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Best Fishing Reel Grease and Oil for Your Gears and Bearings: 2022 Reviews and Buying Guide

Written by: John B
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Proper maintenance is essential for your fishing reels. Ask any experienced angler, and they’ll tell you that if you want your reels to last - and perform like they did the day you bought them - the right grease and oil are critical.

And while there are still fishermen out there who swear by Vaseline or WD-40, there are far better choices for grease and lubricant than these.

We’ve consulted experts in reel maintenance, professional anglers, and other experts to create a shortlist of exceptional products.

Quick glance at the best grease, oil, and lubricant for fishing reels:

Grease

Oil/Lubricant

 

Best Grease For Fishing Reels Reviewed

Yamalube Marine Multi-Purpose Grease

Yamalube ACC-GREAS-10-CT Marine Multi-Purpose Grease, 10 oz Tube

Amazon 

The blue goo of choice for anglers around the world, Yamalube’s multi-purpose marine-grade grease is an exceptional product for gears and larger bearings that require protection from salt water intrusion.

Formulated to stick and resist shedding, this high-viscosity grease is extremely water-resistant and will not break down even when exposed to salt-water immersion. Apparently, it includes additives that actively degrade salt on contact, and as a result, Yamalube offers exceptional protection from the elements.

Ask reel techs anywhere in the world, and they’ll say that Yamalube is the way to go for the bearings and gears of larger spinning reels, conventional reels, and baitcasting reels.

As with all greases, Yamalube should be applied to create a light coating. Too much is not a good idea, and excess grease of any kind will affect performance by slowing bearings.

For smaller reel bearings, Yamalube may be a little too thick, creating more friction than you want in tiny reels. Still excellent for protecting and lubricating worm and pinion gears, a light oil is probably a better choice for small, light bearings.

Pros:

  • An exceptional product used worldwide by maintenance experts
  • High viscosity that sticks to surfaces really well
  • Salt water will not break down this grease
  • Highly protective of gears and bearings

Cons:

  • May be too thick for small reels

Penn X-1R Precision Reel Grease

penn reel grease

Available at Tackle Direct

When Penn was looking for a factory reel grease to use on its reels, they tested pretty much every product on the market. They were looking for a grease that was clearly superior, with the intent of buying the process to manufacture it.

X-1R quickly demonstrated that it was the best of the bunch, outperforming Yamalube in salt water immersion tests. Like its competitor, it apparently contains anti-salt additives, explaining its remarkable performance. 

Penn has since also added a proprietary bonding agent to this formula, and they stand by the results of their testing, claiming that there’s no better reel grease on the planet.

If it’s good enough for the engineers at Penn, it’s definitely good enough for you, and this reel grease resists salt-water intrusion at least as well as Yamalube, provides extreme protection, and is super slick on gears and bearings. It also sticks like it’s welded to metal, and no matter how fast you spin those components, it’s not going anywhere.

Like all greases, a little goes a long way, and there’s simply no reason to pack your reel with this product. And like Yamalube, it’s probably going to slow down small bearings, so if you’re doing routine maintenance on a smaller reel, use this on the gears, but stick to oil on the bearings.

As to why Yamalube is more popular with professionals, it’s simply a question of price. Experts in reel maintenance are buying a lot of reel grease every year, and Penn’s X-1R is a lot more expensive than Yamalube when you’re running through pounds of the stuff.

But for anglers servicing their own reels, the difference in cost is negligible, and X-1R is probably the highest performing grease available for reels maintenance.

Pros:

  • An exceptional product used worldwide by professional anglers
  • High viscosity that sticks to surfaces really well
  • Salt water will not break down this grease
  • Highly protective of gears and bearings

Cons:

  • May be too thick for small reels
  • More expensive than Yamalube

Ardent Reel Butter Grease

Ardent Reel Butter Grease, Yellow, Sm 6.25-Inch H

Amazon 

If you run a smaller reel and are looking for grease that’s lower in viscosity than Penn’s X-1R or the ever-popular Yamalube, Ardent’s got you covered with Reel Butter.

This fully-synthetic grease is not as thick, and thus not as protective against intrusion, as either of those alternatives. But for fresh water applications with smaller spinning reels, I think Ardent’s Reel Butter works well as a general-purpose grease for use on gears. 

They also produce a saltwater-specific version of this grease, and we’re guessing that they’ve included anti-salt additives to this formulation to make it better at protecting bearings from intrusion and the wear that results.

For my money, and on my reels, I’d still use Yamalube or X-1R. I’m not aware of many reel techs who prefer Reel Butter to these products, nor have I seen any data that suggests Reel Butter outperforms these alternatives.

In fact, because this product isn’t as thick as these more popular reel greases, it just doesn't stay put as well.

That’s really important to note. On gears, that’s not going to make much difference other than creating a mess in your reel. But on bearings that you’re trying to seal against intrusion, you want a grease that really doesn’t move.

But for small bearings, Reel Butter works well as a protectant, and that’s probably its ideal use.

Pros:

  • Slick and low-friction on gears
  • Easy to apply

Cons:

  • Doesn’t stick as well as Yamalube or Penn’s X-1R
  • Isn’t as slick as good oil in bearings

Cal's Universal Fishing Reel and Star Drag Grease

Cal's Universal Reel and Drag Grease Multi Use Purple 1 Pound Tub

Amazon 

Cal’s reel and drag grease has attained something of a cult following over the years, and this universal grease is certainly the best product for smoothing out a rough drag, though it needs to be used sparingly.

When applied to the star drag and drag discs, you will notice an immediate, profound improvement in drag feel. This stuff really works, and reel techs everywhere use it.

Cal’s comes in two viscosities: a tan for larger reels that’s as thick as Yamalube and Penn’s X-1R and a purple that’s more like Reel Butter.

If you’re going to use it as a general-purpose reel grease, I prefer the thicker of the two formulations for the reasons I outlined in the Reel Butter review: it sticks to gears better, and when used on a drag disc, it stays put and doesn’t break down quickly. I’ll also use Cal’s on any gear that might come into contact with a drag washer.

Fortified with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a material that’s very, very resistant to friction, Cal’s is easily the best product to use if you want to improve the performance of your drag washers, especially on a conventional or baitcasting reel.

That said, it doesn’t provide the same resistance to water or salt as Yamalube or X-1R, and some of the experts I consulted won’t use it on anything but a rough drag, complaining that on gears and bearings, it quickly absorbs water and begins to form a salt-water emulsion.

Pros:

  • Ideal for smoothing the performance of a rough drag
  • Available in two weights

Cons:

  • Isn’t as good a product for gears and bearings as Yamalube or Penn’s X-1R

Penn Precision Reel Oil

PENN Fishing PENN Reel Oil Multi-Color, 4 oz

Amazon 

Penn’s precision reel oil is the Yamalube of lubricants, used by reel techs and pros everywhere.

Made entirely of synthetics, this fine oil is ideal where you need to minimize friction, rust, and corrosion. It’s my preference as bearing oil, and just a few drops on bearings will really smooth your reel up and make it feel like new.

It can also be applied to gears, though I wouldn’t mix it with grease. For smaller reels, this can work better than grease, even on the gearing, and it’s definitely the way to go on tiny bearings. 

And for ice anglers, just a bit on the gears and bearings works well, and it won’t gum or turn solid in cold temperatures.

As with all lubricants, use this oil sparingly. The idea isn’t to drench gears and bearings, but rather to provide them with a thin film of protective oil.

The only thing I don’t like about Penn’s precision oil is the applicator tip. It’s far too big for precise application, and this product is best dispensed from a needle applicator or syringe.

Pros:

  • An exceptional product used worldwide by maintenance experts
  • Low viscosity that really slicks up your bearings
  • Highly protective of gears and bearings
  • Won’t get gummy

Cons:

  • Applicator tip is too big

Ardent Reel Butter Oil

Ardent Reel Butter Oil, Multi, One Size

Amazon 

Ardent’s Reel Butter Oil is a fully-synthetic, super low-viscosity lubricant that really works wonders on reel bearings.

When applied sparingly, this fine oil coats bearing surfaces, reducing friction and preventing corrosion and rust. It won’t harden or thicken over time, either. And its applicator is properly sized for the job, too, making it really easy to apply just where you want it.

Penn’s precision oil is far less expensive and very hard to beat, making it a more popular choice among maintenance experts and reel techs who buy reel oil in bulk.

But I wouldn’t be afraid to run Ardent’s oil on my bearings, and it’s clearly a very, very good product.

Pros:

  • Low viscosity that really slicks up your bearings
  • Highly protective of gears and bearings
  • Won’t get gummy

Cons:

  • ???

Quantum Hot Sauce Reel Lubricant

quantum hot sauce reel lubricant

Available at FishUSA

Quantum’s Hot Sauce is a legendary reel oil that plenty of anglers swear by, and there’s no question that it will improve casting distance on conventional and baitcasting reels. If maximum casting distances are important to you, skip the heavy grease and rely on Hot Sauce.

It really will make a difference you can feel.

A fully-synthetic product, this oil is ultra-low viscosity, allowing it to coat bearing surfaces and reduce friction, prevent rust, and minimize corrosion. It bonds well to metal, leaving a thin, protective film on the surfaces of gears and bearings.

It got a bad reputation for making a mess, simply because anglers looking to enhance the performance of their reels applied way too much of this product, slinging oil from gears and bearings like a top-less blender in a white kitchen.

A drop or two is all it takes on a bearing or gear to create a long-lasting, water-resistant film.

Pros:

  • Low viscosity that really slicks up your bearings
  • Highly protective of gears and bearings
  • Won’t get gummy

Cons:

  • ???

Corrosion Technologies ReelX Oil

Of all the oils on our list, ReelX is probably the best.

ReelX is simply an incredible lubricant, easily the forerunner in terms of performance. That’s why some of the big names in fishing use this lubricant at their factories, and it’s the stock oil in some very expensive reels.

And whether you need to lube a fly reel, reduce the friction in a bearing, or smooth out your worm or pinion gear’s performance, ReelX is the product to reach for, as it provides greater - and longer-lasting - lubrication than any of the other oils on our list.

Full synthetic, ReelX bonds to metal, making it very hard to displace. That keeps it where it needs to be, despite its ultra-low viscosity, and for my money, this is the oil to use on fishing reels.

Pros:

  • Low viscosity that really slicks up your bearings
  • Extremely protective of gears and bearings
  • Coats better than alternative products
  • Won’t get gummy

Cons:

  • ???

What We look for in Reel Grease and Oil/Lubricant

Viscosity

Viscosity is just a way to measure the thickness of a material, with high viscosities indicating that the product in question is very thick. By contrast, low viscosity substances are runny and thin.

Grease is typically high viscosity; fine machine oil is typically low viscosity.

Good real grease needs to be very thick to offer an impermeable barrier to water. You want it to create a slick, low-friction film on gears but also provide a physical barrier on bearings. 

Lower-viscosity greases have their place, and they work well as long-term lubricants. But for sealing a bearing, nothing beats thick.

But of course, high viscosities come with a downside: friction. 

On small moving parts that spin, like the bearings captured in a race, thick grease can slow their movement. You’ll notice that immediately as a reduction in casting distance.

If that happens, you might want to think about a low-viscosity replacement like oil.

Fine oils are very, very runny, and they typically don’t stay put very well. Essentially, that makes them short-term lubricants that need to be replaced much more frequently than thicker greases with staying power.

But their advantage is that they allow bearings to spin very freely, increasing casting distance.

But they can’t provide a barrier to saltwater intrusion, the downside to that thin, runny consistency.

The uptake for you?

Good grease is thick; good oil is thin.

Lubrication

Whether you’re using grease or oil, you want it to ease the friction of metal-on-metal contact.

It’s important that your gears have some lubrication to let their teeth - or channels in the case of worm gears - slide easily into place. You’ll notice an immediate improvement in your reel’s feel when you add proper lubrication.

That’s just as true for bearing surfaces, and you want those round steel balls to spin freely in their races. Without proper lubrication, a bearing can overheat, welding itself to a stop.

That’s game-over.

Selecting the right product is crucial to prevent this, and you want to avoid water displacers (WD-40) and penetrants, as that’s not what they’re designed to do.

Protection

Brass, aluminum, and stainless steel gears and bearings require protection from corrosion, rust, and wear.

When water enters your reel, it carries salt particles and sand with it, and these tiny bits of sharp material get into the nooks and crannies of your reel’s metal parts. That creates wear along their surfaces, increasing friction.

worn fishing reel bearings

These bearings were worn by a lack of protection.

Water - and salt - also encourage corrosion on even the best stainless steels, and it’s important that your grease or oil offers protection against this.

ruined bearings

If you don’t protect your bearings, they’ll end up like this.

But remember, even the best oils will need to be replaced frequently, while grease lasts longer.

Thermal stability

Oil and grease need to maintain their protective properties over a range of temperatures, from very cold to very hot.

Typically, this is directly related to viscosity, with thicker substances getting even thicker as the mercury drops. For ice anglers, oil is usually a much better choice than grease for just this reason.

But when the heat is on, and a big fish is running hard, the bearings in your reel are spinning like wheels of a stock car. And the heat that’s being generated by friction is a big, big problem.

Without proper lubrication, that heat can cause micro-welding in the bearing surfaces, bonding them to their cages or races and stopping your reel like a parking brake. If that happens, your line will break and you will lose the fish - and you’ll be looking for new bearings before you can fish that reel again.

You need oil or grease that can take very high heat without losing its lubricating properties, and that’s why synthetics are so much better than natural oils. They can take higher heat and remain slick.

Non-gumming

Oils not designed for reels can turn gummy over time, hardening in place and stopping your reel from functioning properly.

It’s essential that you choose oil that will not gum up over time.

Why not products like Vaseline or plain petroleum jelly?

TJ Stallings, an expert reel tech and employee at Real Magic Reel Lube, has seen plenty of mistakes over his long career. "One big myth is [that] petroleum jelly makes a good reel lubricant," he says.

Vaseline or plain petroleum jelly is too thin to use as reel grease, and it begins to melt at body temperatures. That’s not going to work in a bearing that gets hot or on a reel that’ll be in the sun. Moreover, it just doesn’t provide the protection to moving parts, or the resistance to salt, that the reel-specific products on our list do.

Back in the day, before these products were available, it may have been acceptable. 

Now, there are much better choices.

Why not WD-40, gun oil, or other penetrants?

Reel techs insist that these products will get gummy over time and may damage plastic parts. 

They can also break down grease over time, resulting in more friction, more wear, and more corrosion and damage to your reel. 

WD-40, while a fantastic water displacer, will absolutely turn gummy and hard over time, resulting in a huge mess that’s hard to clean from bearings and gears. In some cases, it will even stop your reel from working properly.

Reel techs complain all the time about clients who’ve sprayed WD-40 into their reels, as this ends in a headache for them more often than not.

WD-40 has a place - just not in reels.

How to Use Reel Grease and Oil/Lubricant

Experts recommend that reel maintenance be a regular part of your fishing experience, and there’s no question that once-a-season cleaning and greasing/lubing won’t give you the best performance or service life.

Reels can be complicated, though, and it’s important that you clear off enough space for all the components. Some anglers like to lay out a clean towel to keep small parts from rolling and getting away from them, and it’s always a good idea to keep the exploded diagram right there while you work.

For my uses, I typically apply grease to gears and oil to bearings. As Joe Davis, an engineer at Quantum, says, "For parts that mesh, such as gears, use reel grease. For parts that rub, use oil.”

But if you need to really present intrusion in a bearing, grease is the best way to go. 

Whichever road you opt for, there are two common mistakes.

The first is that anglers leave the old grease in place and just add some more. That old grease has started to break down, and it needs to go!

Just use an old toothbrush or cloth to scrub the old grease out from all the nooks and crannies, starting with a fresh surface.

The second mistake fishermen make when adding new grease or oil is overdoing it. 

Whichever product you choose, a little goes a long way, even if you’re trying to seal bearings against saltwater.

Check out these pictures from a noted maintenance expert:

That’s it - that’s as much grease as you need or want to protect a bearing.

Gears are similar:

lubricant in fishing reel bearing

Final Thoughts

Yamalube is undeniably an excellent reel grease, and from reel techs to reel manufacturers, there’s no question that it’s the most popular choice on the market. 

That’s a pretty strong recommendation, and you won’t go wrong with Yamalube.

That said, Penn’s X-1R is probably the superior product, and as you'd expect, it wears a higher price tag. For techs who run through pounds of grease a year, Yamalube is more than good enough and much more economical. But at home, a pound would last you the rest of your life, so the price difference doesn’t mean anything.

Given that, I’d probably pick the X-1R for my own reels.

Penn’s precision oil is also hugely popular, and like Yamalube, it’s both super effective and economically priced. Reel techs love it, and you won’t regret using it in your own reel.

But for maximum performance, ReelX just can’t be beat. It really will make a huge difference on bearings, and you will see longer casts, guaranteed.

Finally, if you’ve been plagued by a rough drag that started out smooth, Cal’s is the way to go. Just a dab or two massaged into your drag discs will make a world of difference, and there’s no other product that even comes close for this application.

As always, if you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear them, so please leave us a message!

About The Author
John B
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.
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