - not a small accomplishment.

Moving right along, here's an Abu 5500C4 that came to me this Fall for a thorough working over:

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This reel was incredibly screwed up. It ended up needed a new inner drag plate, a few bearings and some other odds and ends, man, it was REALLY in rough shape. She's back with her owner and running smooth now, after a few hours on the bench. I have to say, this was probably some of my best work - as this reel was just shot. Abu round reels are in no way as robust as say, a Tekota. Obviously more frequent tear downs would greatly serve this hard fishing owner, so to keep his gear up and running through the long season.

Now some relatively odds-and-ends type work. First up is the spool bearing in an otherwise nicely maintained and very custom Abu 4600C4. Though the reel was in great overall shape, salt water had migrated into the reel and attacked the right side spool bearing - to the point that there was no saving it - replacement was the only option:

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Doesn't look like much right? Compared to some of the previous reels it seems minor - but free spool was suffering and there was a distinct grinding sound coming from the bearing. All fixed now.

And here's the left side plate of a Daiwa Zillion Coastal bait casting reel. I service this reel every season - keeping it in tip-top shape is a point of pride for me, as this model - with a few suitable mods and upgrades, is one of my most favorite-est of small inshore reels:

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One can see that salt water has begun to attack the outer magnet of the mag braking system that prevents backlashes on hard casts. A clean-up and light coat of the green Yamaha miracle grease will keep this type of nastiness away during the coming season - and prevent it from ending up looking like the Lexa 300 in the first post of this thread.

And speaking of Daiwa's small low-profile bait casters, one recurring problem that I see is the destruction of the captive spool bearing, on the right side of the spool. Changing this bearing is a bit of a PITA, as the spool's drive pin has to be pressed out of the spool shaft, in order to get at the bearing. This requires a special tool, available from companies like Hedgehog Studios in Japan. This tool is NOT robust, undercutting the thinking that anything costing $30 for such a tiny tool should live a long and productive life. In the past 5 seasons I've destroyed three of them. So there's that.

In the interest of saving my own wallet from further tool destruction, I went ahead and removed the dopey Daiwa factory "corrosion resistant" bearing for the second (third?) time and replaced it with a full ceramic bearing, sourced from one of the many Asian vendors that I buy from. No metal in these bearings whatsoever, unlike the so-called "Ceramic Hybrid" bearings that are passed off as being better for salt water use. Bull dinky. The only true way to make a bearing rust proof is to make it from something that doesn't rust - hence a full ceramic bearing. While its true that this bearing costs $29, it has solved the problem permanently - and therefore saves the owner's money and my sanity as his reel repair dude:

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Next is a good shot of the right side plate of a Gen 2 Revo Winch. This image shows the "Q-Tip cure" I use for rusty anti-reverse bearings. A squirt of WD-40, a run-around several times with the Q-Tip - to be repeated until the Q-Tip comes out clean. Takes a bit of time and effort, but its a VERY successful alternative to replacing a $35+ bearing. Assuming that the A/R bearing can even be replaced. With many reels this is not the case - you have to buy an entire side plate/bearing assembly - at about 50% of the new value of the reel. Yeah, not a really cost-effective solution.

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Finally, here is a shot of a Gen 3 Revo Winch's main gear, minus one of its teeth - from my own reel, no less:

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Unknown to me at the time that I purchased this reel, the gears in Abu's Gen 3 Revo's were made of "aircraft grade" aluminum, called "Duraluminum" - whatever those two terms mean. It appears to me to be an ill-conceived attempt at lowering the reel's weight - which weight saving is now all the craze among all the bait casting reel makers. Some current similar-sized reels are now as light as 4.5oz! Amazing -but at what cost in longevity? What it all means to me is that from here forward I have to be careful with how I fish for fluke, when I have this particular reel in my hand.

This is because the way that I deep jig is to keep the reel in free spool with my thumb on the spool - so to instantly drop back, either to stay in contact with the bottom (common) - or to give a little line to a fish that is hesitant to inhale my lure (waaay less common, unfortunately!). So when I think its time to swing on a fish, what I do is to strike HARD while simultaneously reaching up to click the reel into gear with my other hand. Sounds awkward, I know, but its how I've fished for 40 years - with pretty darn good results, so it comes second nature to me.

Only problem is that every once in a while I mis-time that coordinated maneuver and am a squinch slow at turning the handle to put her in gear, or the fish is so nice that its taking line out from under my thumb as I click the reel into gear. This results in a nasty grind of the gears - and a missing aluminum tooth. No worries when this happens with any of my other reels, because they carry brass or bronze gears - you still get the grind, but not the sheared tooth, ala: my Winch.

There's no mistaking the damage once it occurs. The reel develops an annoying metallic "tick" with every handle turn. I replaced that gear and now keep a second in my inventory - as there's no telling when Abu might discontinue offering it to the public. These dopey Abu/Korean aluminum gears are $30 each, not $12, like the Gen 2 (and Gen 4) Winch's brass gears. Eh, live and learn.

So that's it on this subject - except to say that hopefully your take-away from all this pro-level photography and endless typing is that regular maintenance, using the proper solvents and lubes, will go a looong way toward keeping your reels up and running - and your reel guy's hair up on his head, where it belongs. ;)
  • T
  • March 13, 2019
Maybe I dont feel so bad now after seeing those. And thank you many times over. treemanjb
  • T
  • March 13, 2019
Awesome job on that Lexa resurrection! Great tips on keeping them properly lubricated.
Okay, okay! I admit it...I store my reels IN THE WATER AT THE DOCK!

It's easier than bringing them ALL THE WAY home after every trip. I tie a string to them, lower them to the bottom, tie them off to the cleat...Then I retrieve them as I board for the next trip.

I guess I didn't put enough lube on them beforehand :rolleyes:
  • P
  • March 14, 2019
Great stuff , thanks Lep !
I have several lexa 100's that need to get broken down at least 2x a season, plus the over the winter maintenance. I find that the ones I use plugging and casting require more servicing than the ones I use for just fluke jigging.
Okay, okay! I admit it...I store my reels IN THE WATER AT THE DOCK!

It's easier than bringing them ALL THE WAY home after every trip. I tie a string to them, lower them to the bottom, tie them off to the cleat...Then I retrieve them as I board for the next trip.

I guess I didn't put enough lube on them beforehand

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  • S
  • March 14, 2019
Lep , your trying to reform me .. I admit I am a serial reel / rod abuser ..... Hopefully reading this thread will begin to reform me ......
What is your favorite lube for saltwater reels ? Thanks .....
Scupper - take a look in the “Tear It Down” thread, pinned to the top of this Forum. Pix are there of my favs.
All kidding aside, Pete did a very close friend of mine a HUGE favor and I greatly appreciate his efforts, his dedication, his attention to detail and his patience. Without him that reel would have been thrown in the crap heap. If that was MY REEL, it would have been thrown in the ocean!
Hey Bassman909, we going to Montauk for some doormats this year or what?