I was so excited the first time my Granddad asked me to go fishing with him. I can still remember my first spincast reel. My Granddad had taken me to the local sporting goods store in Clinton, Oklahoma and bought me my very own Zebco 33. It was a beauty, I could just envision the monster fish I would catch with my new fishing combo. Thus was born my love affair with the sport of fishing and the responsibility of maintaining my fishing gear in proper working order. As it turned out, I first learned how "Not" to take a fishing reel apart – not the best way to start. Just imagine the damage a seven year old boy with a pair of pliers and screw driver can do to a spinning reel. Lucky for me, my Grandfather was an Engineer. I never could understand all those words he was saying under his breath as he painstakingly put my reel back together.

Seriously, maintaining your own fishing tackle can be lots of fun and very rewarding. Today’s tackle is much more complicated than my 1962 Zebco 33 spincast reel that I cut my teeth on. Spincast reels pretty much do away with the problem of fishing line backlash, it’s the perfect reel to start a new fisherman on. The first commercial spin cast reels were introduced by Zero Hour Bomb Company (or ZEBCO as we know it) in 1949. Pressing a button on the rear of the reel disengages the line pickup, and the button is then released during the forward cast to allow the line to fly off the spool. The button is pressed again to stop the lure at the position desired. Upon cranking the handle, the pickup pin immediately re-engages the line and spools it onto the reel. It is important to keep the inside casing of the rear button clean and clear of sand. Making sure the gears in the main body of the reel are clean and have fresh grease on them is critical, along with making sure the pickup pin in front of the spool stays clean will make a spincast reel last for years.

Spinning reels are a little different. They have line wrapping systems on long-cast spools, very smooth and high tech drag systems, a free-line system (for fish such as Catfish or Stripers), infinite anti-reverse systems, quick-fire bail systems, trigger bait/line release systems, inner-rotor bails, and on and on. Fixed spool reels are cast by opening the bail, grasping the line with the forefinger, and then using a backward snap of the rod followed by a forward cast while releasing the line with the forefinger at the same time. The forefinger is then placed in contact with the departing line and the leading edge of the spool in order to slow or stop the outward cast. I like a good "Mono-filament" line on this kind of reel. It has a stretching quality to it that I find helpful when striper fishing. Spinning reels are easy to clean. Just pop off the front nut, pull the spool off and give the inner workings a good cleaning. You should pull the side cover off of the gear box every spring and give those gears a good cleaning. I like to use "Remoil in those gear boxes. The baitcasters of today are very advanced with features like magnetic spool controls, variable braking systems, flipping switches, infinite anti-reverse systems, line layers level-wind systems, and bearings and shims everywhere. The bait casters are much more susceptible to loss of performance (casting distance) from improper lubrication or maintenance. There are marginal parts because the spool actually revolves to feed line during the cast. When properly functioning the spinning reel offers a superior drag system, smoother operation, and superior casting distance with all but the smallest baits. The laws of physics are responsible for longer casts, that is, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. They also offer superior casting control. They handle heavier bait weights better than the spinning reel will. I use micro-baitcasting reels for crappie fishing. Now before you get into cleaning a baitcasting reel, you best know what you are doing. As I mentioned above, there are all kinds of parts to these reels and it is not hard at all to get overwhelmed with cleaning one. Sometimes during cleaning small parts such as tiny springs just disappear before your very eyes. And the reel won’t work without that part. My tournament baitcasting reel cost over $200.00. That is why I let the professionals clean it every year for me.

No matter what kind of reel you prefer, you must learn to keep it clean and in good working order. Check every feature on the reel to make sure it works properly. When you’re finished, you should have a reel that feels and works as good as new, sometimes better. You don’t want to get on the water and then find out that your anti-reverse function doesn’t work or that your drag is tight and jerky. Always pick out a reel that fits your needs and properly maintain it. If you take care of that reel, it will last you for years to come.