Having a reel break or lack in performance while bass fishing can be a quite frustrating, to say the least, a hampering distraction. Unless, you’re fortunate enough to have several extra reels in the boat when fishing, when one starts acting up it limits your ability to be versatile. We all know that having multiple baits readily available can mean the difference between catching or just casting at hungry fish.
First we should talk about a reel first aid kit. This really isn’t going to be that big. You don’t want to rebuild a reel while on the water. However, with a small cross point and flat head screwdriver, you will have access to nearly the entire reel. I also carry a small crescent wrench, in case I need to take a handle off, and a tooth brush to help with cleaning. The last thing you’ll need is a small tube of reel oil; the one that came with the reel will be perfect. If you want, you can carry a small pill tub of reel grease, but normally anything you do in an emergency situation on the water will not require grease; the oil will work fine until you get it home.
One of the biggest problems that I see anglers have on the water is a noisy reel. A squeal when casting usually means a dry or dirty bearing. Normally, quieting the reel, is as simple a putting a drop of oil on each of the spool bearings. Most reel spool bearings are generally pretty easy to access. In general, there is one under the cast control knob, one in the side plate on the opposite of the reel handle, and some reels have a bearing on the spool shaft it’s self. For the cast control knob, simply remove the knob and put a drop of oil on the bearing. Putting oil on the side plate bearing is also fairly simple. Most reels have a quick latch system for the side plate. Remove the plate, and the bearing will be readily available. If there is a bearing on the spool shaft, you will have to remove the spool to access it. To do this, remove the side plate and pull the spool out. Some reels have retainer clips that hold the spool shaft in. You’ll have to apply a little pressure to pull the spool shaft through these clips. Once the spool is out, put a drop of oil on the bearing and reinstall the spool.
Another common problem is a lack of casting distance. For no apparent reason, your bait just won’t go as far. When adjusting the reel everything seems fine, however, your casting distance is greatly reduced. A quick fix, more often than not, is to pull the spool out and clean the spool shaft. Then put a drop of oil on it and re install it. A lot of times, the spool shaft, will get a film of grease on it from the internal workings of the reel, this coating will be on the inner diameter of the pinion gear and the spool shaft. Usually cleaning the spool shaft and a drop of oil will get you back in the game. This is not a permanent fix and your reel will need to be completely cleaned so that the internal diameter of the pinion gear can be cleaned. However, while on the water, you can reduce half the friction by cleaning the spool shaft. Then the oil will help break up any film on the inside of the pinion gear. This will get you back to fishing.
If your drag become weak or overly tight while fishing, simply exercising it could help. Back the drag off to as loose as it will go and turn the handle a couple turns. Then tighten your star drag a rotation and turn the handle again. You may have to do this a couple times. Wet drags can get dry, losing their ability to work effectively. Exercising the drag washers can help get them working again. Just like with everything else this is not a permanent fix and your reel should be attended to as soon as possible.
My personal first aid kit also contains a worm gear and worm gear pawl. I don’t recommend this for someone that is not familiar with replacing a worm gear. This can be somewhat complicated on some reels. If a pawl and/or worm gear goes bad on the water, you are pretty much finished with this reel. With that said, there is one shot at saving the day. Many reels have easy access the worm gear pawl cap. Some are simple to reach while others may require you to remove the spool first. If your pawl is sticking to one side or binding, try this to get you back going. Remove the pawl cap and the pawl. Now inspect the worm gear as best you can for debris and clean if necessary. While you have it apart put a drop of oil on the worm gear. Now put the pawl back in place. Before installing the pawl cap, find a piece of paper that you can cram, a small piece of, into the top of the cap. Now put the cap back on. What this does is, apply more pressure to the pawl, as it works its way up and down the worm gear. If there are no major grooves in the worm gear or pawl yet, this will get you a few more hours of fishing. However, this is not a permanent fix, you need to get these parts replaced before your next outing.
Just a couple quick things that can save a day on the water. Hopefully you never have to deal with reel problems. Through proper and regular maintenance, your equipment should perform well, but no matter how well you take care of your equipment sand, dust, and debris can ruin a day on the water. These simple tips can get you back to casting in no time.