How to FIX a Fishing Reel? [Guide for Various Problems]

How to FIX a Fishing Reel

Due to their highly precise moving parts, fishing reels are prone to damage and require maintenance to function properly.

Luckily, some of the issues you may notice can easily be resolved, and you do not have to get rid of your reel and buy a new one.

First of all, you will have to diagnose a problem. To fix it, you will need certain tools, oils/grease, cleaning liquid, maybe some spare parts, and a lot of patience to do it right. The exact repair process depends on malfunction you are trying to fix.

Beginners often have a hard time doing this, and to overcome that problem, I made this short and comprehensive guide that includes most common reel problems and possible solutions.

You can also find numerous step-by-step guides online, that include pictures, or download manufacturer’s instructions, once you figured out what the problem is.

So, if you notice some performance problems, it is time learn how to fix a fishing reel, to prevent further damage, and avoid losing your favorite piece of equipment.



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What Can Go Wrong with a Fishing Reel?

Before asking about how to fix my fishing reel, you have to know what exactly can go wrong with it.

Those a bit less experienced can have problems with line tangles. If you are not very handy with your reel maintenance, you can cause all kinds of problems by overlubricating, or not lubricating the reel enough.

Bail springs are another common issue. If you are using braided lines, it may slip, especially due to poor installation of it.

On baitcasters, level wind can get damaged by the outside elements.

As the reel gets older, all the fishing reel parts, especially moving ones can suffer wear and tear damage, and that includes bearings, drag, and more.

Even if you use it only in freshwater, your reel can get damaged by corrosion.

As you can see, there are all kinds of problems that can occur.

How Can I Identify a Fishing Reel Problem?

Some fishing reel problems, like line twists, are easily recognizable, while others are not.

Your reel may start acting weird, and you will notice some twitching, or it will stop operating as smooth as it should. Some of these problems can easily be misdiagnosed by beginner anglers.

Here are a few symptoms that frequently occur as a result of a specific damage:


If your line is tangling frequently, or changing its shape, and does not lay well or evenly on the spool, you may have a line twist problem. You will notice that curly twists occur when you pull out the line.


If the bail spring, which is an internal part and it is there to flip the bail back, is broken, you will notice that the bail won`t return into a position.


Braided lines, when not anchored to the spool as they should be, can tangle and slip around the spool. If you notice those symptoms, your line has not been mounted properly.


If the reel is cracking or twitching, and not rotating properly, the problem may be worn out or corroded bearings.


Corrosion can attack any internal part of your reel and cause all kinds of problems, if the reel is expressing any of the symptoms related to internal parts, check for corrosion when you disassemble it.


If setting the drag becomes impossible, or it shows some inconsistency when the line is under tension, you should check the internal drag parts. Additionally, one of the symptoms may be the lack of a clicking sound characteristic to drag.


If the anti-reverse is broken, it will most commonly stop working, and that will be the most visible clue that something is wrong.

What Tools Do I Need to Fix the Fishing Reel?

To fix a fishing reel, you will need some tools that you most likely already have at home.

Unfortunately, some problems can be fixed only if you completely disassemble the reel. To do that safely, you will need the following:


Depending on a specific reel, you will need a few sizes, smaller ones, of Phillips and flathead screwdrivers. Make sure that they are in a good working order and not damaged. It is advisable to have a set, and use it only for this purpose. Damaged screwdrivers can damage small and sensitive screws.


Needle nose pliers will be very useful for reel disassembling.


Those with pointy nose will be excellent for handling tiny pieces.


Both safe and reel approved cleaning liquids and items like cotton swabs, tissues and soft cloths will be needed to remove any dirt or debris from the inner reel parts.


Adjustable one would be excellent.

How to FIX a Fishing Reel - Tools

How to Fix Various Fishing Reel Problems?

So, now when you know how to diagnose a problem, and what tools do you need, it is time to learn how to fix a fishing reel.

How to Fix a Tangled or Twisted Fishing Reel?

Knowing how to fix a tangled fishing reel is something that every angler has to learn sooner or later. It is the most frequent problem with reels and it happens to everyone.

Twisting can be caused by various things. If you spool the line by hand, there is a high chance that you caused the problem by uneven line lay or loose line. Some lures, like in line spinners can have a body that causes rotation of the lure instead of just the blades.

The first thing you can do for line twisting is to let the line untwist. If you are on a river or a boat, you can use a current to do that. Slowly release meter by meter of a line and wait for it to untwist. When it can hang freely without twisting, reel it back. Make sure it is firm and evenly distributed.

If you have an accidental tangle in the end of the line, you can simply cut it off, but if the problem of tangling and twisting keeps happening, you will need to respool. Practice makes it perfect. But, if you are unable to do so, you can get it professionally done.

Twisting and tangling line can also cause your reel not to reel in. I will mention that later on.

How to Fix Fishing Reel Handles?

So, how to fix fishing reel handle?

It depends on a problem. Is it just operating a bit harder, or something is completely broken?

If all the parts are OK, but the handle is not operating smoothly, disassemble it. The knob rotates around the handle with the help of a bearing within, and you may have to clean it. And of course, lubricate a little. Dirt and salt can cause it to rotate harder than usually. To get to the bearing, use a suitable screwdriver to remove the knob.

Handles can also get broken if the reel is old due to wear and tear, or if you dropped your reel too many times onto the hard surface, like rocks.

Some manufacturers have spare parts available, and you can simply buy a new part and replace the broken one. If the problem are loose or broken screws that are holding the handle, you should replace those. Make sure you use the same size.

Another idea is to find an old reel with a suitable knob, if only the knob is a problem and replace it. Some manufacturers produce reels with certain interchangeable parts, so you can check that, and maybe buy the cheapest suitable reel and use it for spare parts.

How to Fix Fishing Reel Anti Reverse?

Most common anti reverse problem is that this function won`t engage. Causes can be various, but most commonly, the problem is the dirt and impurities that found a way in.

So, the first step would be to use the tools you have to disassemble the reel, and clean all the components.

Keep in mind to either label the components, or take them out and place them on the table in that specific order, so that you can easily assemble it again.

So, how to fix fishing reel anti reverse?

When you disassemble the reel (you can find manufacturers instructions or step-by-step video tutorials on how to do so for a specific model), look for a spring that is there to make sure you can flip the knob into both positions.

Sometimes, this tiny spring can fall out of place. For this, you will have to use a small pin to place the spring into its downward position.

However, out of place spring is not the only possible failure.

Another possibility is that the switch is actually working, but the hammer part is getting stuck on a latching gear. To resolve it, you should remove and clean the bushings from the gear, and use some kind of adhesive to fixate the bushing inside, because it is slipping. Unfortunately, this may not be a long-term solution, and you should consider getting a new reel in the near future.

Here you can check for the best options ...

How to Fix Fishing Reel Drag?

Learning how to fix fishing reel drag is a bit easier than doing the same for the previously mentioned anti-reverse.

Anglers often refer to this problem as a “silent” drag, because it is not making a clicking sound. The first problem, that also has a simple solution, is a wrongly attached braided line. Due to the line properties, it can rotate around the spool when the spool is not rotating, and it will seem like the drag is not working. The solution is to remove the line, attach mono backing before the braid, and put the braid back.

Another problem is that the gear can be broken. One of the “teeth” can be missing, and the clicking sound will disappear. To fix this, you will have to replace the gear.

And the third problem is that the drag clicker is broken. The clicker is placed within the spool, and has a small spring that makes it switch back to its place. That movement actually makes the recognizable noise.

The spring can be dirty, broken, or misplaced. Either replace it, or clean it and put it back into a proper position.

How to Fix Fishing Reel Bail?

Problem with a bail can be in the springs, which are internal parts, but that is cheap and easy to replace.

Another problem can be the wire itself, that got damaged due to some kind of misuse. If the latter one is a problem, you will have to replace the bail.

So, how to fix fishing reel bail?

To fix or replace the springs, you will have to remove the screw that hold the bail in place. Then move the base of the bail arm away from the reel.

Take out the old spring and see is it broken, or has some impurities inside. If it is dirty, clean it and assemble the reel. If that was unsuccessful or the spring is broken, take a new one, put it onto the holding pin, and back inside the reel. Attach the bail again.

How to Fix and Remove Corrosion from a Fishing Reel?

Corrosion is a common, but serious problem, and if untreated, it will destroy the reel.

Small amounts of corrosion can be cleaned with vinegar (WD40 can also help you). Soak it briefly in a 50:50 water-vinegar mix, and use a soft toothbrush to remove corrosion.

You can also find specialized cleaning liquids that can help you remove corrosion, and also help to prevent it.

Besides that, clean you reel after every use, especially in saltwater.

It is not advisable to scrub it off with harsh chemicals or abrasive substances or tools, because inner reel parts are sensitive. If you can remove it gently, replace the problematic part or the whole reel.

Now you know how to fix and remove corrosion from fishing reel. It is a simple process.

How to Fix a Fishing Reel that Won't Reel In?

Sometimes, reels simply refuse to reel in ...

One of the problems can be a tangled line, and you can resolve the problem by following instructions mentioned in that chapter.

Another possibility is that the cast bail is crooked. So, you should remove the reel housing, and check the spool and the spool bushings. Sometimes, the line gets stuck within.

If that is not the case, check the bail. You can remove it as previously described and check for any damage, impurities, or misplacement of any surrounding parts.

So, now you know how to fix a fishing reel that won't reel in.

Every angler should learn at least these basics about how to fix a fishing reel. This skill will come in handy when your reel starts showing signs of problems during a very important fishing trip.

Some of these problems can be resolved in a few minutes, almost anywhere.

However, if you have to disassemble the reel, and remove bushings, O-rings, and tiny pieces, it would be better to do this at home, to prevent losing or damaging these sensitive parts.

How to FIX a Fishing Reel - Handles, Anti Reverse, Drag and Bail


Knowing how to fix a fishing reel is something that every angler should know. With the right tools and knowledge, you can prolong the lifespan of your reel, and fix many of the frequently occurring problems.

It is important to recognize the symptoms and resolve the issue before it becomes impossible to do so. This will save you money on the long run, and your reel will be dependable even when fighting the largest fish.

And keep in mind that reels have to be cleaned and maintained even when working properly, because dirt or lack of grease can cause irreversible damage!

About Me

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I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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