Can You Use WD-40 on Fishing Reels

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Written By Russ Egan

Russ is a professional fisherman with over 20 years of experience. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ comprehensively tests and reviews all his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. There is nothing he prefers than heading down to his local tackle store, buying the latest fishing reel, and taking it to the water to test.


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Yes, you can technically use WD-40 on your fishing reels, but it’s not the best choice. WD-40 can act as a degreaser, cleaning old grease and oil off your reel. However, a dedicated fishing reel lubricant is more advisable for long-term maintenance and protection against rust and corrosion.

Can you use WD-40 to lubricate a fishing reel

Reasons Not to Use WD-40

Let’s dive deeper into why WD-40 may not be your best friend when cleaning fishing reels. As an angler myself, I’ve learned this the hard way.

Firstly, WD-40 is more of a degreaser than a lubricant. This means it’s great at removing gunk, but not as great for protecting the moving parts of your reel against future damage.

I remember a time when I used WD-40 on one of my favorite reels, thinking it would clean and lubricate simultaneously. To my surprise, the reel functioned smoothly for a while, but after a couple of fishing trips, the parts started to grind together.

It clearly showed that the WD-40 had stripped away the old lubrication but hadn’t replaced it.

Secondly, if you’re fishing in saltwater, this becomes even more important. WD-40 isn’t designed to prevent the corrosive effects of saltwater. Saltwater corrosion can cause serious damage to your fishing reel parts, and I’ve seen a few of my saltwater reels deteriorate because of this.

Lastly, believe it or not, the smell of WD-40 can actually repel fish. While the idea of a product attracting fish might seem strange, many fishing enthusiasts swear by the use of certain lubricants and oils for their faintly attractive scent.

Using WD-40 may unintentionally turn the fish away.

Fishing reel gears opened up

Does Wd-40 Damage Fishing Line?

There’s a common myth that WD-40 can damage fishing lines. In my experience, I’ve found that it doesn’t directly damage the fishing line. However, it can cause the line to become slippery, which can lead to complications when casting and reeling in fish.

The main issue is not about the fishing line itself, but rather about the effectiveness of your fishing. A slippery fishing line can lead to poor knot strength, affecting the overall fishing experience.

The last thing you want during a fight with a trophy fish is for your knots to come loose because they have less friction than normal because you have applied WD-40 to your reel.

The Best Lubricants to Use on Fishing Reels

When it comes to the health and longevity of your fishing reels, using the right lubricants is essential. I’ve found that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are certainly better alternatives than WD-40.

Silicone-based lubricants, for example, are great for general maintenance of your reels. These lubricants provide a protective layer that helps keep away rust and corrosion, especially important if you’re fishing in saltwater environments.

Another alternative is grease specifically designed for fishing reels. This type of product is ideal for your reel’s gears and other moving parts. It offers a thicker layer of protection than oil, which can greatly extend the life of your reel.

My personal favorite is a product called Abu Garcia Reel Grease. It’s an anti-corrosion lubricant that’s specifically designed for fishing reels. I’ve used it for both my freshwater and saltwater reels, and the results have been impressive. It doesn’t have an off-putting smell and it’s proven effective against saltwater corrosion.

Abu Garcia Fishing Reel Grease
  • Low Viscosity Formula
  • Resistant to Heat and Cold
  • Ideal for Baitcasting Reels
  • Corrosion Resistant

How Often Should I Lubricate My Fishing Reels?

Your fishing reels are like any other equipment: they perform their best when regularly maintained.

As a rule of thumb, lubricate your fishing reels at least once a year.

This can be part of your annual maintenance routine, and trust me, your reels will thank you.

However, if you fish regularly, especially in saltwater, I recommend cleaning and lubricating your reels more often. In my case, I tend to give my reels a thorough clean and lubrication every few months. This frequency ensures that any potentially damaging elements are regularly removed and the reel’s moving parts remain in optimal condition.

Remember, maintaining your reels is a small investment of time that leads to a significantly longer lifespan for your equipment. This means more time for you to enjoy the thrill of fishing and fewer instances of equipment failure when you’re about to reel in the big one!

In conclusion, while you can use WD-40 on your fishing reels is not the most effective or recommended solution. A dedicated lubricant is a far better choice for maintaining the performance and longevity of your reels.

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