Uses For Old Fishing Reels – What To Do With Them?

With over 40-plus years of fishing, you tend to collect a lot of fishing reels. 

I don’t remember throwing any of them away, and I’ve kept a few dead reels in my collection for a reason.

Just because a reel doesn’t cut it anymore or is relegated because you’re using a better one, there’s no need to throw them away.

On the contrary, these once-loved reels are still valuable. There are quite a few practical uses for old fishing reels.

Let’s have a look at what you can do to save your old fishing reels from a landfill or a ritual burial at sea.

1. Sell Them on eBay

Selling your old or unused reels on eBay can make you quite a bit of cash. 

It’s a great way to get money towards a new reel, tackle restock, or another fishing gear purchase.

Better still, some popular and sought-after reel series tend to hold their value. 

If they’re in good condition after a season or two, you can make a lot of money – even close to the purchase price.

I’ve had this situation twice. Once I sold a Van Staal for $50 less than I bought it. It was in great condition, but I’d had plenty of use from it – including a heap of surf fishing.

The other reel was a Stradic Ci4. By the time I’d sold it, I’d used it more or less for free. The guy gave me 25 dollars less than I paid, and it was 18 months old.

You never know the value of a particular reel to another angler. You’d be surprised how many anglers want to get their hands on superseded models.

And you’re probably not surprised by the number of anglers keen to make a saving on a reel purchase. Even if it’s only 25 dollars. 

Who cares about a few scratches on the rotor, right?

The trick is to avoid getting attached to favorites and getting into a habit of assessing a reel’s condition and usefulness a year or two after you buy it.

Rotating your reel stock via selling through eBay is a great way to keep your arsenal up to date at an affordable price.

2. Donate to Kids

Giving your old fishing reel to a young relative, a young neighbor, or some random kid whose family you’re fishing near is very satisfying.

The beauty of this approach is that you’re fostering our sport and making a young angler very happy.

It’s important to remember that it should be in excellent working condition if you’re giving a reel to a kid.

It’s not so nice to pass a reel on to a young person who will struggle to use it because of its acquired performance nuances.

You may have managed the reel’s misgivings without a problem. However, a kid’s going to struggle. If you’re donating to kids, ensure that the reel you’re passing on works well. 

It’s not a problem if it looks a little used; however, it must perform as per spec.

Hand-me-downs like this can be an inspiration – to you as much as the kids. It’s especially memorable when you’re giving them their first fishing reel.

fishing reel and gloves on a fishing box

3. Give Them to an Angler in Need

We all remember times when money was tight, and we didn’t have the cash to replace a broken reel or even have one fixed.

For many people who love fishing, the $25 bucks needed to purchase a combo from Walmart is eaten up every week simply by putting food on the table.

If you know a keen fisherman, down on their luck, who may have given the sport away simply because of financial reasons, give them a reel. 

If they also need a rod, why not give them a rod to balance?

If you have options for what you can provide, it’s a great idea to supply a reel (or combo) suited for local fish with great table qualities.

The great thing about fishing is that it can put food on the table – and fine quality food at that.

Think about times when you’ve taken enough fish home to feed the family for a week or more. 

Gifting a reel to somebody who is struggling is a gift far bigger than just the reel.

4. Learn to Service Your Reels

This is something I never did but wish I had. With an old reel you no longer use, you can take it apart, and there’s no consequence if you can’t put it back together.

I learned to service my reels on my important go-to reels. This was unwise because I damaged the first few.

The anti-reverse was the first thing to go on every reel I ever owned. I bet my full wallet this was the same experience for you too.

With absolutely no knowledge or skills, I took my reels to bits. Not only did I not identify or fix the problem, but I also wrecked the reel.

This was bad. These were my go-to reels, and as an elementary school kid, I had no spare cash to go and buy a new one.

An old fishing reel can provide valuable education. Open them up, and see how they work. 

Learn how to read the schematics. Identify parts, learn their technical names, and what each part does.

Understanding how to service and repair your fishing reels is a useful skill that will save you a lot of money over the years.

Learning to service your fishing reels with an old reel is easily one of the best uses for an old fishing reel.

5. Keep for Backup and Spare Parts

If you’re like me and have a modest arsenal, with only a handful of go-to fishing reels at any one time, it can be wise to keep old reels for backup.

I did this for years, and there were a few times when I needed my backup. It was rare, but I was grateful I’d kept them.

But old reels are a fantastic source of spare parts. Reel spares can be expensive and often take forever to be delivered – if you can get them at all.

You’d be surprised at how many parts from completely different reels to the one you’re servicing might fit.

Bearings, seals, handles, drag knobs, bail arms, and quite often screws, are all valuable parts that may well be a good fit for other reels.

Even if they’re not a perfect fit, a little modification is all that’s required, and you can have a busted reel up and running again.

This is now the main reason I hang onto my old fishing reels. They can be great parts donors, allowing me to get a critical reel up and running again with very little downtime.

Of late, my old reels have become donors for a few of my friends’ reels. It feels good to get them back up and fishing again with one of my old faithfuls.

The only problem is all the guys tend to call me first for reel parts. Perhaps I should start charging a fee.

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