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Storing your Fishing Reels Over the Winter Months

Viewer Question: “Question on storing reels for long New England winter. What should I oil/grease on reels? What could I buy locally w-d 40 etc.? Let me know.”

It’s certainly a good idea to lube your reels for the off season, so I’m glad you wrote in with this question. It doesn’t take long to lube your reels and it’s a relaxing thing to do. A bit of “TLC” goes a long way towards the life of your reel. Let’s look at answering this viewer question, as well as sharing some more tips.

Oil & Fishing reels


You can actually buy fishing reel oil, but not all stores carry it. Otherwise, you can use a simple, common, 3 in 1 oil. This is readily available, inexpensive to buy and does a nice job. Or, if your spouse sews (as mine does) then sewing machine oil also works very well, as does any machine oil.

WD 40 does lubricate somewhat, but it also is a great cleaner. It would be a good idea to use WD 40 to clean your reel and then follow it up with “3 in 1” oil (or any machine oil). This would give the maximum protection.


One could argue that any old grease will do, when it comes to servicing your fishing reels - but, white grease is by far the best - or any lithium grease. These types of grease are water resistant, have great protecting qualities and are common in the marine industry.

Save your drag system

One thing most anglers neglect to do when storing reels is to back off on their drag setting. For that matter, any time you come off the water, it’s a good habit to back off the drag on all your reels. It’s important to back off on your drag settings as this will relieve any pressure on your drag & its related components. A simple quick thing to do and your drag will love you for doing it!

Where to oil


Generally speaking, anything that moves/rotates can use a spot of oil. Be sure to oil such places even like your reel handle. Don’t be shy with the oil. Take the spool off and oil the spool shaft, which moves up and down. Also, ensure you put a drop of oil on the bail roller. This is a very important part of your spinning reel as are the drag washers. Upon completion, wipe your reel clean of any residual oil.

Where to grease

The best area to grease is the area containing the main gears. Some reel manufactures only put a small spot on grease on the gears, so they can sure use the extra lube! You may have to remove some screws to get to this area, so just be careful when doing so as you will want to put it back in exactly the same way as it comes out.

One Last point

One last point to keep in mind: If you fish in salt water, you should always wash your reel with fresh water when you return home. Even if you are using a salt water rated reel, it will still benefit greatly from a fresh water rinse. Simply turn on your hose & spray your reel when you get home. This will help prevent your reel from seizing up – oh, and if you try to use a fresh water reel for salt water use, it will most definitely seize up on you!

Thanks for writing in and for your questions. It’s nice to see that you are interested in taking care of your fishing reels. They are such an important part of our day on the water, so it really is a good idea to keep them in top condition.

Until next time, good luck and good fishin’


9 Excellent Responses to “Storing your Fishing Reels Over the Winter Months”

  1. Fantastic article on how to store your fishing rods and reels for the winter. So many people just put their fishing equipment in the garage and forget about it for the winter. Not properly maintaining and storing your equipment properly for the winter will reduce its life expectancy and really cause some headaches in the future, Nice job

  2. Good article Ivo. I would add a few things. Since I’m primarily saltwater I rinse my stuff after each trip making sure my reels are done upside down. Helps prevent sand and other particles from getting inside. When I’m putting the gear away for a short winter I also clean the rods and coat with a preservative spray like Penn’s or basspro.

    Thanks for all the info you guys provide.

    Ron C

  3. Thank you for the great info. Will the white grease also work in frigid temps of say -10ºf for ice fishing? btw in One last Point did you mean seize in lieu of cease?

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Since I live in South Florida and it has sone warm points during winter should I still oil and grease my reels?(I will still do some fishing)

  5. Yes a fine article we are all a bit tardy about maintaince. It made me think that it is time to service those reels that have’nt been done for a LONG time.
    Thank you

  6. Hi Ron,

    Thanks for sharing your tips with us and our viewers. Nice to see you take some extra care when fishing in salt water. That’s an interesting point you made about using a preservative spray on the rods.

    Glad you enjoyed the article and thanks for taking time to write to us.

    Until next time, good luck and good fishing!

  7. Nice to hear from you Al.

    The white grease will work for you while ice fishing in temperatures of -10 degrees F. If you are faced with colder temperatures, there is actaully a white grease specifically designed for snowmobiles, and those are typically rated for -40 degrees F.

    Won’t be long and we”l be on the ice!

    Thanks for taking time to write and thanks for the “catch” on seize.

  8. Hi Brian,

    Nice to hear from you in Florida (wish I was there!)

    It is still important to oil and grease your reels. For us up north, winter is a perfect time to do some maintenance, as we put away our rods and reels for the season (and get out our ice fishing gear). In your case, there is no downtime, so it becomes important to find a period of time, to prompt you to clean your reels.

    Perhaps a good time for you would be, once we ring in the New Year. That could become an easy way to start a routine each year.

    Hope you have many more great days on the water fishing in Florida!

  9. Hi Denise,

    Glad you enjoyed the article and I am very happy that it has prompted you to service your reels - I hope it makes for many more great days on the water, come 2011.

    Thanks for taking time to write in and as always, until next time, good luck and good fishing!


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