10 Common Spinning Reels Problems and Solutions

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Imagine this scenario. You are out fishing, and you suddenly hook into a trophy fish. The rod tip snaps! It’s not a complete disaster if your spinning reel is still functioning. There is still a relatively decent chance of landing that fish of a lifetime.

Now let’s look at the same event, but this time, the rod is fine, but the reel does not work. It’s probably game over for landing that fish. 

This article will cover common spinning reel problems and how to fix them. Here are our top reel problems and solutions:

  • Line Not Engaging
  • Twisted Line
  • Loud Whirring Reel
  • Drag Not Functioning
  • Damaged Spool Lip
  • The line is Continually Slipping
  • Line Tangles Under the Reel
  • Bail Arm Tripping
  • Can´t Cast Small Lures & Bait
  • Locked Spinning Reel

Why Is My Fishing Line Not Engaged With My Spinning Reel?

You likely forgot to lift the bail arm when you threaded the rod with the line. This is a prevalent mistake but, thankfully, one that is easily fixed.  

The first reaction by many is to reach for scissors and cut the line at the swivel. Do not do this. By cutting the line, it will be necessary to re-tie your rig.


Instead, unscrew the drag adjustment at the top of your reel and take out the spool and line. Now lift the bail arm and put the spool back into the reel. Tighten up the drag and adjust it to where it should be. Close the bail arm, and your line is now under the bail, and your line will be engaged. Now you are fishing!

This is most common with beginners, but I have seen many experienced people do the exact same thing.   

Why Is My Line Twisted And Tangled?

This has happened to us all. Of course, it’s usually at the worst possible moment. The best course of action is to rectify the problem once before it worsens. If you leave a small tangle on the reel, it will inevitably turn into a huge problem. Here’s how to fix the issue.

Solution When Boat Fishing

If you are out on a boat, cut off your rig at the swivel leaving only the bare line. Now put the line into the water leaving the bail arm open. Drive the boat forward and let the line loosen out in the water. Stop the boat when most of the line has been released from the spool. Rewind the line while it is still in the water. The water will take out the twists and leave you ready to commence fishing again.

Solution When Shore Fishing

Now let’s look at options if you are fishing on land. First, find an anchor spot, such as a tree or a jetty. Tie a loose loop around the anchor point. Attach a swivel to the end of your fishing line and hook it onto the anchor loop. Now release your bail arm and point the rod towards the swivel. Walk the line off for about forty yards. Now close the bail arm and bring the line tight. Start to rewind toward the anchor loop with the rod pointed at the loop. Wind in nice and steady, and the swivel will take out all the twists. Job has done, back to fishing.

Why Is My Spinning Reel Noisy? It’s Driving Me Crazy!

There’s nothing worse than a loud reel whirring while you are trying to enjoy a quiet day of fishing. Why is it doing this, and how do we fix the problem? This is a more complicated issue to fix. It could be a problem with your roller bearing assembly where the bail arm fits in. There is a metal cover usually attached with a Philips screw.


Remove the plate and check the bearing for sand, grit, and corrosion. Try to clean it as best you can use a Q-tip. You can push the bearing out from the bottom using your screwdriver. Make sure it goes back in the exact way it came out. Use only manufactured approved anti-corrosion reel grease and use it sparingly. When reassembling, do not tighten down too much on the screw. Try out the spinning reel. If the noise comes back, it’s time to replace that bearing.

 Why Is The Drag On My Spinning Reel Not Working?

If you can’t hear the drag, then there is a problem. We need to fix this. There are a large number of working parts on a spinning reel, and there is a lot of strain on those parts.  


Firstly, loosen the drag completely. Now check by turning the spool to see if the drag frees. Tighten the drag tension knob and give it a try. If this solves the problem, you won’t need to disassemble the reel.  

But What If The Problem Persists?

The next course of action is to remove the drag knob from the top of the reel. Remove the drag knob by screwing it anticlockwise. Remove the spring clip and all the washers. Have a good look at everything and inspect each piece for corrosion, grit, or sand. Make sure you know how it all came out. It’s going back in, in the same order. I always keep a white towel under the reel and put the parts in order so that they go back in reverse order. Clean and lubricate with a small amount of approved reel grease. 

Suppose you find anything that is broken or heavily corroded. Then that part will have to be replaced. Good tackle shops will either have the part or be able to order it.

Now reassemble in order. Replace the reel knob back onto the top of the spool knob. Screw the drag knob back onto the reel, and you are finished.

 There Are Cuts On My Spinning Reel Spool Lip

If you notice lacerations or scratches on your spool lip, then it will have to be fixed. Do not ignore this issue. It could cause your line to stick or even break.

In my opinion, the best course of action is to replace it. Spool lips cost about $20 for popular models. If you prefer to fix it, let’s look at some options.


Use a fine wet sanding grit in the 1000 range. Try to smooth out any scratches, bumps, or cuts. This may take some time. If you have a Dremel tool, this will make your life a lot easier. Try to smooth it out with the Dremel and buffing wheel.

You can also use the jeweler’s rouge and apply it to scratches before buffing. Rod epoxy is another option. Apply lightly and allow to set before buffing it down.

Why Does My Braided Line Keep Slipping On My Spinning Reel?

The first issue to tackle is how the line was attached in the first instance. Many people like to wet their lines before applying them to the reel. Do not do this with a braided line. A braided line can hold water, causing it to swell. When it eventually dries, your braid will not be tightly wound to the spool. If you did wet the line, you would need to take it off the spool and, if dry, reattach it.


When attaching your braided line to the spinning reel, check the spool. New spinning reel spools have a grip on the spool specifically for braided lines. Older spinning reels will not have a grip and will be smooth. You could consider upgrading to a new spinning reel with a grip. Don’t worry, though, and we have a solution for this particular problem.

Start your spool with about 20 yards of monofilament line. Check out YouTube for online tutorials. The best knots I find are the uni knot and the arbor knot. Both are excellent for attaching fishing lines to the spool. The monofilament fishing line is not as slick as the braid and will grab the spool better than the braid. Join the monofilament line to the braid line again using the uni knot, and your line will not slip again.

If you are out on the water and your braided line is slipping, here is a quick fix. Take the line off the spool by manually stripping it. Get down to the knot that is tied to the spool. Now take about one inch of electrical tape and put it over the knot. This will fix the problem until you get home and sort it out properly.

Why Did My Line Get Tangled Under The Reel?

Sometimes, for no particular reason, your line may become a horrible nest of knots under the reel. This can easily happen if you buy a cheap rod and reel with the line already attached. Can we fix it? Of course.


Unscrew the drag knob from the reel, turning it anticlockwise. Untangle the line and cut off the tangle. Re-thread your rod and carry on fishing. When you go home, replace the line making sure that it is the correct weight for your spinning reel.

Why Isn’t My Bail Arm Tripping?

If your bail arm is sticking, then it probably got bent. This can be fixed.

You could buy a new bail arm, but honestly, it’s just a piece of metal wire that can be manipulated.  


Firstly, check where the bail arm is attached to the reel. Everything should be flat. Check the action, the gap where the wire fits into the reel. The gap should be flat with no distorted spacing. If it’s uneven, then there is tension. Release the bail by disconnecting the assembly. The bail arm should be without tension. If it springs out, that means there is a bend on the bail wire.

Try to realign the wire without tension. Using a pair of pliers, gently bend the wire to where you think it should be. Go between both ends of the bail, removing any tension until it fits freely and there is no gap. Reattach the bail arm.

Why Won’t My Spinning Reel Cast Small Lures And Baits?

If you encounter this problem, then you may not have the correct weight of line for your spinning reel.  


The recommended weights are usually noted on the housing unit of your spinning reel. If you are unsure, take the reel to your local bait shop, and they will give you the correct line for the fish species you are targeting. You will find it much easier to cast small lures.

Why Is My Spinning Reel Locked Up?

This can be either a pretty straightforward problem or a complete disaster. There are many moving parts to a spinning reel, and loose parts can cause the rotation to jam. Other factors include corrosion or poorly aligned gears. Can we fix it? We will not know until the reel is taken down.


Before you start to disassemble the reel, check under the spool. Remove the drag and the spool. Check for any sand, grit, or corrosion. Check all the working parts, such as the shims, washers, and o rings. Gently clean everything and use a recommended lubricant. Reassemble. If the problem persists, we will have to get into the body of the reel.

Remove the side plate using a Philips screwdriver. Check the gears and make sure everything is aligned. Check the bearings for sand or grit. If there is any dirt, clean it off with a cotton wool swab or Qtip. Apply a drop of recommended oil. If the bearing is worn out, it will need to be replaced. Reassemble.

If you are not happy opening up your reel or are unsure of what you are looking for, take it to a specialist.

Preventative Measures Will Ensure The Lifespan of Your Spinning Reel.

We have reviewed some common spinning reel problems, but why did they happen in the first place? Can we prevent these problems from occurring? Read on for a few tips on caring for your reel.

When you finish fishing for the day, put your reel away somewhere dark and cool. Please do not leave it out on your boat. The sun will destroy the line and heat the working parts. Always clean your reel with a spray bottle of clean water and a fine mist. Take the tension off your drag completely. Never use WD 40 on your reel. Although it may seem like a quick fix, WD 40 has properties that quickly break down the oil and grease that is needed to make your reel work.

Final Thoughts

If you care for your reel– your reel will look after you. When there is a small problem, deal with it before it becomes a large problem. Happy Fishing!

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