Fishing Reel Repair

Fishing Reel Repair

Components of a typical open-face spinning reel.

“I got a bite!” This Fix-It Guide on fishing reel repair includes fly reel repair, open-face spinning reel repair, closed-face spinning reel repair, and bait-casting reel repair. The guide tells how a fishing reel works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a fishing reel problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to install a bail and spring on an open-face spinning reel, how to replace drag washers and springs on a bait-casting reel, and how to replace a spool catch spring on a fly reel.

How Does a Fishing Reel Work?

A fishing reel is a small winch mounted on a fishing rod to retract a fishing line. The four most common types of fishing reels are fly reels, open-face spinning reels, closed-face spinning reels, and bait-casting reels. If you’re a fisherperson you already know which to use when. Here’s how to troubleshoot and repair them.

What Can Go Wrong with a Fishing Reel?

Keeping a fishing reel clean and lubricated will avoid many problems. Parts do, however, wear out and break. The spring on a fly reel spool can become fatigued, causing the spool to loosen. The spring-and-pawl mechanism that keeps the spool from turning on its own in the frame may wear out or break. The bail of an open-face spinning reel may break. Bait-casting reel drag washers and springs may wear or break.

Fix-It Tip

Fly reels last longer if cleaned with a small amount of alcohol or kerosene after every use. Also apply lightweight oil on other moving parts of the reel before storage. The same advice goes for spinning and bait-casting reels. A little preventive maintenance can add years to your fishing enjoyment.

Fishing Reel Repair

Components of a typical open-face spinning reel.

How Can I Identify a Fishing Reel Problem?

  • If a fly fishing reel is not working properly, you can replace a broken spool catch spring (see below).
  • If the bail of an open-face spinning reel breaks, you can replace it with a new one (see below).
  • If the bail springs of an open-face spinning reel don’t make the bail snap over and catch the line properly, you can replace them (see below).
  • If a bait-casting fishing reel does not operate properly, you can replace the drag washers and springs (see below).

Fix-It Tip

If you fish saltwater you know that fishing tackle can be damaged by the salt if not rinsed thoroughly in fresh water. In addition, you should you carefully lubricate moving parts except the fishing line, which can be damaged by lubricants.

What Do I Need for Fishing Reel Repair?

 Fishing Reel Repair

Remove the line spool nut and then the bail spool.

Replacement parts for fishing reels are available at sporting good stores, fishing tackle stores, and from the manufacturer. The tools you will need to fix a fishing reel include these:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • Wrenches
  • Lubricants

What Are the Steps to Fishing Reel Repair?

Install a bail and spring on an open-face spinning reel:

  1. Unscrew the nut that fastens the line spool to the reel.
  2. Unscrew the bail and remove the locknut securing the bail arm.
  3. Remove the bail spool.
  4. Inspect the bail and roller, replacing if damaged or corroded.
  5. Install the new bail through the bail arm.
  6. Remove the old spring using pliers.
  7. Inspect and, if necessary, replace the spring. If okay, reinstall the spring.
  8. Attach the roller on the bail and bail arm.
  9. Tighten the bail locknut.
Fishing Reel Repair

Inspect and lubricate or replace internal components as needed.

Replace drag washers and springs on a bait-casting reel:

  1. Unscrew the handle nut and remove the handle, making sure you don’t lose the drag washer or star drag.
  2. Remove the plate screws, then the plate and spool.
  3. Remove the bridge screws from the plate.
  4. Remove the bridge, main gear, spring, and ratchet.
  5. Remove, clean, and lubricate the drag washers and spring.
  6. Replace any worn parts as needed.
  7. Reassemble the reel components in reverse order.

Replace a spool catch spring on a fly fishing reel:

  1. Remove the axle cover and old spool catch V-spring.
  2. Install the new V-spring against the catch.
  3. Align the cover and spool screw holes, fastening the axle cover.