Why Is My Spinning Reel Hard to Turn? [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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Your spinning reel may be hard to turn because it has internal corrosion, the fishing line is tangled around the spool, or there is too much or too little grease on the gears.

Many fishermen love spinning reels because they are much easier to use than other fishing equipment. It’s easy to master casting and reeling in the fish. However, the famously easy spinning reel becomes difficult to use when you suddenly can’t turn the reel as easily anymore.

There are a few reasons your spinning reel may be hard to turn. The reel’s internal parts, including the roller bearing, sustain damage from saltwater, grit, and even bad maintenance. The problem could also come if the fishing line gets tangled around the spool.

It is relatively easy to identify why a spinning reel is having trouble turning and troubleshoot those problems. Here is your guide to getting your spinning reel back to normal.

Why Your Spinning Reel Is Hard to Turn

Spinning reels have many moving parts that can cause problems, such as clicking or not turning properly. Stiff reels that won’t turn properly are actually fairly common, so plenty of fishermen have developed techniques for troubleshooting their reels.

Here are some of the most common reasons why the spinning reel is having trouble turning.

Russ Egan holding up a Piscifun Carbon Prism spinning reel

1. Internal Components Are Rusted From the Saltwater

If you use your spinning reel for saltwater fishing, you may have trouble spinning properly before you use it for freshwater fishing. That’s because saltwater corrodes the internal parts of spinning reels. The salt eats away important components, while the water causes the parts to rust faster. Salt is not the only culprit; grit from other material such as sand will also damage the internal parts of your spinning reel. 

Luckily, you can lessen the corrosion by cleaning and maintaining your spinning reel. Take the reel apart and clean the internal parts. Lubricate them with grease formulated specifically for spinning reels, which will lessen corrosion. To prevent corrosion, if you know you will be doing a lot of saltwater fishing, make sure you buy a reel with sealing technology.

If you are new to the world of fishing, take your reel to a professional for cleaning. Many beginners struggle to put their reels back together since there are so many moving parts, and you don’t want to break the reel permanently.

2. Fishing Line Is Tangled Around the Spool

Sometimes the cause of your blocked spinning reel is immediately visible without needing to take the reel apart. If your line is tangled around the spool, that will stop the reel from spinning properly. Tangled line also stops you from fishing properly in other ways because you don’t have the right length anymore to reel in any fish you catch.

Untangle your line and see if your reel spins easier now. A backlash tool makes it easier to unpick tough knots including bird’s nest knots. If the knot is impossible to unpick, you’ll have to cut off that bit of line and respool, which is annoying but necessary.

You can prevent fishing line from tangling around your spinning reel by avoiding kinks in the line while spooling on, using warm water or line conditioner on the line, and doing your best to prevent backlash while fishing.

3. Too Much Grease on the Gears or the Wrong Kind of Grease

Earlier, I mentioned that you should regularly grease the internal parts of your spinning reel to prevent corrosion. However, adding too much grease will jam the internal gears and make it much harder to spin the reel. 

You also need to make sure you’re using the right kind of grease. Many fishermen think reel grease for different types of reels is interchangeable, but grease for spinning reels is different from grease for baitcaster reels in a few different ways, including:

  • Viscosity
  • Texture
  • Hardness

Using the wrong type of grease will also jam your reel parts.

too much grease in a spinning reel

4. The Roller Bearing Is Damaged

If you’re having trouble reeling in, the culprit might not be the reel itself but the roller bearing. The roller bearing is a roller at the end of your bail wire, allowing your line to travel freely over your reel. If it is damaged, it won’t spin properly and your line won’t travel normally.

Check if your roller bearing is damaged by pressing against it with a small object such as a toothpick to see if it turns normally. If it sticks, then the bearing is damaged. Unscrew the bearing and try cleaning it. If it still has trouble turning, replace the bearing.

Final Thoughts

Your spinning reel not turning properly is very annoying. Luckily, you can easily fix this problem by cleaning the internal parts with the right grease, untangling your line, and ensuring the roller bearing is also working properly.

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