fishing reel lubricants - grease and oil

Fishing Reel Lubricants – The Best Oil & Grease for Reels

Fishing reels are the unsung hero of any angler’s setup. For as hard as they work, it’s a piece of gear we rarely give a second thought. Meanwhile, for your reel to function correctly, there are dozens of components inside that must work in perfect harmony to crank that spool.

Quality fishing reels are expensive, and it’s a wise practice to keep them working in top shape. That means breaking your reels down on occasion for deep cleaning and lubrication. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the best grease for reels. We’ll also check out the top options available now.

What Is Fishing Reel Grease?

grease for fishing reel

Fishing reel grease is a product that helps lubricate critical reel components and also protects them from corrosion and undue wear. Reel lubricants are high viscosity, provide protection against cold or hot environments, and most importantly, they protect against damage caused by saltwater.

What Is Fishing Reel Oil?

For most components in a reel, grease is an ideal solution. Reel grease provides long-term protection against corrosion while providing much-needed lubrication.

The thickness of reel grease generates a good deal of friction, which comes at the cost of reel smoothness and casting distance.

For some components inside a reel, a low viscosity oil makes a better choice than grease. Reel oil doesn’t provide the long-term corrosion protection that grease does, but many anglers prefer it for components where grease would cause too much friction.

What To Use and When To Use It

The key to properly lubricating your fishing reels, so they provide you with years of reliable enjoyment is making sure you use the right goop in the right place.

Too many anglers will lube up their entire reel with either oil or grease and then scratch their heads in bewilderment when their reels stop performing correctly. 

The trick is in knowing which parts need oil and which need grease. Fortunately, knowing what to put where isn’t rocket science.

As a rule of thumb, if it has teeth, you grease it. All gears within a reel should get a light coating of a reel-specific grease. Try to get a light coating of grease around every tooth on the gear, and carefully wipe away any excess with a rag.

It was considered a good practice to pack the entire reel housing with grease in the old days. While this does wonders to inhibit corrosion, putting a ton of grease into the reel will cause more harm than good, especially if you’re using lithium-based grease or anything that can gum up over time.

Any other moving parts inside the reel can benefit from a light application of reel oil, with one critical exception. Never use oil or grease on the anti-reverse bearing or the dogleg and ratchet of the anti-reverse because using lubrication on these parts will cause them to fail.

Should You Lubricate Your Drag System?

One area where anglers are often at a loss once they break down a reel is what they should do with the drag washers. Do you grease these? Oil them? Leave them dry? It’s somewhat of a gray area, and it can be frustrating.

Most manufacturers design their drag systems to run completely dry, and no lubrication is necessary. Meanwhile, others use and recommend occasional lubrication of the drag washers. If you’re unsure, avoid lubricating your drag unless you notice that it feels sticky or delivers poor performance.

If you lubricate your drag washers, use a drag-specific lubricant, such as Shimano or Cal’s. Lubricating a star drag reel is very straightforward.

Apply the grease evenly across the drag washers, and wipe it away, leaving behind a very thin coat. Lever drag reels are more complicated to maintain, and they aren’t likely to need lubrication.

What To Look for in Fishing Reel Lubricants

With tons of different options on the market, it’s a challenge to make heads or tails of the other reel lubricants available. Make sure the reel grease you’re considering offers the properties below, and you’ll be well on your way to selecting a quality product for your needs.

Viscosity

Viscosity is perhaps the most critical consideration when shopping for reel lubricant. For most reel components, you want a lubricant that has high viscosity, which ensures the grease stays where you put it when you’re fishing. 

Most reel grease is high viscosity, while reel oils are very low viscosity. A few components on a reel benefit from a low viscosity oil. But, most anglers stick with the thick stuff for most of their reel maintenance needs.

We mentioned above that the higher the viscosity of grease, the most friction it generates. The more friction inside a reel, the less smoothly it operates, and the less distance you’ll get when casting. Some anglers prefer a medium-viscosity grease, which balances being protective while also reducing friction.

Protection

old beat up fishing reel

Reel lubricants help your gear operate smoothly, but their primary purpose is to protect the reel against debris and corrosion. Whenever your reel comes into contact with water, the water carries sand, dust, and other particles left behind even after the water evaporates.

When shopping for a reel lubricant, look for a product that will deliver excellent protection against dust, sand, and debris.

Stability

A crucial concern with reel lubricants is that they maintain their integrity even under extreme conditions. Many anglers find themselves fishing on some of the summer’s warmest days or during the dead of winter. If your reel’s lubrication fails because of the temperature, that will spell trouble on the water.

Choose a reel lubricant that performs across a wide temperature range, including below-freezing temperatures and extreme heat.

It’s also essential that the lubricant you choose maintains its structural form over the long haul. Some grease degrades and hardens as it gets older, which can cause havoc inside your reel.

What To Avoid 

Too often, anglers reach for whatever grease or lubricant they have around the garage when they need to lubricate their fishing gear. More often than not, doing so ends with disastrous results.

Many anglers will use vaseline or petroleum jelly as a reel lubricant, but all it takes is one summer fishing trip or a big fish taking line against the drag, and all that lubrication melts and runs out of the reel.

WD40 is a common lubricant that seems to solve a ton of household problems. Unfortunately, reel lubrication isn’t one of them. WD40 is a penetrating oil that gums up over time, causing reel parts to seize.

Another commonly used stand-in for an angler-specific lubricant is gun grease, which will also gum up and harden over time.

The 5 Best Fishing Reel Lubricants Available Now

Now that we’ve covered the ins and outs of fishing reel lubricants, let’s look at five of the best options on the market today. These products cover the full range of reel lubricants from grease to oil.

CLENZOIL Marine & Tackle Fishing Reel Lubricant Kit

CLENZOIL is one of the biggest names in the tackle and marine industry off the strength of their incredible synthetic reel grease. Thousands of anglers rely on CLENZOIL products to keep their reels in top shape, and this kit includes everything you’ll ever need to care for your gear completely.

This kit includes a syringe of CLENZOIL’s famous synthetic grease, lubricating spray, a bottle of reel oil with a precision needle tip, cleaning swabs, and a microfiber towel.

The lubricating spray also acts as a cleaner, and it’s the perfect product to use once you’ve broken a reel down and are beginning to clean the components.

It’s also ideal to use as a final protective layer of lubrication before you reassemble the reel. The synthetic grease is perfect for all geared parts, and the needle applicator makes it easy to lubricate bearings.

While this kit is a bit pricier than much of the competition, there isn’t anything on the market that’s as comprehensive. From cleaning to gears, bearings, and everything else, CLENZOIL has you covered.

PENN Angler Pack

PENN Reel Oil and Lube Angler Pack Clear, .5 oz
3,685 Reviews
PENN Reel Oil and Lube Angler Pack Clear, .5 oz
  • Clam Reel Oil and Lube Angler Pack Black

There are few names in fishing as legendary as PENN, and their latest reel lubricants are a testament to their sterling reputation.

PENN acquired patents to proprietary blends of reel oil and reel grease in 2011, and anglers everywhere agree that their latest offering is one of the best on the market.

The Angler Pack is the perfect product for anglers who need to occasionally service their reels and are looking for an economical solution to tackle the job.

The kit includes reel oil and reel grease, both in .5-ounce containers. While small, there’s enough lube to service a dozen or so fishing reels.

The small packages ensure you aren’t spending money on a tub of grease it’ll take you decades to make a dent in, and since a little goes a long way, it’s still the last kit you’ll need to buy for years.

ReelX Ultimate Reel Grease

Anglers and boaters who demand the best should already be familiar with the name CorrosionX, as they’re the undisputed top dog when it comes to protecting tackle, boats, and marine accessories from corrosion.

The products are purpose-built to withstand the damage that saltwater causes, so you’ll have nothing to worry about whether you fish salt or fresh water.

This cutting-edge synthetic pressure-optimized reel grease is ideal for all reels, and it completely blocks moisture intrusion while dramatically reducing wear.

ReelX is arguably the best in the business for corrosion prevention. This formula will also loosen existing corrosion to make it easier to clean the next time you service your reels.

Simply put, ReelX is the industry standard for protection. If you fish primarily in saltwater, this is one product you’ll want in your tackle bag. It’s a bit pricier than most reel greases, but if you’re looking to get the most out of expensive saltwater reels, this is how to do it.

Quantum Hot Sauce Reel Grease

Quantum’s Hot Sauce grease has been a favorite of pro anglers for years, and it’s an excellent option for greasing reel gears and packing and sealing bearings.

It’s a hydrophobic grease that actively repels water to protect your reel components from water intrusion. Polymer additives help reduce friction to a minimum to keep bearings and other reel components spinning smoothly.

Hot Sauce is fully synthetic, and it maintains its integrity even in extreme heat or cold. The grease bonds to the metal surfaces of the reel to prevent water intrusion without inhibiting the motion of the internal components in the reel.

It is also bright red, so you never have to guess whether or not you added grease to a particular part.

Ardent Reel Butter Lubrication Pack

Ardent Reel Butter Lubrication 3 Pack
428 Reviews
Ardent Reel Butter Lubrication 3 Pack
  • Applying Reel Butter Grease to gears, worm shafts, and plastic components in your favorite reel on a regular basis will ensure a smoother, quieter, and higher performance experience.

Another excellent option for anglers searching for a complete reel maintenance solution is this 3-pack from Ardent, which includes reel oil, bearing lube, and reel grease.

Ardent’s grease, oil, and lube are all 100% synthetic and formulated to provide maximum lubrication and protection, complete thermal stability, and long-lasting performance.

The highlight of this kit is the bearing lube, which does an excellent job of cleaning and flushing sand and foreign debris inside the bearings. Soaking all bearings in the lube for a few minutes yields like-new reel performance when you put everything back together.

Ardent offers these kits in two different formulations for freshwater or saltwater reels. The saltwater variety offers additional corrosion inhibitors and offers even more protection against moisture.

Related article: The best reels for deep sea fishing

Final Thoughts

The old adage says that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that’s especially true when it comes to fishing reels. With some inexpensive lubrication, you can keep your reels in top shape for many years to come. You just need to know what to use.

Each of the reel lubricants on our list is an excellent choice for use in your workshop. The CLENZOIL lubricant kit is our choice as the best grease for reels because it’s affordable and includes everything you’ll ever need to service your reels fully. Similarly, the PENN Angler Pack includes the basics you’ll need at an even lower price.

Related article: Electric fishing reels – all you need to know

Updated: June 14, 2022