What do you use for lube?

The market place has many different lubes and oils that all claim to be the best.  I have used several over the years and here is my opinions.  First I think that it would be good to break this up into Greases and Oils.

Greases need to have the following characteristics:

  1.  Stay where you put it
  2. Provide protection from water intrusion
  3. Lubricate

Grease is used on gears, non spool bearings, drag washers, internal moving parts.  Each has a little different need.  It is generally accepted that drag washers should be greased and the preferred grease is a composite silicone grease from Cal Sheets, called Cal’s Drag grease.  Comes in two formulations based on the average temperature that your reel will be used in.   The packaging states that you can use it on all internal parts.  Personally I use it on just the drag washers as it is pretty heavy.   Seals out water and smooths the drag start up over the range.

All other internal parts and non spool bearings I have traditionally used Yamalube which is a marine grease that has all the anti corrosion and lubrication characteristics you need.  Recently, I have changed over to a super high grade anti corrosion grease from CorrosionX.  Here is a short list of greases that are on the market:

Hot Sauce, Reel Butter, Shimano Drag grease, Penn blue grease, Daiwa Reel Grease.

Oil differs from grease as its used in different areas.  The primary area oil is used is in bearings.  In star drag reels where casting is important and high speed bearings and bushings need light fast lubrication, a lighter low viscosity oil is helpful in getting the bearing to spin the fastest but will require reapplication sooner.  In trolling reels spool bearing oil can be thicker as there is no need to cast them.  I used yellow Rocket Fuel for years with good results.  I started using TSI-321 about two years ago and will not use anything else.  It is high speed and has good protective qualities.  In areas other than than spool bearings that call for oil I use another CorrosionX product call ReelX.  Here is a list of oils that are commonly used and sold by the manufactures:

Hot Sauce Oil, Shimano Oil, Daiwa Oil, Penn Oil, TG Rocket Fuel, Hedgehog Alchemy Oil, 3 & 1 oil, Remington Oil, Livre Oil, and many others.



Shimano Bantam 201SG

IMG_6718     Once the hot reel for pacific northwest steelheaders, the Shimano Bantam 201SG is wonderful, light bait caster, ideal for throwing light weight lures and lead.  201 signifies a left hand version of the iconic fish killer.  I don’t know about you but I have always held the pole with my right hand and reeled with my left.  I guess I got it from growing up with spinning reels in the same orientation.  The 201sg does not have the strongest of drags even with upgraded carbon washers.  Its casts best with 10lb mono.

PhD in Fishing Reel Bearings

Bearings 101

Tackletour published a great article on fishing reel bearings.  The condensed version below:

  • ABEC rated bearings of 5-9 are great for spool bearing upgrades if they are certified.
  • Spool bearings get oil only.
  • Performance increases are most notable when casting lighter weights.
  • Ceramic bearings are corrosion resistant but still require regular servicing and oiling.
  • Ceramic bearings are noticeably louder
  • All non-spool bearings get grease
  • Bearings should be cleaned with Acetone

Ball Bearing Problems, Causes and Solutions


Bearing Problem Cause Cause
High Speed Spool Bearing Constant Buzz or Roar sound (often accompanied by severe vibration during cast) Hard Debris in Bearing Clean
Worn Races or Balls Replace Bearing
Bearing Not Axially Aligning Correctly While Spinning Clean/Lube Shaft In Race
Shaft Bearing Not Sitting Correctly In Socket Make Sure Bearing Is Correctly Seated
Socket Filled With Oil Clean the Bearing Socket and Felt (if equipped)
Spool Vibration (spool out of balance, out of round, or warped shaft) Spool Out of Balance/Round or Warped Shaft
Spool Pin Not Centered on the Spool Shaft Re-center Spool Pin So It Does Not Rub On the Frame or bearing socket
High Speed Spool Bearing – Buzz or Roar Constant With Spool Speed But Loudness And Pitch Changes With Spool Speed Damaged/Pitted Replace Bearing
Internal Corrosion Replace Bearing
Severely Fouled Clean and Lube
High Speed Spool Bearing – Hiss or Rustle That Changes With Spool Speed Soft Debris in Bearing Clean
Mixed Lubricant Clean and Lube
Water Intrusion Let Dry-out
May be normal for some ceramic hybrid bearings until they “run-in” NA
High Speed Spool Bearing – Gurgling or Hollow Sound [Especially Ceramic Ball Bearings] (Changes With Spool Speed And May Also Experience Vibration) Overlube Excess Oil May Eventually Be Expelled
Water Intrusion Let Dry-out
Mixed Oil Lubricant Clean and Lube
High Speed Spool Bearing – Screech, Squeel or Howl (Intermittent or May Become Constant at Higher Spool Speeds) Insufficient Lube Lube
Mixed Lube Clean and Lube
Bearing Shield Contacting Center Race Remove and Reinstall Shield
Worn/Damaged Race Replace Bearing
Ceramic/Ceramic Hybrid High Speed Spool Bearings – Rustle Sound (Often Sounds the Same at All Spool Speed) Insufficient Lube Lube
Dirty Bearing Clean
May Be Normal For Very Light Spools or Very High Speed Spools May Not Even Be the Bearings
Spool Vibration Warped or Dented Spool, or Bent Shaft
Any Bearing – Crunch Felt When Rotating Bearing By Hand at Low Speed Hard Debris in Bearing Clean
Worn/Damaged Races or Balls Clean First Then Replace if Needed
Any Bearing – While Cleaning Does Not Rotate Smoothly When Bearing is Positioned Vertically on its Center Race and Spun By Fingertip Still Dirty or Old Lube Not Removed Clean Again
Bearing Cage Inside the Bearing May Be Warped Or Not Tracking Correctly Clean Again But May Need To Replace
Damaged Balls Replace