Skip to Content

Why Does Fishing Reel Go Backwards?

Fishing reels are evolving every day, thanks to technology! But the more it develops, the more complicated it gets to handle these reels. Don’t stress if your fishing reel is going backward, you are not alone. In fact, it is very common.

Why does fishing reel go backwards? 

If your fishing reel is going backwards, it is probably because of your anti-reverse switch, problems with the bail, or issues caused by the drag system. Otherwise, a component of your anti-reverse switch, drag system, or bail might be damaged due to poor maintenance.

You can fix these complications on your own but in some cases, going to a sports shop is necessary. And in harsh cases, you might have to change your fishing reel completely.

4 reasons why fishing reels go backwards 

Issues with the anti-reverse switch

Most fishing reels come with an anti-reverse switch which makes the reel spin backwards. It could be going backwards because the switch is always turned on. Otherwise, the anti-reverse switch might be stuck in the off position. 

If it is not either of these then there may be parts of the anti-reverse component that are broken or assembled in the wrong position. 

There could be anti-reverse clutch problems. The spring in your spinning reel might be disconnected or the hammer piece of your anti-reverse system could be stuck on the latching gear.

In the case of your baitcasting reel, the anti reverse bearing can be bad or worn out. 

The drag system

Controlling the drag system can be tricky. It can’t be too low and has to be in the correct setting for fishing comfortably. 

The drag system functions with the anti-reverse and controls the pressure input by the fish on the line. Your fishing reel might be going backwards because of crossing the pressure limits of the drag. 

As a result, the line will get out of the fishing reel if too much pressure is applied by the fish.

Sometimes the star drag can be loose too. 

Another reason could be from broken components of the drag system or due to poor maintenance of the system.

The Bail

The Bail acts as a guide for the line on the spool. It can be open and closed to take out the line, casting and retrieving. 

Your fishing reel can also be going in the wrong direction if your Bail is not placed properly during casting or while retrieving it. 

If it is still spinning in the wrong direction even after being positioned correctly, there is something wrong with the Bail. There could be damaged components of the bail that need to be cleaned or replaced. 

Poor/Wrongful Maintenance

All parts of a fishing reel need to be checked and maintained regularly. Even something as little as a loose screw can damage your reel completely. 

But over-maintenance can be harmful for your reel. One of the reasons your reel may be spinning backwards is because of over-greasing. This happens because the grease reaches the bearings of the fishing reel. 

The anti-reverse roller clutch might be wet or over-greased. Excessively applying oil or any form of lubricant to your reverse bearing can cause it to permanently fail. 

The bearings have a latch that prevents them from spinning in the wrong direction. This is hampered when an excessive liquid element is applied to your reel.

How to Stop Fishing Reel From Spinning Backwards? 

If you are having issues with your anti-reverse system. 

Check if your anti-reverse is engaged or not.

You can keep your anti-reverse engaged all the time to prevent it from spinning in the wrong direction. This will ultimately stop it from spinning in both directions. 

In case that does not solve the problem, there could be a problem with the anti-reverse system inside. The following are the steps to fix it. 

  • Step 1: Disassemble the anti-reverse.
  • Step 2: Using a screw, take off the housing cap, spool washers, and rotor nut.
  • Step 3: Unscrew the screws on the rims of the bearing cap to find the clutch bearing.
  • Step 4: Then unscrew all the components of the clutch bearing.
  • Step 5: Readjust the roller clutch sleeve if it is not positioned correctly.
  • Step 6: Reassemble all the parts properly and hopefully it will fix the problem. 

Look out for any broken or damaged parts. Do not try to fix it yourself. Get it fixed in a shop or by a professional. 

How to fix the Drag System 

Your fishing reel might be going in the wrong direction because of your drag system. To fix it, check if it is set in the right way. The fish size matters, set the drag calibration according to the size of the fish you are planning to fish for. 

If your setting is too low, then just increase the setting of the drag. If this does not work either then something might be broken. 

  • Step 1: Open up your drag system.
  • Step 2: Clean the inner parts of the drag system
  • Step 3: Replace any broken parts. 

However, keep in mind that the components of a drag system are complex so you might have to get it replaced by a professional instead. 

The Bail 

See if it is installed correctly. If it is still going in the wrong direction, there might be issues with the mechanisms of the bail. 

In order to fix this problem, follow these steps: 

  • Step 1: Unscrew the bail.
  • Step 2: Take it out and check the bail.
  • Step 3: Check if all the components are okay or not.
  • Step 4: Take it to a store if anything is broken. 

To fix the over-greasing of your anti reverse roller clutch, follow the steps below: 

  • Step 1: Take the anti reverse roller clutch out.
  • Step 2: Wipe it with a tissue
  • Step 3: Allow the reel to air-dry before assembling it again.

To remove oil from the bearings of the fishing reel: 

  • Step 1: Take out the housing cap.
  • Step 2: Open all bearings.
  • Step 3: Clean it thoroughly using acetone or brake cleaner to remove all oil and grease.
  • Step 4: Brush it using a toothbrush or any type of brush.
  • Step 5: Apply a very minimum amount of oil or lubricant.
  • Step 6: Reassemble all parts. 

What is anti reverse on a spinning reel? 

An anti-reverse on a spinning reel is exactly what its name tells us it is.

This is a popular feature on a fishing reel that has many functions. This feature enables you to back-reel, reel in reverse and it also engages the drag. 

With the help of this function, you don’t always have to rely on your drag system for line tension. The anti reverse can be used to adjust the drop between the lead and tip. 

Do all reels have anti reverse function?

Not all fishing reels have an anti reverse option. Some of the Daiwa Corporation’s fishing reels do not have this anti reverse feature. Specifically on their high-end saltwater reels. Shimano also eliminated this facility on some of their upper-end reels. 

An anti reverse switch helps the angler decide if they want to keep it engaged or not.

However, some fishing reels such as the Shimano Sedona remain permanently on the anti reverse mode. This makes the angler rely on the reel’s mechanisms and not have full control.

Having the anti reverse clutch allows more control for the angler and might avoid line twists.

Do I need an anti reverse spinning reel? 

Over the years, this has been a highly debatable discussion between people who go fishing. Everyone has different opinions about it so it all comes down to how you prefer to fish. 

This technique is widely used by anglers who fish for smaller freshwater fish for example Smallmouth, Walleye, and Bass. 

This feature allows adjusting the pressure on the fish according to your preference and you will not always have to rely on the drag. If you do not have the anti reverse option, you might be less in control especially if your drag system is below average. 

Other people think of the anti reverse facility as a weakness. They believe that the anti-reverse switch is quickly damaged with saltwater causing the reel to fail and only find this technique effective on smaller fish. 

Their opinion is that the reels last longer if they do not have the anti reverse on a spinning reel.

Some manufacturers removed the anti reverse from their spinning reels in order to reduce the weight of the spinning reel and claim that their drag system is enough. 

Many dedicated back-winders do not prefer this anti reverse system because they have gotten so used to the old features.  

At the end of the day, it is up to you if you want an anti reverse spinning reel or not. It may not be a priority but it can be helpful to many!

Where is anti reverse switch on spinning reel? 

This is the final component of the fishing reel and is usually placed at the bottom of the reel. Sometimes it is placed on the heel of the spinning reel. 

In other models such as Shimano, it might be hard to locate it since it’s very small. It’s typically tucked away in the corner of the spinning reel. 

Although, often it depends on what model you are using and it’s best if you check the model directory and instructions.

How to use anti reverse on a spinning reel? 

The anti reverse system comes with a switch. If you flick the switch across, it will disengage it. This means the spinning reel can go in both directions, forwards and backwards. 

However, if it is always disengaged, it can easily tangle in your lines when it goes in both directions. You might have to store more reel to prevent that. 

Once you flick the switch, it gets engaged and will only turn forwards, not backwards.

If you keep the anti reverse on, you will not have to worry about it reeling backwards by mistake.

How to fix anti reverse on a spinning reel? 

If your anti reverse switch is not working, follow the steps below: 

  • Step 1: Loose the drag.
  • Step 2: Pull it right off.
  • Step 3: Take the spool off.
  • Step 4: After that, remove the gear, rotor nut, and stopper screw using a screwdriver.
  • Step 5: The spring might be disconnected. Reconnect the spring. Or replace it if it is broken.


  • Step 5: If the hammer piece is stuck with the latching gear, fix it.
  • Step 6: Reassemble all the parts as they were.

How to fix anti reverse on baitcaster? 

Your bearings might have worn out or it may not be clean.

You could replace the bearings instead of replacing the whole thing.

Or clean the bearings using cleaning appliances. Make sure it is thoroughly clean especially if there is too much grease and apply new grease. The problem should be solved. 

How to fix anti reverse on Daiwa, Shimano, and Lew’s spinning reel?

For Daiwa:

First, check the anti-reverse bearing. Daiwa bearings can be sensitive if too much lubricant is used. 

First, take the AR bearings out. Wipe the bearings carefully with a lint-free cloth. Do not remove all the lube, just enough from the surface. 

If this does not fix it then a cam might be misaligned. It needs to be re-bent back into the correct position to properly engage the anti reverse system.

Otherwise, you can take it to any Daiwa store to repair it.

For Shimano: 

You will be needing tools such as a small flat head screwdriver, a half-inch nut driver, and a small phillips head screwdriver. 

  • Step 1: Remove spool assembly.
  • Step 2: Remove spool washers, rotor nut, and retaining screws.
  • Step 3: Lift the rotor assembly.
  • Step 4: Remove roller clutch assembly.
  • Step 5: See if the roller clutch sleeve is positioned with a large diameter area towards the top.
  • Step 6: Reassemble everything. 

You can call their customer service helpline if it is still not working.

For Lews: 

The anti reverse might be having issues if there is dirt or sand stuck in your roller bearing. You will have to take it out and clean it. Or you might have over-greased it. Reduce the grease. 

Hope this solves your problems! If it doesn’t, it’s best to call a repairman or someone experienced. Do not disassemble parts of your reel if you don’t know how to put them back.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Are fishing reels universal?

How do fly fishing reels work?

How do electric fishing reels work?

How does a push button fishing reel work?

How does a closed face fishing reel work?

How does a conventional fishing reel work?