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How To Clean a Fishing Reel After Saltwater Use (4 Easy Tips)

How To Clean A Fishing Reel After Using It In Saltwater

When I was 17, a friend of mine took me jetty for the first time in my life.  I’ve been back a thousand times since.  We caught a lot of fish that day, and we’ve caught a lot of fish since.  

I had fished in saltwater before a few times…salmon fishing and halibut fishing, but those had always been on charters, which meant I never had to worry about bringing fishing gear, or cleaning my fishing gear when I was done for the day.

That first trip to the jetty when I was a kid gave me a new appreciation for taking care of my fishing gear though.  I used a freshwater reel I happened to have on my steelhead rod for that trip.  The reel got soaked in saltwater, and I never washed it off or cleaned it when I was done.  

I came home, stored my fishing gear in the garage like I always had done.  When the next fishing trip came around and I went to grab my gear, guess what I found.  My reel was shot.  

The Importance Of Cleaning Your Fishing Reel After Saltwater Use

It’s incredibly important to thoroughly clean your reel after using it in saltwater.  The reason is because saltwater can be insanely corrosive to the reel and its internal components.  

This is especially true if you’re using a freshwater reel in saltwater.  Chances are, if its an inexpensive reel, the bearings inside are not stainless steel and are highly susceptible to corrosion.

So can you use a freshwater reels in saltwater? The answer is yes, but man…you really need to take a lot of extra precaution in making sure it’s thoroughly washed and clean when you’re done for the day (and maybe once during the day!)

So what’s the best way to clean a fishing reel after saltwater use?  

Keep reading!

How To Clean a Fishing Reel After Saltwater Use

It’s not at all difficult to clean your fishing reel after a day of saltwater.  It only takes a few moments of your time, but will make your fishing reel last for many years to come.

To clean your fishing reel, just follow these super easy steps.

Do This After EVERY Use In Saltwater

how to clean a fishing reel after saltwater use

1. Gently Hose Off The Reel

When You get back home, or wherever you might be staying, GENTLY spray your fishing rod and reel with fresh water. Do this for at least 1 minute. 

I like to put my hose nozzle on a fine mist to prevent too strong of a water jet.  If you spray your reel with too hard of spray, it can actually drive the saltwater and particles further into the reel and lead to corrosion.

NOTE:  Hold your rod upright while you’re spraying it with freshwater.  This will prevent water from going up the spool and into the reel.

2. Wipe It Down

Now take a clean towel and soak it with clean water.  While holding the rod upright, wipe the fishing reel down with the wet towel. Do this to the entire outer surface of the reel.

3. Give It A Bath 

If you suspect that saltwater really may have penetrated the inner parts of the fishing reel, then do this:

At the end of the day, mix up a gallon of water with a small amount of Jet Dry.  Dunk the reel in and out of the solution for another minute.  This will not allow water spots to crystallize inside the reel and most importantly, on the fishing reel bearings.

This also flushes out any remaining saltwater and tiny sand particles that may have made their way into the crevices of the reel.

4. Dry It Off

With a clean dry towel, wipe down the entire fishing reel.

Pro Tip

This tip is courtesy of Cpt. Chris Myers.

Pledge Protection – Chris recommends lightly spraying the outside of the fishing reel with Lemon Pledge.

Remove Corrosion – With a toothbrush, scrub off any corrosion that my have formed on the reel.

Wipe Down – With a clean dry cloth, wipe down the entire outside of the fishing reel.

Chris states, “Wipe off your equipment and take care of it when using it in saltwater, it’ll last you for years to come.”  

I couldn’t agree more!  I’ve lost many fishing reels to saltwater corrosion, but I strongly believe the methods above are the best way to clean reels after saltwater fishing.

Additional Tips For Cleaning Your Fishing Reel After Saltwater Use

Loosen The Drag – Before storing your fishing reel, loosen the drag.

Grease gears – Apply a small amount of grease to the bottom of the gears, not the top.  For an excellent quality fishing reel grease, check out the Penn Lubrication Oil and Grease kit. 

Simple Green – Don’t use gasoline or lighter fluid to clean fishing reel parts. These susbtances are powerful enough to melt plastic parts. Instead, try using Simple Green. It’s a powerful degreasing agent that will be gentle of plastic and metal alike.

Number As You Go – And this tip from Darrel Olson might be the best tip for fishing reel maintenance ever.   

Regarding the disassembly of your fishing reel, Darrel states, “When I take my reel apart, I lay the parts on a mat. I add a strip of masking tape under the line of parts. Number each part as you remove it from the reel. This will allow you to assemble the reel by following the number sequence in reverse order.”

Lubricating Your Fishing Reel

Now is a good time to properly lubricate your fishing reel.  I went ahead and broke down the best fishing reel lubricants in my post, The Best Fishing Reel Oil and Grease.   In short, I highly recommend the products made by Interflon, particularly the Interflon Fin Super.

Interflon Fin Super

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If you take good care of your fishing gear, which I’m confident you do, it’ll serve you for many years to come. I had to learn the hard way.  I’ve gotten lazy and as a result, I’ve lost some nice rods and reels to corrosion.

Take a few minutes at the end of your trip and thoroughly wash off the fishing tackle, especially if you’ve been in the salt.

fishing reel maintenance after saltwater fishing

Written by Don

When I'm not bass fishing or looking for steelhead in my home state of Oregon I can be found working on house projects dreaming of my next fishing adventure.

I started this website to share just some of the things I've learned along my fishing journey, and the many things I'm still learning. Enjoy!

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