It's a very common misconception, subtly fueled by marketing. But no. Your fishing reel isn't waterproof. They are getting close, but that doesn't mean they can't be ruined by salt water.
Sadly, we see many reels come in for 'warranty repair' suffering from significant internal corrosion. In some cases, the cost of repair is not worth it. On near new reels.
We don't like telling people their new reels are ruined; we have no doubt that customers don't like to hear it.
The problem often is that we can't tell you how it happened. We weren't there. But we can tell you why it happened - as the technician opens up the reel to find water, sometimes sand, and always corrosion in the internal workings of the reel.
Then we have a difficult discussion. Customers generally look after their gear - at least - to the best of their knowledge. They wipe them down after use and maintain them to the best of their ability, so they are in utter disbelief that their reel has salt water in it. However, we can only comment on what we see - and we see high levels of corrosion in a reel; it is what it is. They don't corrode on the shelf!
All reel manufacturers have similar exclusions to their warranty - corrosion due to salt water intrusion is not a warrantable issue.
Unfortunately, it only takes one incident of saltwater ingress to start the corrosion - so damage isn't necessarily related to how much or for how long a reel has been used. We have seen more than one reel 'used once' and then put on a shelf for five months, only to be found to be corroded. Unfortunately, it got some salt water in it. That salt water then dried out, leaving salt residue, which then starts working to corrode the metal, and, if you have ever noted the state a salt grinder can end up, also start working away and the now weaker metals when next used. It's a double whammy!
My Reel is Magsealed. Is it waterproof?
Absolutely NO! Magsealed is a barrier designed to reduce water and dust penetration into the reel through the most common points of entry during normal use. *Magseal does not completely waterproof or dust proof your reel! - Diawa NZ
Many manufacturers are constantly working on new technologies and systems to make their equipment more robust and last longer. However, it's important to understand the limitations of this technology - and - certainly - just because you have purchased the top-of-the-line reel, it doesn't mean you still need to look after it.
Yes, top-of-the-line reels are starting to feature systems that make the reel more resistant to water ingress - but not much can deal with a tumble in the surf without something getting into the system somewhere. Dunk a reel in the sea, and you still have a problem you need to deal with quickly, get that reel hit with a wave coming over the bow or a quick dunk into the sea during a retrieve; there are countless ways that salt water can get on the reel.
By providing dependable sealing structures and gaskets at 12 critical locations throughout the reel body, we are able to create a water-resistant structure that is highly reliable and durable. Ensuring that it can hold up when used in extreme saltwater conditions
By combining our water repellent coating and our specially designed, water channeling, labyrinth construction, X-Protect provides high-level water-resistance without sacrificing light gear and rotor rotation.
These new systems lead us to IPX ratings - which is a method of measuring a device's water resistance. It's something that is relatively new - and as one company has come out with ratings, other companies have followed suit. However - it's very important to understand what the IPX rating means and its practical limitations.
What is an IPX Rating?
IPX ratings describe a certain device's protection level against water ingress. In layman’s terms, it describes a device's waterproofness or resistance.
The IPX mark is followed by a number 0-8 (0 – no protection at all, 8 – fully waterproof and submersible in the water of up to 3m/9ft depth).
The testing is done with fresh water – if the device is IPX7 or IPX8 rated, it doesn’t mean it can survive submersion in saltwater.
Also, if the device is IPX7 or IPX8 rated, it doesn’t mean it’s also IPX6 rated/certified (if it’s submersible in water, it’s not necessarily resistant to strong water jets).
But my old reel was waterproof?
No. It wasn't. But. Many of the older reels had a simpler design, fewer bearings and moving parts and also featured more graphite in their construction. Newer reels are lighter, smoother, more complex and more prone to corrosion. So it has become a game of give and take with features and weight vs robustness and corrosion inhibition.
There are also stainless steel options that would provide a little more resistance - but - still require looking after too get the best out of them.