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Shimano Baitrunner Reel Maintenance
by Ron Bernknopf and Steve Panus

rby and I love our Shimano Baitrunners. Arby has even been known to say that he wants to be buried with his! They are quite versatile, sturdy reels that offer the advantage of dual drags, allowing a great variety of options for use in various fishing scenarios. Shimano BaitrunnerI have a BTR-4500 that is about five years old, and a BTR-3500 that I bought the spring of 2002. Arby has a couple of the BTR-6500 series, and in a temporary moment of insanity, sold his only BTR-4500.

Since regular maintenance is the key to long life and dependable performance of these reels, we have decided to pool our knowledge and develop this article. Cleaning and maintaining most reels is not that difficult, but some may get intimidated by the dual drag system, and therefore, are hesitant to attempt do-it-yourself maintenance on the Baitrunner. If you follow the steps below, you will find it quite easy and satisfying, and allow you to keep your reel in top condition. Besides, it can help pass the time of those cold winter days, when you can only dream about the suds.

The majority of the credit for this procedure belongs to Arby, as I learned how to do it most of it from him. I have added some comments and ideas that I have learned from both observations and mistakes that I have made while cleaning my Baitrunners. While this is not a total tear down, if it is performed on a routine basis, you will eliminate the need of a total tear down, unless you have had a fishing disaster!

Cleaning the Shimano Baitrunner

What You Will Need to Clean your Baitrunner

  • A Good Set of Small Screwdrivers (Both Flat Head and Phillips Head). Do not use cheap ones. Remember, many of the outer screw have seen a lot of salt, and may be a little corroded, making the metal a bit softer. A quality set of screwdrivers will allow you to remove and recondition the screws without stripping the heads.
  • White Lithium Grease. This can be purchased in a hardware store or automotive parts store. A small tube will go a long way.
  • Q-Tips for sand and grease removal, and reapplication of grease
  • 3 or 4 Solder Flux Brushes. I have found that in some areas of the reel, the fiber from the Q-Tips will snag on the gears or other sharp components. If you use a Solder Flux Brush (it is also called an Acid Brush), you can avoid this. You can trim the outer bristles of the brush on both sides to make the tip as skinny as you need to get into tight areas.
  • WD-40 for both lubrication and old grease removal.
  • A cardboard beer or soda case flat. I use this to spray the reel with WD-40 in. It captures the excess and can be easily disposed of.
  • Masking tape to help keep the screws sorted with the parts they go with.
  • A small cardboard box or plastic container to hold the disassembled reel parts.
  • A couple of soft, non-tufted, cotton clothes. I find tufted cloths such as dishrags or washcloths have a tendency to snag on gears and sharp components. A piece of old bed sheet or "bunting" cloth works well. Bunting cloth can be obtained in the food gadget section of a supermarket or drug store.
  • A pair of tweezers or needle-nose pliers for handling small screws and washers. This is especially important if you have "chubby" fingers, as I do. I prefer the tweezers.
  • A source of fairly high-pressure tap water. If you desire, a can of compressed air (the type they use to clean off computer keyboards and components.) This can be handy for removing sand from bearings.
How To Clean the Bail Arm and the Top of the Reel (Under the Spool)
  1. Remove screw on side plate to the bail arm.
  2. Tape the screw to the bail arm side plate to keep them together, and place them in your parts container.
  3. DO NOT TURN THE SPOOL while the side plate is off, or you will be on your hands and knees searching for the bail trip lever and bail trip lever spring!!!! (I did that, and when I told Arby, I am sure he sat there shaking his head!)
  4. Bail Trip Lever & Spring
  5. There will probably be LOTS of sand in here. Clean out the sand with a cloth, Q-Tip and/or solder brush.
  6. Remove the bail trip lever spring, noting the holes where the spring engages the bail trip lever and the reel body. Place the spring in your parts container.
  7. Turn the spool slowly, and the bail trip lever should come free. Remove it and wipe it free of sand and grease. Place the bail spring lever in your parts container.
  8. Using a Q-Tip or solder brush, wipe out the sand from the case under where the bail trip lever goes. Be sure to get the "rails" where the lever moves up and down.
  9. On this side, where the bail attaches to the reel, there is an "e-clip" on the inner side. Remove this clip and slowly pull the bail away, noting the orientation of the bail trip cam. Clean this area of sand. Grease and replace the bail, cam, and clip.
  10. Hold Down Screw
  11. Remove the Drag Knob and take off the spool. Using a rag and/or Q-Tip or solder brush, clean any sand from the bottom of the spool, and the reel case under the where the spool goes. Set the spool aside.
  12. Notice and unscrew the large nut in the center of the spool spindle. You will need to remove the hold down screw first or you will not be able to turn it. Place the hold down screw in your parts container. The large nut will loosen, but will not come all the way off of the spindle.
  13. Separate the top by pulling forward. It will not completely come off the reel but that’s good enough.
  14. Notice the thin wire loop that is actually the anti-reverse spring. It must go over the top of the metal piece. If it has slipped off, it is easy to reposition it.
  15. Using a flux brush, remove as much of the old grease and sand as possible. I find this important to do before using water to wash out the sand, or you just push the grease and sand further in.
  16. Flip the anti-reverse lever a few times and clean out the grease on the cam.
  17. Since I prefer to water wash and then WD-40 all the parts at once, I now go to the main side plate and get into the guts.
Anti-Reverse Spring
Anti-Reverse Cam

How to Remove the Side Plate and Clean the Guts

  • Remove the handle. To remove the handle on the 4500, just turn it the opposite way than you would if you were retrieving line. To remove the handle on the 3500, unscrew the cap at the opposite end of the handle, and then pull the handle off. (That is how mine are, either method may work for any series, depending on the vintage of your Baitrunner.)
  • Look at the Baitrunner arm. You will see that the Baitrunner arm will cover one of the screws on the side plate. Notice the Phillips head screw on the opposite side of the Baitrunner arm. Remove this screw and separate the Baitrunner handle. This may seem difficult if the Baitrunner Arm is very dirty. If so, place a flathead screwdriver under the bottom of the Baitrunner arm (near the pivot point) on the side opposite of where you took the screw out. Pry it up, and it will pop off. (This may take some pressure. I had to call Arby at this point, because I was unsure, and thought by forcing it, I would break it. Be assured, it will pop off!) Put the screw and the removed side of the handle together and place them in your parts container.
  • Handle Screw
  • Remove the 4 side plate screws and the side plate will come off. Notice that the one screw that was blocked by the Baitrunner arm is smaller than the others. Be sure to put the correct screw in this spot when you reassemble.
  • You are into the guts. On the spindle of the handle, there is a bearing. There is usually a lot of sand on this bearing and the handle spindle. Remove this bearing and clean it with a cloth. On my 3500, this is a sealed bearing. On the 4500, it is an open bearing, and the sand can get jammed between the balls. (Am not sure if the type of bearing is inherent to the Series, or if it was an improvement with the newer Baitrunners.) This is where the can of compressed air comes in handy. Clean the bearing well and place it in your parts container.
  • On the handle spindle under the bearing you just removed, there are two or three thin washers. Remove them and wipe them clean. Place them in your parts container.
  • On the opposite side of the reel, there is another bearing at the end of the handle spindle. Unfortunately, this bearing cannot be removed without a total tear down. Clean any sand you can get to with the edge of a cloth. Again, the compressed air comes in handy here.
Bearing and Washers
Non-Removable Bearing
  • Using a Q-Tip and/or your solder brush, remove as much old grease in the guts of the reel as possible. I wipe the brush on a piece of cloth every so often to clean it.
  • Using fairly high-pressure tap water, wash off any sand that you missed inside the guts, under the spool area, and in the bail arm area. Shake the reel free of excess water.
  • At this point, I prefer to let the reel completely air dry before proceeding. If you are in a hurry, however, the WD-40 in the next steps will displace most of the water.
  • Place the reel in your cardboard beer/soda flat. WD-40 the entire area inside the guts, in the bail arm trip lever area, and under the spool to remove the old grease. Pay special attention to the area of the anti-reverse spring because it gets pretty hard there. I actually soak it pretty well and let it sit for five to ten minutes, then drain out the excess and give it another squirt, and drain again.
  • Wipe down the reel with a clean cloth to remove any excess WD-40 from the outer surfaces of the reel. BE CAREFUL handling the reel at this point, it can be pretty slippery, and you do not want to drop it!!!
  • Re-grease the guts of the reel using a clean solder brush. Pay special attention to the gear on the front and the bar on the back that moves back and forth when the handle is turned. You can rotate the spool and you will immediately see what we are talking about. It will look like a piston (picture above). A small amount of grease goes a long way. You are not packing the reel with grease, only lubricating it. It is a good idea to rotate the spool every so often to distribute the grease and expose ungreased areas.
  • Put a small amount of grease (just a very thin film) on each of the handle spindle washers and replace them.
  • Put a small amount of grease on the handle spindle bearing and replace it
  • Spray the side plate screws with a small amount of WD-40 and wipe them off.
  • Replace the side plate and the side plate screws, remembering to put the smaller screw in the hole that will be underneath the Baitrunner arm.
  • Turn the reel over and lightly grease the handle spindle bearing on the opposite side.
  • Replace the handle and handle cap.
  • Back up top to under the spool, re-grease the metal arm under the anti-reverse spring.
  • Flip the anti-reverse lever a few times to distribute the grease.
  • Grease the point where the arm goes up and down when you turn the spool.
  • Re-assemble the top of the reel.
  • Lightly grease the rails that the bail trip lever moves on.
  • Lightly grease the bail trip lever. Just a very thin coat. Replace the lever.
  • Reinstall the bail trip lever spring. It only goes in one way. Touch with a very small dab of grease.
  • Again, DO NOT TURN THE SPOOL at this point, or you will be looking for the bail spring again!
  • Open and close the bail. The metal piece in there should now move back and forth freely
  • Put the side plate back on.
  • On the other side, remove the screw on the bail itself. Remove the roller and WD-40 the entire area.
  • Re-assemble the roller and the roller should now turn freely.
  • Remove the screw of the side plate on the roller side of the bail. You may want to skip this part if you do not want to fiddle with the other bail spring, but some sand can build up in here. Notice the orientation of the bail spring. Remove the screw on the inner side of the bail. Remove the bail spring. Clean this area of sand, and replace the bail spring. It may take a few times to get it back in the right position.
  • Bail Spring
  • Replace the side plate.
  • Wipe the entire reel with a clean cloth.
  • Put a dab of grease on the lever on the bottom of the aluminum spool. (This is the drag clicker.)
  • Replace the spool.
Drag Clicker
2003 S. Panus, Editing

YOU ARE DONE!! Of course, at this point you may want to strip the line, clean up the exterior of the spool, and re-spool with fresh line. In between this total maintenance, be sure to rinse them with fresh water after every trip.

So there you have it. Treating your Baitrunners to this tender loving care once or twice a year will help them give you many years of fishing pleasure, and guarantee that they are in top performance mode when you hook into that fifty pounder!

2003 - 2012 R. Bernknopf, S. Panus and - All Rights Reserved

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