The season is not quite over yet. Historically there’s about a month of outstanding light-tackle action remaining at the Spur, Elbow and the FADs off Destin, depending on the weather. But the Gulf big-game tournament schedule is over until 2023, making this a prime time to prep for the upcoming slate. Servicing reels should be a top priority.

“I’d suggest having lever drag reels like Tiagras serviced one time per season,” says Dan Thorburn, a 20-year Shimano Quality Control expert and long-time reel technician and instructor. “Reels like the Tallicas and Stellas can be a little more complicated, so they may require a couple annual service intervals, depending on use and care in average conditions. It all depends on if you keep your reels clean and they don’t get a lot of salt spray or dunking.”

Thorburn says anglers needing service can go to, go to the Service page and follow the links to fill out an on-line submission form. A copy should be included with the reels when they are shipped to the service center. Anglers living east of the Mississippi River can send reels to the South Carolina factory facility near Charleston, while those west utilize the Southern California location where Thorburn works. Authorized regional service centers are also available. Depending on the season, the turnaround time is usually two weeks or less when using Shimano directly.

“Reels can be sent in together and we will route them once they are logged in to our system,” he explains. “The techs start with a reel assessment to see what needs to be done. If a reel is in really bad shape, the techs will contact the customer to offer options. Reels are completely disassembled, cleaned, parts replaced as needed, re-lubed and re-assembled. We have a parts washer for normal cleaning or depending on the condition an ultra-sonic cleaner for those with corrosion and pitting.”

Thorburn says common problems include worn pinion bearings on marlin reels since they get a lot of side pressure. Level wind reels may need replacement drive shaft bearings. Line roller bearings are a common issue on older model Stella spinning reels. The newer ones have sealed bearings but drag washers may need to be replaced after protracted fights, like those with bluefin tuna off New England.

“I’ve never seen a Tiagra washer wear out, though, and rarely a gear damaged. The Tiagras don’t usually need a lot,” he adds.

Shimano has different labor service rates depending on the reels. Tiagras and other conventional reels run from $40 to $45 per reel. Stellas are also $45 since they are more time-consuming and require special waterproof grease. Other spinning reels are $35. Thornburn says if the reels are in normal condition, the customer is rarely billed for parts. Return shipping is also included with the fee.

“If a reel sounds funny, quit using it and send it in right away or you could do more damage,” Thorburn advises.

“One tip to prolong the life of your reels is don’t use high pressure water to clean them. That forces salt particles inside where it doesn’t belong. Use a wet micro-fiber cloth or a light rinse to clean them instead. It’s also better to store reels in a dry, climate controlled environment, like inside the boat’s cabin. Wet humid conditions will accelerate corrosion,” he adds.

So take advantage of the down time to service your reels. If you do, they’ll last many seasons–and hopefully catch lots of big fish.

Reel service images, courtesy of Shimano North America Fishing, Inc.

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