I carry spinning and casting outfits under my gunnels. Both types have their purpose. Recently I noticed issues with two of my favorite rigs. A baitcaster wasn’t allowing my to reach the fish I needed to reach, and a spinning reel was losing me fish once hooked. After a little investigating, I was able to address the issues, and make both reels better than new.
Going the Distance
Bearings are a crucial element in baitcasters, allowing the spool to spin freely when casting. They like a little oil now and then, but if grit makes it through the seal, you’ll know it. The friction will slow the revolutions. You might hear a grinding sound. Replacements are available, but so are upgrades. I reached out to Jeff Brooks, specialist at Boca Bearings (bocabearings.com) for ideas on optimizing the performance of my reel.
Boca Bearings produces ceramic hybrid replacement bearings in both ABEC 5 and ABEC 7. Annular Bearing Engineering Committee standards describe the smoothness of the ball bearings, with ABEC 7 being the best found in fishing reels. The smoother the bearings, the less friction, the better the bearing spins. Jeff explained a few reasons why fishermen may favor ceramic bearings over steel. Ceramic is two-thirds lighter than steel. It is harder than steel when in ball form, and is virtually frictionless, due to being non-porous. This allows the bearing to stay cool. “Constant heat causes bearing failure,” said Brooks.
What about lubing the bearings? “Lube is not required with ceramics. If anything, just one small drop to help against the elements will do,” Brooks explained. “A bearing with no grease is like walking on land. A bearing with lube is like walking through mud.” The ceramics do make a slight humming sound when spinning; this is because there is no lube. “A lube-filled bearing’s noise is dampened but does not mean it is working better.”
Both orange seal, which Boca Bearings is known for, and metal seal ceramics are available. Many saltwater anglers favor the metal slightly, as they keep out the grime a little better. A reel model chart on the website indicates the correct size. Brooks said a new saltwater bearing is coming out this summer.
Replacing bearings is simple, with reel-specific videos on Boca Bearing’s YouTube channel. Tools are also available such as the spool pin pliers and work mat to make replacement easier.
Many light spinning reels come with felt drag washers. These will suffice for short-running species like seatrout, but long, hard runs of an over-slot redfish or snook can cause a lot of heat and burn the washers up. I learned this the hard way. While fighting a large snook on a 3000-sized combo, my drag got sticky and proceeded to get worse. I backed off the drag, palmed the spool and brought the fish to hand. I took off the drag knob to investigate and pieces of felt spewed out from under the top metal washer. Toasted. Water intrusion can soak into the felt as well, causing the same issue.
The answer to my problem: carbon fiber drag washers. I reached out Dawn Geider of Smooth Drag Premium Drag Washers (smoothdrag.com), maker of the Carbontex drag washer.
“First and foremost, carbon fiber washers offer a smoother drag, with little to no startup inertia. Plus, you gain more drag, three to five pounds depending on the reel,” said Geider. “Carbon fiber also has a very high heat tolerance, making them much harder to burn up. They don’t soak up water like felt washers, either.”
Grease is not necessary on the washers, but if you would like to add a light coat, Geider suggests Cal’s Universal Reel and Drag Grease.
As with bearings, drag washer replacement is simple. A reel-specific chart on the Smooth Drag website ensures you get the correct size. FS
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