Reel Repair by Alan Tani

Welcome! => Pacific Coast Sportfishing Blog => Topic started by: alantani on March 23, 2009, 01:38:02 AM

Title: Pacific Coast Sportfishing Blogs
Post by: alantani on March 23, 2009, 01:38:02 AM
i've been given the opportunity to write a blog for Pacific Coast Sportfishing.  it was a little embarassing, but i wasn't even sure what a blog was.  a quick run to google answered that question.  hey, don't laugh.  i'm old.  i don't even text!!!!!!  i used microsoft word to write the first one.  it's going to be different actually using capital letters at the beginning of each sentence.  the spell and grammer checkers are nice, though.  when i get a link, i'll post it.  i'll also post the blogs on this board so that you can follow them here as well.  for now, check out and some of the other blogs at

Title: General Maintenance
Post by: alantani on March 23, 2009, 01:43:18 AM
3/22/09 - Questions about general reel maintenance are the most common questions I get.  After all, you’ve just spent $50 to $500 on a brand new reel and you’d like to keep it looking like new.  You’d also like to keep it WORKING like new.   Think of the dozens of reels in your lifetime that have died and gone to reel heaven.  Now you’re buying a new reel to replace an old one and you want THIS one to be different.  That’s the way it works, isn’t it. 

Maintaining the outside is a simple matter.  Try not to drag it around on the deck, rinse it with fresh water at the end of the day, dry it with a towel, and maybe even wipe it down with a little bit of light oil.  The problem is the inside.  Do you use a lot of water or just a little?  What about Salt Away?  Should you back of the star or leave it buttoned down?  Should you leave the lever in the strike position or free?  How do I keep this reel from seizing up like the last one did?

Personally, I only use star drag reels for local fishing.  Northern California saltwater fishing is pretty light duty most of the time.  After a long day on the water we’ll get home, I’ll hand off the rods and reels to the kids and turn them loose with a water hose.  If I’m lucky, they might even get around to actually drying everything.  Just as often as not, the rods and reels are stowed in the garage, dripping wet, with some of the drags buttoned down and others loose.  The next week, we’ll load everything up on the boat, go fish and usually not have a single problem with our tackle.  Most guys will run into problems with a lax maintenance schedule like this.  We will do fine because the reels had been serviced when they were brand new. 

The most important thing you can do to maintain your reel is to service it when it is brand new.  The mantra is greased carbon fiber drag washers, spool bearings that are open and lightly lubed, level wind assemblies that are lightly lubed, non-spool bearings that are packed with grease, grease on all the screws and a light coat of grease on all the non-exposed surfaces.  Do a thorough job the first time and your reel should last for years.  Done properly, the only things in your reel that should remain at risk are the spool bearings.  If you pack the spool bearings with grease, they will never rust, but you won’t be able to cast either.  If you lube them and leave them, they will eventually rust.  The best maintenance schedule, then, is to thoroughly service your reel first.  After every fishing trip, rinse your reel with fresh water and dry it with a towel or compressed air.  Finally, lube the bearings and the level wind assembly with a light oil.  Stick with this schedule and your reel should last for years. 

Title: Know Your Drag Settings
Post by: alantani on March 23, 2009, 05:44:03 PM
3/23/09 - In medicine, one of the first things a student is taught is the difference between the subjective and the objective.  Subjectives are things that a patient will complain of, like "Hey, doc, i ache all over, my back hurts and i'm hearing voices."  Objectives are things that can be assigned hard numbers, like a heart rate, a blood pressure, a respiratory rate and a temperature.  Back pain can be subject to interpretation, but the number of pills taken in the previous week to treat that back pain is an objective hard number.  In deciding how best to help a patient, appreciating these differences can be very helpful. 

So it is also in fishing.  Subjectively, someone can say that a reel easy to crank, the drags are smooth and the spool spins like crazy.  Objectively, a reel will have physical dimension, line capacity, a retrieve ratio, a maximum drag setting, and a freespool time.  The battle I constantly fight is trying to get guys to actually measure and properly set their drags.  What could be more simple?  You spool up your reel with 300 yards of 30 pound monofilament, tie the line off to a spring scale and rear back on the rod like you're fighting a fish.  A typical drag setting would be 25 to 33% of your line weight.  That means you adjust the drag setting for your 30 pound reel until the scale reads 7.5 to 10 pounds. 

Now imagine getting stuck at your wife’s office party.  Just to tick her off, you’ve worn that fish tie that the kids got you for Christmas.  Bored to death and two drinks into the evening, some total stranger comes up to you and starts to talk fishing.  He’s big,  tall, a little overweight, and he’s got arms like your thighs.  In a loud gruff voice, he tells you about the time he was “spooled in seconds” by a giant yellowfin tuna on a San Diego 5 day trip. You have the presence of mind not to roll your eyes.   Just trying to hold up your end of the conversation, you ask what kind of reel he was using and what the drag setting was.  You’ve heard this answer before.  “I don’t need a scale!  I can set the drags by hand.” 

OK, settle down.  You’ve only had two drinks and you’re going to find out later that this bozo is your wife’s boss.  He could be right.  He could also be a total idiot.  Either way, it is not worth arguing because you have no objective measures.  More importantly, your glass is empty and there’s no one at the bar.  Just tell him that you need to find your wife and avoid him for the rest of the evening.  Know your drag settings, guys.  It really is just that simple. 

Title: Define Smooth!
Post by: alantani on March 26, 2009, 06:35:39 AM
3/25/09 - The short answer is 1 foot every 5 seconds.  This is the objective standard that I use to define a smooth drag system for a reel.  Let’s say that I have star drag reel loaded with straight 20 pound mono and I want to set the drag to 25% or 5 pounds.  What I’ll do is put the reel on the rod, run the line through the guides, tie the line off to a 5 pound downrigger weight and then button down the star.  Then I will reel the rod tip down to the weight and lift until I have a 45 degree angle on the butt and a nice gentleman’s bend in the rest of the rod.  Ideally, the rod should be loaded up so that the rod tip is midway between the bottom of the butt and the top of the arc.  This should distribute the load evenly over all the guides. Now back off the star until the weight drops 1 foot every 5 seconds.  You now have a dynamic drag setting of 5 pounds THROUGH the guides.  Lower the rod and you decrease the drag.  Point the rod straight down and you eliminate the rod’s contribution to the total drag pressure.  Good quality guides will contribute no more than 10% to the total drag setting. 

This is a little more difficult to do with a lever drag reel.  Pulling back on a scale will give you a close enough approximation.  If your drag system is not smooth, you will know as soon as you hook on a fish that’s big enough to peel some line off the spool.   We’ve all seen a rod tip bounce when the drag is sticky.   Check your own reels to see how smooth your drags are.  If your reels have a greased carbon fiber drag system, you should easily be able to reach this level of performance.  If they are sticky, consider an upgrade.  Smooth is always better.  Having a sticky drag system is a quick way to break off a fish.

Title: Check Your Rods as Well.
Post by: alantani on March 26, 2009, 06:38:39 AM
3/26/09 - A school of 50 to 80 pound Guadalupe yellow fin tuna were working the chum line off the stern of the “Spirit.”    Several of us were already hooked up.  Then it was Wesley’s turn.   A yellow fin picked up his bait and line started peeling off his reel.  After an agonizingly long three count, he threw the reel into gear.  His rod loaded up in an instant.  Then came that sickening sound from his reel, “zzztttttttt, zzztttttttt, zzzzzzztttttttttttt, powwwwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!!”  Tail between his legs, he walked back to his tackle box, tied on another hook, pinned on another bait and flipped it out into the chum line from an empty corner on the stern.  His bait was inhaled as soon as it hit the water.  Three more seconds and threw is reel into gear.  I heard the same “zzztttttttt, zzztttttttt, zzzzzzztttttttttttt, powwwwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!!”, this time followed by “son of a #@*% !!!!!!!!!!!!!!”   He almost chucked that rod and reel into the water. By the time he picked another rig, the bite had died.

I had serviced his reel before the trip and had no idea what was going on.  During a lull in the bite, I tore his reel down and found no problems at all.  I spooled it back up and grabbed a scale.  I hooked the line up to the scale, pulled back on the rod like I was fighting a fish and set the drag to 15 pounds.  Then, just out of curiosity, I pulled back in a straight line and got 10 pounds.  I was shocked!!!!  The rod was adding 50% to the drag setting.  A quick check revealed a ceramic insert in the rod tip that was grooved.  I pulled off the ceramic tip, glued on a roller tip, and we were back in business.  Now, through the guides, I had a 15 pound drag setting rearing back on the rod.  On a straight pull, with no load on the guides, I had 13 pounds.  As far as Wesley was concerned, that rod had bad Juju, but at least I knew what the problem was. 

For local fishing in Northern California, my rods all have guides with ceramic inserts.  My long range rods are a little different.  Mind you, these are not hard and fast rules.  For drag settings of 10 pounds and less, I use rods that have guides all the up.  For drag settings of 11 to 15 pounds, I add a roller tip.  It probably does decrease my casting distance a little, but I am so lousy at casting that I think it does not make a different.  For 16 to 20 pound drag settings, I added a roller tip and roller stripper.  For drag settings in excess of 20 pounds, my rods have rollers all the way up.  To get the smoothest performance from your gear, both the rod and the reel need to work. 

Post by: alantani on March 27, 2009, 05:35:13 PM
3/27/09 - There are several different drag systems that are commonly used in reels today.  Their smoothness, this lack of “start up,” can sometimes be the difference between landing a fish or not.  I service an average of about a thousand reels a year and I think I’ve pretty much seen every drag material that’s ever been used.  Remember, I would define a “smooth drag” as having less than 10% “start up.”  If you have a weight that is equivalent to your drag setting and hang that weight on the reel, a smooth drag would allow that weight to drop 1 foot every 5 seconds.  A “reliable drag” would then be a smooth drag that would never become sticky as the reel ages.  Simple enough, so let’s see what’s out there. 

Leather was used as a drag material in the early Mitchells from France, the early Ocean City’s, the early Penn’s and many others.  It did not perform well.  Over the years, many different materials were developed, including felt, particle board, hard carbon and some unique composites.  They all became sticky over time.   Coarse woven carbon fiber, their famous HT-100, eventually became the drag material of choice for Penn, but this material would stick if it became wet, corroded or oily.  Shimano took it one step further by adding pure teflon grease and found that their greased carbon fiber drag system never failed.  Yes, that is never, as in not ever, not once, zero.  This wet drag system has now found its way into the flagship two speed lever drag reels of many manufacturers, including Penn, Daiwa and Okuma.  The engineers at Accurate used dry carbon fiber in 1996 with their first reels, then added Cal’s Drag Grease in 2007.  They also now enjoy a zero failure rate with their drag systems.

Greased carbon fiber is only now starting to show up in star drag reels.  Pro Gear used these drag washers in the final runs of their Albacore Special and Classic Series reels, but the company is now gone.  Daiwa is using greased carbon is their new Saltist 20 and 30.  Okuma has a Carbonite drag washer, which is also greased carbon fiber.  This is admittedly a short list, but I believe that it will be getting longer in the near future.  If your reel has a dry carbon fiber drag system and has become sticky, the simple addition of a pure teflon grease is an option.  If your reel has a different type of drag material, your local tackle shop may be able to install carbon fiber.  Upgrades such as this usually involve adapting a Penn HT-100 or an aftermarket Carbontex drag washer.  The addition of a Cal’s Drag Grease will then give your star drag reel the same smoothness and reliability enjoyed by the most expensive two speed lever drag reels.

Title: 3/30/09 - A Different Point of View
Post by: alantani on March 31, 2009, 07:25:23 PM
A Different Point of View

If you’ve been reading these blogs, then it means you have to be as obsessed with fishing as I am.  You remember the fish you’ve caught.  You also remember the fish you’ve lost.  Fine tuning our art is often just a matter of eliminating those weak links in the chain that result in lost fish.  That means taking a hard critical look at everything, from the handle grip to point of the hook.  So let’s do just that, but this time let’s start with a different point of view. 

Most guys look at the reel first and then work their way out to the fish.  Let’s reverse that and take at things from the fish’s point of view.  Bait selection or lure presentation have to be addressed by the guys that fish that specific body of the water in question, so I’m going to start from the point of the hook.  In most situations, sharper is better, but I’ve been known to knock the point off a circle hook or two.  Pick a hook that works for the fish that you are targeting.  Test your knots with a scale.  A uni knot, Palomar or San Diego should break at 90% of your line rating.  Test a few, otherwise you may not know that you’re doing something wrong until you’ve lost a few fish.  Pick a fishing line and stick with it for a while.  Tie a few connecting knots and test those as well.  Change your mono or fluoro topshots often.  If you use a braid, have it spooled on tightly by machine. Loosely spooled braid will dig into itself and lock up.  A double wrap of black electrical tape on the arbor will make sure the spectra does not slip on the spool.  Don’t laugh.  It’s a very common mistake for first timers. 

The line has to go through the guides of the rod.  We’ve already talked about rod selection and rod problems.  When the fish takes a run, it is pulling against the drag system.  The major reel manufacturers put greased carbon fiber drag washers in their most expensive two speed lever drag reels for a reason.  If there are no weak links in this chain, they a fish on a run has a direct connection from the point of the hook to the drag system of the reel.  That’s right.  This fish’s interface with the reel is the drag system.  This fish does know (or care) if your reel is graphite or gold; lever drag  or star; level wind or topless; single speed or two; domestic or foreign.  All it feels is the drag system.  If your reel comes with stock with greased carbon fiber drag washer, or if you’ve upgraded to greased carbon fiber, it will never be able to tell the difference between a $50 reel and $500 reel. 

Ah, but you will be able to tell the difference.  Your interface with the reel is the handle grip.  That continues through to the drive shaft, then the gears to the drag system.  And it is at the drag washers that the two of you meet.  Like I said, just a different point of view. 

Title: “The wand picks the wizard, Mr. Potter……”.
Post by: alantani on April 01, 2009, 04:18:39 PM
It’s common on internet boards to see a guy say that he as a reel and wants to match it up to a rod.  It’s difficult because rods will typically give you a line weight rating.  Just like with reels, I would rather see them list a drag range.  I believe that using a drag range is the most reliable way to establish a proper rating for a rod.  Experienced fishermen all have a “feel” for what is well balance, but have probably not thought it through in an OBJECTIVE manner.  Yeah, there’s that word again!  Here’s the procedure that I go through.  

Place any reel with any heavy line (it doesn’t matter) on the rod.  Button down the drag.  Run the line through the guides and tie it off to a milk jug.  Place the rod in a holder of some sort so that the rod butt rests at a 45 degree angle.  Now add weight (cut a hole in the jug) until the rod bends to the desired flex that you want.  I look for the rod to bend until the tip is midway between the top of the arc and the bottom of butt of the rod.  You may desire more or less flex.  It depends upon the type of rod and your personal preferences.

Now total up the weight in the jug.  Let's say that you have a medium weight rod that flexes to a desired amount with only 10 pounds of STATIC weight.  You have now determined the proper drag setting for your rod.  Remember that guides will typically add about 10% to the DYNAMIC drag.  Remember also that I use all guides for drag settings of less than 10 pounds, a roller tip for drag settings of 10 to 15 pounds, a roller tip and roller stripper for drag settings of 15-20 pounds, and all rollers for drag settings of 20 pounds or more.  But that’s just me.  

Next, choose a percentage drag setting.  Different people have different preferences.  You might typically fish as heavy a drag setting as 33% or as light as 25%.  Anything more risks line breakage (been there).  Anything less is wasted unless line abrasion resistance is a concern.  Admittedly, I fish some rigs as heavy as 40% and others as light as 12%.  Let's just say that we will stay within average parameters.  With a desired 10 pound drag setting at a 33%, you need a 30 pound mono.

Finally, decide how much line you really need.  Typically you only need 300 yards of line capacity.  What kind of fish can take a 300 yard run on you if the drags are properly set?   Fer cryin’ out loud, guys!  That’s the length of three football fields.  Why in the world would anyone need 1000 yards of line?  In the vast majority of cases, it’s lack of confidence, low drag settings or you’re fishing WAY back.  Remember out friend at the dinner party?  Yeah, very few fishermen actually check their drag settings with a scale.  I'm sorry that this is so harsh, but unless the fish is larger than 5 times the line weight, I see no excuse for getting "spooled."
Finally, select a reel. It has to have the capacity to hold the required amount of line, deliver the required amount of drag and still maintain the required amount of free spool.  Luckily, you’ve got just the perfect reel!

Title: If I Was Going to Build a Reel ...
Post by: alantani on April 04, 2009, 01:08:58 AM
… what would it be like?  Hmm, now that would be interesting.  I would want a set of three reels.  The first would be my 30-pound-class reel, holding 300 yards of 50-pound spectra and a 50-yard topshot of 30-pound-test mono or fluoro, capable of delivering an easy 15 pounds of drag.  The second would be a 40-pound-class reel, holding 300 yards of 65-pound spectra and a 50-yard topshot of 40-pound test mono or fluoro, capable of delivering an easy 20 pounds of drag.  The third would be a 50-pound-class reel, holding 300 yards of 80-pound spectra and a 50-yard topshot of 50-pound mono or fluoro, delivering 25 pound of drag.  Yes, these would be very small reels!

I’m fine with a star drag design.  I would like the spool to be “boxed out,” meaning that the spool would be as wide as it is tall.  Tolerances between the spool and frame have to be tight enough to not allow the spectra to be “eaten” in between.  Anodized aircraft-grade aluminum is fine for the topless frame, side plates, and spool.  A bronze main gear is quiet but maybe a little soft.  A stainless steel main gear is noisy but much sturdier.  Let’s go with an oversized stainless steel main gear, pinion gear, and drive shaft, all hardened.  I would like all stainless steel guts, clicker assembly included.  Softer 304 stainless is fine.  We really only need two bearings, one on each side of the spool.  Standard ABEC 5 bearings will work, but let’s leave them open and lubed with one of the new dry Teflon lubes.  I’d like a stack of three or five greased carbon fiber drag washers inside the main gear and one underneath.  The anti-reverse system should have double spring-loaded dogs and a single anti-reverse roller bearing (just for looks).  The handle arm should be stainless steel with a monster offset machined delron handle grip.    A stamped stainless steel reel seat with four screws and a delron rod clamp with a stainless steel bolt kit will finish it off.

A 6:1 gear ratio for a 30-pound reel may be a bit fast for many, but there definitely are advantages, so 6:1 it is.  The 40-pound reel can be 5:1 and the 50-pound reel can be 4:1.  Let’s have a right side plate that is held by three to four screws.  Pop the side plate, and you should have easy access to the pair of spool bearings.  Now you can easily lube the bearings after every fishing trip.  No more excuses for not maintaining your reel.  Don’t forget grease on all the screws and on all the non-exposed metal surfaces. This would mean “zero maintenance” for the entire right side plate and frame.  Unless I have forgotten something, you now have a truly spectra-worthy reel.  Now I just have to find someone to build them for me! 

Title: Superlubes
Post by: alantani on April 16, 2009, 04:31:18 AM
4/15/09 - There a four different lubricants that I use in fishing reels.  A “one size fits all” approach will work in some situations, but not this one.  This continues to be a work in progress.  As of this writing, April 2009, here are the four lubes that I’ve settled on. 

Blue Grease – There are several different manufacturers that market blue greases for fishing reels.  These products are all hydrocarbon based, salt water resistant, they never harden, (important to a service center) they stay blue forever and cost only $5 to 15 per pound.  You can service a reel, open it up 10 years later and know that you’ve worked on it before.  These blue greases can be packed into non-spool bearings, applied to all screws, gears and other non-exposed metal surfaces, and provide a lifetime of corrosion resistance.  The product that I use is the $5 per pound Yamaha All Purpose Engine Grease.  Don’t use these blue greases on drag washers.

Drag Grease – There are currently three drag greases on the market, available from Shimano, Cal Sheets and Xtreme Lubricants.  These products are Teflon-based and cost from $25 to 50 per pound.  One way to separate these products is by melting temperature.  Shimano’s drag grease melts at 300 degrees Fahrenheit, Cal’s drag grease melts at 500 degrees F, and the Xtreme drag grease melts at 1000 degrees F.  Water, of course, boils at 212 degrees F at sea level.  Unless you see steam coming from you fishing reel, you are nowhere near the melting temperature for any of these products.  Under the heaviest drag settings with several hundred yard runs, there is a phenomenon called “high speed runout.”  Cal Sheets describes a decrease in drag pressure when a big fish is running long, hard and fast with lower melting temperature Teflon greases.  This would not be a concern in the vast majority of situations.  The product that I am currently using is the $25 per pound Cal’s Drag, although the Shimano and Xtreme products perform equally well in the light tackle applications that I am commonly faced with. 

Oils – For years, WD-40 had been a popular lubricant in fishing reels, but it turns to varnish over time and has generally fallen out of favor.  Many other light hydrocarbon-based oils are available and provide excellent lubricant properties without turning to varnish over time.  The product that I have used for the last ten years is Corrosion X.  The polar molecular bonding that Corrosion X, Reel X and Speed X offer will give these products excellent lubricating properties and long life.  I use these products on any parts of a reel that need a lighter lubricant that a heavy grease.  Handles, levers, level wind assemblies, bearings and bushing are the most common places in a reel that are oiled rather than greased.  Corrosion X sprayed into an old rag, after a fresh water rinse and towel dry, is also an excellent way of wiping down your reel after a day of fishing. 

Dry Teflon Lubricants – For the last 2 months, I have been using a dry Teflon lubricant from Xtreme Lubricants on spool bearings.  After cleaning out spool bearings and lubricating them with hydrocarbon based oils, freespool times of 30 to 60 seconds are typical.  Lubricating these same spool bearings with one of these dry Teflon lubricants will increase the freespool times from seconds to minutes.  Larger spools with a great deal of rotational inertia can spin for up to 5 minutes when the bearings are lubed with these newer dry Teflon lubes.  Hydrocarbon-based oils can form can actually form a hydrodynamic wedge (like a standing wave on a very small scale) in front of the balls of the bearings that will actually slow your spin rate.  The improvement in freespool time is dramatic!  Another reel tech and I had independently tried this product, saw the improvement, and decided in a microsecond that we were going to use this product in our own personal reels.  At issue is what to do for a customer.  Corrosion resistance is still a concern, but even my tried and true Corrosion x does not last forever.  So how good (or bad) is the corrosion protection from these dry Teflon lubes?  I will have a final answer for you next year.  For me personally, I know that better freespool will give me longer casting distances, and longer casting distances will catch me more fish. 

Title: Servicing a Bearing
Post by: alantani on April 25, 2009, 09:46:57 PM
4/25/09 - Servicing a Bearing

You’re serious about fishing.  You’re serious about your gear.  You can strip down and rebuild your reels in your sleep.  Sometimes you do.  The drags in your reels have all been upgraded to greased carbon fiber, the internal surfaces have a light coat of grease, and you even have some custom handle grips.  Bearings, however, have been that last little item that have continued to plague you.  You would like more freespool to improve your casting distance.  Adding different lubes have increased your freespool times, but you can’t seem to break the 60 second barrier.  You would like to pack other of these bearings with grease to protect them a little better.  Well, it's time to open them up. 

What you really need to do is get more distance in your cast.  In the past, you would clean spool bearings by soaking them in lighter fluid, white gas or try to spray them with carburetor cleaner.  The spool would spin well for a day or two, then start to slow down.  What’s happening is that there is some residual grease still inside the bearing.  If you could open it up, that’s what you would see.  Like many, you’ve never even considered the possibility of removing the shields or seals of a bearing.  Well, someone put this bearing together.  That means someone else can take it apart. 

Bearing design is pretty simple.  You have an inside race, an outside race, the balls and a cage to hold the balls in place.  To protect the balls, there are metal shields or plastic/phenolic seals to keep the dirt out and hold the grease in.  Let’s take a peek inside. 

The most common metal shield design is one that is held in by a retaining ring.  Use a small hook to pick out the end of the retaining ring.  You can then use the point of the hook to remove the shield.  The advantage of this system is that the shield can be replaced if you want.



The other metal shield type is one that is just pressed in.  From a manufacturing point of view, this is a quick and easy system to work with.  To remove this type of shield, you need a sharp point to puncture the metal shield and pop it out.  This might appear daunting, but with a little practice it can be quick and easy.  Once these shields are removed, they will be too damaged to replace and will have to be discarded.



The plastic or phenolic seal is the last type used.  These are by far the easiest bearing types to service.  Use the point of a very small blade to gently pop out the seal.  If the seals are removed without damage, they can easily be pressed back into place and the bearing will still spin well.  If the seal is damaged at all, it will commonly rub against the inside race and slow down the bearing considerably. 



Once these bearings are open, you can easily clean them out with carburetor cleaner and gentle compressed air.  Then you can use your lube of choice and get this bearing to really spin.  You can also hand pack the bearing with grease and make sure that are no air pockets that will hold salt water.

Title: Re: Pacific Coast Sportfishing Blogs
Post by: alantani on May 15, 2009, 05:56:40 AM
What Makes a Great Kayak Reel?

Bushings!  That’s right, not bearings.  Bushings…….

There is a small group of fishermen here in Northern California that fish the inshore waters for rockcod, halibut and lingcod.  They tend to be young, physically fit, well educated and fanatically dedicated to their sport.  When I am looking to fill an open spot or two on my boat, I will often go to their website with an invitation.  I have always had good success in finding hardworking deckhands.  There is not a whiner in the bunch.  After all, these guys normally fish from a 14 foot long piece of Tupperware.  They have to launch through the breakers, paddle one to five miles and sit in a cold wetsuit for hours.  Such is the sport of kayak fishing in Northern California’s 55 degree water!  Give me the comfortable deck of a boat any day.  I say this with the deepest respect.  These guys are nuts!  They are also very hard on their reels. 

To survey this group, you will find an impressive array of very fancy reels.  TE’s, Luna’s, SX’s and 197’s top the list.  Because they are local, I have either personally serviced many of their reels, or they have been serviced by their owners at one of the many seminars that I have offered.  They have all come to appreciate the benefits of greased carbon fiber drag washers and additional grease throughout the reel to prevent corrosion.  Bearing continue to be an issue.  More bearings a replaced among this group than any other.    But could we eliminate the bearings and eliminate the problem?
The answer, of course, is yes!  Spool bearing are the primary concern.  Handle and side plate bearings can always be packed with grease.  Spool bearings cannot, if you still need good free spool.  Bronze bushings could prove to be an acceptable alternative in many reels.  The Jigmaster 500 is an excellent example because it already has bushings.  Sadly, the gap between the lip of the spool and the inside rings is so large that it will eat anything smaller than 30 pound monofilament.  An excellent alternative is the Shimano TR 100G/200G and heavier TLD Star 15/30 and 20/40, which come with bushing stock, not bearings.  Another light tackle alternative would be the 4000/5000/6000 series Ambassaduers.  These reels come stock with bearings, but a 4x10x4mm bushing is available from the manufacturer and makes a most excellent “upgrade” for the kayak fisherman.  The advantage of the Shimano and Ambassasduer reels is that the gap between the spool and frame is tight enough that it will not eat spectra.  These few reels alone could handle nearly ANY inshore application. 

So to all of you kayak fishermen, the next time you get caught by a wave and roll your kayak in the surf, remember to clean out your reels and pay particular attention to the bearings.  If you find that your bearings are all ready rusted, consider an upgrade to a bronze bushing!  Oh, and remember.  Don't turn the handle!!!!!!!!!!!!

Title: Re: Pacific Coast Sportfishing Blogs
Post by: alantani on May 17, 2009, 11:18:14 PM
Bearing Sleeves to Increase Freespool Time.
Most of you are familiar with this process by the name "Blue Printing," from Cal Sheets.  Since last summer, I've been cutting bearing sleeves on a small scale for a few lever drag reels.  The purpose of the bearing sleeve is to prevent pressure from building up on the inside races of the spool bearings.  An axial load on these bearings will decrease the freespool time in a lever drag reel and decrease your casting distance.  Using thin walled brass tubing from your local hobby shop, you can cut a bearing sleeve yourself.  The results can be dramatic! 
All you need is a tubing cutter, a drill with a half inch chuck and a mill bastard file. Here is the tubing that you would start with.  A standard mill bastard file will shave off 3 to 5 thousanths of an inch with every stroke, depending on how sharp the file is and how hard you lean on it.  After a few tries, you will get the feel for it.  Plan on having to do this a few times before you get it right.

Here is what the spool shaft assembly looks like, out of the reel, with the bearing sleeve in place.  Ideally, you want zero load and zero endplay.  If you cut it too short, you may as well start over because the bearing sleeve will not work at all.  If it's too long, the spool can move around while in free and you may note that the spool stops when you roll it to the right.  You want to be not more than 10 thousanths long ( piece of paper is 3 thousanths of an inch thick).  This one was perfect.  With just the bearings and sleeve in place, you should be able to push in on one bearing and feel just the slightest amount of pressure on the other.  If you can push in on one bearing and actually MOVE the other bearing completely, the sleeve is too long. 

To check the function of the bearings and bearing sleeve, place the spool shaft assembly in the spool and give it a spin.  You should get about 30 seconds of freespool.  Now place the drive plate (key #117) on, press only half way to put pressure on the left side bearing spring (key #41) and spin it again.  If you get the same amount of freespool, then you know that there is no axial load on the bearings and it works. 

Cal Sheets is the one that actually coined the term, "Blue Printing." The actual blue printing procedure involves several different steps, all very precise, very time consuming and very expensive. He starts by machining down the drag plate to make it perfectly true. That's step one. Then, a piece of heavy stainless steel tubing is turned on a lathe to make a bearing sleeve. It's accurate down the a few thousanths of an inch. In my garage, I'm lucky to get it within 10 thousanths. Finally, he uses a combination of belleville spring washers to give you the exact drag range that you specify. This is not so much science as it is art! Want 22 pounds of drag? He will set it up so that you get a smooth progression to 22 pounds. So if you want the ultimate in performance in your two speed lever drag reel, absolutely go to Cal Sheets. If you want to squeeze out a little more performance and stay within budget, consider doing the work yourself.
For the complete post on rebuilding a Penn 30S International at home, go to

Title: Re: Pacific Coast Sportfishing Blogs
Post by: alantani on May 26, 2009, 05:02:25 PM
It’s Been A Brutal Winter…..

…. But fishing season is finally here!  I just love the ocean and I pretty much limit myself to ocean fishing only.  I fish inshore during most of the May to November season.  Right now that means only rock cod and ling cod.  In Northern California, our salmon fishery has collapsed, halibut has always been spotty, and white sea bass are like ghosts (you don’t find them, they find you).  In late summer months, we may or may not get a shot at albacore.  Last year they hop scotched right over us and landed in Oregon.   

With the entire sport fleet facing the same problems, the inshore reefs within 15 miles of every harbor have pretty much been picked clean of larger rock fish.  That means that you have to make a 25 to 40 mile run, past the range of most of the smaller skiffs, to get to some decent fishing.  My Grady White 258 can make that kind of run easily, but it still makes for a very long day.   This year, I am going to concentrate on kid’s trips.  I am also going to work the NorCalKayak Club to mothership out the kayak fishermen to waters that they would normally not have access to.  I hope you will enjoy the reports.  For me, it will simply be nice to be back on the water again.


Title: Re: Pacific Coast Sportfishing Blogs
Post by: alantani on June 15, 2009, 04:07:18 PM
Offset handle grips.
The fish's interface with the reel is the drag system.  Once you upgrade your drag washers to greased carbon fiber, the fish will probably not be able to tell the difference between your $90 ambassaduer and your $350 calcutta.  Your interface with the reel is the handle grip.  In between the handle grip and the drags is a reel with single or two speeds, leverdrag or star drag, graphite or aluminum frame, level wind or no.  Once you're on a fish, your reel may as well be a black box.  It's you on the handle grip and the fish against the drag.
So why are most handle grips about the size of a peanut, even on the big reels?  Tiburon addressed this issue with their patented T-Bar handle, featuring a very large angled grip.  Their patent covered offset angles from 10 to 25 degrees.   Not to be deterred, Avet came out with a large grip that featured a 9 degree offset.  Recently, Accurate introduced a grip that also featured a 9 degree offset, Alutecnos a curved grip, and Shimano finally introduced a "bellbottomed" Offset Ergonomic Power Grip Handle on their larger Tiagras.  The trend towards larger offset handle grips is unmistakeable.
If you've never tried a large offset grip before, find one of these reels and give it a spin.  You're in for a real treat!

Title: Re: Pacific Coast Sportfishing Blogs
Post by: alantani on June 28, 2009, 09:02:55 PM
Question:  "I have one of my Penn 330 GTI's apart on the kitchen table right now. The drag was sticking and upon dissassembly per your post, I found some badly corroded metal and deteriorating fiber washers. I wanted to know what advantage replacing the drag washer under the stack with a fiber washer serves?  I will be ordering a new drag stack and some grease. Thanks again for the posts!"
Answer:  I have found that the drag is a little smoother with a carbon fiber drag washer under the main gear instead of a hard fiber washer.  Regarding the #6-875 drag washer underneath the main gear. it is one of the "3-layer" drag washers that penn makes and is rugged enough to withstand the pressures underneath that main gear.  Penn actually uses two different types of carbon fiber sheets to stamp out their drag washers.  The first is the "single-layer" sheet, which is basically a single woven sheet of carbon fiber material.  It is used to make the drag washers for the long beach 60's, the squidders, the jigmasters and others.  the second type of material is made from a sheet of fiberglass with carbon fiber on either side.  this material is more rigid, thicker and more resistant to the "grinding" effects found underneath the main gears of these reels.  You will find this type of drag washer in the 4/0 Penn Senator 113H.  The #6-875 ht-100 drag washer is a "3-layer" style and works pretty well underneath the main gear.  
The second issue is one of what to do about these corroded penn carbon fiber and metal washers that have suffered from water intrusion.  The obvious answer is to pay your $12-15 and replace them with new, greased, drag washers.  One time, though, i was just helping a kid out at a local shop.  The manager had a few tools and was fine letting me crack open the reel there.  The drags were filled with salt residue and rust.  I cleaned up the drag washers with a little with a wire brush, cleaned up the metal washers with a little sand paper, slapped a thick coat of drag grease on the drag washers, threw it back together and it worked just fine! Mind you, this was just one of the local kids with nothing more than a couple of bucks worth of allowance money in his pocket.  We were all was more than happy to see this reel working again.  And you know, it was pretty damned smooth!

For your reel, perhaps take a few minutes to clean up the parts and then throw it together as is.  You might be pleasantly surprised!

Title: What is the Maximum Drag?
Post by: alantani on July 27, 2009, 12:03:54 AM
What's the maximum drag?
I've get this question quite a bit.  The "maximum drag at strike..." specifically applies to lever drag reels, but all reels have a functional "maximum drag."  A maximum is the highest number of pounds, but what is functional?  Going back to some previous discussions, let's just say that I am looking for a maximum drag with 10% start up or less.  If the drags are too sticky or if they are locked down, I am just going to call them "non-functional."  Let's look at the different reel designs.

Spinning Reels - For spinners, just tighten down the knob to set the drag.  Nothing fancy here.  The more you tighten it down, the more drag you get.  At some point, the drag knob will bottom out or the drag washers will lock up and you will have just hit your functional "maximum" drag.  Many spinners can actually reach such high settings that you can damage the reel.   One of two things will fail at this point, the bail or the gears.  I guess we'll have to add that drag settings high enough to damage a reel would also be "non-functional." 

Star Drag Conventional and Baitcasting Reels - Nothing fancy here, either.  Turn the star down for more drag pressure.  As a VERY rough rule of thumb, each drag washer inside the main gear of a star drag stack will contribute about 5 pounds of drag.  Obviously, there are many variables here, but this is a fairly consistent guide.  Low profile baitcasters with a single drag under the main gear and a single drag washers inside will deliver an easy 5 pounds of drag.  Larger round baitcasters and smaller conventional reels with a single drag washer under the main gear and three drag washers inside the main gear will deliver roughly 15 pounds of drag.  Careful, though.  15 pounds of drag on a 4, 5 or 6000 series ambassaduer will shred the main gear on the first pull.  More than 7-8 pounds of drag on a squidder, jigmaster or smaller penn senator will round off the 98-60 gear sleeve (drive shaft).  Full-sized conventional reels (4/0-sized or larger) typically have a single drag washer under the main gear and 5 drag washers inside.  These reels usually deliver a maximum of drag of 25 pounds.  The 4/0-sized Penn Senator 113h drag stack will deliver just that amount of drag, but you run the risk of damage to the main gear a drag settings in excess of 20 pounds.  Let's just call the function drag range of a Penn 113h to be 20 pounds or less.  That's why this reel is commonly rigged with straight 50 pound monofilament and a perfectly happy 15 pound drag setting. 

Lever Drag Reels - These reels are designed to deliver tremendous drag ranges in a compact frame.  Lever drag reels the size of an ambassaduer can deliver the same amount of drag as a 4/0 senator.  This design can also incorporate dual gear sets to give you high speed or low speed at the push of a button.  This the reason that they are so popular, and so expensive.

To adjust the drag pressure, push the drag lever back to the "free" position, then turn the preset knob clockwise to increase the drag and counterclockwise to decrease it.  Now push the lever to "strike" and check the drag setting by pulling on the line with a scale.  Simply repeat this process until you've reached your desired drag setting.  Turning down the preset knob moves the drag pressure plate closer to the drag washer.  If you are trying to achieve a very high drag setting, it is possible that the drag and pressure plate can come in contact.  When that happens, you will loose freespool.  With the lever still in "free," you'll have to back off the preset knob just a smidge to restore freespool.  At that point, you can push the lever forward to "strike" and measure the drag.  This drag setting will be the "maximum drag setting at strike" before losing freespool. 

There is no law that prevents you from turning the preset knob past the "maximum drag setting at strike."  Similarly, there is nothing to prevent you from pushing the lever past "strike" to "full."  Simply be aware that the resulting high drag settings might damage a right main side plate bearing, break the base of a graphite frame, or shred a stainless steel gear.  Sometimes this kind of damage can occur at relatively "low" drag settings.  The Avet MX can be modified to deliver nearly 20 pounds of drag at strike before losing freespool, but drag settings in excess of 9 pounds cause the right main side plate bearing to bind.  The Shimano TLD 30 two speed can be modified to reach 25 pounds of drag at strike before losing freespool, yet the frame has been reported to break at the base at those settings.  The news is not all bad, however.  The Shimano Charter Special 1000's and 2000's can modified to perform well at a 15 pound drag at strike before losing freespool.  Now if the Charter Special only came with a topless frame!

Title: The Eternal Optimist!
Post by: alantani on October 05, 2009, 03:32:19 AM
The Eternal Optimist!

I spent a little time this evening checking out the local weather reports and the sea surface temperatures.  Right now, it's blowing 28 kts with a 12 foot swell and a 6 foot wind wave.  That's what the "point and click" forecast says for the area 60 miles offshore from Monterey.   By the middle of the week, it's supposed to lay down a little.  The reports say winds to 15 kts and seas to 5 feet.  The problem is that the "push" of warm water that held all of those albacore last week has been "pushed" back quite a ways.  It's now 60 nm from the nearest harbor (Monterey) and these northwest winds are not going to help matters.  Still, Thursday is 4 days away.  Alot can happen in 4 days.  And with this El Nino, there is no telling how long the albacore might stay within range.

The latest in the year that I've actually ever fished for albacore was the last big El Nino of 1999.  I took my father out on my old 19 foot Grady White.  It was a flat calm day, December 15th.  That's right, December 15th.  Dad and I took a 220 heading out of Santa Cruz and made a blind stab.  We dropped the lines in when we hit the 25 mile mark at the Monterey weather buoy.  We stuck 8 albacore that day.  The first fish weighed in at 38 pounds.  The second fish weighed in at 42 pounds.  The third fish weighed in at 48 pounds.  The next 5 fish bottomed out my 50 pound scale.  Dad reeled in every fish.  His shoulder was sore for the next three months. 

I'd like all of you to keep your fingers crossed and check back with me later in the week.  With any luck, I'll have an albacore report for you. 

Title: Re: Pacific Coast Sportfishing Blogs
Post by: alantani on November 04, 2009, 08:46:35 PM
Question:  Alan, I just bought a Progear CS 625 to pair up with an OTI 7'6" 60-80# Class rod.  I want to be able to cast lures and baits to tuna and have the drag to really put the screws to them.  I'll be using 80# spectra.  The fishing I'm looking to do here in the Gulf of Mexico is throwing topwater lures and free lining live baits to YFT.  Probably a very similar style to how you west coast guys set-up your wahoo bombs.  Anyway, my question is what mods and upgrades do I need to make to get this reel to cast well without backlashing all the time and get the drag system up to par for 60-100# YFT?  Thanks in advance.  BTW - I based alot of my decision on your write up on the Albacore Special on your website.

Answer:  The drag washers should already be greased carbon fiber.  Check them anyway.  The screw holes and all the internal metal surfaces should already have a light coat of grease.  Check this as well.  The bearings are shielded and lubed with corrosion x from the factory.  Here's where you have a decision to make.  If you want the longest casting distance, then remove the shields, clean out any grease or oil, lube the bearings with xtreme reel + and reinstall the bearings open.  You'll get the best distance this way.  It will also backlash like crazy if you flub up your cast.  You can slow down the spool using the end cap screw.  That's not a good thing to do for the long run because you are rubbing metal against metal.  An alternative would be to pack the bearings with grease and reinstall the bearing shields.  Your bearings will last forever, but this will dramatically slow down the spool .  Bearings packed with grease will be fine for casting only the heaviest irons or bombs where distance is not as much a factor. 

Personally, I think your best bet would be to go for the open bearings with a light lube.  Don't apply too much pressure when you chuck that bait out and let you thumb be the brake.  It will take a bit of practice, and you will definitely have to pick out a backlash or two, but I believe that this will give you the best results.  Want to see how it's really done?  Get on any San Diego 5 to 10 day boat and watch the deckhands!  Good luck!  Alan

Title: Re: Pacific Coast Sportfishing Blogs
Post by: alantani on January 09, 2010, 05:12:08 AM
Alan's Workbench -  Stay Alive!

Aug. 11 2009, 12:25 PM - In Northern California, we have several fatalities among fishermen every year.  Each time a report comes out in the newpaper, I take a look at it and ask myself, "How could they have come out of this alive?"  In nearly every situation that I've read about, I believe that these guys would have survived if they were wearing a handheld VHF radio and a life jacket.  A local US Coast Guard officer that I know recommends an EPIRB as your first piece of electronic safety equipment, but one crew several years ago perished with a properly functioning GPIRB in the water.  So, as a boat owner, what are you going to do?  


My solution is an inflatable life raft in the cabin, a GPIRB with a hydrostatic release on the hardtop, a handheld GPIRB at the helm, and life jackets for everyone. Each life jacket is equipped with a strobe, a whistle, a cyalume light stick, a 3-pack of handheld flares and a handheld VHF radio that has a built-in GPS.  In a worst case scenario, the boat could suddenly roll over and throw all hands into the water.  The hull is now upside down with no way to reach the life raft or the handheld GPIRB.  To make matters worse, the GPIRB on the hardtop is kicked out it's case and starts happily pinging away, only it is trapped under the hull as well.  Once you enter our 55 degree water, you have a 60 second period of uncontrolled gasping.  Let's hope you're on the surface while this is happening.  Then you have 20 minutes of functional motor activity when you can still push buttons and turn knobs.  You have 30 more minutes until half of your crew is dead (remember the 50/50/50 rule?) and 2 more hours until the rest of you are dead.  
But you are not going to die today.  No one will.  You fire up the radio and call a "mayday."  With the GPS build into your radio, you can give the Coast Guard your exact latitude and longitude.  This turns a search and rescue mission into a straight rescue mission.  It's a HUGE difference.  Even if you don't own a boat, you can still bring your own life jacket when you hitchhike on someone else's boat.  You place your life in the hands of the skipper whenever your go out on the water.  If it's your first time as a guest on a new vessel, you may not find out until you're underway that your skipper is a safety idiot.  Bringing your own properly equipped life jacket is your best insurance.  

Title: Northern California Albacore, 9/19/09
Post by: alantani on January 09, 2010, 05:14:49 AM
Northern California Albacore, 9/19/09

It was about time!  Guys have been catching albacore here in Northern California since July and I've been tied to the dock!  You know, wife, kids, in-laws, work!  All of the usual excuses that keep you off the water.   Well, my brother wanted to go so I made some phone calls, rounded up a last-minute crew and had everyone ready to hit the road at 3 AM.

When we arrived, the parking lot at the launch ramp in Santa Cruz was empty.  Not a good sign.   We launched the boat and fired up all of the electronics, including the FLIR infrared night vision camera.  Running 20 to 25 knots with infrared night vision, we were able to make the 45 mile run before first light.  We ended up the day with 15 albacore for the 5 of us.  


I was fine all day with 7 hours of sleep the night before.  Too bad I can't say the same for my crew.  I guess the 3 AM departure time really threw people off.  I ended up with as much sleep as my four crew members combined.  My brother and nephew arrived at home home late the night before, had a few too many drinks and only got 2 hours of sleep each.  My neighbor was finishing up paperwork to close an important business deal and also got 2 hours of sleep.  And finally my 20 year old deckhand stayed up to watch TV and got no sleep at all.  The worst part was that my nephew puked on the cushions in the cabin.  Most of the boat is clean this evening.  Tomorrow morning I clean the cushions!  

Sleep is critical.  

Title: Point Sur, California
Post by: alantani on January 09, 2010, 05:17:29 AM
Point Sur, California - Oct. 21 2009, 3:00 PM Point Sur, California

We towed the boat to Monterey on Thursday, launched and took a 25-mile run down the coast to Point Sur.  Our depth was 100 to 120 feet.  Fishing was fast and easy.  We had four stringers of nice fish for the four of us, limits all around. 


The big stringer was probably 70 pounds of beautiful vermillion.  The second stringer was easily 40 pounds.  We also kept the smaller ones because of the 100 foot depth we were fishing.  Basically, the first 40 fish that bit all died!  My thinking is that anything that you hoist up from a 100 foot depth is going to suffer some degree of barotrauma.  I know that this is contrary to conventional thinking.  People say that fish can survive if they are quickly repressurized, but I prefer to keep those fish rather than take others.  Less than 60 feet and I will release them.  Anything more than that and they're a meal. 

Title: Questions about rebuilding a Penn 14/0
Post by: alantani on January 09, 2010, 05:34:44 AM
Questions about rebuilding a Penn 14/0 - Nov. 25 2009, 2:20 PM Questions about rebuilding a Penn 14/0

I am in the process of rebuilding a Penn 14/0 and I had a couple of quick questions if you dont mind.
1) Are the 2 gears on the spool itself supposed to have any play in  them? In the reel I just took apart, the toothed gears move a little?  Is this normal or should they be locked in place?
2) The handle had quite a bit of play in it.  I was looking at the gears and they all seem to be in relatively good shape.  What could be causeing this play in the handle?
3) I cannot get the actual reel bearings out from the outer shell. Is there a trick to this or do you just recommend buying complete hole bearings.  If I do this, do you know if they come with the outer shell?

Thanks very much.


Yes, what you are seeing is something called gear lash.  There is typically a lot in these old penn gears.  The result is a fair amount of play when you hold the spool stationarly and move the handle forward and back.
The axial (lateral) play in the handle is typically from the loose gear sleeve.  This is different from gear lash.  To eliminate the play in the gear sleeve, you have to pull the retaining pin, remove the gear sleeve and place washers underneath.  That should take care of the up and down motion of the gear sleeve. 
And finally, the bearing.  When they are badly corroded, the bearings can be impossible to remove from the bearing cups.  If they don't pop out easily, it might just be best to buy new ones.  You can order the bearings from your local shop already installed in the bearing cup. 

Title: Northern California Dungeness Crab
Post by: alantani on January 09, 2010, 06:46:21 AM
The sport season for Dungeness crab has been in full swing for over a month.  We've been running pots out of Half Moon Bay, approximately 7 miles outside of the harbor, in 200 feet of water.  These crab pots are baited with huge slabs of Humboldt squid pulled from our local waters as well.  With crews of 4 to 5, we've been limiting out on almost every trip. 


To make them easy to serve, I've been cleaning them first, then boiling or steaming them for 10 minutes.  To clean them first, simply cleave them in half, remove the shell and gills, and then rinse out the guts.  After they cool, crack the shells, and serve them up with a green salad, sourdough bread, melted butter and a dry white wine.  Fresh crab can be messy, but the flavor is marvelous!


Title: Re: Pacific Coast Sportfishing Blogs
Post by: alantani on March 01, 2010, 06:47:18 PM

The 2010 Fred Hall Show in Long Beach, California.
The annual Fred Hall tackle show will be held again this week in Long Beach, CA, and it's one of the largest in the nation.  Without a doubt, it is the most popular show on the west coast.  I'll be flying down from northern California, just for the day, to attend.  I've got my camera, two camera batteries, a note pad and a whole bunch of questions all ready.  In particular, I will be asking about quality and service issues with fishing reels.  These are issues that i deal with every day, and they have been mounting. 
In the wake of the Toyota scandal, I am curious to see if there is change in focus.  Quality is critical if you want to stay in the lead, or take the lead, in any business.  No one enjoys having to deal with failure, or even talking about it.  It is also much easier to deal with if you act sooner than later.  Just ask Akio Toyoda. 
See you Thursday in Long Beach!

Title: Trouble Shooting a Daiwa SL 30SH
Post by: alantani on March 29, 2010, 10:05:42 PM
Trouble Shooting a Daiwa SL 30SH
Question:  I changed the drags on a Daiwa SL30SH (Carbontex), greased the drive shaft bearing and oiled the spool bearings.  Basically did everything and used everything that you said to do in the rebuild post.  I put everything back together and it all works, BUT when I turn the handle and just let it fly I start to hear a low grinding noise as soon as I let go of the handle and it continues to turn.  Seems like if I crank while the reel is tilted I hear that noise something loose or the gear is bad?  I have no left over pieces.
Answer:  There are a couple of possibilities.  If you turn the reel to one side or the other, then spin the spool in free and notice a noise, then you probably have a bad spool bearing on that side.  A quick manual check of the bearings will confirm that.  If the bearings are perfect, then the only other thing that could be making noise is the gear set.  Under a heavy load, the gear teeth become slightly deformed.  it becomes more pronounced when you crank the handle, turn the spool, and then press with your left thumb and place slight pressure on the spool.  If the noise is acceptable, stay with the original gear set.  If it is really bothersome, call the manufacturer and order up a new main and pinion gear.  Remember, you should always replace gears as a set. 

Title: Re: Pacific Coast Sportfishing Blogs
Post by: alantani on August 30, 2010, 05:49:33 AM

When do you really need a 2 speed reel?
In the hunt for big fish, most everyone will agree that a two speed reel is essential.  The question will commonly arise, however, at what point do you really need a 2 speed?  Big fish, obviously, but someone will invarialbly chime in, "Hey, I can land one of those without a 2 speed!"  OK, fair enough.  Remember the guy at that cocktail party?  Yeah, him.  The one with the fish tie, now your wife's EX-boss.  Well, that's fine.  Maybe he can land a big fish with a single speed reel because he can bench press 300 pounds.  But fishermen, like fish, come in all shapes and sizes.  Meet my good friend, Ed Watson. 
Ed fishes all over the world.  On one of his last fishing trip, Ed hooked into an 80 pound yellowfin with bad attitude.  You know the type.  These are the young bucks.  The ones that don't know when they're beat.  Ed had a 6:1 high and 3:1 low gear ratio 2 speed reel and kicked it into low gear as soon as he hooked up.  The panga had no rail and his reel had no harness lugs.  Ed was in a "stand up" arm wrestling match the entire time.  Even with a 3:1 low gear ratio, there were times when Ed could not turn the handle.  At Ed's age, pumping that rod for the entire fight was not going to be an option.  So what we need to do is build a special reel just for this man.  We have the technology. 
Let's build a 50 pound two speed for Ed.  First of all, we are going to take advantage of improvements in fishing line technology and make a tiny aluminum spool that will hold 400 yards of 65 pound solid spectra.  We will use an old school 40 turn bimini and and 20 turn albright to connect a 3 foot leader of 50 pound fluorocarbon.  The frame and side plates will be aluminum as well.  Built in harness lugs will be unnecessary for most fishermen, but they will be a lifesaver for Ed .  A large, oversized, offset handle grip will make cranking much more comfortable and greatly reduce the chance of Ed's hands cramping.  Since we're already asking for the moon, why not design a reel that will deliver 24 pound of drag at strike with no side load.  That way we can string up Ed's dream reel with 60 pound fluorocarbon and push the drag to 40% of line weight, should the need ever arise.  Finally, we need to select a gear ratio.  Ed will not be fighting any of his big fish in high gear, so let's just pick a middle-of-the-road gear ratio like 5:1 for the high gear.  That way he won't take all day to retrieve a bait.  All we need now is a low end gear ratio and, for that, we will need Ed's help. 
We're going to hook up Ed to the rod and reel, then we are going tie the line off to a trailer hitch.  With a 50 pound topshot of fluorocarbon, a drag setting of 30 to 40% comes out to a 15 to 20 pounds.  Let's set our dream reel to 18 pounds of drag at stike.  With Ed harnessed in, there is no way that he can crank the handle when the reel is in 5:1 high gear.  Even with a 3:1 low gear ratio, Ed will having difficulty.  Let's drop the gear ratio down to 2:1.  Leaning back into the harness with the line tied off to a trailer hitch, Ed can now crank the handle with relative ease.  When he's hooked up on a fish, he can settle into a harness and crank in line without having to arm wrestle and pump the rod.  A 2:1 low gear ratio is the one for him!
So there you have it.  The ultimate old fart's reel!  A 400 yards 65 pound spectra capacity, a 5:1 high gear ratio, a 2:1 low gear ratio, a massive oversized handle grip, and harness lugs.  But there are many small two speed reels available to choose from and this one might be gear down too low for you.  To decide which one is right for you presonally, choose a drag setting and see if you can crank the reel in low.  If you can't, plan on having to pump the rod or look for a reel with a lower gear ratio. 

Alan Tani - 8/29/2010 

Title: Re: Pacific Coast Sportfishing Blogs
Post by: alantani on March 06, 2011, 04:03:00 PM
Question: "My reel is making loud clicking noises during casting.  For some reason, the noise goes away when I flip the reel upside down.  I think the pinion gear is either worn down and/or the bearings are bad.  I'm planning to get new bearings and pinion gear to fix the problem.  My reel doesn't have a model number machined on the housing, but it looks like its a 545 model.  The parts inside are mostly the same as other 5xx models, so it shouldn't make a difference. 

I think the company is no longer in business, but does anybody know where I can buy replacement parts for these reels?  Are they using same parts from other manufacturers that I can swap out?  The inside looks a lot like Shimano reels.  If anybody can help, I appreciate it.  Thanks."

Answer:  Upside down?  I could understand left or right, but upside down?  i wonder if it's the yoke for the pinion gear. 

Regardless, check the two spool bearings and see if they are rough.  If so, measure them out and order up a new set.  The bearings are available from several different suppliers.  If the bearings are OK and the reel had previously worked without this trouble, then that means that something in this reel "changed" in the meantime.  Center the spool for zero load and zero freeplay and see it the noise goes away.  If so, you are done.  If not, loosen the bearing cup up a bit to put some side to side play in the spool.  If the reel clicks and clacks when turned down to the left, it might be the click gear rubbing against the click tongue.  Check the clicker assembly.  The click spring might have "loosened up," allowing the click tonge to bang against the click gear.  this is a common problem in many reels.  If, howver, the reel makes noise when it is dipped down to the right (the handle side), and if this is a new problem, then the pinion gear might be rubbing against the shoulders of the spool shaft.  The eccentric jack might have been bent or worn somehow, not providing enough "lift" to the pinion gear.  It can be "bent" back.  Similarly, there might be damage to the pinion yoke.  That would be unusual because the pinion yoke in these reels is stainless steel. 

It will take some digging, but the answer is in there somewhere.  And spare parts for these reels may still be available, but parts from other manufacturers are not interchangeable with parts from other manufacturer's reels.