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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

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Fishing New York Waters

In this episode, our host, George Scocca discusses what it’s like to go on a 16-day offshore trips on the Excelle, out of San Diego, Eyeglass Joe, with a current report and a look at what the future of the Bluefin tuna might be. Add to that, his crazy Regulations and Fishing and Relationships clips and you have everything you’d expect from an New York angler itching for tight lines!