After each use in salt or freshwater, sponge your reel LIGHTLY with warm soapy water. This is good for the fishing line as well. Rinse off with fresh water at a very low pressure. DO NOT under any circumstances, immerse the reel in water or wash it under high pressure as this forces water into the gearing and drag systems with very damaging results. After completing this task, wipe dry with a clean cloth and LIGHTLY spray the reel with WD40-type surface spray, while trying to keep it off the line, as some products may react with it.
Undo the drag knob, slide off the spool and clean the underside of the spool. Lightly grease the main shaft and replace the spool and drag knob. Leave drag knob loose to keep pressure off the drag washers while it is not in use. Using high grade reel or sewing machine oil, lightly oil the handle knobs, line rollers, bail arm springs, folding handle and then wipe off the excess.
Periodically open the side plate and lightly grease the gears and bearings. Once every twelve months or so, depending upon use, or if you accidentally submerge your reel in water, you should give your reel a full service. Completely dismantle all parts and soak them in a container of mineral turps. Rinse in fresh water and allow them to dry in the sun. Check all bearings and gears for damage. If they are damaged in any way, replace them. Reassemble and lightly grease all moving parts. Do not use too much grease – a thin covering is all that is needed. Most fishing reels consist of many parts and it is easy to reassemble them wrongly. If you’re not completely confident in servicing your reel yourself, I recommend you drop it into your local tackle store for a full service by an experienced reel technician.
If you won’t be using your reels or will be storing them for a long period of time, reel covers and reel bags are a must. They are all specially designed to protect your reels. Most damage and corrosion occurs when gear has been stored for a length of time without being properly cleaned.
After using you fishing rod, wash it down with fresh water. Wash grips carefully and use warm soapy water if necessary to clean fully. Use light reel grease on rod guides to prevent corrosion. Check all guides for hair-line fractures and replace the guide immediately if any are found. If not attended to, these guides will damage and weaken the line. Store all rods in rod covers and store them on rod stands.
Hopefully you will now have a greater understanding of the importance of regular careful maintenance, and if you spend ten minutes or so doing this after every fishing trip, it will save you time and money in the long run.