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 Tekota Weekend

Box of Tekota’s came in the mail today from Seattle.  500’s and 600’s.  Three of the four suffer from the same problem, corroded handle to the drag sleeve.  Grrrr.  Instead of tear down, clean, inspect, replace worn parts, assemble and return.  The job gets much more complicated.  Without removing the handle, you can’t get to the rest of the reels internal parts.  So now the dance, first step, penetrating oil, heat, freeze, repeat until freed from corrosions grip.

Next neutralize the corrosion with 50/50 water and vinegar soaking for 15 minutes.  Rinse and dry.  Liberal application of CorrosionX and get on with the rest of the reel.  The one way bearing in these reels is always susceptible to saltwater intrusion.  Remove, flush and pack with good marine grease and install.  Depending on the age of the reel, some came with carbon fiber drags some do not.  All these reels required new Carbon fiber drag washers.  Grease them lightly with Cal’s drag grease and install.

Spool bearings need to be flushed and re-oiled with TSI-321.  Remove the race and soak submersed until cleaned thoroughly with lighter fluid then alcohol and let air dry on a paper towel.  I throw them in the ultrasonic cleaner in an open container with lighter fluid for the best results.  Never attempt this with a flammable fluid in a closed container.

Inspect the main gear and pinion for wear and corrosion.  The under side of the gear typically needs to be cleaned up and the corrosion knocked off.  I use a Dremel with a fine buffing wheel.  Brings the finish back to near mirror.  While I am there I run a cotton swab on another Dremel with some polishing compound on the inside of the pinion to clean it up.  Be sure to clean after with some alcohol .

Check the level wind gear and inspect the pawl for excessive wear.  Grease the rest of the  internal parts and under the rings and assemble.  Test free spool, test drag, check screw tightness and wipe down with a clean cloth to remove and excess grease and oil.  Next…

This series Shimano is very popular in the Pacific Northwest for salmon fishing in and around the Puget Sound.  I work on 50+ every year.  When properly maintained and with a little basic care they perform wonderfully with strong smooth drags and quiet operation.


Shimano Chronarch 201E7

Low profile casting reel with high speed gears and 7 bearings.  Local reel that has been used hard and dunked in the local glacial streams more than once.


Outside looks dirty and silty if that is a word.  Worm gear is filled and every crevasse is filled.  Im not optimistic about the inside at this point.

Shimano Chronarch

Shimano Chronarch

As I expected.  This fine silt throughout the reel and a lack of lubrication.  I see no corrosion so at least it all comes apart well.

So out of the 7 bearings in this reel, four need to be replaced.  Both spool bearings, the pinion bearing and the drag sleeve bearing.  The anti-reverse bearing is in good shape and the two handle bearings will be operational.  Customer invested a couple of hundred dollars for this reel and now if need at least $45.00 worth of parts plus labor.  If you dunk your reel, be sure to run fresh water over it for awhile when you get home to help minimize the damage from the silt and water intrusion.  Now lets see how she cleans up after an ultrasonic bath.  I was surprised to see one carbon fiber drag washer and one composite washer.  I will be replacing the composite with carbon fiber, both greased.




Shimano 1500LC Trolling Reel

Shimano 1500LC is a great salmon trolling reel.  Direct drive with a line counter.  No longer being made and parts are hard to come by but these old reels are valuable to the salmon angler in the Puget Sound.  Two ball bearings and a simple drag.  Not many parts on these reels.  Bearings need constant attention or you can ruin a good old reel.  This one came in with the head plate spool bearing corroded onto the spool shaft.  It took several hours of heat and cold with penetrating oil to get it off.  Luckily the pinion was not corroded too.  As you can see from the head plate the corrosion is extensive on the plate, put the inside was relatively corrosion free.  New bearing and new carbon fiber drags and she is back in the game!



More bearings, more maintenance!

Today’s marvels of modern engineering are producing reels that have up to 12 or more bearings!  Friction is radically reduced and smoothness is enhanced.  But man, you really need to stay on top of the maintenance to keep them optimized.  Some manufacture install Anti-rust bearings.  Don’t be lulled into thinking that they are maintenance free.  Got an Okuma spinning reel in the other day that had 9 bearings.  Two on the spool shaft, two on the line guide, two in the reel knob, pinion bearing etc… most of the bearings are exposed to the elements and need at least some oil once or twice a season.  All those bearings easily hide a failing bearing.  I thought the reel was in good shape and performing fine when I got it.  After cleaning and re-lube, wow much smoother and a huge difference.

bad bearings

Shimano Chronarch 100SF


Since I spend time outlining the need for preventative care and maintenance on your reels and demonstrating the results, I thought I would write a happy story for a change of pace.  This is one of two Chronarch Super Free reels I got in the other day.  The gentlemen was an active bass fisherman in the southern US and took excellent care of his reels over the years. These reels are 10+ years old.  Aside from a little boat rash they function excellent.  Free spool is excellent but the drags were sticky.  We will set them up for Pacific Northwest freshwater salmon and steelhead fishing.

The owner wants to upgrade the handle and knobs.  He found a carbon fiber handle and some cork knobs.  We will install new carbon fiber drags and lube the reel appropriately.     Incredible free spool and a capable drag will make this a good steelhead and small salmon river reel.  You can cast lead and roe,  a float with a jig , or a spinner or spoon either way this will be a great casting reel.



Penn 210 Fishing Reel

$5 estate sale find from today.  Cleaned up great!  Installed some new carbon drags and new steel drag washers and Boom, nice little trolling reel that came with a Shimano Titan Down Rigger Rod.  Should make some trolling fisherman very happy this salmon season!  4:1 gears.  Two spool ball bearings and Jigmaster sized drags.  Bronze gear with a Stainless Steel Pinion.  Plenty strong for a 20lb mono.

  • Precision, stainless-steel pinion gear.
  • Alloy main gear.
  • Sealed oil ports for quick, easy lubrication.
  • Side plates reinforced with metal rings.
  • Chrome plated brass exposed metal components for corrosion resistance.
  • Stainless steel ball bearings.
  • HT-100 multi-disc star drag system.
  • Loud, durable, easy-to-service clicker.
  • Stainless Steel spool

Chrome parts go into the vinegar jar and the rest into the Simply Green solution.  Place them into the Ultrasonic Cleaner for 10 minutes.

Rinse in hot water and let dry.  A little elbow grease and some marine grease, TSI-321 oil and you end up with this outcome.

Penn 980 Mag Tuned Reel

Recently got in a Penn 980 Mag reel.  I have to say that I am impressed with this reel.  Let’s take a quick look at what I found.  First some basic stats:

  • 4.25: 1 gear ratio
  • SS Gear and Pinion
  • Two SS Ball Bearings for the spool
  • One adjustable rare earth magnet for spool control

Second is the beefy spools.  Here is a comparison between a jigmaster spool and the 980 spool.  The Penn 980  is 1.6 mm thicker on the spindle.

Next is the gear.  Jigmaster 5:1 on the left, 980 on the right.  The 980 is beefy!


This reel is being used in Alaska jigging for halibut so we will throw in a new stainless steel drag sleeve from ProChallenger and SS dog from Keta’s Kustoms with Bryan Young’s Ultimate Upgrades 5+1 carbon drag kit.


Theses upgrades will add some top end to the drag range and smooth out the drag.  In addition I will install a Delrin washer under the main gear and on top of the drag stack.  Looks like a smooth 18lb of drag with some more room to go.


All in all, I would say this is an excellent reel with plenty of drag, steel where it matters and magnetic spool control for easy problem free casting.  Just might have to put a couple of these into the arsenal soon!

Keep it clean…and green!

Hopefully,  we all have a routine for annual reel service.  For some, it means complete tear down, inspection, ordering parts, oil and lube, drag washers and assembly.  For others, it might be less.  Obviously how the reel is used and how much of that time was in saltwater,  determines the optimal service intervals. Basic after fishing wash down with fresh water, a quick wipe down with a soft rag that has a water dispersent sprayed onto the rag.  Store in cool, dry dark space.img_0778   I would be one of the people that would agree that washing your gear down after every outing in saltwater is mandatory.   In some extreme instances, like kayak fishing, the reels take a beating in the sand and salt.  They need heavy maintenance.  Let’s get started…

I have learned to give myself adequate workspace that has great lighting and no clutter. These steps help keep the process of dismantling, cleaning, inpecting and restoring reels much easier and efficient.  Wayward parts are more easily found when your space is well lite and free from clutter.  I find the light background helps me more easily identify cracks and excessive wear on parts.  I use a simple magnifying glass to inspect parts.

Give yourself easy access to all needed tools, oils, greases and chemicals.  Speaking of chemicals, I try to have a minimal impact on the environment by using Simple Green for primary my cleaner with Dawn dish soap.  Vinegar is used to remove the green corrosion on chrome plated brass parts.  I use cloth rags instead of paper towels. I use washable containers instead of paper cups and trays.  Reels are separated into stainless steel trays for cleaning.

Dismantle reel and move small parts to small cup.  Large parts into stainless steel tubs for either soaking in detergent or vinegar.  In severe cases where large amounts of old grease I  will use brake cleaner spray to expedite the cleaning process.  It does not take much to remove all the parts from metal parts.  No plastic parts in this solution as they will be destroyed quickly.   Bearings into separate containers to soak in lighter fluid.  I generally let the reels soak in detergent over night.  Then hot water bath and dry.  If additional cleaning is required  I use Simple Green and wipe clean.  Then a good rinse in hot water and wipe dry again.

Inspection is a critical part of the process.  Gears, pinion, drag washers, gear sleeves, side plates, anti reverse dogs, etc…  Use a magnifying glass to look at the parts.  Small cracks and dings in gears is much easier to identify with a good light and magnifying glass.  Pay special attention looking for corrosion.

What gets greased verses oiled?  What type of grease goes where?  I use several types of grease for different reels and conditions.  Screws and screw holes, plates and interiors get a marine grade grease that stays where you put it.  A light coat is needed to prevent corrosion.  Drags get a different grease.  I use Cal’s the old stand by.  I use it on all Carbon drag washers.  Better to be safe than sorry.  Saltwater intrusion under the drag washers destroys washers and main gears.  Fast oil such as TSI-321 is used on all spool bearings.  I grease all others with a marine grade grease.

Lastly, use the right tool for the job.  In many small reels and spinning reels, the screws are tiny and soft.  Using the right fitting tool makes a world of difference and can either make your maintenance a success or utter frustration when removing a stripped screw.  A good indicator when considering buying a used reel is to look at the condition of the screws.  If they are mangled and marred chances are the previous owner did not have the right tools.  Or worse yet, who ever he paid to do service on it did not use the right tools.  Be cautious as this could be an indicator of what is on the inside.  That being said, I have seen reels that appear to be unused on the exterior, only to find that the interior has been completely corroded from a lack of grease and oil.   Good luck and keep it clean, and green!


Pro Gear 255 Fishing Reel

The Pro Gear 255 appears to be the same size as a Penn 146, but with some really nice upgrades.  First the two piece frame is really nice and strong.  The tolerances are outstanding and using braid will be no problem.  Pro Gear 255 Schematic,  the gears and drags are the same as a Penn 500 series.

She came in pretty beat up.  Bearings shot and some light corrosion and wear from the eccentric lever hitting the side plate on top.  The internals were in good shape, just needed a good cleaning and re-lube.  Flushed the bearings, new Bryan Young 5+1 drag kit, and “Bam” fishing machine.  Free spool is amazing.  10-12lb drag easily up to 15-17lb with a new SS gear sleeve.  Awesome small reel!