14 Spinning Reel Problems and Their Solutions

Repairing and maintaining your spinning reel yourself can be a cost-effective and rewarding endeavor. It’s a skill that anglers can develop over time, allowing them to diagnose and potentially fix various reel issues.

Everyone has different levels of comfort when it comes to mechanical tasks. Understanding your own proficiency in reel repair is crucial. While it’s essential to acknowledge your limitations, it’s equally important to enhance your skills gradually.

Let’s discuss some common problems and failures that spinning reels may encounter, along with steps to identify and potentially resolve these issues.

Remember, while attempting to address these problems yourself, always refer to your reel’s manual for guidance.

Sometimes, complex issues might require professional attention. But by learning these basic troubleshooting and maintenance steps, anglers can often resolve minor spinning reel problems, saving both time and money.

3 spinning reels on floor

AUTO-FLIP, Understanding its Role in Fishing Reel Operations:

Auto flip is when the bail on a fishing reel, that half-circle thing around the spool, closes automatically after casting. Usually, when we cast, we open the bail by hand, which lets the fishing line go freely. But some folks skip the manual step and let the reel handle flip the bail closed after casting. This makes the bail shut on its own, starting the reel spinning again.

Auto flipping the bail on a reel can cause problems in a couple of ways.

First off, it can damage the reel’s main gears. When you let the reel automatically flip the bail back after casting, it puts the gears in a funny position. Over time, this can grind and dull the gears, making the reel work not so smoothly. Sometimes, you might even feel or hear something odd when this happens.

Also, leaving the bail open after casting can mess up how your fishing line behaves. The wind, waves, and water movement create slack in the line, making it all twisted and tangled. But if you close the bail manually right after casting, it keeps the line tight and stops these tangles from happening. This helps manage your line better, especially when you’re fishing in areas like the surf.

Here’s another thing to watch out for: if you start reeling when the line is loose, it can cause even more tangles. But flipping the bail down after the bait hits the water helps get rid of that slack. This keeps your line nice and tidy, and you’ll even spot if a fish takes a nibble sooner.

Here are some common spinning reel problems and their solutions: 

  1. Line twist
  2. Line tangle while casting
  3. Line not running under bail arm  
  4. Bait doesn’t trip or becomes sluggish 
  5. Braided line slippage on spool 
  6. Line size  
  7. Drag or spooled lock-up 
  8. Reel won’t turn 
  9. Reel won’t lock  
  10. Bait won’t open 
  11. Bait won’t close
  12. Reel handle issues 
  13. Over lubrication problems 
  14. Reel makes noise 

Line twist:

Line twists are a headache in spinning reels and can happen for various reasons, especially after lots of use. They often pop up when using certain lures, like in-line spinners, where the lure’s shaft isn’t straight. Instead of the blade spinning, the whole lure twists in the water as you reel in or cast, causing the line to get all tangled up.

When you’re spooling new line onto your reel by hand, that’s another time when line twists might rear their ugly head. If the line isn’t wound evenly or it’s a bit loose, it can lead to annoying twists and tangles.

Closed-face spinster reels can also be troublemakers, causing tangling under the cap and making line twist a common issue


When you’re dealing with line twists, sometimes the best fix is to start fresh. That means taking off the old line that’s causing all the trouble and spooling on new line.

Using a professional spooling machine can make a big difference here. It helps ensure the new line gets wound onto the reel evenly and tightly, avoiding those pesky twists and giving you a better shot at a smooth fishing experience.

Line tangle while Casting:

If you’re experiencing tangles or wind knots in your spinning reel, it’s likely due to line twist caused by incorrect spooling or the use of lures and rigs that induce twists while fishing.


To prevent line twist, correctly spool your reel by ensuring the line comes off the spool in the same direction as the bail arm rotates around it. Pay close attention during spooling to avoid introducing line twist.

Another preventive step is using a barrel swivel between your main line and terminal tackle or lure. Snap swivels make it easier to change rigs or lures while reducing line twist.

To tackle existing line twist, release the line from your reel and trail it behind your boat without any weight or lure attached. Allow as much line as possible to unfurl behind the boat before retrieving it. This action helps release most of the line twist and smoothens out the line.

Thankfully, issues like backlash and birds nesting are less common in spinning reels compared to bait-casters, making line twist the primary concern that can be managed with these preventive steps.

Line not running under bail arm:  

If you’re new to fishing, it’s possible to forget to run the line under the bail arm when setting up your rod and reel. You might notice that despite the bail arm rotating around the spool, no line gets wrapped around it when you turn the handle.

Fix- it:

Fixing this issue is straightforward: start by unscrewing the drag knob located at the top of the spool, then remove the spool from the spinning reel.

Open the bail arm and place the spool back in its position. Once you close the bail arm again, the line will now run underneath it, allowing you to retrieve the line by turning the handle without any problem.

This quick adjustment ensures that the line feeds correctly onto the spool as you reel it in.

Bail doesn’t trip or becomes sluggish:

If your spinning reel’s bail isn’t functioning properly, several issues could be at play with corresponding solutions.

A broken bail spring often causes malfunction and requires replacement with a new spring for resolution. A bent bail wire assembly is another potential cause, necessitating replacement with a new assembly to restore proper function.

Additionally, dirt or debris lodged in the bail hinges can lead to issues.


To fix this, removing the bail wire assembly, thorough cleaning, and lubrication with reel oil is necessary. These tailored solutions address specific problems related to the bail mechanism, ensuring the smooth operation of your spinning reel.

Braided Line Slippage on spool:

Braided fishing lines are gaining popularity due to their durability, but they come with their own set of quirks. One common issue is their tendency to slip around the spool, leading to tangles. The reason? These lines lack stretch, so they don’t adhere well to the spool like other lines might.


To fix this, a simple technique involves adding what’s called a “backing” directly onto the reel. This backing acts as a sort of anchor for the braided line, preventing it from slipping.

You’ve got a couple of options here:

One way is to use a few wraps of mono-filament line as the base layer on the spool before you start wrapping the braided line. This creates a foundation that grips the braided line securely.

Alternatively, you can use electrical tape for the backing. This tape, when applied to the base of the spool, serves as a grippy layer that prevents the braided line from slipping.

Both methods are effective in providing the necessary grip or traction for the braided line, ensuring it stays in place on the spool and reducing the chances of tangles or slips.

Line size    

Using the correct size of line for your reel is crucial, yet many anglers end up using the wrong size, which can lead to performance problems. It’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding the line size compatible with your reel. Using an inappropriate line size can hinder the reel’s performance, resulting in tangles and difficulties when casting. One common mistake is using a line that’s too heavy for the reel, causing issues that affect how smoothly the reel operates. Adhering to the manufacturer’s guidelines ensures optimal performance and minimizes complications related to using the wrong line size.


To ensure you’re using the right line for your reel, always refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations. These guidelines are often printed directly on the spool of the reel or listed in the product information.

 Following these recommendations ensures that you’re using the line size specifically intended for your reel, minimizing the risk of performance issues such as tangles or casting problems. Checking this information before spooling your reel helps guarantee a smoother and more efficient fishing experience.

Drag or spooled lock-up:

If your spinning reel becomes stuck or lock-up and you’re unable to turn the handle, it’s likely due to a jam.

This issue is more common in saltwater spinning reels lacking sealing technology, especially if they’ve been exposed to considerable salt spray or submerged in saltwater.

The presence of salt can lead to the formation of deposits on the gears, ball bearings, and other internal components, causing the reel to seize up.

 Additionally, sand or dirt entering the reel’s body can also contribute to this problem.

These foreign particles hinder the smooth movement of the reel’s internal parts, resulting in the jammed or stuck handle.


To fix a jammed spinning reel, the process involves completely disassembling it, cleaning the internal components, de-greasing the gears, and then applying new grease and oil to the appropriate parts.


For beginners, this task can be challenging, particularly when reassembling the reel correctly and using the precise oil and grease required.

Instead of attempting the fix independently, it’s advisable to avoid potential complications and send the stuck spinning reel to a professional cleaning service.

Professionals are equipped with the expertise and tools needed to efficiently clean and repair the reel.

Their experience ensures a thorough and effective restoration, minimizing the risk of errors that could arise from a DIY attempt. Sending the reel to a professional cleaning service often results in a more reliable and better-handled solution for a jammed spinning reel.

Reel won’t turn:  

When your spinning reel feels stiff and the handle becomes hard to turn, the common culprit is salt or sand that has found its way into the reel’s body, forming deposits on the gears and other internal components. This buildup can create resistance, making the reel difficult to operate smoothly.

Additionally, in certain instances, excessive grease on the gears or using the wrong type of grease or oil on internal parts can also lead to this problem. These issues cause friction and hinder the reel’s movement, resulting in stiffness and difficulty turning the handle.

Regular cleaning and proper lubrication using suitable grease or oil can help maintain smooth operation and prevent these problems in spinning reels.


To fix a stiff fishing reel, you’ll need to disassemble it and then clean and remove any accumulated dirt or debris from the internal parts.

This process also involves de-greasing these components. After cleaning, applying new grease and oil to the appropriate areas is crucial.

It’s essential to use lubricants explicitly designed for fishing reels, as using the wrong ones can affect the reel’s performance due to incorrect viscosity.

When done correctly, this maintenance routine will significantly improve the smoothness of your spinning reel. It can feel like a significant upgrade, enhancing its performance and making it operate much more smoothly when you use it again.

Reel won’t lock:

If your spinning reel keeps spinning backward, it’s often because the anti-reverse mechanism isn’t working as it should. This could be due to two reasons:

Firstly, the anti-reverse switch might be set to ‘off.’ This switch is typically found at the bottom or back of the reel and has two settings: ‘on’ and ‘off.’

When it’s set to ‘off,’ the reel can freely turn in both directions, which some anglers use to release line from the spool. To stop the handle from spinning backward, ensure that the anti-reverse switch is set to ‘on.’

However, if even with the switch set to ‘on,’ the handle still turns backward, it indicates that the anti-reverse mechanism might be broken. This issue often has two fixable causes.

Understanding and correctly setting the anti-reverse switch can prevent the handle from spinning backward. But if it’s set correctly and the handle still turns backward, it might be time to inspect and repair the anti-reverse mechanism to ensure proper functioning of your spinning reel.


A defective anti-reverse in a spinning reel often happens for two main reasons:

Firstly, it might be due to a broken or improperly connected spring that links the anti-reverse gear to the rotor. If the issue is a disconnection or breakage of this spring, it’s usually a simple fix to reconnect it properly.

The second common cause is the anti-reverse hammer getting stuck on the latching gear. To resolve this, the bushing inside the gear needs to be removed and reinserted using a suitable adhesive to prevent it from moving within the gear.

However, these repairs can be a bit intricate, especially if you’ve never done them before. It’s often advisable to seek help from a professional reel repair service to ensure the anti-reverse mechanism is fixed correctly and your spinning reel operates smoothly.

Bail won’t open: 

If your bail arm won’t lock open when you’re trying to cast, it’s often because of an issue with the bail spring.


To fix this, start by removing the bail arm entirely from the rotor of the reel.

Then, take a look at the bail spring. If it’s broken, you’ll need to replace it with a new one. However, sometimes the spring just gets disconnected from the bail arm, which is an easier fix. In such cases, you can simply reinsert both ends of the spring back into their correct positions on the bail arm.

This re-connection should allow the bail arm to lock open properly, enabling you to cast without any trouble

For more check this video:

Bail won’t close:

When your spinning reel’s bail doesn’t close automatically while turning the handle, the common cause is a bent wire in the bail arm.


Although some anglers choose to replace the entire bail arm when it bends, it’s often possible to fix this issue by bending it back into its original shape. To do this, start by releasing the bail arm, unscrew it carefully.

Then, using a wrench or pliers, gently reshape the bent wire of the bail arm until it returns to its correct form. This adjustment should allow the bail arm to close automatically as you turn the reel handle, making your reel function smoothly once again.

Reel handle issues:

Reel handles endure a lot of stress and strain during use, which can result in bending, breakage, or even the handles falling off. This can happen due to missing nuts, threaded shafts, or improperly secured nuts. The constant use and pressure exerted on the handle can cause these components to loosen or go missing over time.


Regularly checking and ensuring that all nuts and threaded shafts are properly secured can prevent issues like handles falling off or breaking, extending the lifespan of your reel’s handle.

Finding replacement nuts for reel handles is usually simple and can often be handled at a local hardware store.

However, if the nut is uncommon, opting for genuine parts or a specialty fasteners store might be more suitable. In cases where threads are worn, a temporary solution involves using plumber’s tape, though it might not hold up well in demanding fishing situations, especially with larger fish.

The most effective fix is handle’s replacement, typically available at fishing stores.

To avoid such issues, regular handling is recommended. A helpful tip involves mixing and matching old reel handles as a clever workaround. This ensures continued functionality while waiting for replacement parts or as a cost-effective solution in certain situations.

Over lubrication problems:   

Applying excessive lubrication or using the wrong type of lubricant on your reel can be equally detrimental as not lubricating it at all.

Over-lubrication leads to clogged bearings, ultimately reducing the reel’s overall performance. This excess lubricant causes issues such as increased drag on the line, slower functionality, and a need for more effort to turn the handle.

It’s crucial to use the right amount and type of lubrication to maintain optimal reel performance, ensuring smooth operation without negatively impacting its functionality.


When bearings become clogged due to over-lubrication, it’s challenging to clean them effectively, making replacement the best solution.

However, this issue can be easily prevented. Applying only a small drop of grease or oil onto the bearings helps maintain their optimal functioning.

It’s important to be mindful of using the correct lubricant based on whether the bearings are steel or ceramic, as they require different types of lubrication for proper care.

By using the right amount and type of lubricant for your specific bearings, you can prevent clogging and ensure their longevity and performance in your reel.

Reel makes noise: 

When your spinning reel produces noise while you’re reeling in, the likely cause is the roller bearing. To confirm if this is the issue, rotate the handle without any line tension on the bail.

If the reel doesn’t make a grinding sound during this test, then the problem is likely the roller bearing. To address this, open the attachment of the bail arm to the rotor.

You’ll probably observe corrosion on the roller bearing, which is the reason behind the noise. This corrosion can lead to the grinding sound you’re experiencing, so  cleaning or replacing the roller bearing can resolve the noise and restore smooth operation to your spinning reel.


To address the noise issue in your spinning reel caused by the roller bearing, the best fix is to replace the bearing with a new one. Oiling the bearing usually doesn’t provide a significant solution for this problem.

Fortunately, replacing the roller bearing is a straightforward process, and spare parts are typically affordable and easily available in most tackle stores. By swapping out the old, corroded roller bearing with a new one, you should eliminate the grinding noise and restore smooth functionality to your spinning reel.

Pro Tips for New Anglers to avoid Spinning reel problems:

Know about line memory:

Line memory is a common issue with mono-filament and fluorocarbon lines. When these lines are wound onto the spool at the factory, they naturally adopt a slight curve or curl, thanks to their memory.

So, when you spool these lines onto your reel, it’s essential to follow this natural curve. If you wind the line against its memory or natural coil, it can cause problems when casting or retrieving.

Going against the line’s memory can make it stubborn. Instead of lying smoothly on the reel, it might twist, tangle, or even jump off the spool during casting. Imagine spending more time wrestling with the line than actually fishing, how much frustrating!

To avoid this issue, it’s crucial to spool your mono-filament or fluorocarbon lines onto the reel following their natural curve. This means aligning the line on the spool in the same direction as its original coil.

By doing so, the line flows off the reel smoothly and behaves more predictably, making your fishing experience much more enjoyable

Lay small filler spools flat:

When you’re putting line on your fishing reel using a small spool, there’s a way to do it without getting twists in the line.

First, put the spool on the ground with its label facing up. Then, take the end of the line from the spool and thread it through the guides on your reel. Hold the line a little tight by running it through two fingers in front of the reel.

Start turning the handle of the reel around five or six times. Stop for a moment and let some slack into the line.

Check if the line has loose curls or twists. If it’s curled but not twisted, keep going as you were. But if you see twists, don’t worry! Flip the spool over so the label faces down. Try reeling again, and this time, the line will come off the spool differently, which should stop it from getting twisted.

Just keep an eye on it while you’re reeling to make sure it’s going smoothly.

Fill from the bottom of spool:

When dealing with a big bulk or service spool, using a line-spooling station or a simple homemade setup can make things easier. These stations have a metal rod that goes through the center of the spool, holding it horizontally.

The more advanced ones apply a little pressure to prevent the spool from spinning too fast while you’re pulling the line.

If you’re filling a spinning reel using one of these stations, it’s crucial that the line comes off the spool from the bottom side to avoid twisting.

Keep Tension on the line:

When you’re putting line onto your fishing reel, make sure to gently hold the line as it comes off the spool.

This helps guide the line smoothly onto the reel without causing any tangles or uneven winding. Holding the line lightly right in front of the spool allows it to wind onto the reel neatly and evenly, ensuring it sits flat and doesn’t bunch up in any areas.

Use backing with braid:

When you’re using a braided fishing line, it’s important to know that these lines are super smooth and don’t grip the reel’s spool very well. This lack of grip can cause the line to slip under pressure, which stops the reel’s drag from working properly and might prevent you from reeling in the fish. To avoid this slipping issue, a smart trick is to first spool on some mono-filament line until the reel’s spool is covered. This initial layer of mono is called “backing,” and it grips the reel better, preventing the braided line from slipping.

Depending on the size of your spool and the type of fish you’re after, it might be a good idea to add a bit more mono-filament to partially fill the reel before connecting the braided line. This not only saves money (since mono is usually less expensive than braid) but also ensures that the mono won’t come off the reel during casting or when fighting a fish, as long as you don’t add too much backing.

To connect the braided line to the mono backing, there are various knots you can use, but a simple and effective one is the double uni-knot.

This knot securely joins the two lines, allowing for smooth casting and reeling without the risk of slippage.

Slow down:

When you’re filling up big spinning reels, it might be tempting to use those high-speed electric spoolers available at tackle shops.

But, actually, going old-school with hand power is often a better choice.

Here’s why?

Those high-speed machines put line on super fast, but they can create enough friction to damage the outer coating of the line. You might even notice residue from this damaged coating on your hands, on the machine’s line guide, or below it.

This kind of damage can make the line look chalky, making it more visible in the water and, even worse, weakening it.

These machines can make the line too tight on the spool, causing problems when casting.

So, it’s better to stick to hand spooling to avoid these issues and keep your line in good shape for fishing.

Never Overfill:

When you’re loading line onto a reel, it’s crucial not to overfill it.

Here’s a simple way to avoid problems, fill the reel spool until the line is about 1/8 inch away from the lip of the spool.

This distance is essential because it allows the line to sit comfortably without being too tight on the spool.

When casting, this extra space helps as the line becomes less tight, ensuring that there’s enough room for the layers of line to expand outward without slipping off the spool or getting tangled underneath, potentially causing issues with the reel’s rotor. This way, you’ll have smoother casts and avoid problems that could arise from overfilling the reel.

Is Reel interaction with water cause problem


Fishing reels inevitably get wet during use. Casting and retrieving the fishing line naturally bring water into contact with the reel.

Mono-filament line absorbs water, while even braided line allows water into its braid structure. As you reel in, this water travels across the rod and onto the reel, eventually reaching the internal gears. If you’ve ever opened up a quality fishing reel, you’d notice these gears and mechanisms coated with grease or oil. This coating serves as protection for the winding mechanisms, ensuring smoother operation. However, some cheaper reels with nylon gears might lack this protective coating.

Interestingly, I’ve encountered situations where a reel started to behave oddly, so I’d briefly dunk it over the side of the boat for a few seconds before resuming its use. Surprisingly, the water acts as a temporary lubricant, allowing me to continue fishing.

But this is a temporary fix; I don’t carry reel grease for such instances. Instead, once back home, I ensure to lubricate the reel properly.

In case of rainwater:

Reels are designed to withstand wet conditions, so rain won’t harm them. In freshwater environments, your reel should remain unharmed unless it stays submerged for an extended period.

Even a full day underwater typically won’t cause significant damage. However, if it does get soaked for an extended time, it’s advisable to partially disassemble the reel, focusing on the gears. Thoroughly dry and clean the components, which might require detailed disassembly for a comprehensive cleaning. Once dry, apply reel grease and reassemble the reel, turning the handle a few times to distribute the grease through the gears before use.

In case of saltwater:

However, in saltwater environments, it’s not the water but the salt that poses a threat. Salt is corrosive and can damage fishing gear that lacks stainless steel components or isn’t properly sealed against water intrusion.

High-quality saltwater reels typically feature stainless steel parts and effective seals to keep water and salt out.

Despite this, these reels still require regular maintenance. Professional anglers often have scheduled maintenance routines where they disassemble the reel, clean, re-lubricate it, and replace drag components.

About Jason

Jason is a skilled and experienced Tackle Shop Manager with 17 years of fishing expertise and four years of successfully managing a prominent shop. His passion for fishing, commitment to education, and unbiased gear reviews make him a trusted resource in the industry.

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