Fishing Reel  Identification & Maintenance  


It goes without saying that there are numerous types of modern fishing reels.  These can be separated into different categories and then sub-categories.  Freshwater and saltwater being a starter.  The main difference between freshwater and saltwater is the saltwater reels are generally larger bodied with a larger line capacity and generally more rust resistance.   Within those groups will each be different types of which could include, single action, level-wind spool type, open-faced spinning and closed face spinning reels.  And then there are those fishermen who collect the oldies.


Most modern fishing reels are not only for storing line, as when used for larger fish the friction drag system is especially important.  Those rotating spool type, if used for casting are normally equipped with ball bearings for smoother operations instead of just bronze bushings.  The more ball bearings the smoother the operation and the higher the price.


Most of the newer reels that have a drag system that when referring to this type of reel, is a mechanical means of applying variable pressure to the turning reel spool in order to act as a friction brake against it when a fish is pulling line out.  This can be as simple as for the early reels as a piece of heavy leather rubbing the spooled line and was "thumbed" and the line out-spool was accomplished by pulling the crank handle OUT to disengage it from the spool.  Or they can be as sophisticated as a complicated arrangement of leather, fiber, carbon or Teflon friction discs placed around the handle shaft (which is connected to the line spool by an engagement clutch).  

Shown in the photo below is a an old reel probably from the late 1800s named the California Freespool.


This old reel has direct drive, but new enough to have a clutch disengage for letting line out.  The drag is your thumb on the heavy leather against the spool's line

The number of drag washers may vary from 1 to 4 or even 5, depending on the intended usage of the reel.  For freshwater reels, it would be common to only see 1 or possibly 2 drag washers, whereas a saltwater reel designed for salmon or halibut, you will encounter considerable more to compensate for larger/heavier fish.

Some drag discs, many times known as washers can be lubricated while others are not, depending on the composition.  These drag washers are sandwiched together between brass or stainless steel washers and under a manually adjustable spring tension system using the star shaped drag wheel behind the crank handle for adjustment.   There are also versions that use a adjustment, operated by a lever, which are identified as lever drag reels.

A properly set reel drag allows larger or powerful fish to be safely brought in and landed, as the drag will "slip" below the breaking point of the line if the fish makes a sudden run.   This in combination with the flexibility of the rod, puts constant pressure on the fish, tiring it more quickly.  As a rough general rule, the drag should nominally be set at about one-half of the line's breaking strength.  This drag can be adjusted up or down as needed by the fisherperson while playing a fish, by what is called a star drag wheel or non some reels a lever activated drag.  The "Star Drag", name is usually associated with the star shaped wheel located directly behind the crank handle that is used to tighten or loosen the drag.


In the early reels, the handle was directly connected to the spool, here if you wanted line to go out the handle would also turn in reverse, later a clutch disengage system was devised that could also incorporated a ratchet system allowing the spool/line automatically be connected to the drag system when fighting a large fish.  This clutch/disengage system, which usually is manually activated by a lever, (or push button depending on make/model) disengages the spool allowing the line to free-spool out, as in letting the line out as in trolling or mooching, or when casting.


All reels, except the single action fly/mooching type reels, need a method of stopping the line from going out when fighting a fish.  On the late early reels a spring loaded ratchet system was used, the later reels utilized a anti-reverse system that was essentially a anti-reverse main shaft roller bearing being utilized.  This mechanism, being cam operated rollers inside the bearing housing, automatically activate when the line starts moving out.  This system allows line to spool out separate from the drag system while the handle remains stationary.  This later design is named the Instant Anti-Reverse, or IAR.  It incorporates a one-way clutch type bearing on the main handle shaft to restrict handle movement to forward motion only, by caming the bearing rollers against the inner part of the bearing housing.  The older spring loaded 'dog' or 'pawl' systems engages into a cog wheel attached to the handle shaft, while the newer anti-reverse bearings also have the same result.   Some old school knowledgeable repairmen consider this IAR not as good as the anti-reverse ratchet dog, however the IAR system usually results in a smoother operating reel.

The photos of reels shown here is to give you a sampling, while not trying to promote one brand over another.  Some are ones I purchased many years ago, like the Airex Bach Brown model 5 open faced spinning reel that I bought new in 1955 along with a 8' Betts solid fiberglass steelhead rod.  I still have both and the reel's booklet, and bag along with a small round metal grease container for the reel. 


As a fisherpersons expands their horizons, they may soon learn that "One Size Fits All" does not really apply when it comes to fishing rods and reels.   Other reels shown here are ones that I have picked up over the years to fill in the gaps while others happened to follow me home over time to make a friendship with naked rods I had, that needed such a relationship.   I will say that I do not really have any favorite reels, some however are better than others for specific purposes.  I am still trying to find the perfect reel for my type of fishing and I do think I am getting closer, OR manufacturing technology is getting better after 60 years.   I do have some that I use more than others, however I just do not have the time to spread it around and therefore some keep hanging on the wall with a forlorn look on them.  And I have found that in recent times, price does not really mean quality nor longevity.


There are not many reels currently available (other than the single action reels) that have the handle connected directly to the spool, most of those that are still alive are in antique collections.


You may not realize it, but a reel that is well maintained may well increase your hooked to landed ratio of larger fish such as steelhead or salmon.   If your success declines, you may try a lot of other things to increase your ratio, first thinking your hooks are bad, or your rod is not matched to the needs at hand, or possible you may even try different line, or begin to wonder if it is just you, getting older.  However you may do yourself a favor and closely inspect your reel's drag washers.   Most of the reels you are using will incorporate a drag system of some kind, if it gets to when when the line is being pulled out, it is not an even pressure or if it does so in jerks, your drag washers may need attention, or replaced, maybe just a good cleaning and re-lubricated.   Or you WILL loose a nice fish (which can cause the fish pull loose or break off) because the slightly uneven pressure on the fish (depending on the location of this worn drag in relationship to the friction discs), giving this drag a slim chance of smooth operation, and if taken advantage of, that fish may be history.  And while you are at it, the spool bearings may need adjustment or replaced to help prevent a casting backlash.


Disillusionment :   Sometimes one begins to wonder as to is it worth the money to invest in a higher grade reel as to long term dependability.  My question is just what do you expect the life expectancy of a $180 reel to be??  In my mind, I would think well over 10 years, but maybe I am being lulled into thinking that because now automobiles are being made with over 100,000 mile warranties, when years ago a car was worn out with those miles.


Just because the reel is expensive does not mean it will be possible to repair it down the road in a few years.  And do not be swayed by a name brand that is so much thought of by fishermen that they do not ask a professional reel repairman for advise before purchasing one.  Here I will name names. 


I have had 50 year old Penn reels that seem to last forever AND parts are still available if needed.  It seems that the design was outstanding and they have built on that.  Another reel in this category is the Ambassadeur, however I have found one minor problem, if you use these for trolling even slightly heavy tackle (salmon), it may be impossible to push the clutch release button in unless you slightly reel in enough to relieve tension on the spool engagement dogs.   Fishing reels seem to fall into the category way different than computers that need to be replaced every few years because of one or more malfunctions.


However, a salmon fisher friend took a couple of his Shimano Tekota 500LCs in for professional cleaning/repair.  One was a 10 year old reel, it was returned unrepaired, he being told that some parts (the one he needed, essentially the IAR bearing) were not available anymore from the factory, and this reel was now only good for spare parts.  I acquired it because I wanted to try to convert my wider 600 into a narrower 500 spool reel and could possibly use these parts to do so.   In tearing it apart, I found that the main crankshaft anti-reverse bearing's needles were gunked up so badly and I could not tell if it was dried chassis grease of some kind or rust to where the needles were dry and not able to rotate (because this bearing was not designed to be readily removable).  You could hear and feel them complaining when you cranked the handle.  I have no idea of what led to that situation, as the other smaller outer shaft bearing was fine.  Anyway, no big deal if that is all that is wrong, buy a new bearing, so I looked it up online and found that this bearing was indeed now obsolete/discontinued.  


WOW, he paid near $180 for that reel and now it is scrap.  The odd part that I find here, is that most bearings are not made by the manufacturer of the product it is used in, (this is so throughout any industry, even vehicles).  So I would not be surprised that this bearing is still being made and used on some item, but without a manufacturers part number to cross-reference to, it would take a LOT of measuring to possibly find the right one or a usable replacement.  Another thing I found during this disassembly is that one of the cone shaped drag washer springs was so collapsed that even if the bearing was available, this spring would have also need replaced.  Why would a company make a spring that was not heat treated enough to withstand even the lightest treatment (like the drag being tightened during the off season)?   And this owner does not use his boat - rod/reels a lot, only for a month at the Columbia River Buoy 10 salmon fishing each year.


FAST FORWARD --  I recently found a bearing company that makes this bearing, BOCA Bearing.  And they have a website catering to fishing reel bearings, also giving cross-reference numbers.  This Shimano factory bearing was #TCT0488,   BOCA's equivalent # is EWC1008 and sells for $15.95.  This was my guess all along as mentioned above, as usually bearings are NOT made by the end product manufacturer.  Now possibly the reason is that the reel housing (handle side) uses two stainless steel pins to secure this bearing plate in place and over time, if used near saltwater, these pins can become corroded into the aluminum housing, making for a very good chance of breaking the housing when trying to get the old bearing out.  Is it possible that the factory is not willing to admit to a design failure, and not wanting hassle from the customer, so they just changed the bearing securement on later models and then listing the old bearing as being obsolete?  Or they will only sell it (new version) as a sub-assembly with a new housing?


The moral of the story could be two actually.  (1) Don't be swayed by a lower priced reel being junk, where you could buy one of these different cheaper model/brand that would still perform to your requirements.  But how do you know about the long term issues unless you personally buy a new one (different brand) every few years and use them hard.  Most of us do not have the time nor resources to do that kind of a thorough test.  And I am sure that if you ask 100 different fishermen the best brand/model, you may get 80 different answers.  (2) However, if you take good care of even a less expensive, BUT WELL designed reel, like cleaning and greasing preferably every year, MAYBE they would last a lot longer.  Then just maybe doing your own repairs in the off time, OR TAKE TO A PROFFESSIONAL you may certainly get better and longer life out of it.  It seems that the more money you spend, the more the idea is that it is a good/should be of higher quality and close to being indestructible, however the newer reels have a whole lot more internal parts to go wrong than the ones we used as kids.


So I guess you either consider taking someone else's advise, (but advise can only as good as the price you paid for it) or spend your money and hope for the best down the road.  For my type of salmon fishing, line counter reels are very convenient.  I have numerous ones that for one reason or the other I have/am/was not totally happy with some models.  They may be fine for someone else, but not for me, one has the clicker that is very hard to put on if your hands are wet.  Two other different makes, the line counter resets are in the way and not protected to where many times you will inadvertently bump this reset at the wrong time.  Another one the counter display window would repeatedly fog up.  Another the counter's clear plastic cover fell out and you can not just buy this small cover and glue it in yourself, but are forced into buying the whole new $30 end piece, again a Shimano Tekota.  I have also found that most line-counter reels need more attention than the non-counter versions.  I understand there are a couple of brands out there now with a digital counter, which may be worthwhile to look at, but I hear that changign the battery is similar to that of a battery operated wrist watch.


You will also find in the same manufacturers, may have different models of the same style, which may use the same parts, they only change (add ball bearings instead of bronze bushings then add on decorative sideplates) on the more expensive models.  If you are one who trolls or sits on anchor most of the time, you will get by just fine with the cheaper reel that has bronze bushings in some of the non critical locations.  



The Difference Between Cleaning & Maintenance :   Cleaning could be just a light washing the reel down with WARM soapy water, (which should be done each time it is used anyway).  One factory Rep. suggests that you take it into the shower with you (especially if used in salt water).   The worst thing to do is use it in salt water a day or so and then put it away until winter if that is when you have time.  Salt corrosion, is going to be your worst enemy and on the newer line counter reels even if you did not get it wet, but just the salt air can deposit enough on those delicate parts to make the counters malfunction. 


After a good washing and inspecting the reel's normal operation, to removing a side-plate then inspecting the innards.  Sometimes cleaning could result in needed repairs if problems are found.  I have had reels brought to me that are 40 years old with the appearance of NEVER BEEN APART.  One being a Penn 209.  This was indicative of salt corroded cross bars, caked on grease, seized level wind pawl and broken drag washers.  I am sure this did not all happen at once.  All the above is the result of no maintenance, but a DAMNED good reel design to have survived that long being neglected and abused and still somewhat functioning.  NOTE --  I am not a reel repairman, but do my own, and for a few friends.  I have had no training, just look at a parts list and start, however some take a lot of head scratching to understand the engineering and reassembly.


Reel Maintenance :   One thing that has been preached to most of us since we started, is that on any drag system reel, to back off the drag when not in use.   This does two things, it allows the drag spacer/washers to become relaxed, preventing the possibility of the washers becoming stuck together and it also relaxes the strain on the drag washer springs, which may give longer spring tension life and allow the drag to perform as designed the next time you use the reel.  The one exception here is if you are going to wash your rod and reels off with a light spray from a garden hose, (AND NEVER FULL POWER) then before and until you have finished this process, you need to tighten the drag.  What this does is help prevent any water from getting in/on the drag washers, which if left that way for an extended time, could seize the washers to the plates or allow rust to start in the main gear that the washers seat into.  But after you are finished then back this star drag off for your storage.



A suggestion, do some of your initial maintenance, on the water or at least after daily usage.  If you are a bait fisherperson, clean it after each usage.  One well known rod/reel repairman recommends that you spray WD-40 on the reel BEFORE usage, then wipe it off, leaving a light protective film on the outer parts.   Then do it again at the end of the day, again wiping of the excess.  His theory is this gives some protection to parts that are hard for you to service without a total teardown.  And if you happen to get any on the line, well that may just act as a scent blocker.


Primary maintenance, by this, I mean that during the season you need to do primary maintenance, at least wash it off with water (warm soapy water is a good start), especially if you are fishing in salt water right after you get off the water to prevent cancer from starting both inside and outside of the reel.  Again do not spray high pressure water into the reel with force as it will also force debris inside, but just enough flow to wash it off is good.   Again when doing this, it is best to set the drag tight so that any water does not get into the drag washers, however once the wash-down is complete, then you need to back off the star drag so there is no strain on the washers during storage time.  Many times just washing does not really cut it as you will find out if you let the reel set for even 2 or 3 months, so it is good to use warm soapy water AND the use of a paint or tooth brush to try and remove any salt residue.  This salt, (even minimal) grows like a fungus.  


Do your secondary (main) reel maintenance in the off season, remove them all from the rod, check for any dirt/grit or corrosion on the reel seat and underside parts that you can not see from above or on the rod.


Doing this in the off-season is crucial because if you plan on fishing within a week or so of the time you tear it down, if you run into problems, you may well have a non functioning reel for that event.   By problems, I mean that very likely, you not being totally familiar with reel construction, so during your disassembly, you will have the situation where a you will encounter a jesus part, (jesus, where did that part disappear to).  And these will normally be small spring loaded parts or E-clips that have attended flying school.  Or when you take the reel apart, a part that you never saw may part fall out and you did not even know it was in there to start with.  Now it may take you some time to figure out what it is and where, or how it fits even if you did find it.   


Another thing to consider is that "out of sight, out of mind" may be prevalent here.  Like most of the newer reels use a plastic cover over the reel handle nut.  Remove this cover, nut and the handle to be able to wash the salt residue from under it and around the handle shaft hole.  This will save you a lot of grief later on.  Removing this cover may also be accompanied by removal of the small retainer screw on some reels.  If these small screws are not removed periodically and the threads lubricated, they could become corroded into the handle and later when you really need to take the reel apart, will have the slot stripped or even more likely the screw twist off in the handle.


Plus if the reel is not washed off and/or left unattended for some time, the chrome plating on the metal parts start to get a bad cancer on the surface.  The longer you leave it the worse it gets.   Soapy water helps, but to help dissolve the salt there is the product Salt Away (which is a mild Phosphoric acid) that is used by boaters to neutralize the salt from their boats or outboard motor users.  Just spray this on, let it set a while and then wash it off, which does wonders.  


For those freshwater anglers, contaminating a reel with river bank sand certainly does it no good.  Even very fine sand or mud can get inside which chews the gears up and ruins bearings.   Also if you happen to be using bait, scent, etc. residue off these can / will get onto and in the reel.  When this dries, reels slow down.  Most gears now days are made of nylon which can become worn over time if they are contaminated.  The Swedish Ambassadeur reels still have brass cut gears however.   And just about all of the major brands use brass or even stainless gears for the main drive gear.  If you have a backlash, you could may even have pieces of line sneak inside.   Any debris can get imbedded in these gear teeth, binding things up or at least loosing any smooth operation of the reel next time you want to use it. 


Different reels will require different types of cleaning.  By this I mean a competition bass fisherman's casting reels will need to be finer tuned than a halibut fisherman's reel.  Kind of like comparing a Chevrolet Corvette to a Ford F350 1 ton flatbed truck.  The bass fisherman's requires minimal oiling/grease because of the more precise machining of his type of reel, while the halibut fisherman only requires the line to go out and back in with the drag to function reliably.


It can be disheartening to save your money, purchase a dream boat and of course then a better towing vehicle, lay out your old favorite tackle, purchase new lures, schedule your vacation only to have your fishing reel malfunction the first day of this vacation on the biggest fish of your lifetime because of your negligence.   This can be especially bad if this fish happens to be on the rod your 12 year old daughter is holding onto.  Yes, you may be able to dream something up to explain to her, but how do your really explain it to yourself?  Kind of reminds me of one guy who buys his hooks at the discount store AND then only when they are on sale in the off season.  And he then uses his used RUSTY ones the next year.  Plus, I will bet that he never heard of a hook sharpener.


Then there are certain reels that even the most competent repairman shutters when one is brought in  for repairs.   So if you do decide to do your own repairs, get a exploded parts list or go online and print one off.  Another suggestion, if you do start to take yours apart, do it on a clean kitchen table, a clean uncluttered floor, no carpet and keep the cat away.  LAY OUT EACH PART AS IT COMES OFF THE REEL on a paper towel with the side down as it comes off (inside of the reel down on the towel).  BE VERY OBSERVANT.  Do not disassemble the whole reel at one time, but remove the offside sideplate, do repairs to it, then move to the handle side for the drag system, then move to the levelwind.  Take digital photos of it laid out.  DO NOT rely on memory as to where the parts came from.  Then in all probability you may have not completely examined each part as you took it off, there may be slight differences where if you flop the part over in assembly, it may not function.  This also helps if the reel you are working on may have had someone inside it before, who may have replaced it incorrectly, or lost parts but did not have access to new parts, jerry rigged or so used what was on hand to get it together.  You would be surprised at the number of used reels that I have encountered in this condition.  Some were sold simply because the drag system needed to be cleaned and re-lubricated.


If you need to order parts, try to move your paper towels to a secure location without disturbing the laid out parts.


If you do not intend to go into deep repairs, do not tip or shake the reel when you have it partially apart, otherwise pieces may fall out with you having no idea their exact relationship with the others on reassembly.  One known here is on most all of the Penns, one of the four inner sideplate screws is also the retainer/pivot for the ratchet dog, and the spring just lays in a depression beside it and is held there when the gear housing is screwed down captivating this ratchet dog. 


You may initially want to fill your sink with warm soapy water and a small paint brush to remove any debris both inside and out.   When it has dried, start your disassembly.  If you did not get all the gunk off, then use a Que Tip dipped in rubbing alcohol.   The alcohol will dissolve the grease and dry quickly leaving no little or no residue.  When finished you may want to lightly lubricate some internal parts with a good grade of light oil.  Some internal and external parts will need a protective covering, others like the sensitive line counters will need only a VERY LIGHT oil.


If you are not using your non spinning type reels for long distance casting then the gears may need a thicker lubricant, and if you can not find one, otherwise good old Vaseline has worked for me well over the years.


Even though WD-40 may seem a good light lubricant, it has the condition where this light residue becomes hard over time making it not desirable for internal reel repair.



From this chart below, you can see the differences in oils normally used on reels



You may want to Google "Shear Thinning" to understand it's meaning.


Also when you purchase any reel, keep the instruction papers and parts listings.  There may also be a extra spool, a tube of grease along with a special wrench used for disassembly included in the box.   Many of these original papers also include a exploded parts list.  If you have acquired a used reel without these listings or have misplaced yours, here is a website that has most manufacturers parts lists.  CLICK HERE   This website has a very complete factory exploded parts section in a PDF file form.  The files are expandable in size so us blind guys can read the part numbers and they MAY have the nomenclature also listed.  However I found a couple of my OLD reels not listed here.   Or CLICK HERE for a link to another site.


I originally started to try to post exploded parts drawings and parts listing in this article, but have since found the above websites that have these, I have since deleted the ones I had on here.  Plus I do like to use the factory nomenclature when possible, and without a factory list, this would limit me to only select newer reels.  This was originally planned to be a guide to do your own, somewhat yearly cleaning and re-oiling article.  Somewhere along the trail, the fog set in and things kind of got more complicated than anticipated in that when disassembling some of these newer reels, it got to where I was not as comfortable as I would have liked and I was in it beyond the point of just a cleaning.  Therefore, you may find a few here, not showing a complete disassemble on some of the sub-assemblies that would normally not need to be torn completely apart anyway.


Some brands of reels (usually cheap spinning reels) may not have much of a longevity if the design was not real good or they did not sell well and were discontinued rather quickly, or the importer changed brands or the manufacturer went out of business.  Other manufacturers have for years, and still will sell to major retailers under that company's own brand names, so if you do some research, look closely you may discover the true manufacturer for spare parts saving you the hassle of going thru a retail store's not so fishing gear educated parts department person.  There may be some slight cosmetic differences, but usually the internal parts are the same and many times even share the same part numbers with the manufacturer's.


Therefore (in my mind at least) it is best to purchase a reel from a well known manufacturer who may still have parts on hand after 20 years or so.  Fishing reels seem to NOT be like computer monitors that get thrown away if the color starts fading or lines across the screen.  Reels seem to have a nostalgia like a firearm, that they will live forever because it was one dad or granddad used.   But cheap copies are just that, and may, or may not function reliably even when new or especially over time, or a few years down the road, then no one can remember who made them or even distributed them, much less know where parts may be available from.  And you will find that what level of functioning is acceptable to one is not to another.


A suggestion if I may, after you go thru a reel and do, or have maintenance done on it, keep a record as to the date this was performed.  Also keep a record as to when you spooled it with new line with the line size / make.  Use a felt marking pen or a piece of masking tape, write the brand and line weight on the under side of the reel seat.  And if you swap ends on the line after a few years, record that also.  If you have more than one of the same make and model of reel, engrave on the bottom of the reel seat a #1, #2 etc.


As a rule of thumb, for the reels that use a Teflon type or carbon fiber discs in the drag system do not use oil or grease on them, if they do it is only a fingerprint of drag grease.   However, for the earlier ones made from a leather, cork/asbestos you may want to lightly grease, then wipe it off, just leaving a fingerprint smudge of grease.  Go by what the manufacturer suggests, IF you can find this info.


Under normal conditions, one very knowledgeable repair person says to do not over lubricate the the level wind shaft / pawl of freshwater casting reels.  Now what is not known to many, is that the newer high speed bass casting type narrow spooled reels, the levelwind disconnects when casting, so that may not be as important on these.  However he does recommend packing this area with a light non hardening grease like Vaseline if the reel is to be used in a harsh saltwater type environment.  His reasoning is also probably that these reels are not used for casting where distance is a factor, but merely for dropping the lure overboard and letting the line out as in mooching or downrigger trolling.  The other reason is this grease will help block out the salt water.   Personally I still have a pint of STP oil treatment that I use and put only 1/2 a drop on each side of the worm shaft.


If you have a friend (?) that brings you his reel that is totally disassembled and in a paper bag, do you help him out or just bid him farewell?  For one, you can be pretty sure that not all of the parts will be in the bag.  Chances are good that it is a model that you have never seen before.  And even with the help of the online schematics (which many times are woefully lacking in clarity), I will guarantee you will find parts that you can not totally identify or that you may have put in backwards, so you have to go back, then reassemble it numerous times before you get it together right.  Boy would it help to have a live sample to look at here.  And then if your buddy drops a spare part in just to derail you, when you find out that he has been laughing at you, you had better consider doubling any price you were considering charging him.  Sure, he will say he was testing your ability, why not just let him have all the fun NEXT time.  


On one occasion when this happened to me on a Ambassadeur 4600 CB where the owner made me a gift of it.  OK, it only took me about 4 hours to figure out the final reassembly and then another hour to track down where one left over washer had to go.  Then he even put a spare part off something that was not even off a reel in the paper bag containing these reel parts to confuse me.   He had quit fishing but was aware that if he sent it in to a repair shop to be reassembled that the cost would probably be equal or more than he could get out of it on his close-out yard sale table.


There are many repair shops that do reel maintenance and most of these, if in business for any length of time have to be good at what they do to stay in business.  They do provide a valuable service to the fishermen/women.  The price they charge varies depending on size and version, but the usual cost is about $25 each for labor for the regular reels with slightly more for the complicated ones, with replacement parts prices above that.  Is this worthwhile?  You will have to decide yourself depending on the reel and YOUR mechanical abilities.  For those of you who require more info or want to learn more of how to do your own repairs there is a book out there Fishing Reel Care & Maintenance 101.  This business also sells reel schematics on DVDs for repairing them.


In cleaning most fishing reels the tools required are a toothbrush, Que tip, rubbing alcohol, light oil (like 3 in 1) along with a grease like Vaseline plus Shimano grease or LubriMatic boat trailer axle grease.  Of course a screwdriver of the right size and a small Crescent wrench, OR look in the original box and you will find a combo tool to remove the handle.  When you finish your repair, it is advisable to wipe the reel down with a light oil, then pretty well wipe it all off.   Some will use WD-40, but be sure to wipe it off as leaving it on a hard residue will form.  I like to use the firearm maker, Remington's Rem-Oil.  Another item I have been using lately is Bo-Shield, available at West Marine.

I suggest that if you use your gear anywhere close to saltwater (like an estuary), that SOON after your season ends, that you tear the reels down.  Even if you just remove the spool and allow the side-plates to dry out would be a benefit.  Salt air, if left in/on any reel is not good for it if let set for a any length of time.  And at tear down time smear Vaseline as shown in the photo below to help seal water out of the drag washers or gears.


If a reel is used in saltwater, it is a good idea to use Vaseline on the shaft boss to help seal saltwater out of of the shaft bearings and drag washer area as indicated by the red arrow.

Keep Fresh Line on Your Reels :
You should consider inspecting your mainline often.  This is not to say to change it every season, however under certain conditions (especially guides), this may be appropriate, or even oftener.  Usually you can visually inspect at least the last 5 or 6 feet for nicks or abrasions.  Sometimes it works best to also feel that section, as your fingers can/will pick up small imperfections that you may not be able to see.  When doing a lot of fishing, depending on whether it is river or ocean fishing, I may cut off a few feet of mainline every day, just to be sure what I am relying on to bring in that trophy, is on good sound line.


You may want to change line for many reasons, or flop ends to extend the life of usable line.  Do not throw away the old spools the line came on, but use them to spool the old line back onto, then transfer that to another empty spool.  From there, you can re-spool back onto the original, or even a different reel with the used end now on the bottom of the reel spool giving you new unused line at your terminal end.

You can make a reel spooler by using some 3/8" All-Thread, nuts and washers, a homemade spool adapter, washers and a electric drill motor.


Here a homemade reel spooler is in use

Level Wind Reels :
These are often times called bait-casting reels when made in the freshwater series.  Their larger cousins are designed more for saltwater usage.   They have a traveling line guide in the front of the reel that moves from side to side laying the line evenly across the spool that is driven by a pawl that rides in spiral slots cut in a shaft when the crank handle is rotated.  They may have a "star drag" spool braking system between the handle and the spool that allows the fisherman to place a adjustment on the line tension that can be pulled out like by a large fish.   There is a clutch release lever that disengages the spool from the handle / drag system so that there is very little drag when casting.  There also can be a anti reverse system so that if a fish is on, you do not have to keep your hand on the crank handle to control it.  There is also usually a clicker on one side that when put on, makes a noise if the line is being pulled out, or in for that matter.


Some of the true freshwater bait casters will have 2, up to 5 opposing small pith weights that are mounted on a small cross shaft connected to one side of the spool.  These act like centrifugal balancers that are supposed to slide outward when the spool is rotating fast, putting very slight tension on a inner ring inside of the spool, to govern the speed of the spool when casting so that it does not over rev, which can create a backlash or "birds nest" in the line on the spool if the spool is traveling faster than the line can go out.  This is a mechanical method of trying to replace the educated thumb on the side of the spool.  Not all thumbs can be taught this delicate technique.


The trout / steelhead reels will usually come apart by removing 3 or 4 sideplate screws.  Some have a readily removable sideplate where you could even change spools with other weight line without disturbing any settings or loosing parts.   The better casting reels will have small precise ball bearings on the spool spindles and level wind shafts.  The one drawback of level wind reels is that if the level wind pawl becomes stuck and will not pivot to change directions, it will strip the pawl off, or even ruin the shaft.  The shaft that this traveling pawl / guide fits over has spiral grooves cut into the shaft, RH and LH overlapping.  The line guide is driven by a pawl that is loosely fitted in the guide so it can slightly rotate following the grove in the shaft.  The ends of the grooves are timed so that when the pawl reaches one end, it hesitates in the groove, then engages the other groove, reversing and making a return trip.  A problem here is usually caused the pawl becoming stuck to where it can not rotate enough to make the return trip, or by over greasing the shaft with a a heavy grease that hardens over time, or debris getting collected in the spiral slots in the shaft.


And the modern small high speed casting reels now have a distinct following in the bass fishing fraternity.  These are a different breed of engineering and sometimes there is a fine line between a genius design engineer and being a full blown fruitcake.  Let me tell you these are DIFFERENT.  You old time fishermen can have a problem learning to use one of these for it's intended purpose.  However if your need is just a neat small star drag Kokanee reel, these could work well (as long as you don't get carried away with it's other functions).


The one thing that can help considerably when servicing a level wind reel is to remove the level wind pawl FIRST.  If the reel has been setting for a while with no maintenance being done, AND IF the pawl is stuck in it's cap, even if you crank the handle you run a good chance of damaging either the pawl AND/OR the level wind shaft itself.   If you remove the pawl first, then in your other disassembly, if it is stuck, you can remove and clean things up, preventing any damage at this time.


In 1972 – Penn introduced the Leveline Casting Reel series that uses a patented rotating spiral shaft that did not slow the line down when casting as compared to the other conventional level wind reels.  There is a requirement that the reel be at least 32" from the first rod line guide for the level wind feature to work properly.  This unique line guide works on a internal cammed eccentric activated arm that works into a anti-reversing ratchet that the line spiral guide is attached to.  So the line guide actually moves in minute segments, ratcheting /rotating the spiral cut shaft with the line laying across a top flat. This spiral cut shaft is cut 180 degrees from one side to the other, so when the line comes to the end of one side, when the shaft rotates more the line will lay on the taper to lay the line back across.  Since it uses a ratchet system, IF the line does not track exact, you can manually rotate the guide shaft to where you want it to catch up.  Some of the older surf casters that have not moved up the the spinning type reels, prefer these reels because of no extra drag of a conventional level wind.  You can also get an aluminum spool for it.  It's part # 29L-200, which is the same spool as the Penn 155 and 200, that will allow you to make it more controllable on long casting.


 old Abu Ambassadeur 5000A obsolete Shimano Bantam 100




Penn # 9 Penn 350M Leveline


Penn GTI 310 Shimano TR 100 G


If you are taking a level wind reel apart for repairs, I will guarantee that when it comes time to reassemble it that you will not have the level wind cage or guide realigned with the timing of the line when it came to you.  To correct this, observe the direction of the guide moving across the spool by pulling line out.   Now loosen the level wind pawl nut allowing the pawl to drop down and disengage the worm shaft.  Pull more line off until you mate the line's position going out off the spool with where the guide is.  Tip the reel over and tighten the pawl cap, (you might have to slightly move the guide a bit to allow the pawl to engage the shaft grove).  Check if it is close, if not then loosen the cap and move the guide a bit.  If you got it off to where the guide goes one way and the line was going the other, loosen the cap letting the pawl to drop down, then remove the pawl, replacing it but rotated slightly to align with the other "returning" groove, or just pull more line out until you coincide and time the two.


Inside a Level Wind Reel :  (Project #1)  Again it is recommended that you acquire a exploded view of your reel or print off a computer page if you intends to tear it apart, however even if you do, have your digital camera ready and do not spare the clear close-up shots as you disassemble it. 


Shown below is a disassembled Ambassadeur 5000A.  There is a large family of these reels, with the 4000 series being the smaller capacity by simply being narrower.  This 5000 series being the medium width spool (with a 2 7/16"overall reel width). The  6000 series was a wider higher capacity spool (with a 2 3/4" overall reel width).  There are also the 7000 to 10,000 series which are larger saltwater versions.  I am not going to get into giving a history or where each model or numbers really fit in the scheme of things as even my trying to do internet searches, it appears I would have to purchase a book or two and then that is beyond where I really need to go here.


If the model number was say a 5500, that indicates it has high speed (5.3-1) gears.  A left hand high speed 5000 series would have been 5501.  Suffix letters would have indicated changes from the original version, like say the 5500-C3.  The 3 in this case, designated how many ball bearings were in the reel.  There is also a C4 version and a CB, with the latter having a thumb brake.  None of these reels have a clicker mounted on the outer end of the sideplate.    There is a internal clicker of sorts, but it is really a spring held ratchet dog sliding over the anti-reverse gear.   However there are some later versions have a rotating clicker on the off handle side of the case.  All of the Ambassadeur reels will be serial numbered on the bottom side of the reel seat.



The older (pre C) reels had a boxier LH sideplate and could be painted different colors.  Initially the colors could have designated different models/versions, some even being limited editions. These reels had knurled bearing caps on each sideplate which could be adjusted for spool sideplay or friction to help in casting.  

The newer C3 reels abandoned the boxier LH sideplate and utilize a rounded sideplate while eliminating that outer bearing adjustment.  The clicker (if there is one) is mounted on the outer sideplate's rim and rotates on this rim from that position.  Some of the newer versions have the clicker while others do not.  And if you are handy with tools, you could purchase the parts to convert your reel to a clicker version (if compatible).


First, there are 3 knurled nut heads protruding from the RH side (under the crank handle), remove these, (they will not come all the way out even when they are loose as they are captivated inside the housing).  From there you can pull this sideplate/handle/drag off along with the spool which will lift out of the main housing as seen in the LH  photo below.  This would be the initial disassembly where you can inspect parts and make a decision to proceed farther.


To remove the RH sidplate you need to remove the handle that is screwed onto the main gear shaft by a nut on the end.  This nut is further secured by a locking plate and a lock screw.   Remove the handle outward.  There is a small E-clip on the end of the shaft, remove it.  Unscrew the star drag wheel, under it is a wafer washer that has to come off.  Take a look at the shape of it and replace it with the dished part inward.   The RH cover has 2 small screws basically under the handle, remove them and you can then lift off the outer RH sideplate cover, exposing the complete main shaft, drag washers, disengage lever and springs.  As seen in the middle photo below, you can now lift off the drag washers, inspect, clean, or replace them.  When you remove any of the drag system, lay them out on a paper exactly the way you took them off so your reassembly will be right. Some spacers may stick to a nylon spacer/bushing, recognize this and lay them out in relationship to how they came off.  Inside of this will be a fiber drag washer which presses against the back brass plate surface. 


It is best to not remove any of the other levers, springs or gear unless they really need to be.


Slide the spacers and the large toothed like steel thrust washer off the handle spindle shaft.  Behind this toothed thrust washer will be another but larger fiber drag washer.  Remove it and inspect both drag washers, clean them of any oil/grease.  The gear will usually be made of steel and IF the previous fisherperson may have gotten the reel good and wet or even dunked, without properly tearing it apart and drying things out, the gear drag washer wear surfaces will become rusted.  This will not be conducive to a smooth drag, and it may not function well at all.  IF so, then the gear drag surfaces will need to have the rust scraped off, wire wheeled and even polished.  Even the large toothed like steel thrust washer may need to be polished. 


These drag washers can be used dry or by applying a slight amount of Cals Universal Reel and Star Drag grease , then wiping any excess off , only leaving a just a finger smearing of grease on the washers.


At this point, you can see inside at the gears inside the LH sideplate.  To disassemble this, you will now need to unscrew the level wind pawl screwed on cover and the pawl itself.   Now if you remove the 3 small screws from that sideplate you can get the cover off, remove the shaft retainer, then slide the gear, shaft and shaft cover out from the main frame as seen in the RH photo below.   Inspect and clean any debris in the gear teeth and the level wind shaft.  When oiling use a good light oil of which many are on the market, I like to use the Break Free that I use on my firearms.  Just a drop of oil on the shafts is enough.


In reassembling this, the level wind cover has a plastic bearing on the LH side with a notch that fits into the cut-out of the main frame.  Slide this cover in part way, then slide the traveling guide over the cover, slide the shaft in all the way and secure it with the retainer on the side of the main frame.  Now you can insert the pawl in the guide and aligned in to a slot on the shaft, then install the retainer nut holding the pawl in.   Be sure that the pawl is not bottomed out and putting strain on the shaft.  It has to be close, but loose enough so it will rotate at the ends.

Some of these reels will have bronze bushings for the spool shaft while others (the more expensive will have ball bearings.  There are knurled bearing caps on each side of this reel.  The RH one also has a thin copper end shaft bearing at the far in side with a piece of felt that acts as a constant oiler to that bearing so it should be lightly oiled.  When reinstalling it, it needs to be tightened until it bottoms out.  The cap on the LH side has the same copper and felt, but it also has a indent on one side that can be aligned with numbers from 0 to 9 on a rotatable plate on the outside of the housing and under the cap.  This cap and numbers is for end shaft clearance adjustments.  Setting this cap too tight will result in shorter casts, while setting it looser will give you excess side movement.  On the inner part of the threads that this cap screws onto is a small O-Ring.  This O-Ring is the right size so that when the cap is screwed on, the O-Ring puts tension on the inside threads of the cap so that it remains where it was set.


In the center photo, you can see the small shaft going crosswise of the main shaft with the 2 pith balls on each end.  Many repair stations will not replace these pith balls as for most fishermen they will never be missed unless you are very experienced fisherperson.


On these old reels the shaft bearings are just bronze bushings, if you would like a smoother casting reel,  just replace these bushings with the proper ball bearings.

This information and breakdown is basically the same for all of the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur reels, with slight exceptions depending on the model.


For a link to another Ambassadeur step by step repair illustrated article CLICK HERE.  Or this one CLICK HERE.

Ambassadeur 5000A with the 3 main
shown with the sub-assemblies
Ambassadeur 5000A with the RH sideplate showing the gears & drag parts Ambassadeur 5000A with the LH sideplate apart


Inside a Level Wind Reel :  (Project #2)   Here we will be looking at a Penn #9 which is a smallest of that family of level wind economy reels made by Penn.  This is rather simple in comparison to some of the others.  No fancy ball bearings, just bronze bushings, so it is not designed for casting, but just a nice little reel where a slightly larger quantity of line is needed over the regular freshwater casting reel size.  The Penn #109 is the same reel only but is a slightly wider spool sharing the same size and line capacity of the #209.  The #309 was a slightly larger diameter reel with a higher capacity, but many of the parts, their locations and procedure is basically the same for all the four models.  The #109 differed  from the 209 in that it had direct drive capability by activating a anti-reverse lever, (where when the spool rotated so did the crank handle) along with having a spool disengage clutch.


In disassembly there is nothing secret about this one, unscrew the 4 sideplate screws, pull the RH sideplate off first, then pull the crank / drag shaft out to get the drag washers out.  Next would be remove the LH sideplate from the base in the same manner.


One thing that I found on the #209 shown below, is that the main gear was made of steel and over time had rusted on the inner side that puts tension on the single inner drag washer.  The only way I could clean it up true was to use a piece of window glass and valve grinding compound, where by lapping the roughness off and then polishing it in a lathe using fine emery cloth I was able to restore it's smoothness.  The #9 used a brass gear, so no rust would be present.


To reassemble the drag system with the hard fiber washer on the shaft 1st, then the gear with the recess for the rest of the washers pointing out.  Now one of the .700" dia. drag washers which appear to be a thin fiber center with a course fiberglass type fabric impregnated with a Teflon coating.  This is followed by a steel flat washer, then another drag washer followed by a flat steel washer that has opposing ears on it.  Next is another drag washer and another flat steel washer then a concave steel spring washer.  This is all placed into the RH sideplate.  Penn drag washers are designed for no lubrication to be used on them.


If you have not disturbed the clutch system, fine.  If you have, then on reassembly, the 2 coil springs go into their respective holes in the sideplate followed by the pinion gear bridge, the pinion gear and then the clutch plate on top.


Tip #1 for this reel.  (method #1)  Rotate the main shaft plate so that the radiused side is up.  There is a anti-reverse dog that goes into the sideplate that pivots on the rear lower screw.  Behind it is a small flat slightly Vee shaped brass spring.  To get these into  position, you will need to have the shaft plate as mentioned above, place the screw with fewer threads all the way to the head up thru it's hole, using tweezers drop the dog over this protruding screw.  Again with tweezers place the spring behind the dog and also behind the small brass peg protruding from the sideplate.  Rotate the shaft plate to where it is in position and moves into it's recess on the sideplate.  Now you can screw the shaft plate to the sideplate.


 (Method #2)  In the photo below is the assembly of as Penn  #209, which is just a slightly larger reel than the Model #9 and of the dog spring, which in this case is a small coil spring instead of the Model #9 Vee type.   Here it may be helpful to employ the use of some Vaseline to hold the this spring in position.  And use one of the 4 shaft/gear housing plate screws, (one that is threaded all the way, as the actual pivot screw is only threaded on the end) but screw it into the inside of the plate and slip the dog pivot hole onto this slightly protruding screw to retain it in position.  Now place some Vaseline on the dog and spring.  Once you get the gear plate almost in place, use a small punch  to push the outer end of the coil spring in, letting it drop into the spring recess.  You now can press the plate into place, install the 2 of the other screws, remove the assembly screw and finish the screw installation.


Here Vaseline was placed to hold the spring in place on a Penn #209 while the gear housing will be flopped over & installed


Now you can slide the drag spacer into the sideplate shaft hole, thread the star drag wheel onto the main shaft and attach the crank handle.


Place the  stainless steel sideplate covers in position on the sideplates, aligning the holes.  Screw the base plate to the LH sideplate using the shorter screws, attach the cross bars with the medium length screws leaving the larger one with the slot for the level wind guide slightly loose for alignment later.  Reassemble the level wind unit, pawl & retainer screw.  Slide it into position into the LH sideplate aligning the shaft's 2 flat sides into it's mating gear. 


Tip #2 for this reel.  Rotate the level wind guide forward to allow you to position the level wind cover in place with it's 2 small pegs into the 2 small holes in the steel inner plate rings.  Once the cover is in position you can tighten the sideplate screws.  Slide the spool into the LH sideplate letting the shaft gear mesh with the white Nylon gear in the sideplate.


Now you are ready to slide the RH sideplate onto the spool shaft and the level wind shaft end.  Screw this sideplate on using the medium length screws.  Install the LH shaft tension screw and adjust the side play out of the spool.


Check the spool for free spool when the clutch lever is deployed, then check the drag.  If everything is OK, you are in fine shape , OTHERWISE do it again.  One thing to look at here is if the handle and spool turn hard, it may not be there that the problem lies.  It could be that you have not gotten the level wind pawl in right with the pawl cap putting pressure on the pawl at the wrong location on the shaft.


For a internet link to a illustrated article on Penn reel repair CLICK HERE.


Penn #9 disassembled



Inside a Level Wind Reel :  (Project #3)  Here we will be looking into a Shimano TR 200.  The early reels like this one (purchased in 1993) were named Trition 200-G.  Later the name was changed just to TR 200.  This reel's little brother, the TR 100 is the same size body but with a narrower spool equating to lesser line capacity.


This reel is apparently graphite body / side frame which is precisely molded.  It uses basically the same design as most of these types of reels, EXCEPT everything on the RH side is mounted on the body's outside end of the main body instead of on the INSIDE of the sideplate.  This makes for a lot easier assembly.


I did not take the main drag shaft out of the body, (which is held in by a E-clip which is covered by the side of the spool when assembled).  One washer not shown in this photo is a spacer between the drag gear and the body as a bearing.  Nor did I disassemble the level wind unit as it's construction is the same as all the others other than using a E clip to retain the shaft in the LH sideplate.


On reassembly, with the drag shaft in place as shown, install the .935" dia. drag washer which has the large center hole 1st.  Next is the flat stainless steel spacer, followed by a regular small hole drag washer.  Now another spacer, but this one has ears on the outsides.  Place these ears inward.  Now another drag washer again followed by a flat steel washer.  Next comes a concave wafer spring washer with the dome facing in.  Another domed spring washer but with the dome facing out, followed by another spring washer dome in then the last dome washer with dome facing out. 


It is now time to install the RH sideplate.  You may have to slightly jiggle the clutch lever to get it to enter the notch on the clutch plate attached to the body.  Insert and tighten the 2 short screws under the handle, then the 4  longer screws holding the outer of the sideplate to the body.


Now a small steel washer and the ball bearing can be inserted into the shaft / bearing hole of the sideplate, followed by another small steel washer.   Next screw on the drag wheel.  After that comes the crank handle, it's retainer nut and cover with it's screw.


Install the level wind if you had removed it.  Slide the level wind upper guide tube in the body being sure to insert the end that has the 2 alignment ears first so they engage the blind hole and notches in the RH side keeping it from rotating.   Install the pawl along with it's retainer cap.  Note that most of these reels come with a plastic guide pawl cap.  However a metal replacement is available for a price of $2.00.  My recommendation is that you replace the fragile plastic cap with the metal one as this is the one weak part of this reel.  There is supposed to be a SMALL metal spacer between the pawl and the cap which ensures the pawl engages the worm properly.


Be sure that the small brass spacer is on the spool's shaft then slide the spool unit into the body and engage the drive flats into the mating slots of the pinion gear.


Now add the LH sideplate and it's screws.  Thread the shaft end-thrust cap on then adjust it for sideplay.  I like to just be able to feel a very slight spool horizontal movement.


Check your work by working the clutch lever and adjusting the drag.


Since this drag is very sensitive, if you experience where at a light drag setting, the drag wheel backing off because of the motion of a hookset to where you have no resistance and if the line plays out if a fish is still on, (or gone because you missed him), there is one remedy.  Place (1)  7/16" OD x 1/4" ID x 3/32" &  (1) 3/8" OD x 1/4" ID x 1/16" thick Nylon O-Rings in the star drag wheel's outer recess.  There is a recess there, but no where in the parts diagram does it show anything to go in the recess.  Place the thicker O-ring (7/16" x 1/4" ID) in first and you will have to push it into the recess after the star wheel is tightened down, then add the 1/16" O-ring as a filler between the 7/16" and the inside of the handle.    This adds just enough slight tension on the wheel from the shaft threads when set at a low drag setting to not allow it to back off.  These O-rings can usually be located at a well stocked hardware store in the plumbing section.  Another option would be to use a Okuma Magda Pro  #06140001 wafer washer between the wheel and the handle.  This washer has a smaller diameter hole than the Shimano, but the same flats dimension.  You will just have to open up the diameter a bit with a needle file.


This reel is probably one of the easiest to reassemble of all the level winds that I encountered in this doing this article.


Shimano TR 200  showing RH side of body Shimano TR 200 disassembled

Inside a Level Wind Reel :
  (Project #4)  Here we will be concentrating on a Penn GTi 310, with notes on the GTi 320.  This is like many of a family of reels, where the GTi 310 is the smallest line capacity with a outside diameter of 2.925, the GTi 320 the next size up with a outside diameter of 3.140".  Both of these reels utilized a round body with the overall width being the same for each.  The GTi 330 is a larger diameter round body 3.680" diameter and .225" wider.   The GTi 340 the uses the same width spool with the body is tear drop shaped, moving the level wind forward giving more room for line.  The last two models being more suitable for salt water usage because of the larger line capacity.  The GTi 340 also has shoulder harness eyes built into the top of the sideplates.


These reels have a precise injection molded graphite body with stainless steel sheet metal side caps.  The level wind carriage's upper line guide loops over a crossbar instead of the earlier models that fits into a slot in the crossbar.  They have a endplay tension knob bearing against the spool's RH shaft to control excess side play, this knurled knob is located on the RH side above and behind the crank handle.


All of these utilize the disengage clutch lever that places the spool into freespool, however these reel do not automatically re-engage the clutch when you crank the handle.  The difference in the GTi 310 other than a smaller diameter spool is that it has a separate free spool button on the bottom of the RH sideplate under the crank handle.  When it is forward, or OFF position the reel disengages the anti reverse dog and functions like all others, but with the button pulled to the rear in ON position the reel acts as direct drive whereby the handle rotates backwards when the line is going out.  The drag system still functions with this in ON.  Some moochers prefer this saying it puts them in more direct contact with the lure/fish.  This 310 utilized both the direct drive along with the spool out clutch, giving the fisherman the best of both worlds if they so desired.  This reel was brought about after Penn dropped the 109 model which had this same style of direct drive capability.


Tip #1 for this reel.  I have found it best to install the level line unit first (minus the pawl), then the LH sideplate.   Before installing the level wind shaft, smear some Vaseline into the grooves.  Slide the cover in from the RH side, but before it is all the way thru slip the line guide carriage onto the cover, then push both all the way into the LH sideplate.  Now insert the line guide post #58 into & thru the RH sideplate, with the carriage in position so the upper hook of the carriage uprights is retained by this post.


When you install the pawl, don't put any Vaseline on it or in the cup because if it gets contaminated or gets cold the pawl may not pivot on a return pass.  This can lead to it seizing up and  stripping the shaft.   Manually rotate the level wind gear as you try to tighten the pawl screw so that it goes into the groove easily.  When you think you get it in, rotate the wheel again to ensure it has engaged.   When reinstalling the the level wind shaft end nylon locking nut do not over tighten it or you will put so much pressure on the shaft that you will bind it to the point it will not rotate.


Install the spool into the LH sideplate.


Tip #2 for this reel.  Reinstall the free spool lever.  If you removed the spring activating this plate and lever, install it BEFORE you tighten the lever completely down otherwise you will not be able to insert the spring into it's front retainer hole in the cam.


Place pinion yoke with the clutch engage notches toward the inside of the reel.  Insert the 2 coil springs into the recess's in the sideplate behind the eccentric jack plate.   Slide the yoke ears under the plate with the "ears" of the yoke pointing up.   Now place the pinion gear into the yoke's recess, with the narrow side of the gears pointing outward, which will also have the clutch ears on the shaft showing.


Tip #3 for this reel.  There are 4 saddle screws.  Two will not have threads all the way to the head.  These 2 screws go in the lower holes & inside the plate springs.  But first you will need to retain the dog which is under slight spring tension.  Use one of the screws that is fully threaded, insert this into the threaded eccentric jack hole where the coil spring screw it in just far enough to hold the dog in place.   Hold the plate in place as you insert the screws that are not threaded all the way.  Remove the first screw and thread both of the others into the RH sideplate.  Then thread the other full thread screws in the eccentric jack other 2 holes.


You might rub the smaller dia. fiber washer that is behind the main gear with a fingerprint of Vaseline ever so slightly, just a fingerprint will do .  Then the main gear goes onto the shaft.   Assemble the drag washers and steel washers on the main shaft in the same sequence you took them off.  Note - some metal washers have the hole shaped to lock it onto the shaft, while other washers have ears the engage the gear's inner recesses.   Slide the metal spacer onto the shaft, then the wafer washer.  Now install the stainless metal sideplate over the RH graphite sideplate.  Next comes the metal spacer on the shaft, then the handle and it's retainer screws.


Other GTi 320 Differences. There are some differences in the 320, and 330 in that the clutch lever is steel instead of graphite, the handle retainer screw is a larger size head and there is no removable LH sideplate. 


On the early 320 models this LH sideplate frame ring is only held in place by one screw situated on the rear of the plate.  The front of this ring has a  partial 25 cent size 1/2 circle made into the ring, this circle has a short projection tab that goes into a mating recess of the sideplate.  Just push the ring forwards to disengage this tab.  This allows you to get to the level wind outer gear.  


The 320 mainshaft is a larger diameter and therefore the drag washers are larger 1.095" diameter.


These reels are probably the other of the easiest to reassemble of all the level winds that I encountered in this doing this article.


Penn GTi 310 disassembled



Small High Speed Bass Type Reels :  These reels are a totally different breed.  They usually have a minimum of 5 ball bearings in the design translating for smoother spool rotation.  They also usually have some sort of internal breaking system, (maybe even 2 systems) plus a spool tension knob to compensate for this free wheeling spool to keep it from over-revving and bird-nesting the line when casting.  One thing is that if you are used to the regular level-wind reels, is that these level-winds disengage on the line outgo (or casting mode) possibly to help remove that resistance and give more casting distance.  They then re-engage when the crank handle is operated when reeling in.  OK, you ask what about the line tracking on the next retrieve?  The spools are so narrow that it seems to be of little consequences.


The high speed can relate to a crank ratio of over 6 to 1, meaning the spool revolves 6 times for one crank of the handle (double the retrieve of the older reels).  And these all will have a "pot belly" on the crank handle sideplate underneath to accommodate the extra large gear used to generate this high speed retrieve ratio. 


They all have a thumb disengage, but MAY not have a thumb brake, where you may have to thumb the spool to keep it from unspooling prior to casting.  Some with the thumb disengage is also a thumb brake if you push it far enough. 


They do not hold a lot of line, usually from about 100 to 140 yards of 12# mono.  They are also lightweight, usually being made of graphite for the frame, with many plastic outer parts, and Nylon and Brass gears.


Instead of being made with a ratchet anti-reverse, they are made using a anti-reversing roller bearing, which eliminates some internal parts, but at the same time this then also has no provision for a clicker for you trollers who may want to use it on a Kokanee rod.


Some of these reels will have some sort of quick access to the brake system and/or changing spools.  This is usually by rotating part of the sideplate which is opposite the crank handle, which allows it to then be readily removed.  To do this, some require loosening one thumbscrew, while others just by rotating this whole tight fitting sideplate.  The older models that have screws on that side do not have this feature.  And technology has changed so fast on these small models that, even on well known brands, replacement parts may not be available if more than a few years old.


Tip for this reel.  It is advised here that you DO NOT even consider tearing one of these apart, (especially just to see how it is made) other than to remove the sideplate and spool, if so equiped.  Consider this, IF IT IS SMALL AND COMPLICATED, THEN THERE WILL BE A LOT OF SMALL PARTS INSIDE THAT HAVE TO BE REASSEMBLED PRECISLEY, that you may not have seen before they fell out.  How many of you would consider trying to repair your own wrist watch?  


I did purchase one of these used off e-Bay for a great price of $18.95 plus $3.45 shipping that was advertised as "Parts Only".  As I had suspected, it had been torn apart by someone who was unfamiliar with even a simple fishing reel.  And to back up my estimation, he advertised it's problems in non-fishing reel related terms.  Upon getting into it, I found one spring that was laying inside as apparently he could not figure where it went.  The drag washers were lubricated way more than required.  The drag friction springs were in wrong, and the star drag wheel washer was bent so bad that it had no tension on the wheel at a minimal setting.  One internal part had been filed on, WHY IS ANYONES GUESS ???  And he said the line winding eye (his words for level-wind) would disconnect at times (yes, it was designed to do that as mentioned above).   I can truthfully say that this was an eye opener to me as I had never been inside one of these before, so it took a lot of assembly/reassembly before I finally figured it out without a parts manual because I could not identify the exact model to look it up online.


I bought another off e-Bay for $14.99 for parts to repair one I bought at a gunshow, that needed a better star drag wheel, where factory parts were unavailable.


In the photo below is shown a Okuma Calera left hand version on the left, and on the right, the right hand Ambassadeur Black Max mentioned above.  Both of these are low end Chinese reels retailing in the $50 to $75 range.  However do not be swayed by the label on the Ambassadeur that is printed "Swedish Engineered", but it is actually made in China.   You may now find some of the se costing upwards to $300.


Here are the small High Speed bass type reels in both right & left hand versions


Adjusting These High Speed Reels :ng, the reel manufacturers began to awake.  Smaller and higher speed reels came into being along with a way better centrifugal breaking system became standard.  Mo Adjusting These High Speed Reels : In the old days of the Ambassadeurs shown above in this article, used two small sliding pith balls on a shaft that were supposed to put a slight braking action on the inside of one side of the reel spool to help eliminate backlashes.  This may have helped some, but not a lot, and the fisherman needed to learn to educate their thumb against the spool sides to control the spool's speed, (especially at the end of the cast).  Many of us old geezers that worked with our hands all of our life, have so thick of skin that this thumb braking was next to impossible, and we just gave up with all the backlashes and went to spinning outfits.


With the advent of modern bass fishing, the reel manufacturers began to awake.  Smaller and higher speed reels came into being along with a way better centrifugal breaking system became standard.  Most of these newer systems now use a magnetic type braking system against the spool's side.   These reels were a game changer.  And until you try one that has been adjusted for the lure being used, you will not believe what is possible.  With the spools being narrower along with the level-wind disengages during casting, eliminating that extra drag and longer casts.  You say what about the level-wind not matching up with where it left off.  This does not seem to be a problem, probably because of the narrow spool.  They do not have a lot of line capacity, but 100 yards of 12# mono is plenty for this type of fishing, therefore the narrow spool seems to function quite well.


There will usually be two adjustment knobs, one (a small knurled knob) on the side that the reel handle is on.  This knob adjusts the endplay on the spool.  It needs to be set so the spool does not have a lot of endplay, but at the same time minimal friction.  The other adjustment will usually be a larger and less pronounced knob on the opposite side of the reel handle.  This will usually have some reference numbers on the outer edge.   Between one or the other, OR BOTH, of these adjustments you can fine tune the reel for the lure being used.

The most important thing in setting up these reels, is to properly adjust the setting of this casting brake.  These need to be set for each different weight of lure you will be using at that time.  To set this cast control devise, tie on your lure and reel it to the tip of your rod.  Tighten the knob on the opposite side of the handle until it's pointer is midway between the numbers.  Tighten the handle side knob as tight as it will easily go.


Now hold the rod straight out or in a slightly upward position, push the disengage lever.  The lure will probably not fall, now slowly turn the reel handle side knob counter clockwise until the lure starts to fall.  Let the lure hit the ground and watch the spool. The spool should not spin more than one revolution after the lure hit’s the ground.  If it spins more than one revolution, tighten the cast control knob and repeat the procedure.   If the spool does not spin after the lure hit’s the ground, the cast control could be set slightly too tight.  Loosen the knob and repeat the procedure.  If you do it only from the handle side, your knob movement is very critical, so it may be best to get it close with the handle side knob and then fine tune it with the cast control knob, that is why you needed to set it initially in the center of it's range.


 Between these two knobs, you should get the braking adjustment close.  NOTE each different weight lure, you may have to fine-tuned the reel.


Now, DO NOT cast as if you are mad at the rod, but try to flip it, more of a wrist motion, otherwise you have induced way more motion where the magnets can not overcome the spool speed.  Each cast needs to be performed in as near the same effort otherwise you will still get backlashes.



Level Wind Line Counter Reels :  These have come on the market in the last few years.  Some are good, while others just haven't made the grade yet in my book, but newer improved ones are showing up every year.  However do not look only at price when it comes to dependability.



The line counter is usually a gear driven unit that is normally run off the level wind shaft.  It uses the same method as if you manually counted the number of times the level wind guide goes across and back then multiply that by a number of feet let out on that particular reel.  This system incorporates a mechanical counter unit that counts the spool revolutions which in turn measures line based on the spool's diameter.  These counters usually measure in feet and are calibrated at the factory to be most accurate with a near full spool and monofilament lines.  Therefore as your spool decreases in the amount of line on it, your counter will be reading more feet out than is actually let out.  So somewhat close distance may be close, but the farther it gets out, the less it is somewhat accurate.  I measured this on one reel and the counter said 8' for a full spool which was pretty close to the actual distance out, while I got about 6 1/2' from a 3/4 full spool.   So on a full spool it would be very close.  But no matter, it will give you a known repetitive reading that you can go back to when you start catching fish, maybe not the same as your partners however.  However it may be best to really find out instead of guessing how close your reel is, so here is a link to Calibrating your Line-Counter reel.


For salmon fishing in estuaries with divers, or back-trolling in rivers, these reels have shown their worth.  Before the line counters were made, where the fisherperson needed to know how deep they were fishing, or how far out if in a boat that had more than 3 fisherpersons, to avoid tangles.   This equated to knowing the length of line let out.  Some would count the number of complete passes the level wind guide made across the reel, others would count the number of "pulls" they stripped off the line from the reel itself to as far as you could normally reach or just past the rear guide (usually about 2') .  So if they found by experience that the fish were at a level that equated to 14 pulls, in essence they they may have stripped 28' of line out.  However some fisherperson's pulls did not equal their partners pulls, many times only 1/2 of the partner's.  Also jiggers or moochers who can see a concentration of fish at a known depth, can use the reel's counter to place the lure in the strike zone.  The line counter reels now make this into less of a guessing game.   They are also great when you are fishing novices out of your boat for bottomfish, but want them to hit bottom then reel up 3 cranks, but they can not paying attention or knew when they did initially hit bottom, making for snagged gear.


Most of these line counters use a set of rotating, numbered wheels and do read in feet.  These reels have the ability for the user to reset the counter wheels back to zero.  Check out your new prospective purchase before you buy and see that the reset button is in a protected area, so that it is not accidentally bumped.  I have bumped both the Okuma Magda Pro and the Okuma made Cabalas reset buttons occasionally, possibly because it is closer to the handle where the action is, whereas the Shimano and Ambassadeur reels are on the other side and the button is more protected.  But all three of these make reels perform well and considering the price difference, the Okuma is very acceptable to most anglers.  And the later Okuma reels have a protective wing ahead of this reset button.  


These Okuma reels are made in usually 3 different sizes, the 15 series is the smallest capacity (240 yards of 14# line) with the 20 being the same diameter but wider (290 yards of 14# or 210 of 20#).  The 30 series is a larger diameter and wider yet, with more capacity (340 yards of 20# or 280 yards of 25# line).


The more expensive Okuma Cold Water series looks to have incorporated many good things off other brands, like it uses the star drag click adjustments like the Shimano Tekota.  Also the line counter reset is more protected than the others.  The things I like about the Cold Water is there is enough clearance to get a finger behind the clicker to push it off if your hands are wet, the line counter reset button is located out of the way.  The drag is very smooth, and as mentioned above, the drag adjustment has a click detent.   There was some line counter reset problems on the early production run, but if your reel has a lot number of less than 3812 on the reel seal base, send it back and they will replace the reel.  If it is later than than number they will repair it.  And they seems to be built like a tank yet small in size.



Abu Garcia's  Ambassadeur 5500LC or it's wider brother the 6500LC use a different outer LH sideplate that essentially converts their old conventional style reels into line counters.   A couple of issues I have with the new Ambassadeurs is when trolling and you want to let out more line, it is very hard to push the disengage clutch button while tension is on the line, so you have to partially crank the handle so you can disengage the clutch.  Also the new rotating clicker button is not sealed well and salt corrosion can build up under and inside this slider button, seizing it.  These reel's reset button is very well protected, so much some fishermen with club fingers have to concentrate when trying to reset. 


Shimano has done basically the same on their Tekotas, but does not offer it as a actual aftermarket kit, however the individual parts are available to make the conversion yourself.  There are a couple of drawbacks I am aware of on the Tekotas, one being the clicker button is recessed/protected enough and hard enough to move that moving it either way can be a problem at times if your hand is wet.  The other is that the clear plastic counter cover can exercise it's flying lessons and disappear.   This 20 cent part is not sold separately, requiring you to purchase a new $9.00 sideplate, rather cheap on their part after paying $180 for the reel.  Is Shimano's upper level management so rich that they do not realize we fisherpersons are the ones who actually buy the product and can/do get opinionated easily over small things.  Or do they think we are not smart enough to simply glue a piece of plastic juice bottle back in the recess?


One drawback on the Ambassadeur or Tekota reels is that with the line counter on the outer end, this makes the reel considerably wider.  However with the counter on the inner side (on most RH reels) it is narrower, but you may tend to bump the reset button more often.  So pick your poison. 


Okuma probably makes more models of line counter reels (including LH models) than most other manufacturers.  Their more economy Magda Pro series, then the next step up would be their Convector series, with the new 2013 Cold Water in the middle in the bracket and the Catalina at the top.  The Convector series is basically the Magda Pro series with 3 ball bearings as compared to only 2 on the Magda Pro series, plus a fancier levelwind guide and a different (enhanced reel handle sideplate and metal star drag star) and a simpler clutch lever.  Both the Magda Pro and Convector share the same drag and line counter system if applicable.  The Convector also has more metal trim as compared to the Magda Pro and has a larger spool fiction knob.


In 2016, the Magna Pro series were changed.  It seems that the whole body and ends were redesigned and do not have the protective outer stainless steel ring.  The center body is also changed slightly along with the counter reset button slid to the side more like the Coldwater series.   I suspect most all the internals will be the same however.


One thing with these Okuma reels that is a plus, is that most come with an extra crank handle, as seen in the photo below, so you have a choice of which one you want to use.


Just because of the lower price of these reels, don't cut them short, even the economy series functions quite well for the average fisherperson.  The only problem I have had with them is after a season's usage.  The line counter button may not pop back all the way up, re-engaging the counter.  It seems that the internal plastic parts loose their initial slipperiness , therefore need to be cleaned and a LIGHT SLIPPERY grease applied to the cam.  This is not isolated to the Okuma brand as the Shimano reels use basically the same type line-counter and what works for one also works for the others.


Here the Okuma Convector on the left & the Magda Pro on the right 


Penn has now even came forward with line counter versions of many different models all the way from their economy model 209LC, upwards to what appears to be new models made around the line counter, as compared to the line counter being an add on.  And none appear to be expensive.


I was not impressed with the Shakespeare Tidewater line counter reel that I purchased new in about 2007.  The drag wheel took considerably more of a rotation to get the same drag tension and was a lot harder to apply than any other reels that I have ever owned.   I guess when you get familiar with one set up it is hard to change.  And the line counter window fogged repeatedly.  It was probably a good reel, but not for me.  I donated it to a fishing club's monthly raffle.


Okuma Magda Pro MA 20DX series Shimano Tekota 600LC



Okuma Cold Water CW203D series Abu Garcia's  Ambassadeur 600LC


The Kokanee fishermen seem to have been overlooked when it comes to line counter reels until recently, when both Daiwa and TCIA have came out with smaller reels designed more for or usable in this fishery.  The Daiwa 17LCB Accudepth Plus-B Line Counter Reel or the TICA KL150LC Samira Kokanee Reel, both now are an option to look at, with the Daiwa retailing for near $90 while the TICA closer to $130.  


This Daiwa holds 250 yards of 12# line and is just slightly smaller body diameter than the old Ambassadeurs, while the TICA is a tad bit smaller yet, but more compact because of the placement of the line counter.  The 27 series Diawa is a larger reel holding 360 yards of 14# line which would be more of a salmon sized reel, however my 17LCB has found a home on steelhead rods.


The Daiwa has a nicely located and sized clicker, which is not found on many of the newer smaller reels, and it is made in Korea, not China.  I own three of these, one for pulling Steelhead plugs and the others on my Kokanee rods.  What use I have put them to so far, they seem to perform quite well.


Daiwa also makes a digital line counter reel, but you have to get used to it's operation and the information that I get is that replacing the battery is more complicated like that of a wrist watch as compared to a pen-light.


 The TICA KL150LC is made in both RH and LH versions and the body diameter is slightly smaller than the Ambassadeurs.  It has a lot of features that the others don't, like a clicker, large thumb clutch release button, click detent star drag wheel, well protected and waterproof reset counter button, 2 screw removable sideplate, centrifical ball spool brake and a gear ratio of 5.2 -1 with a line capacity of 175' of 14# mono.   For Chinese made, it appears well designed and well made.   I recently picked up one at a sportsman's show for $78.75.  I am impressed for a small reel that will be used for Kokanee.


Daiwa Accudepth Plus-B TICA 150LC Samira



Inside a Line Counter Reel : (Project #1)  The photo below of a Shimano Tekota 600LC reel is the LH sideplate removed showing the mechanism of the line counter.  The 500 reel is just a narrower spool than the 600, both using a larger reel seat.  There is a narrower yet Tekota 300 that also has a smaller reel foot.


On this reel, (I suspect), like many, it appears the factory redesigned the LH sideplate as a bolt on with a added drive gear to the spool shaft to accommodate the line counter because you can purchase this model with or without the line counter.  I know a fisherman who bought his 500 just before the line counters became available then after fishing on my boat a day, he ordered a new line-counter sideplate and the necessary parts to convert his reel, the cost was about $45.00.


The driving gear off the main spool for the line counter is the large white gear still attached to the spool's shaft.  The driven gear to the line counter is the small white gear on the upper LH side of the sideplate.  This gear's shaft leads directly into the line counter.  The line counter unit itself is not sold as separate parts, but as a assembly.


I had not had any problems with this reel after 5 years of use, so I somewhat hesitated to tear into it just to see what makes it tick.   OK, a year later the line counter started to develop a hiccup.  Price of a inner line counter assembly was only $12.40 plus shipping.    And I found that there was nothing wrong with the old one except that during last year's maintenance, I lost a small inconspicuous inside nylon thrust bushing off the line counter driveshaft. 

The price of the 4 needed factory original drag washers to do a rebuild job while it was apart adds another $36.35, however the originals showed no sign of being worn to the point of not functioning, so now I have spares.


The one thing I did find when removing this sideplate from the anodized die cast aluminum body, was that the 4 screws holding it on needed to be removed anyway and the threads cleaned up, possibly with some WD-40 applied to the threads before reassembly because one was hard to unscrew and all of them had a salty residue inside the body /on the threads.  If left in this condition, a few years down the road, I may not have been able to readily remove them.  Also as a reminder if you use this one in saltwater I found that salt corrosion developed  under the handle nut and on the main handle shaft so bad that it took real effort to remove the handle even after soaking this area with WD40.  Shame on me for missing this after putting the boat away for the season.


Left hand sideplate removed from a Shimano Tekota 600LC reel


Now let me say again, it is VERY ADVISABLE to not go to deep into these complicated reels without having a parts list in front of you.  And the owners manual does not cover how to take it apart, much less reassemble these things.  I will bet that before you are finished, you will need help from a professional, or do a lot of head scratching, and then possibly to order some of the small parts or springs that have attended flying school.  I was lucky but really cleaned up the kitchen floor in this endeavor.  It is also advisable even if you have a parts list to take many GOOD close up digital photos of the sub assemblies as soon as you get them apart, (no waiting until you have moved something).   YOU WILL NEED THEM LATER.   The factory does recommend that you send it in to a service center once a year for service, something to think about.


In cleaning these reels the tools required are a toothbrush, Que tip, rubbing alcohol, light oil (like 3 in1) along with a grease like Vaseline plus Shimano or LubriMatic boat trailer axle grease.  Of course a screwdriver of the right size and a small Crescent wrench, OR look in the original box and you will find a combo tool.  For more info CLICK HERE for a link to Shimano's video.

The 3 main drag washers are large, about .940" in dia. which is good for this size of reel.   If you ordered replacement new washers, and received the black plastic Dartanium "stock" washers, aftermarket carbon-fiber or carbon-matrix washers, then a little bit of Shimano or Cal's grease would be recommended.  In lubricating these, only a minimal amount of lubricant should be applied by  rubbing on both sides of the washer (about a fingerprint's worth).  I did not have any Shimano grease at the time I tore this one apart, but found that LubriMatic boat trailer axle grease also works quite well here.  This grease is a slippery lithium based in greenish blue color.


ATTENTION   --  This reel has a SMALL spring and plunger located in a hole crossways in the mainshaft that acts as a clicker when you adjust the drag wheel.  If you do not know about this, or are not paying attention (even if you pay attention) when removing the star drag wheel, this SMALL plunger will disappear in thin air.


On the far LH end of the line counter is a slotted head #545 maintenance cap.  It is there for the purpose of flushing the line counter endplate cavity out with fresh water after usage.  They put it there for a reason, use it to flush the line counter out.   There is a small rectangular hole in the bottom of this plate, apparently to let any water drain out. 


Some Reassembly Tips : On this reel there are 4 things to especially be aware of. 


Tip number 1 is as you unscrew the star drag handle, there is a SMALL spring loaded plunger #295 in the exploded views photo that is a detent clicker for the star drag.  If you are not aware of this it WILL go flying as you unscrew the handle. 


Tip number 2, is on reassembly the yoke plate #381 goes UNDER the yoke #380. 


Tip number 3, the clutch pawl spring #635 which has a opposing tail on each end, needs to be reinstalled using a set of tweezers, but beware that it can also develop wings.


Tip number 4,  is on the final reassembly, when it comes time to thread the handle onto the main shaft, remember the number 1,  #295 plunger.  It is impossible to put this plunger into the recess hole in the shaft after the handle is on.  While you had this thing apart, you may have noticed a small hole on the end of the main shaft that was offset toward one side.  Now look closely at the plunger, it has a slight recessed groove in the approximate center, but not in the tail.  To install this plunger, thread the handle on about 1/2 way, place this detent plunger into the hole in the side of the main shaft.  Now depress the plunger and hold it down.   With a long skinny tool like a ice-pick, reach in thru the rest of the threads of the handle, into this hole and while the plunger is depressed, you can pick up the plunger's recess with the tip of the ice-pick, force it inward into the shaft, captivating it.  Now thread the handle all the way in.  Pull the ice-pick out and the plunger will snap captivated into position.  You should now be able to feel a slight click, click as you rotate the star drag wheel.


Tip number 5,  If you disassembled the reel, removed the line counter and were not totally observant, you could have lost the small inner white plastic bushing on the end of the driveshaft that is located in a pocket in the housing which stabilizes the worm gear shaft.  If this bushing is missing, you will not have the shaft supported properly and will get erratic reading, or it totally quit because of the now unsupported shaft end.  And this bushing is not even listed separately from the assembly.


Tip number 6,  If the line counter begins to not count correctly, stops along the way or not resetting to zero, you can remove it from the sideplate to inspect it.   I have spent more time on this single item than the whole repair.   It seems that the internal plastic parts loose their new condition slipperiness.  What I finally found was that the reset button rocks the small rotating gears for each of the 3 wheels outward enough to disengage for the reset.  I finally concluded that if you look at the small gears there are small flats on their sides between the gears.  These flats are locations for two thin brass tension springs that are supposed to hold the gears in position so that when the reset button is released, this pivoting shaft with the gears attached, drops back in position for the main driven gear to start the counter moving. 


IF there becomes contamination EVER SO SLIGHTLY on the stainless steel shaft/gears there is just enough resistance between these small gears and the shaft that the gears do not self align with the flat spring's light pressure.  I had used this reel on saltwater and in brackish bay water where apparently there was just enough salt in the air to create enough resistance to keep it from functioning properly.  I found that if I soaked this counter assembly in warm soapy (Joy) water, dried it and when protected the counter wheels with a section of paper, then lightly sprayed Rem-Oil on the gears/shaft, (you will note the light viscosity of Rem-Oil on the chart above) then manually rotated the these reset gears aggressively while having the reset button held down, that they would engage so I finally got it to function again.  The one thing you need to be aware of is to time these gears.  By this I mean you will have to look closely to see that the gear's have cog teeth, every other one either short or long on ONE side.  You need to be sure that these cogs are in the same location (for each counter wheel) when the spring holds them in place.

Another thing is that the reset push button has a angled cam on the bottom that pushes the above mentioned small gear shaft out so the counter wheels can reset.  Again slipperiness disappears on plastic over time, and the small spring are not enough to re-engage the rear shaft AND raise the push button at the same time.  The only grease I found that solved this problem is in a old jar of Possness Warren STOS reloading lube.

In the photo below, you will see the small rotating gears mentioned above on the far top of the unit.  The small brass finger springs lay between these small gears.

Here is the line Shimano counter assembly


Tip number 7,  The small diameter crossbar that is below the level wind fits into each sideplate.  This is inserted thru the hole in the LH sideplate when the LH cover is removed.  The RH end has a smaller diameter that goes into that sideplate.  One of the LH sideplate screws hold this crossbar in place with the inner end of the screw being a close fit against the end of this crossbar.  If when reassembly, the RH end slips out of it's hole, you don't see the problem, tighten this screw the crossbar will buckle as the screw acts as a jack and pushes it against the RH sideplate.


Tip number 8,  In disassembling this reel's level wind, you need to remove an E-clip on the inside end of the main shaft and the LH end of the level wind shaft in order to remove the level wind shaft.  You may get by without doing this by just unscrewing the pawl cap and then removing the pawl.  BUT in order to remove the pawl cap you will have to remove the LH sideplate and then remove the small diameter crossbar that lays below the level wind shaft as this blocks screwdriver access to the cap.   Note that there is a small thin spacer washer between the pawl and the cap that can crawl away then hide if you are not careful.  Removing this cap will allow you to inspect the pawl and clean it.  Getting the pawl out is accomplished by threading one of the smaller screws into the inner pawl threaded bottom hole then pulling both out.   You can then inspect the shaft, smear some Vaseline in on and into the shaft's grooves.   Now you can insert the pawl in the guide & the spacer #521 below it, align the pawl in to a slot on the shaft, then install the retainer nut holding the pawl in.   Be sure that the pawl is in a slot, not bottomed out or putting strain on the shaft.  The nut has to be tight so it will not loosen, but yet the pawl has to be loose enough so it will rotate at the ends.


This is one reel that a person without excellent eyesight, is all thumbs, and may not be that observant when you take it apart, should consider taking it to a repair service center when maintenance is needed as I will guarantee that you will loose the plunger or a couple of small springs, or spacers.   It has a lot of features which demand small parts (even the large parts for that matter) be installed in the proper sequence.

Shimano Tekota 600LC with RH sideplate removed Shimano Tekota 600LC drag parts showing the parts in order from the left to the right.  The right being outside


One fisherman who uses the Tekota series reel extensively says "the total secret with the 500 and 600 LC's is to take out the auto re-engagement dog.  If you start reeling while line is still going out the reel will automatically go back into gear, then the free spool lever will stop working.  Either never reel to reengage, or take the dog out".  This is what he says, however since I have never had a problem with mine in 7 years, maybe I'm not reengaging.

Inside a Line Counter Reel : (Project #2)   Here we will be working with the Okuma Magda Pro MA 20DX  line counter reel.  There are 3 sizes of this family of reels, with the #15 being the smallest, the #20 in the middle & the #30 the largest.  It is obvious that they copied many other good things from existing reels, and they also have some innovative ideas of their own.  The line counter assembly is the same for all three models.  Plus some very precision injection molded plastic parts, all leading to a what appears to be a precision reel at a modest price.


In this photo, the RH sideplate has had the main shaft removed to show the drag system, but some of the internal metal parts have been placed back into position to show where they go.  One very interesting thing about this line counter is that it is driven off the RH end of the level wind shaft off a set of bevel gears.  The mating bevel gear (which transmits the power to the actual line counter) is vertical with a worm gear on the other end, which then leads into the line counter.  The line counter itself just slides into it's cover as a unit.


The 2 drag washers appear to be a Nylon fiber of 1.020" dia. with light fingerprint of drag washer grease.  There is another washer on the inside of the drag shaft between the anti-reverse ratchet and the main drag gear.  On this shaft is a ball bearing that is a slide fit inside the sideplate.  When the star drag lever is turn in, (or out) this bearing is between the lever bushing and the drag washers, but self aligning inside the sideplate.


In reassembly, the main shaft needs the .860" dia. fiber washer first, then the gear with the recess for the drag washers pointing outward.  Followed by the large dia. hole 1.020" dia. fiber washer, the thin steel plate, another 1.020 dia fiber washer , but with a smaller hole, then the eared steel washer with the ears pointing inward, followed by another of the small dia. holed fiber washer, then the thicker steel washer.  This then goes in to the RH sideplate.  Now the the main shaft inner brass plate can be screwed to the inner of the sideplate using the larger headed screw (NOTE that the exploded drawing shows a E-Clip retainer instead of this screw) for the rear and secured by the flat washer under the large headed screw.  Be sure that the anti-reverse ratchet (RED ARROW) is in position on it's stud of the sideplate and the brass stepped bushing is in it's proper place.  You will probably have to loosen the screw at the top of the clutch lever's shaft, part #804 to be able to get all the parts back in their respective locations.  This part will probably have to to be moved outward slightly to ensure that the rear screw will tighten down enough. 


Next comes the 2 small thin washers and the concave steel spring washers, with the two placed so the inner radiuses are on the outside of each.  Now the brass spacer followed by the ball bearing into the sideplate shaft hole.  The thin concave washer goes on under the star drag wheel before wheel is threaded onto the shaft.  You will notice this wheel has arrows on the spokes with the words "loosen" and "tighten".  Finally the handle threads on with the brass nut holding it in place and the plastic nut cover secured by it's small screw.


You can now re-install the line counter assembly.  The only problem I have had with them is after a seasons usage the line counter button may not pop back all the way up,  re-engaging the counter.  I don't like to repeat myself, but what I found on the Shimano Tekota's also applies here.   I have spent more time on this single item than the whole repair.  What I finally found was that the reset button rocks the small rotating gears for each of the 3 wheels outward enough to disengage for the reset.   It seems that the internal plastic parts loose their new condition slipperyness.  I finally concluded that if you look at the small gears there are small flats on their sides between the gears.  These flats are locations for two thin brass tension springs that are supposed to hold the gears in position so that when the reset button is released, this pivoting shaft with the gears attached, drops back in position for the main driven gear to start the counter moving. 


IF there becomes contamination (usually salt corrosion) EVER SO SLIGHTLY on the stainless steel shaft/gears there is just enough resistance between these small gears and the shaft that the gears do not self align with the flat spring's light pressure.  I had used this reel on saltwater and in brackish bay water where apparently there was just enough salt in the air to create enough resistance to keep it from functioning properly.  I found that if I soaked this counter assembly in warm soapy (Joy) water, dried it and when protected the counter wheels with a section of paper, then lightly sprayed Rem-Oil on the gears/shaft, (you will note the light viscosity of Rem-Oil on the chart above) then manually rotated the these reset gears aggressively while having the reset button held down, that they would engage so I got it to function again.  The one thing you need to be aware of is to time these gears.  By this I mean you will have to look closely to see that the gear's have cog teeth, every other one either short or long on ONE side.  You need to be sure that these cogs are in the same location (for each counter wheel) when the spring holds them in place.


Now assemble the level wind cover and shaft, slide it into the main body from the RH side only far enough to allow the line guide to be slid over the shaft and cover, then push it in all the way.  -Note- it will go in from the LH side but your gears will be on the wrong side.  You will have to rotate the cover to index it into a notch allowing it to slide all the way in, leaving the bevel gear exposed as that is what drives the line counter.


Next would be slide the body onto it's mating studs of the RH sideplate.  The bevel gear will pretty much self align into its mate in the sideplate.  Insert the 4 screws in the sideplate then tighten them down.


Slide the spool unit into the body from the LH side.  Place gear #705 onto the level wind shaft that is protruding on the LH side.  Be sure that the gear #707 is on the shaft outward from the other gear that is attached to the spool.  Slide the LH sidplate onto the body and tighten the last 4 screws.


Now you can go back, reinstall the level wind pawl and it's retainer cap.  You may also have to adjust the RH spool tension nut to remove any excess side play of the shaft or loosen it if it is too tight.


If you can crank the handle more than one sixth of a turn, you have the anti-reverse pawl not in correctly.  The trick to getting the pawl in, is to slide the spring’s round tail over the plastic peg in the sideplate, (while attached to the pawl) pushing it (the spring's end loop) down a bit to have it stay on the plastic peg.   Now push the pawl down and forward, holding it there trying to align it with the hole underneath.  You might have to use a nail or something to go thru the pawl’s hole to get it pretty well aligned with the plastic sideplate’s hole, then put pressure on the pawl to hold it there while installing the pivot pin.  Note farther below, there is a slight difference in the location of the pawl pin #211 between the 15 and 20 size than the larger 30 size.  The smaller sizes as shown in the photo below are located in the forward part, while the 30 size is located in the rear.

Insert the pawl pivot pin #211, (red arrow in the photo below) this is the round brass double ended part (not counting the large center head) with the dual diameter end down into the pawl, wriggling it until you get the smaller end to go into the hollow boss in the plastic housing.   This will retain it until you get the rest of the parts assembled.    In use, the smaller end goes into the plastic sideplate, while the larger part of the dual pin is the actual pivot for the pawl.  The large head holds it in place once the lower brass plate #207 is installed.   The upper, or exposed small protrusion above the large head of this pin is secured by the lower brass plate when it is screwed down.  The 15/20 series seem to be more of a problem reassembling during the above operation, kind of like needing an extra hand to be sure  anti-reverse pawl stays in place as you slide on the cover plate.


This 20 series reel is basically the same as the Cabelas DM 20.  The Cabelas reel has a shinier body, no LH sideplate stainless steel outer protecting ring like the Okuma, and with some of the sideplate screw heads gold plated instead of just being stainless.  However after a while the gold plating seems to disappear.

I have exploded this photo below more than normal because I will bet IF you do decide to repair this reel, you will be looking at this photo more than once because the exploded drawings are not that clear as to location.  And, I may add that this one was the most adventuresome reels of all I have undertaken for this article.



Okuma Magda Pro MA 20DX disassembled


I have also discovered that internally  these smaller size reels (15 & 20s) are slightly different as for the location of the ant-reverse pawl #201 and the  clutch slider #804 construction is slightly different, however the principal in use is the same.  Also since my reels date back to from 2005 to 2015, that I have noticed slight internal changes, like the #207 holder plate may be replaced from being made of brass to plastic on the later ones.  I suspect when ordering parts they would need the lot number etched on the bottom of the reel seat to ID the proper parts needed for these parts.


Now I discovered a situation that can afflict these models, and that is if you have the clutch lever #802 that may not snap back enough to re-engage when you crank the handle.  This could be because the reel was probably used around salt water and the clutch cam shaft #800 has salt corrosion between it and the sideplate.  Since the sideplate is plastic it can't corrode so the shaft does.  At first you think this shaft unit is black plastic, NO, black painted aluminum (at least on my 2005 reel) which corrodes under the paint, creating enough resistance so that when the re-engage peg (made integral) on the drive gear #701 trips the slider plate #804 that there is not enough free-play for the return spring # 801 to snap it over center and forward to re-engage.


And by looking at the parts list that by changing the drive gear #701 you can convert it from an auto trip #17010078, like we are covering here, to a manual trip by using part #17010079 instead.  The difference is that the auto trip has a peg that forces the slider up tripping it to re-engage.  I assume that the manual trip simply does not have this peg or protrusion.  Or you could simply grind it off.


The Okuma Magda Pro 15 & 20s RH sideplate assembly with the clutch engaged The Okuma Magda Pro 30 RH sideplate assembly
with the clutch disengaged



Left Hand Line Counter Reels ;  Okuma is notorious for making Left Hand reels, the above models being one.  It appears they designed the LH first as it seems to be better laid out and more compact.  The LH line counter head lays over the spool and away from being accidently bumped and reset accidently.  Many parts seem to interchange between the two versions.  Even the line counter unit itself is the same.


One weak thing here is the line counter, after some use near salt water, it seems to have the reset button fail to return back to it's UP position, which does not allow the gears to re-engage.  These line counter unit assemblies are not made to be opened up and worked on.


Also these reset buttons are just plastic and have to have clearance around them to function.  For a time, the factory within the last year (2012) made this button smaller and added a rubber hat that goes over the plastic button, giving the same overall size as the previous buttons.  This hat apparently sealed the whole line counter unit better than the previous open hole.

Okuma Magda Pro MA 30DLX  (LH) & MA 30DX (RH)


These are good inexpensive line counter reels for the average fisherman, however the counter window may fog up if used in inclement weather or the counter reset may get finicky.  I recommend you then remove endplate that the line-counter is located on, remove the 3 small screws holding the line-counter cover on, then remove the counter.   The usual problem will be the reset button will stick down (not pop back up).   Wash it off with warm soapy water, rewash it then lightly oil (with Rem-Oil) it while protecting the numbered wheels.  Work the button numerous times even if you have to initially pull it back up manually. 


 After a lot of trial and error of pushing this reset button, and lubricating it with Rem-Oil, the light indexing springs do not have enough power to move the button back.  I then cleaned the exposed (inside) sliding parts and found a old bottle of special reloading case lube (STOS) that did the job.   I have been able to salvage all these counter units that I have had this happen to.  One good thing is that Okuma uses the same basic line counter unit on all 3 sizes of this model of reels, but the bevel gears are different (smaller to match the diameter of the spool) on the MA15 and MA20 sizes.


Open Faced Spinning Reels: It can get confusing as to whether these reels are RH or LH.  When  RH reel is mentioned in reference to open faced spinning reels, it really has the handle on the left side and is designed to be held in the right hand.  The originator of this type of reel, the Mitchell 300 RH  was introduced in 1947 as a RH reel while later the model 301 was introduced as a LH reel.  These reels used some of the same basic parts, but different bodies and sideplates.  The later reels manufactured by many different makers, (last 20 years or so) have interchangeable handles where the handle and the shaft can go in from either the RH or LH side.


In operation, the lure needs to be hanging about 12" from the rod tip, flip the bail open, (wire that goes over the front of the spool) until it locks at the same time holding the line close to the reel against the rod's fore handle with your forefinger.  Bring the rod rearward and as you cast forward, release the line from your fingertip right after the apex of the cast.  To reel in, you crank the handle or manually move the bail back into position and keep cranking.


There can be front adjustment drags or rear adjustment models.  About all, even the economy newer ones have a small lever or button on the rear where it can be easily moved to disconnect the anti-reverse dog of the reel.  This will allow you to let the reel wind backwards or let out line without flopping the bail open.  Usually the drag washers are minimal in these reels are not designed to withstand a lot of wear.


If you fish enough, the line will eventually twist because of the bail rotating around while laying the line again and again on the spool in a rotating fashion which is different that what the line does when casting.  Therefore line on  these reels needs to be changed more often than other reels.  Also when spooling new line on, some manufacturers say to spool 1/2 of it onto the spool from the top of the line package spool and then turn it over and do the rest letting the line come off the bottom.  This helps minimize the overall line twist.


Spare spools are sometimes supplied with these higher quality reels so the owner can preload different line weights.


Since the drag washers are minimal on most of these reels as they are normally not designed for heavy usage they may become less efficient over time.  The heavier duty saltwater reels will have way better drags than a trout rod and do need to be cleaned and greased occasionally.  However if the fisherperson is only fishing for panfish or trout sized fish, the drag will probably never be used as designed anyway.


If you have ever fished with a guide for steelhead where they use these spinning reels, you WILL be told to to NOT close the bail by cranking the handle.  It appears on many modern reels that is a design feature that the engineers failed to think about and with constant usage this way, things either wear out or break sooner.  For those of us who grew up in the Mitchell 300 era, this was the only WAY to close the bail.  My how times have changed.


In more recent times, this type of reels are generally rated in quality by how many ball bearings are used when building them.  Six is not uncommon as compared to the older Mitchells that only had bronze bushings.  However the old Mitchells have one thing over the new ball bearing reels, the new reels are not tolerant at all about being laid on sandy beaches, where debris seems to gravitate into these precise bearings.


older 1975 Mitchell 400 high speed antique 1955 Airex Bach Brown model 5


Shimano FX 2000  (rear drag) Shimano Sedona 4000FB  (front drag)


Inside Open Faced Spinning Reels:  (Project reel #1)  One of the reels I used for this was the old Mitchell 400 series.  This reel was one of the fore-runners of the modern open faced spinning reels. The 400 is simply a high speed version of the old 300.  So basically some of the gears will be slightly different for the slower retrieve 300.  These were not made to be changed from LH to RH use as most of the new reels are.


To access a Mitchell reel museum website CLICK HERE


To remove the reel spool and brake system, push the small center chromed button while at the same time, pull the spool forward.


If you need to remove the crank handle, do so before you take the sideplate off because it has LH threads and once the sideplate is off, you have nothing but the pot metal gears to hold onto when trying the back this handle off the shaft.  With the sideplate off, you will see the some of the gears still in the sideplate.  Also will be the anti-reverse lever and it's plastic dog which has a small flat spring to put tension on it.  Also a bronze bevel gear may fall off, that came from a peg in the front of the sideplate housing.  This bevel gear mates with another bevel gear that is attached to the rotating bail housing.


In the main body you will see a gear with 3 teeth on the underside which engages the slider plate.  This slider is what moves the shaft in and out, laying the line on the spool evenly. 

Internally in the bail body is a automatic bail trip.  The bail has a loosely fitted small roller line wear guide in the base part.  The bail is held in place by a shoulder screw on each end.  Under the large end where the bail pivots is a coil spring that activates the bail.  This spring is about 1/2" in overall diameter and has a 90 degree tail outward that rests in a slot at the bail's base.  The other end of the spring also has a 90 degree bend, but this is upward, fitting into a very small hole in the bail's base.


To reassemble, place the spool shaft in first with the flat of the rear 1/2 facing out, followed by the slider plate.  Note that in the photo below this slider is shown 180 degrees wrong as the peg goes to the rear and is also shown flopped to show the peg.  On the rear inside of this shaft is a small peg.  This peg goes into a corresponding hole in the rear of the center spool shaft.  The slider plate rides on the flat of the body between 2 opposing screw heads as guides.  Now the odd gear with the "3 feet" goes on the shaft protruding from the body.  Move the slide as far forward as it will go and the place this odd gear's feet in so they mesh in the forward notches of the slider.


Place the dual diameter gear on the rear shaft in the sideplate as shown in one of the photos below.  Then also place the bronze bevel gear on front peg of the sideplate.  But before you leave the bevel gear there, there may have been 2 small brass shim washers that should be under the bevel gear.


Now comes the sideplate being reattached to the body with the 3 screws you took out.


Now comes the bail and spring reassembly.  This may take 2 or 3 tries to get the spring in the right position.  Tighten both bail retainer screws.  When it is  right it should be free to be pushed and snapped to the lock open notch.


The spool base is part of the spool assembly.  The drag system is minimal on this reel, being only one thin Nylon washer and a pressure plate.  This Nylon drag washer is .875" dia. and is placed in the spool drag cavity first, followed by a 3 tailed circular tension spring which mates to one flat side of the spool base to keep it from rotating.  Finally the 3 pronged adjustment knob goes on the front of the spool.  This all then can be installed onto the spindle shaft by just pushing it on until it snaps in place.


Mitchell 400 reel disassembled


Mitchell 400 showing anti-reverse dog in bottom right rear of housing Mitchell 400 showing gear placement in sideplate


Inside Open Faced Spinning Reels:  (Project reel #2)   The reel I chose for this was the Shimano Sedona 4000FB.  These reels are either RH or LH retrieve, unscrew the cap on the opposite side of the handle and pull the handle out of the body.  Unscrew the drag nut on the front of the spool and remove the spool off the front.   Remove the 3 sideplate screws, lift the sideplate off.  The drive gear ball bearing may slide out of the sideplate.  There is now a semi-circled plate at the front of this plate that is tucked under.  It has to come out before the main gear can be lifted out.


With the reel in the position shown above, there are 2 small screws holding in the cover on top of the rotating section behind the line guide roller.  By removing these you can access bail the trip.  However be aware that there is a spring loaded plunger and spring base (for the bail trip lever) here that has a mind of it's own as to were it wants to fly to if you are un prepared.

In operation, the spool remains stationary, with the bail assembly rotating around the outside laying the line onto the spool.  As the crank handle is rotated, it rotates both the bail assembly thru a worm gear and also the driven gear attached to the spool shaft's gear on it's periphery which in turn moves the spool in and out, laying the line evenly across the spool.  Other makes do not attach this shaft directly to the inner gear, but allow it to ride in a elliptical slot in the gear, creating the same result.


The drag system on this reel has 3 drag washers .700" dia. which are apparently made of a medium hard felt that seems to be impregnated with a silicone.   These washers and their corresponding metal washers are retained inside the reel spool by a polygon snap ring.  The drag adjustment nut knob which holds the spool in place is adjusted by tightening it in, which puts pressure on the drag washer system.  There is a small spring clicker inside this knob which acts as a detent to not allow the knob to inadvertently back out.


These newer reels have a way better bail spring system than most of the older ones, which was a common failure.  The ones on this model are the more efficient spring loaded plunger type.

As shipped from the factory the main shaft and gears are packed in a Vaseline type grease.


The more money you pay, the more ball bearings you get in a reel.  These allow the reel to rotate easier, giving you more casting distance for less effort.  The reel torn apart here has 4 ball bearings, making it one of the better reels.  Some of the cheap reels have no ball bearings, but just bronze bushings.


Shimano Sedona 4000FB  with the main components disassembled Shimano Sedona 4000FB  spool & drag

Here is a bit of information that I snatched off one of the fishing forums.  The anti reverse was failing to engage on my little Shimano Sahara 1000fd.   It's fairly new and extremely well maintained.  To anyone with this same problem. And you can't afford a new part. Here is the fix.

"Take the anti reverse part off the reel.  There is 2 screws holding it together, take the top off and you will see a metal washer holding 6 rollers which are held in place by 6 springs.  Take the washer off and then you will be able to remove each spring.  Then gently straighten the top of the spring out and reinstall.  I did this to all 6 springs and put it back together. Making sure you put the springs back in the proper position/side of the roller.

It now has instant engagement.  Before it would take about 10 rotations of the handle before it would engage."


Closed Faced Spinning Reels:  These will normally be the economy type found on entry level (kids outfits that are easy to cast).  However there are some nice old reels still around.  These reels work great for trolling for trout, because you have a thumb operated lever that controls the amount of line going out as compared to a open faced spinning reel where you have to deal with either allowing it to turn backwards or open the bail and allow line to spool off while keeping it from tangling.


They will have a thumb operated push button at the rear.  This usually does 2 things, it disengages the rewinding system while at the same time pushes the spool (which has a rubber face) forward bumping the forward enclosed end, preventing the line from moving as long as you hold the button down.  Upon casting, the fisherperson releases the button just after the apex of the cast allowing the line and lure to be expelled forward by the sweeping motion of the rod.


They will usually have a drag system built into the design with a drag wheel immediately inward of the handle.  There may also be a clicker lever on the reel also.  The reel handle will only turn one direction, (bringing the line in).  The inner spool cover has a dog that protrudes upon cranking catching the line, which revolves laying the line on the spool.  The reel's front cover will be attached by either threads or a notched locking system.


On the Shapespeare 1766 shown below the words "Push Button" are on the reel below the model number.


The older makes shown here had the bodies cast of a aluminum pot metal, while the newer reels will be made of a plastic or nylon type material.  Zebco originated and was a economy manufacturer of these reels for many years.


Early Japanese, Jorgensen Admiral X 82 Shakespeare 1766  model EE


Inside Closed Faced Spinning Reels:  Shown below is the above Shakespeare 1766 reel disassembled.  This reel had not been used for 40 years and has probably never been apart.   Plus it was probably about time for a line re-spool job anyway.


The spool cover is a quick disconnect rotating thread exposing the spool cover and the rubber line stop / brake / line spooler on the front.  This brake unit is secured by a single screw into the shaft.  Beneath the brake is the stationary line spool that has 2 rear protruding pegs that engage notches in the body and is retained by a spring on the front.  Inside the brake unit is a plastic lever that activates a polished metal line spooler peg that moves in during casting and then back out to pick up the line to spool it upon the first crank of the handle.


The sideplate is held on by 3 small screws.  Under it is the main gear that is attached to the handle / drag shaft that drives a smaller gear that is attached to the rotating brake / spooling shaft.  This shaft has a outer spring inside the body and is activated forward and rear by the large brake lever on the rear.  When the brake lever is pushed, it captivates the line against the inner part of the spool cover, which allows the fisherperson to hold the line in position during the casting movement and release it by the lever at the proper time.


The drag system is a single fiber washer between the shoulder of the main gear, a steel washer and the inside of the reel body.  The star drag lever threads onto the shaft and when tightened, pushes a bushing inward putting pressure on this drag unit.


Shakespeare 1766  model EE disassembled

Single Action Reels: 
These reels are pretty straightforward and very easy to clean / maintain.  Another name that has been popping up recently that associates with this type is center pin type.  For the freshwater fisherman they are known as fly reels.  In saltwater, especially in the west coast of Canada, they are known as "knuckle buster mooching reels".    Some of these traditional reels (and it seems a high cost) use the name center pin many do not have a drag and are made
with an oversized spool lip that lets you palm the rim for added resistance when fish make a strong run.


Some fisherpersons like reels like this old fly reels, (which most freshwater fly reels are representative of) shown on the left below have readily removable spools so that the fisherperson can change pre-spooled line on the stream bank.  Most have a clicker, and some like the Canadian moocher on the right also have a drag system as seen in the center of the spool.


Heddon 300 fly reel Canadian saltwater mooching reel


Inside Single Action Reels:  These single action reels are so simple that it is kind of embarrassing to show this one apart.  You will however notice the 2 clickers, (permanent, can't release them) and this make has a screw head knob activated drag shoe that puts tension on the inner rim of the spool by tightening the shoe.  This model was probably one of the first "made in Japan" (cheap reels) before they became known for products like this.


Heddon 300 disassembled

Saltwater Spool Reels:
Now the word "saltwater" being used here may be misleading a bit, but to me they typically will be larger than their freshwater cousins and will have a minimum spool capacity of 250 yards of 25# monofilament line. 


With the advent of the "spectra" type no stretch lines that have a smaller diameter ratio to breaking strength, somewhat smaller reels are now being used for saltwater because of the now greater line capacity on the smaller reel.  However do not be duped into believing that the smaller diameter line is that much better.  What can happen is that if you get a big fish on that is running but at the exact instant that the level wind's line guide reaches the side of the spool, if the fish pulls hard or you react with more pressure on the rod, the line will cut into the edge and be buried deep in the spool's side under many wraps of line.  Since it is the new spectra type line, I will bet that you will never be able to untangle it.  You will have to cut ALL of the line off the spool.  (Been there, done that).  The solution is to not go so light a test line, so instead of using 20# go up to 40 or 50#.


These were originally non level wind styles, even the handle was geared directly to the main spool shaft on some early reels.  Some you could pull the handle straight out to disengage it allowing the line to go out without the handle moving.  And of course no drag system except maybe a piece of heavy leather that could be pivoted up from the rear, bearing onto the line on the spool which could be "thumbed".  Things improved and about late 1940s a star drag system was common.  In those days level winds were not that reliable as when the line guide's pawl stuck, about the only thing to do while on the water with a fish on was to cut the looped wire guide with side cutters. 


Many of the newer reels are pretty much made of injection molded graphite and stainless steel, which cuts down on maintenance, especially the outer surfaces.   Penn being a forerunner in these saltwater reels has not made many internal changes for very long time, so if you have an old Penn, new replacement internal parts are probably still available.  The outer cosmetics may have changed, but most internals are still the same including the newer drag washers.


On the Penn Senator in the RH photo below, you will see a rod mounting clamp that helps take the strain off the reel seat of the rod when fighting a heavy fish.  Also the ring eyes on the top rear are for attaching snaps from a fighting harness that goes over your shoulders.  This relieves much strain from your arms.


The Ocean City saltwater reel on the left below has a unique clutch lever that folds outward.   In use, when you make the first crank of the handle after this lever has been activated, the handle bumps the lever moving it back to the ON position.  Information available indicates that this company went out of business about WWII.


The Penn Senator is only about 20 years old, has been used for halibut but still in excellent shape.  The newer versions are very similar.


long obsolete Ocean City #112 Penn Senator 6/0  #114H


The Shimano TR 200 below on the left is a nice all around sized heavy steelhead and or light salmon reel.  It is made of a graphite casting and boasts a smooth ball bearing drag.  It's little brother the TR 100 G is the same size only a narrower spool to accommodate less line.


The Penn GTI 310 shown on the right below has proven to be a workhorse reel.  The whole 300 series is very similar to this smallest of the series.  The 320 is just wider, holding more line than the 310.  The 330 is larger diameter with more line yet, then the 340 and a 345 (LH) with more line yet.   These 340 series have a teardrop shape with the level wind section protruding slightly farther forward.   The 340 and 345 also have ring eyes on the top rear are for attaching snaps from a fighting harness like the Penn Senator.  These 300 series all have a cast graphite body that is strong and very precise.


Shimano TR 200 Penn GTI  310

Inside Saltwater Spool Reels:  (Project #1)  These reels shown are a little simpler to take apart, but reassembling the drag gear and clutch unit takes a little time.  The Penn  310 GTI shown apart below has a pretty straight-forward design, with few reassembly secrets however.  The factory nomenclature takes a bit of getting used to however.

Again, when you take a reel apart, lay the parts out in a sequence of disassembly and with the inner side down.  Do this on a clean table, preferably on a white sheet of paper.


Penn supplies a special wrench with all their new reels that saves plier marks on the handle retaining nut. 


When removing the RH sideplate, take only the 4 outer screws #32 out, then pry this sideplate off.  The 4 bridge screws closer to the center hold the clutch plate assembly together.  It is easier to simply remove the whole sideplate assembly & then you can see the placement of these internal parts before they may be disturbed.


Tip the reel upside down, unscrew the pawl cover screw #48 and the pawl #47.


The level wind shaft (worm) #42 can be removed by unscrewing the aircraft locking nut on the shaft end.  The shaft and cover can then be pulled out from the gear end.  Note that there are white nylon bearings on each end that have a slight protrusion that slides into the opening of the cove to index it.   Now the line guide carriage #46 can be slid off the cover.  When reassembling, be careful to not over tighten the shaft nut


The 5 drag washers are made of a rough fiber and appear to not be lubricated. They are about .800" dia.


Penn drag washers for this reel apparently are designed for no lubrication to  be used.

Penn 310 GTI all apart except drag unit Penn 310 GTI drag parts


There are 3 things to be aware of, number 1, is the pinion gear #13 can fall out of the pinion yoke #12 if you move the RH sideplate around, so observe it early on.  Be sure it is back in position before you start your reassembly.


Number 2
, this reel has a small free spool button on the underneath RH side that overrides the anti-reverse.  There is a small brass lever called the dog #15 that has a notch in it that goes over a small coil dog spring #14 that is attached in the bridge assembly plate, part #3.  This lever will get slid out of position when disassembled when you remove the inner spaced upper bridge screws #17 which acts as it's pivot.  To reassemble it, you will need to observe the RH photo below.   Slide all the metal parts associated with this internal section into position, locate the other #17 upper bridge screw (the ones with only a few threads in the end) and get it started into bridge assembly plate, part #3.  Now you will need to use a ice pick type tool to come in from the inside facing bridge assembly plate, locate the hole in the dog lever.  You may have to jockey it around to find the hole.  Once this is located slide the ice pick into the dog's hole to secure it.  Then install the other #17 screw.  It is advisable to not totally tighten these screws until you have also installed the lower bridge screws #16.


Number 3, now you will probably have the eccentric spring's tail #20 out position.  This can be seen in the LH photo below.  The tail needs to go into a Vee part of the housing casting to put proper tension on the eccentric lever #21.  To do this, rotate the lever to the left, place the ice pick inside the spring's coil, try to move it out and to the left as far as it can go.  Then with a small flat pointed screwdriver force the spring's tail inward and down until the tail is caught in the Vee notch.  Now you can tighten the bridge screws, check to see if the eccentric lever and the free spool (direct drive) works.


For a internet link to a illustrated article on Penn reel repair CLICK HERE.


Penn 310 GTI  clutch spring placement Penn 310 GTI free spool disengage


Inside Saltwater Spool Reels:  (Project #2)  Illustrated below is the Ocean City 112.  This reel has a unique clutch system.  It is basically the same as the Penn reels, BUT on this unit the clutch lever instead of rotating and retracting this plate utilizing a cam, this lever pivots outward. 


This model uses the common components of it's time, with the endplates being screwed onto the standoff posts between.  The top rear crossbar has a radiused bend in the middle to accommodate a fisherman's thumb if desired.  The reel seat is also screwed onto the endplates.  All the exposed metal parts are made of chrome plated brass.


The clicker operates into a brass circular spring that when pressed in ward the springs snap over a wider section, holding the clicker in place.


The handle is threaded onto the shaft using the same threads as the star drag wheel.  Its retainer nut is held in place by a combination wrench and retainer that is secured by it's captivated screw on the balance end.


The drag system uses 3 washers made of what appears to be leather and are .710" in dia.  These washers are apparently saturated with a medium weight oil and is then wiped dry.  There are 2 round brass washers and 1 brass eared washer, all pushed into the gear by a metal spacer activated by the star drag wheel.   On the inside of the gear is a hard fiber washer that bears against the anti-reverse ratchet which is under the gear plate.  The gear plate is screwed to the sideplate.


The clutch system is basically like the Penns utilizing 2 opposing springs under the clutch plate which retract the driven gear from the crank handle, disengaging it from the 4 square notches.  The clutch lever is placed in a location where the first complete crank of the handle will knock the lever into the off position.


Ocean City 112 disassembled Ocean City 112 clutch lever in the on position, notice the shadow of the lever

Saltwater Spinning Reels:
These reels are basically a freshwater reel on steroids.  So the repairs will be very similar to their freshwater cousins.  The Shimano Sedona 6000 (now discontinued) is basically an overgrown brother of the 4000 disassembled in the freshwater section above.


One suggestion, if you happen to use any of these in surf fishing, bank fishing for catfish or sturgeon, be sure to wash them off and remove the spool inspecting for sand before putting them away.


Diamond Super 100  of the 1955 era Mitchell 306 mid sized saltwater reel
Shimano Sedona 6000FB Shakespeare  Alpha Bigwater reel


Observations :  Some new reels may have a Anti-reversing ball bearing. These bearings need to be kept clean and VERY lightly oiled if used on cold weather, otherwise any grease becomes slow to react and the reel drag/crank handle has no connection to the spool, you simply have free spool until it warms up.




copyright © 2010 - 2018  LeeRoy Wisner  All Rights Reserved

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Originated 5-11-2010, Last updated 02-28-2018
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