Over Head Fishing Reel Maintenance

Correctly maintaining your overhead fishing reel and performing the appropriate servicing procedures is of prime importance to all anglers regardless of the overhead reel's application. A well maintained overhead reel performs at its optimum level, increases casting distance, lowers the minimum cast weight and assists the angler by operating without a fault whilst fishing, having a smooth drag with a light initial let off to respond to a sudden run from a hooked fish.

These qualities will also greatly increase an angler's enjoyment and satisfaction while fishing as we go fishing to fight the fish, not fight our equipment. A well maintained reel also outlasts a poorly or non maintained reel which is even more reason to perform these simple and basic steps. In this article I will discuss the maintenance procedures which apply to small to medium star drag overhead casting reels such as the ever popular Abu classic range.

Daily Usage Maintenance Procedures

Several simple steps should be observed and completed at the end of each days fishing. Firstly if the overhead reel has been used in a saltwater environment and there was either a sea breeze or the reel was placed in a rod holder or rocket launcher while trolling or travelling to and from your various fishing locations it will have collected salt spray on the outside of the reel housing as well as in the levelwind gearing on reels which have a levelwind fitted.. This salt spray firstly needs to be removed.
It is important that you do not throw the reel in a bucket of water or to lay the rod and reel down on the grass and blast it with the hose. The reason that you should not simply throw the reel in to a bucket of freshwater is because by doing this the inside of the reel will fill up with freshwater which will break down the reel's internal lubrication and also wet the drag which will result in a jerky drag.
If your reel has been fully submerged in salt or brackish water then I would recommend throwing it in to a bucket of fresh water and leaving it in the bucket until you are ready to fully disassemble the reel, dry and remove the old lubricants from all of its internals and then reassemble and relubricate. The procedures for achieving this are detailed below.
 The reason for not laying a reel down on the ground and just blasting it with the hose is because by placing an overhead reel down on its side and then hosing the reel will result in the salt being absorbed by the water. This water will be forced in to the inside of the reel between the lip of the spool and the frame of the reel where it will firstly break down the reel's internal lubrication and then when the water evaporates, leave the salt inside the reel where it is now in with the unprotected bearings and gearing which have become unprotected when the internal lubrication has broken down.
While employed in the tackle trade the most common problem I would encounter with overhead reels were the right side bearings rusting on the reel. The right side bearing always was the one that rusted because the vast majority of overheads were right hand wind and when the reel was laid flat on the ground and hosed, the weight of the handle caused the reel to lay with the right hand side facing on a downwards angle which allowed the water from the hose to flow in over the lip of the spool in to the right hand bearing and gearing.
The other frequently encountered problem was worn levelwind pawls and gearing which resulted from the pawl being frozen by salt inside the pawl cover due to the reel being laid on its side exposing the levelwind gearing while hosing which would force the salt in to this area and break down the lubrication. It is essential that the pawl has free movement inside the pawl cover in order to follow the contours of the levelwind gearing while traversing from side to side.
Now we know how not to remove this salt, what is the right way to remove it? Firstly leave the reel on the rod, and either hold the rod in your hand or place the rod in a rod holder. You need to ensure that the frame of the reel is running parallel to the ground so that the spray flows over the spool with out going between the gap which exists between the lip or flange of the spool and the frame. This will result in the exterior of the reel being cleaned without any water penetrating in to the interior of the reel resulting in salt penetration and the break down of the reels internal lubrication as long as a fine spray is used.
Using a dustpan brush and some warm soapy water, thoroughly scrub the outside of the reel paying special attention to around the screw heads, handle, levelwind if fitted and other places where the salt can get caught and build up. It is not necessary to tighten up your drag for this process because if performed correctly no water will penetrate in to the inside of the reel resulting in a wet drag.
Adjust your hose so that it is spraying out a light mist just sufficient to wash off the soap. Remove the reel from the rod and remove any salt from underneath the reel seat. Either dry the reel or leave the reel out side to dry. Do not store the reel while still wet and when storing reels, store them in neoprene or cloth bags that breathe and allow moisture to evaporate.
Next oil the handle knob using preferably any Teflon based penetrating lubricant such as Triflow for example with light weight sewing machine oil also being acceptable. If the reel has a levelwind fitted, you should also lightly oil the levelwind gearing which will be visible by turning the reel upside down. While the reel is upside down, remove the levelwind pawl cover and lightly oil.
On overheads which are used for casting, use very light weight low viscosity oil and apply sparingly. Lightweight oils can be sourced from Dentistry Supply Outlets which sell it to lubricate the dentists high speed drills. Alternatively tournament casting lube can be purchased from American or European online tackle suppliers where such lubricants are in higher demand than Australia. Such a product is, Quantum Hot Sauce reel oil can be purchased online from Bass Pro.

Annual Maintenance Procedures

Your overhead reel will require a full service every 6-12 months depending on usage. This is achieved by fully disassembling the reel, removing all of the old lubricants as well as any salt or foreign matter before relubricating and reassembling the reel. This is easier than it sounds because overhead reels are simple to disassemble and reassemble if care is taken and the parts are laid out systematically in the same order and side up as from which they were removed from the reel.

Casting Overhead Maintenance Procedures

I will firstly detail how to disassemble a typical small casting overhead such as an Abu 1500/2500C, Abu T1600/3600C, Abu 1600/3600/5600 Black Max/ Pro Max as well as 4600/5000/5600/6000/6500/7000C models. These methods also apply with a few small variations to the Shimano Calcutta series in addition to the Daiwa Millionaire series.
Firstly remove the handle nut locking plate screw and also the locking plate and the handle retaining nut. With Abu reels, also remove the small circlip that will now become visible. Remove the handle and then the spacer between the handle and the star drag. As most modern casting overheads now have one way roller bearings in the right hand side plate to facilitate the infinite anti reverse, remove any washers or shims being careful to lay them down in the same sequence and facing the same side up as they were in the reel. Finally remove the sleeve from the inside of the one way roller bearing where this feature is present.
Unscrew the knurled nuts which retain the right hand side plate. This will result in the entire right hand side of the reel being removed with all of the internal gearing and drag intact. For Abu 1500/2500C models the next step are to remove the two screws visible on the left hand side of the removed section of the reel. For Abu T1600/3600C, all Black Max and Pro Max models as well as all 4600/5000/5600/6000/6500/7000 models these screws are situated on the right hand side of the removed section of the reel.
On all models, remove the bronze drag carrier shaft and separate the drag washers. The next step is to remove the pinion gear and the yoke. Pay attention to what side of the yoke is facing upwards as one side will have small ramps on it to facilitate the reel's gearing engaging when the handle is turned. Remove the bearing and the bearing retaining clip on the 1500/1600/2500/2600 classic models. Unscrew the screws retaining the left hand side plate and remove the side plate.
Remove the left hand side plate by removing the side plate screws and then on the 1500/2500/1600/2600 classic models remove the inner left hand side plate and then the bearing which is situated within the side plate before removing the left hand side pinion gear and nylon levelwind gear.  

After removing the side plate on the 4600/5000/5600/6000/6500/7000 models remove the ratchet mechanism where fitted and then remove the shaft from the centre of the spool. The small nylon gear which is locked on to the left hand side of the spool can then be removed which will allow you to access the bearing which is retained within the left hand side of the spool assembly. The bearing on the right hand side of the spool on the 4600/5000/5600/6000/6500/7000 models can be removed from the spool by firstly removing the plate which houses the centrifugal brakes which is retained by a circlip.
The final stage of disassembly on all of the Abu models is to remove the levelwind.  The first step is to remove the levelwind pawl which is achieved by removing the screw cap situated underneath the levelwind line guide and then removing the pawl. On the 1500/1600/2500/2600 Classic range, depress the small black nylon lugs visible on the left hand side of the frame where the levelwind shield attaches to the frame. The levelwind worm gearing will be able to now be removed by sliding it out through the left hand side of the frame. Once the levelwind worm gearing is removed, the levelwind shield will be able to be removed by sliding it out in the same manner.
To remove the levelwind worm gearing and shield on the 4600/5000/5600/6000/6500/7000 models, remove the small stainless steel locking plate on the outside of the left hand side of the frame which will enable you to remove the levelwind worm gearing through the left hand side of the frame. The levelwind worm shield can then be removed by sliding it out though the frame.
To remove the levelwind gearing on the tournament models T1600/3600 firstly remove the levelwind pawl using the method described above. The nest step is to remove the screw that retains the levelwind worm gearing retaining plate as well as the retaining plate which will allow the levelwind worm gearing and shield to be removed through the right hand side of the frame.
Your reel is now fully disassembled. To service the reel, remove all old lubrications and foreign materials, cleaning the parts just before they are installed back in to the reel. To clean your bearings, the old lubricants can be dissolved by soaking in acetone and once the acetone has evaporated compressed air can be used to blow out any grit or sand. Do not use air from an air compressor as this has moisture in the lines, use compressed air which comes in a can from computer shops and is used to clean peripheral devices.
You should then use a low viscosity formula lubrication which will provide enhanced spool acceleration resulting in longer casts and a lower minimum cast weight. I use either Quantum Hot Sauce reel oil which can be purchased online from Bass Pro tackle shops or alternatively a lubricant designed for dentists drills which can be purchased from dental supply shops.  
If your reel features a infinite anti-reverse, oil the rollers on the one way roller bearing with a thicker lubricant such as Triflow, or Lanaguard with sewing machine oil being acceptable although not as durable as the previous two products. Reels in which the levelwind does not track in free spool, can be lightly oiled with Triflow, Lanaguard or sewing machine oil.
On the bulk of Abu overheads which feature a levelwind which tracks whilst the reel is in free spool, the following procedure should be performed to ensure optimum casting performance.  Soak all of the levelwind gearing in acetone to remove all grease and oil. Allow the acetone to evaporate of the parts once they have been removed from the acetone.
Clean the post that the nylon idle gear sits on which will be on the left hand side plate. Place one small drop of the low viscosity oil on the post. Replace the idle gear. Reassemble the levelwind in to the frame of the reel, applying a drop off the low viscosity oil in to the line guide before replacing the levelwind pawl. Apply one drop off the low viscosity oil on to the nylon bushes or the bearings that support the levelwind worm gearing.
Apply one drop of the low viscosity oil in to the track on the levelwind worm. This will be spread evenly through the track by the pawl when the spool turns. Apply one drop of the low viscosity oil on to the levelwind shield. This will again be spread evenly along the shield by the movement of the line guide when the spool is turned.
Lightly grease using a small amount of grease, all of the teeth on the main gear. Clean the drag washers and if they were lubricated such as in the case of oil soaked felt or leather which is used in some of these reels, lightly oil them. If they were being run dry then continue this practice. Lightly oil the post that the drag carrier sits on and also lightly oil the handle.
Reassembly is the reverse procedure to disassembling with the addition of cleaning and lubricating the various components outlined above as the reel is reassembled. By laying the parts out systematically and ensuring they are laid out in the right order and facing the same direction as they were removed from the reel you can not get in to any trouble.
 When I worked in a tackle shop performing this service for customers I used to say to them, give it a go if you get stuck bring it in to me disassembled just make sure you don't lose any parts. It was rare to get a customer who needed to bring one in as when they laid the parts out in front of them as they removed them they could always work out where those parts went.

    Using the correct preventative maintenance procedures will add years to the life of your favourite reel and ensure that it will not let you down when you have hooked a trophy fish.  It is of the utmost importance on an overhead reel to ensure that the reel is casting to its full potential. You will gain more enjoyment from your fishing due to not struggling with a reel which isn't performing at its optimum level. When you tackle is performing at its optimum level fishing is much more enjoyable and stress free. These simple do and don'ts will keep your tackle performing at its optimum level.

Simple Dos and Don'ts

Do Always keep you reel clean and dry.
Do Regularly oil your handle knob and line roller.
Do Ensure your reel is fully serviced once or twice a year.
Do Back your drag off after each fishing trip.
Do Remove salt water spray from the exterior of the reel using the methods previously mentioned.

Don't Throw the reel in a bucket of water.
Don't Hose your reel using a high pressure spray or when the reel is laying on the ground.
Don't Use WD/CRC types of sprays as these are penetrating solvents and will remove the reel's internal lubrication

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