Why Does My Spinning Reel Make a Clicking Sound When Retrieving? [Solved]

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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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If your spinning reel is making a clicking sound when retrieving, it can be one of several problems, including the brakes not being set, sand in the bearings, too much grease in the gears, a knot in the fishing line, or a loose handle. This is a relatively rare issue, so let’s explore each issue and how you can check and fix it on your spinning reel.

I am a big proponent of choosing spinning reels that are well made from the highest quality components that will last a lifetime, so keeping them well maintained is crucial.

Braking System

One possibility is that one of your brakes is not fully set in the braking system. This depends on the type of reel you have. If your reel has a magnetic braking system, I would ignore this and move on to the next option. To fix this issue, you will need to open up the external covers and inspect the brakes themselves. This is only likely to happen if the reel has been serviced recently. It is unlikely to occur on its own.

Sand in the Bearings

Any sand, grit, or debris in the bearings can cause clicking noises on each rotation. Over time this can also damage the bearings to the point where your reel will not perform well anymore. This should be checked as soon as possible to make sure you get the longest life out of your equipment.

You can check if there is material in the bearings by opening up the side cover and visually inspecting the internal components. A piece of sand that is large enough to make a clicking sound should be pretty visible. This is a good opportunity to clean your entire reel if you notice any dirt and debris.

Too Much Grease in the Gears

Having the correct amount of grease in your spinning reel is a mistake that anglers often cause when they start servicing their own reels. Having too much grease can be just as bad as not having enough. In this case the grease could be stopping the ratchet kick lever from swinging out of the way and creating a clicking sound.

To check this you will need to open up your spinning reel (making sure you don’t lose any components) and checking the amount of grease that is present. If there is too much then give your reel a thorough clean and start again. You may also consider getting your reel serviced by a professional if you are not confident in doing it yourself.

too much grease in a spinning reel

A Knot in the Fishing Line

You may not have considered that the noise could come from the fishing line and not the reel. This can happen if there is a large knot or piece of debris that makes a noise as it enters the spool at speed. If you have large knots connecting between your main line and a leader, then this can cause a click on every retrieve. Check your line visually or by slowly retrieving the line through your fingers to see if anything impedes the line returning onto the spool.

Loose Handle

Another more obvious answer might be that the noise is not coming from the reel’s internals but from the handle. A loose handle can make a noise as it rotates and touches the reel on each turn. You should be able to feel if this is an issue by checking if the handle feels loose to the touch. You can tighten it on most reels using a knob on the opposite side of the reel to the handle.

The handles on a spinning reel protrude through the entire body and are attached through a knob on the other side.

Loose Screws

Finally, any loose screws throughout the internal or external components of the spinning reel can cause noises as it rotates. If the reel’s body can flex and move when under tension, this can cause all kinds of strange noises.

In one situation, I discovered the oscillating slider to the main shaft was loose, and after tightening it, the noise disappeared.


It is not uncommon for a spinning reel to make noises when something is wrong, but a clicking noise during a retrieve is rare. There are quite a few possibilities that we can’t narrow down without doing some visual inspections. I would first start with the easy things outside the reel – look for any loose screws and the handle. If that doesn’t yield anything, then open up the reel and look at the brakes, the bearings, and the amount of grease. Hopefully, this will help you fix your reel yourself; otherwise, a professional should check it before it creates more damage.

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