Do It Yourself: Fishing Reel Repair

Updated April 17, 2017

A broken fishing reel can be a minor inconvenience if it's discovered at home. You have to drop it off at the tackle shop and wait a week or two before you get the call to come pick it up--along with the bill. But what if you need your reel for a fishing trip the next day, or you're away on vacation? With a few simple tools, you can overcome most reel breakdowns.


You will need a standard screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, adjustable pliers, needle nose pliers and a set of small wrenches.

Common problems

You let go of the reel handle and find it turns backwards. Clearly, your anti-reverse is broken. Or maybe the bail wire flips closed when you cast, and you watch as your £9 lure sails off into the sea, accompanied by the sound of your line snapping. Chances are you bail spring is broken. These two problems more common than any other. Let's look at the reel with the broken anti-reverse.


The line spool on your spinning reel remains stationary while the rotor cup spins around, laying line evenly on it. The anti-reverse mechanism is located under the rotor. As you turn the handle forward, the ratchet allows the notches to slip by. Try to turn the handle backwards, and the ratchet stops it--or at least that's what is supposed to happen. Often, the anti-reverse spring that rides along the ratchet begins to wear, and it fails to drop into position. Squeezing the sides of the spring together will give back the tension needed for it to follow the rotation of the ratchet. To access the anti-reverse, remove the handle, reel housing, rotor cup and reel shaft. This fix will last for a few fishing trips, and that gives you enough time to order the part.

Bail Flip

The bail that flips shut while you're casting can cost you substantially. The bail wire is held in position by a large screw on one side. Remove that screw for access to the bail spring. Often, the spring is simply out of place, not broken. This happens when the bail screw is loose while you use the reel. If the bail spring is intact, restore it to the proper position and reinstall the bail screw. If it's broken, you will have to order a new one. While you are waiting for your bail spring to arrive, you can prevent the bail wire from flipping shut by holding it in place with your pinky finger when you cast. It's uncomfortable, but better than losing equipment.

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About the Author

Stephen Byrne is a freelance writer with published articles in "Nor'East Saltwater," "Sportfishing" magazine, "Pacific Coast Sportfishing" and "Salt Water Sportsman." As a fishing charter captain, he was also interviewed for a feature in "Field and Stream." Byrne studied environmental science at the State University of New York at Delhi.