How To Care For A Ice Fishing Rod And Reel

how to care for a ice fishing rod and reel

As you reflect towards your achievements for the ice fishing season just gone by, you feel very content. In your first ice fishing expedition, you managed to topple the accomplishments of some of the best die-hard trophy anglers.

Going forward, you would surely want to match up this performance in the coming seasons. For this, you must take proper care of your ice fishing rod and reel.

So, why are we waiting? Let’s familiarize you on how to take proper care of your ice fishing rod and reel.

Ice Fishing Rod and Reel Maintenance

You may have gone out fishing for a week, and you think the fishing rods and reels do not require maintenance as they are new. But, the fact is, they are going to get dirty.

Moreover, remember how you were splashing the reels all over the lakes, for the ice to come off?  For this reason, the reels remain wet consistently. So, properly maintaining them is crucial for your future ice fishing expeditions.

Once you start ice fishing, the love for the sport will propel you to make most of those wintry days. During the spring break or any time that you consider as off-season, do the needful to take proper care of your ice fishing rod and reel.

Freshwater Vs. Saltwater

Earlier, I emphasized a little on how a wet reel depreciates the power of a fishing reel. However, you should know, certain elements present in water are attributable for the damages to the fishing reel.

As you already know, fishing reels use grease to ensure smooth operations and to defend against water. But, the presence of salt and dirt in water bodies hurts the reel most.

Now, there is one more issue, the reduction-oxidation factor. It happens when the iron comes in contact with oxygen, as you need to immerse the fishing reel in water for a prolonged period.

The presence of salt is just the icing on the cake to speed up the oxidation process. Thus, the development of rust in the reels is common. Therefore, you should consider this point even before your maiden ice fishing adventure.

There are specific reels like saltwater reels that reduce the level of oxidation to a significant extent. Remember, a saltwater fishing reel is not suitable for freshwater fishing and vice versa.

Tools to get Started

So, let us get back to business. Initially, you have to prepare the tools and stuff for making your maintenance schedule. These items are readily available and should not take too long to accumulate. You would require the following:

  • Ensure, you have an internal diagram of the fishing reel.
  • The area where you are going to schedule your maintenance should be clean.
  • Keep things like a screwdriver, a small slotted screwdriver, a reel tool, a pair of long nose pliers, a clean wipe rag and a reel lube oil nearby.
  • Get something to store the parts of the reel safely; else you will not be able to assemble it correctly later on.
  • Preferably, schedule the maintenance work on broad daylight. You can, of course, do it during the night, in that case, make sure the place has proper illumination.

The Right Lubricants

Always insist on premium quality oil. Specifically, these oils are for cleaning the fishing reels. Again, the overuse of lubricants is not a good idea.

Remember, if you do not choose the proper lubricant for your fishing reel, you are not going to help the cause either. Depending on the type of reel you have, you should choose between the oil and grease.

The seasoned campaigners of ice fishing recommend the use of general purpose reel oil rather than the other variants of lubricant. You should aim for a lubricant that has a low thickness.

I personally use Ardent Reel Cleaning Kit which is available on Amazon.

Things you should never use for the maintenance

  • Most of us will be tempted to use the lubricants we find close by like vegetable oils, fats, and cooking oils. However, each of them is prone to get thicker when exposed to cold and should not be used. After a certain period, these lubricants will be responsible for damaging the reel completely.
  • Refrain from using WD-40 as one of the prime lubricants for your fishing reel. If you do, you will be responsible for shortening the lifespan of the reel, and ultimately it is going to become unusable. You can, however, apply it on a small quantity, that too once you complete cleaning the internal parts.
  • When you are cleaning the internal parts of the ice fishing reel, refrain from using items like gasoline and strong chemicals. These can quickly damage the plastic parts. Using these elements can also push the crud deeper into the inner chambers of the reel.

The Basics of Rod Maintenance

If you are doing the rod maintenance for the first time, you should handle your rod carefully. Some of these tips will surely help you to ensure the cleaning procedure goes on hassle-free.

  • Do not ever attempt to bend any section of the fishing rod. Though it might appear, there are various sections of the rod; they are designated to work in a synchronized manner. If you persistently try to bend a portion, it will eventually snap and break.
  • If you are not planning to clean your rod, you can preferably store the reel in a case. This way, you can increase the lifespan of the rods.
  • When not in use, do not expose the rod to extreme temperatures, hot or cold. By doing so, the cork handles, and line guides will become brittle, and eventually become unusable.
  • Once your ice fishing is over, remember to clean the rod with a soft cloth. Sometimes, you can also use warm water and soap to clean the rods.
  • There is no need to apply oil to the cork handle. The build-up of these corks is in such a way that they can withstand everything.

The Basics of Reel Maintenance

  • Turning the focus towards the reels, you should make it a habit of testing the drag and action of the reel before setting out for an expedition.
  • After your fishing is over for the day, detach the arbor from the frame and let it dry before you store it.
  • You should make it a practice to detach the arbor and to inspect the cylinder for the sake of removing dirt.
  • Application of any lubricant and grease is unnecessary. It is going to be detrimental for the drag function of the reel.

The Reel Maintenance Tips by Reel Type

Hey! Hold on for a second. Reels are available in various types, aren’t they? You certainly do not want to end up performing a specific maintenance setup that is not applicable to a reel.

Here is the guideline to introduce the maintenance depending on the type of reels.

Spinning Reels

These are the numero uno choice for anglers. The ease and simplicity of using these reels make it easy for ice fishing enthusiasts to determine the way they should schedule the maintenance.

The structure of spinning reels are simple; it consists of a spool and a rotor. Dust, grime, and salt particles tend to accumulate into the base. Anglers can remove the spool and clean the rotor housing after they use it.

You should never allow water to collect in the drag system. Tightening the line can help. While rinsing the spinning reel, remember to hold it upside down to eliminate water.

Lastly, clean and apply lubricant before storing them.

Baitcasters and conventional reels

Inline spools are fast catching up with the popularity of the spinning reels for all the right reasons. Their design almost makes them water-resistant.

Maintaining them is super easy. You need to unscrew the drag cap which will bring the spool out.

Similarly, the baitcasters contain a plate on the side just on the opposite side of the handle. You can unscrew them for the spool to come out.

The conventional reels, unfortunately, do not have these side plates thus it can be instead time consuming and complicated affair to clean them.

Fly Reels

You can clean the fly reels with the conventional methods. However, for saltwater fly fishing reels, some extra precautions are needed.

You will find cleaning a fly reel to be the easiest of them all. Do not overlook the fly line though, after separating the spool apply soap and warm water to eliminate the dirt or salt deposits.

Some of the latest saltwater fly fishing reels claim to be maintenance free. But, you need to attend to them nevertheless.

Spincast Reels

Again, you will find cleaning the spin cast reels to be very convenient. Generally, these reels have a cone cover; you merely need to uncover it by the push of a button.

Clean the inside of the cone. You can find the spool right on top of the spinner head.

You can uncover it by holding the reel frame and rotating them in a clockwise direction.

Don’t forget the Line and Rod Tube

Well, it is not only about the fishing rod and reels. You also need to look after the fly line and the fly rod tube maintenance aspects.

For the fly line, you should always keep a strict vigil on the development of any nicks and cuts. You should do this regularly after using the reel.

Don’t worry; it will not cost you a fortune to clean the fly line. All you need is a mild detergent and water for removing the debris and dirt.

By doing this, you will be able to increase the lifespan of the fly line and also ensure a smooth line casting. The rod guides will always keep floating instead of sinking.

Well, the rod tubes take all the beating while ice fishing. Within no time, they will become dirty. You will find it miserable to clean the rod tubes owing to its rapidness of getting dirty.

If you still insist on cleaning the tubes, go for them with a mild detergent using a soft brush and warm water. The zippers of these rod tubes are inevitably going to break.

A sewing professional should be able to repair them. Many anglers do not consider it worthy to devote their time for cleaning these rod tubes as they are very inexpensive. They prefer a replacement rather than washing them. You can make your choice.

Fishing Reel-Frame Care

How can you possibly ignore the frame of the fishing reel? Opinions differ on the specific way you can clean the structure.

While some anglers prefer cleaning the frame with freshwater, a section of the angler fraternity believe, by doing this you are pushing the grit further inside the reel.

Thus, they opt for wiping the frame dry with the help of a towel. If you are looking towards polishing the structure of your reel, I would suggest you to decide depending on the type of reel you are using. There are three types of fishing reels available right now, and they are as follows.

Metal frame fishing frames: If you have such a frame, you can use coconut oil as they tend to work way better than any other on any painted metal surfaces. However, unless you are entirely sure about applying the right product for cleaning it is better to abort the plan.

Anodized aluminum frames:  Perhaps these frames are very easy to maintain.  You can clean them with plain water and a towel. By chance, the frames have experienced deep scratches; it will increase the chances of oxidizing. You will find it increasingly difficult in such cases.

Graphite frame fishing frames:  For graphite frames, never use wax for cleaning purpose as the wax can quickly get into the inner parts of the reel. There are specific products which can protect your reel frame. Again, as the frames age, the carbon fibers are prone to dry out.

Exposing these frames to sunlight can speed up the process of oxidization. No matter, how good care you take of the frame, graphite frames will eventually become fragile. Look around; you may find some vehicular spray paints that can enhance the life of graphite.

Storage of your Reels

The entire ice fishing season, the fishing rods and reels will be your faithful companion. The ice fishing reels are no less than a magic wand for you. They truly enhance your wizardry in the frozen lakes.

As soon as the ice fishing season is over, you treasure the fond memories of the season. Naturally, you will have some fascinating stories to tell about your scintillating ice fishing experiences.

Amidst all this, do not forget to store your ice fishing gear properly. You will need them again the coming season. You can do any of the following.

  • Ensure, you are placing the reels in a moisture absorbent type pack.
  • Generally, the flannel bags are an excellent choice for the purpose above. Flannel is known to absorb moisture and additionally offers protection from scratches.
  • At the present day, manufacturers of ice fishing reels include reel bags. Unfortunately, the excitement of ice fishing gets the better of the anglers, and they do not bother about these bags. Do keep these bags carefully. These are the best choices for storing your reels during the off-season.
  • Okay, you need not rue on the event if you are unable to trace the manufacturer’s reel bags. The old cotton sports socks are also excellent choices for absorbing the moisture and can act as shock absorbers. Socks are readily available in every household. So, you can store the reels in them comfortably.

Disassembling and Assembling the Reel

Do we see, some of you still wondering in despair, because we did mention the maintenance aspect, but most of you are novices in this department?

No worries, we will walk the extra mile to help you out. Read on to know how you can adequately disassemble and assemble the ice fishing reel.

While disassembling the ice fishing reel, make sure you put the parts in a safe place. A good idea will be to label them if you forget. You can use masking tape and number them while removing the elements from the reel.

Now, you are sure; when you are going to assemble the parts, you will not feel lost.

Here is another vital tip for you. Always note, the parts of a fishing reel are designed metal to fiber and never the other way, i.e., metal to metal.

Correctly holding the reel is again crucial. Preferably, use your left hand for holding the reel and work with your other hand. Never forget, you should hold the reel in an identical way for ensuring the parts to be put back again without any complications.

Before removing the spool, make sure the fishing line is secure and not in connection with the reel. If you do not do this, you will run into the risk of the line getting into the frame and the spool. Once this happens, disassembling the parts will become an uphill task.

While taking care of the fishing line, do not forget to remove the spool and wipe away the visible dirt and grime from the exterior portion of the reel. Ideally, the use of cotton swabs with isopropyl along with a rub of alcohol is preferable.

Now, it is the time to clean the shaft of the spool and to take a close look for any damages, rust or corrosion. Do not think twice and clean the dirt, debris, and the old grease. It will help you to enhance the resistance against continuous wear and tear.

After your cleaning is over, leave all the parts to dry. Once they are completely drained, you can apply grease to them. You can also prefer to use specific ice fishing reel oil for lubricating. Earlier, I have already discussed in detail on the type of oil you should be using.

Some of the essential parts of the reel, the gears, and the ball-bearings will need the application of grease. Simultaneously, the pick-up handle, anti-reverse handle, and the handle itself require lubrication. I reiterate, never overuse the oil, only a few drops should work correctly.

The other parts including the front of the warm spiral gear and the worm gear and the siding parts will all require the application of lubricants.

That’s it; your cleaning is over. Now, it is the time to reassemble the reel. You have already labeled the parts and numbered them. So, pick them up one by one and attach the screws and nuts back into the fishing reel.

When the assembling is complete, you can use the Wd- 40 for the exteriors of the reel. Wipe the reel for one last time. Before re-mounting the reel you can also use a bit of anti-corrosion agent on the seat.


Seriously, as an angler, you have enough reasons to become enthusiastic after reading our ice fishing rods and reels maintenance guide. Just a quick note, before we take your leave. Not every ice fishing reel require deep maintenance.

You will be surprised to know; the cheaper reels require more maintenance in comparison to their expensive counterparts. You can save a lot of your precious time if you opt for good quality fishing reels, available at an affordable rate.

I have already spoken in details about the specific areas of an ice fishing reel that requires cleaning and lubrication.

I am sure; you found the cleaning procedure damn easy. The ice fishing season is just around the corner. It is never too late; you can start the maintenance work now itself.

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