Reel Tips & Maintenance

Many of our popular Zebco® reels and combos come pre-spooled with Cajun Line® monofilament line as a convenience to our customers, allowing you to get on the water quicker. We use quality monofilament line in weights that are appropriate to both the size of the reel, and the type and size of fish that you will most likely be targeting with that reel.

Here are some quick tips on making sure that when you do make your first casts, the line flows from the reel as expected without tangling, and retrieves smoothly.

Relax the Line

Monofilament nylon line has a tendency to develop “memory”. That is to say, when line has been wrapped around a spool, it will tend to retain some loops. This is a normal attribute of monofilament but there are ways to reduce the amount of “memory” in the line so that it behaves better.

After tying on your lure or bait, let the line play out about 40-50 feet in the water, then slowly reel the line back in while applying tension by pinching the line with your fingers at it re-enters the reel. This process “wets” the line allowing it to become more flexible, while also putting tension in the line to help straighten the loops.

Remember, your first few casts are helping to “relax” the line, and the more casts you make, the easier the line will flow from the reel.

Set the Drag Correctly

Setting the drag correctly will keep you from losing that fish of a lifetime. The drag is the mechanism that provides resistance when reeling in a fish. Don’t over-set the drag; there should always be a little play in the drag to prevent breaking the line when a fish pulls hard.
Learn how to set the drag

We recommend a tension setting of about 1/3 of the breakage strength of the line (ex. 10 lb. = 3 to 4 lbs. of drag).

To set the drag correctly, first start by releasing the drag tension. Then as you pull line from the reel, slowly increase the drag tension to the proper setting. The best way to measure the setting is to use a fish scale tied to the line, but you can also simply use your experience in feeling how much tension is best as you pull on the line. Remember, you should always be able to pull line through the tension of the drag to prevent line breakage.

Different situations call for different types of line. Use the guidelines below:

  • Fishing in clear water: Fluorocarbon and red line are recommended because of their low-visibility properties.
  • Fishing in thick vegetation or heavy cover: Braided lines have no-stretch for super quick hooksets and they cut through the vegetation better to help you get the fish out of the weeds.
  • All-purpose: Monofilament line is considered an all-purpose choice and is good for general use in most situations.

Filling the spool to 90% capacity is recommended. Too much line on a baitcast reel could increase the chance of backlash, while not enough line could limit the casting distance – and the fish-fighting action. For spinning reels, a good rule of thumb is to fill the spool until there’s at least 1/8th of an inch of room from the line to the edge of the spool lip. That will let you use the most line capacity without causing line to spring off the spool and form tangles. The 1/8th inch rule applies to spincast reels, too, though you’ll have to remove the front cover so you can check the amount of line on the spool.

Simply unscrew the handle screw on the opposite side of the reel taking care not to drop it in the water. Pull out the handle assembly and reinsert the handle shaft through the reel on the opoposite side of the reel. Reattach the handle screw and tighten.

Basic Cleaning & Maintenance

After a day of fishing, rinse the reel inside and out with fresh water and allow to dry. Then lightly oil and grease easily accessible moving parts. This is especially important if the reel was used in saltwater or in dirty or muddy conditions. Do not use the reel until it is fully clean, as dirt and sand will cause damage.

Detailed Cleaning & Maintenance

Remove the reel covers, spinnerhead, spool, and washers, clutch ring, center shaft assembly, crank handle, bearing retainer clip, crank bearing, and crank shaft assembly. Line the parts in order of removal to allow for easy reassembly. Using a small paint brush or tooth brush, a mild detergent (such as dish washing liquid), scrub and rinse all visible gunk and debris from the reel body and parts. Allow to dry, or dry with a soft, clean cloth. Relubricate the parts during reassembly according to directions in the spincast lubrication section. If you are uncomfortable with a more detailed cleaning, contact one of our authorized Zebco Brands Service Centers.

Note: To remove the spinnerhead, you must hold the handle so it does not move as you turn the spinnerhead counterclockwise. Watch a video on how to remove the spinnerhead.

Saltwater Cleaning & Maintenance

NOTE: The majority of spincast reels are not designed for saltwater use. Please contact us if you are unsure if your reel is suitable for saltwater use.

After each saltwater fishing trip, remove the spool and soak in fresh water, thoroughly rinse the reel body with a light spray of fresh water. Thorough cleaning after each saltwater trip is very important to the life and dependability of your reel. The reason for this is that every time saltwater gets on the reel and dries, it leaves a microscopic coating of “crystalline” salt residue. This salt coating will not only attack the components in the reel but will create the same wearing and/or binding effect as sand or dirt.

After the saltwater and saltwater residue is rinsed from the reel, use a clean dry cloth to remove the excess water from the reel and spool. Then, use a good quality lubricant that contains “corrosion inhibitors” and apply a light coating on the reel. We recommend using products designed for fishing reels.

Basic Cleaning & Maintenance

Periodically, the spool should be removed and gently rinsed with fresh water, along with the rest of the reel. Then, dry with a soft cloth and use a few drops of light oil to lubricate the line roller, bail hinge springs, crank handle knobs and shaft, beneath the Anti-Reverse selector switch, and where the center shaft exits the top of the reel.

Detailed Cleaning & Maintenance

Remove the handle, spool, rotor, side plate and crank gear, use a small brush (paint brush or toothbrush) to clean exposed parts with water and a mild detergent (such as dish washing liquid). Dry with a soft cloth then apply lubricant as suggested in the spinning lubrication section. If you are uncomfortable with a more detailed cleaning, contact one of our authorized Zebco Brands Service Centers.

Saltwater Cleaning & Maintenance

After each saltwater fishing trip, remove the spool and soak in fresh water, thoroughly rinse the reel body with a light spray of fresh water. Thorough cleaning after each saltwater trip is very important to the life and dependability of your reel. The reason for this is that every time saltwater gets on the reel and dries, it leaves a microscopic coating of “crystalline” salt residue. This salt coating will not only attack the components in the reel but will create the same wearing and/or binding effect as sand or dirt.

Basic Cleaning & Maintenance

Periodically, wipe down the reel with a damp cloth. Remove the palm side cover from the reel. Gently remove the spool. Light oil should be applied to the handle rivets, each end of the spool shaft and the part of the spool shaft that passes through the pinion gear.

Detailed Cleaning & Maintenance

Approximately once a year (depending on use) the reel should be thoroughly cleaned and relubricated. Detailed instruction on how to lubricate your baitcast reel can be found in the baitcast lubrication section. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, send the reel to the nearest authorized Zebco Brands Service Center.

Saltwater Cleaning & Maintenance

After each saltwater fishing trip, remove the spool and soak in fresh water, thoroughly rinse the reel body with a light spray of fresh water. Thorough cleaning after each saltwater trip is very important to the life and dependability of your reel. The reason for this is that every time saltwater gets on the reel and dries, it leaves a microscopic coating of “crystalline” salt residue. This salt coating will not only attack the components in the reel but will create the same wearing and/or binding effect as sand or dirt.

After the saltwater and saltwater residue is rinsed from the reel, use a clean dry cloth to remove the excess water from the reel and spool. Then, using a good quality lubricant that contains “corrosion inhibitors&ldruo;, apply a light coating on the reel. We recommend using products designed for fishing reels.

Proper lubrication is important for any reel. Lubricate the key parts such as bearings and main shaft with a light amount of quality oil. The worm gear, main gears and the pinion gear should be lubricated with a small amount of quality grease. Too much oil or grease can reduce the performance level of a reel, so a light coating is recommended. It is also recommended that you re-lubricate your reel on a monthly basis, particularly after heavy use.

Your spincast reel has been designed to provide years of dependable performance when properly maintained and lubricated. The following points document the proper maintenance guidelines that should be used for all spincast reels:

  • Be sure to exercise care when applying oil and grease and use only small amounts of each when lubricating, as excess is unnecessary and can hinder performance of reel.
  • The more frequent or severe the use, the more often and thoroughly a reel should be serviced. Your reel should be cleaned and re-lubed after each trip of saltwater fishing or if dropped in dirt or sand.
  • Annually the reel should be professionally cleaned and lubricated by an authorized Zebco Brands Service Center.
  • A detailed lubrication schematic for spincast reels can be viewed here. Lubrication points are as follows (some part descriptions will vary from reel to reel):
    • Grease: Crank Gear, Crank Shaft, Pinion Gear, Center Shaft Assembly, Pick-up Arm, Roller Wheel, Anti-Reverse Pawl/Ratchet, Spool Washers and Bushings.
    • Oil: Handle Knobs (both ends), Pick-up Pin, Arm Lever (pivot), Kick Lever Mechanism, Ball Bearings, Clutch Screw and Spool Release Mechanism.

NOTE: Grease and oil used should be a good quality, light grade product designed for fishing reels.

Your spinning reel has been designed to provide years of dependable performance when properly maintained and lubricated. The following points document the proper maintenance guidelines that should be used for all spinning reels:

  • Be sure to exercise care when applying oil and grease and use only small amounts of each when lubricating, as excess is unnecessary and can hinder performance of reel.
  • The more frequent or severe the use, the more often and thoroughly a reel should be serviced. Your reel should be cleaned and re-lubed after each trip of saltwater fishing or if dropped in dirt or sand.
  • Annually the reel should be professionally cleaned and lubricated by an authorized Zebco Brands Service Center.
  • A detailed lubrication schematic for spinning reels can be viewed here. Lubrication points are as follows (some part descriptions will vary from reel to reel):
    • Grease: Crank Gear, Crank Shaft, Pinion Gear, Center Shaft Assembly, Pick-up Arm, Roller Wheel, Anti-Reverse Pawl/Ratchet, Spool Washers and Bushings.
    • Oil: Handle Knobs (both ends), Pick-up Pin, Arm Lever (pivot), Kick Lever Mechanism, Ball Bearings, Clutch Screw and Spool Release Mechanism.

NOTE: Grease and oil used should be a good quality, light grade product designed for fishing reels.

Your baitcast reel has been designed to provide years of dependable performance when properly maintained and lubricated. The following points document the proper maintenance guidelines that should be used for all baitcast reels:

  • Be sure to exercise care when applying oil and grease and use only small amounts of each when lubricating, as excess is unnecessary and can hinder performance of reel.
  • The more frequent or severe the use, the more often and thoroughly a reel should be serviced. Your reel should be cleaned and re-lubed after each trip of saltwater fishing or if dropped in dirt or sand.
  • Annually the reel should be professionally cleaned and lubricated by an authorized Zebco Brands Service Center.
  • A detailed lubrication schematic for baitcast reels can be viewed here. Lubrication points are as follows (some part descriptions will vary from reel to reel):
    • Grease: Main Gear, Pinion Gear, Pinion Yoke, Worm Shaft (light grease), Worm Gear, Release Slider, Worm Shaft Guard, Anti-Reverse Ratchet (when applicable), Continuous Anti-Reverse Clutch Sleeve (when applicable) and Bushings.
    • Oil: Spool Shaft, Spool Shaft ends, Handle Knobs (both sides), Spool Release Mechanism, Level Wind Stabilizer Bar and Ball Bearings.

NOTE: Grease and oil used should be a good quality, light grade product designed for fishing reels.

The Bite Alert feature allows you to set the reel to emit a loud clicking sound when a fish takes your bait (handy when you’re away from your reel or when it’s sitting in a rod holder). Just flip the switch to turn it on or off.

The electronic Bite Alert feature allows you to see and hear the fish bite through a series of flashing lights and beeping sounds when the fish tugs on the line.

Using Bite Alert:

  1. Remove the protective “try me” green button from the on/off switch.
  2. Turn the power switch to the ON position. The reel should make a series of beeping sounds and flashing lights to insure it is ready for action. If there are no lights and sounds please check your batteries.
  3. Cast your bait into the water, set your rod down or place in a rod holder and wait for the fish to “take the bait”. For best results, point your rod tip horizontally at the bait if possible.
  4. When you hear the beeping sound and see the reel lights flashing, set your hook! Reel that HAWG in and start all over again!
  5. Turn off the power switch when not in use or in storage to maximize your battery life.

Setting the sensitivity on Bite Alert:

Each Bite Alert reel has a built-in sensitivity switch to allow you to set it properly for your fishing conditions.

  1. Turn the switch to MORE and the reel will be at its most sensitive setting – the smallest “tug” on the line will activate the alarms.
  2. Turn the switch to LESS and the reel will be at its least sensitive setting – it will take a harder “tug” on the line to activate the alarms. This is the best setting when fishing heavy rigs in quick flowing currents as it will reduce the amount of false alarms from your bait moving in the water.
Rotate the thumbwheel counterclockwise until it stops. The line will pull out easily in this position. Then slowly turn the wheel clockwise until the desired dial tension is achieved.

Choosing the right size spinning reel generally depends on the type of fish you are targeting. For small panfish like crappie and bluegill, smaller spinning reels such as an 05- or 10-size are best. For larger species such as largemouth bass, walleye and striped bass (fresh and salt), 20- to 50-size reels work the best.

Inshore saltwater fishermen may use 20-40-size spinning reels for their targets, while offshore anglers hunting small tuna or dorado will prefer a larger reel in the 50-80-size range.

The Anti-Reverse switch is used to activate or de-activate a mechanism inside the reel that allows the rotor to spin in both directions when deactivated or only the retrieve direction when activated. When activated, the mechanism prevents the rotor from turning backwards during a hookset. Some anglers prefer to de-activate the Anti-Reverse to allow “back reeling” for controlling a fish or letting line play out when a fish makes a hard run.

There are different types of baitcast spools due to the wide variety of reels. Wide “U”-shaped spools are used when large capacities of heavy monofilament are used for bigger fish. “V”-shaped spools are designed to allow line to flow more freely during casts, helping to reduce backlash. Finally, a “shallow” spool is used when lighter line is needed for casting into shallow, clear waters.
Turn the drag star counterclockwise until the drag is completely loose. Slowly turn the drag star clockwise starting at about one full turn. Pull on the line and continue to tighten until the tension is about 1/3 of the breaking strength of the line. For heavy lines it is recommended to not exceed a maximum of 10 lbs.

Backlash is caused when the spool spins faster than the line coming off of the reel. To prevent this, you need to set the spool tension knob (located near the handle) and your reel’s braking system to the right setting for the weight of the lure you’re using.

First, turn your braking system to the off or free spool setting. Then hold the rod at a 45° angle, and with the tension knob tightened, slowly back off the tension until your lure starts to slowly drop. You want the spool to stop spinning as soon as the lure hits the ground.

Next, adjust the braking system. Begin with the maximum amount of braking dialed up, then gradually reduce from there until you are able to reach the distances you need without causing a backlash.

Always remember, casting with a baitcast reel takes practice to make perfect.