Damaged Bail Wires and Bail Springs are two of the major nightmares of spinning reel usage, but are usually very easy to repair. When your bail does not return, first determine whether the bail spring is broken or whether the bail wire is bent, probably from an impact. Rarely does a spring get weak.
To check if the bail spring is broken, first remove the screw that holds the bail wire and roller to the arm, and pull the roller and bail away from the arm. You can then turn the arm and see if there is spring tension. (A few reels have the bail spring on the wire side of the reel so check for tension on the wire.) If there is spring tension on the arm, then the bail spring is not broken.
Next, carefully check the bail wire. Check whether it lines up with the arm or whether it points off in a different direction. Bent bail wires are more common than broken bail springs. Most bends come from the front of the reel so look to see if the wire is bent back toward the rotor cup or has any odd flat spots. With care most bail wires can be reformed to their proper shape. The newer stainless steel types are a little harder than the older chromed brass types. Two things to be aware of when reforming bail wires is, 1. make sure that any pliers you are using are smooth jaw type, you don’t want to put any gouges in the wire, and 2. be sure to support the wire where it has connections to the reel so you don’t break some other part.
Broken bail springs usually are very simple to replace. The biggest problem is locating a replacement. Some of the early flat coil types can be tedious to install because you have to start the spring and hold-down screw, at the same time as you rotate the bail arm into position (Mitchell 300, Quick Finessa, and Penn 710 types). The dog leg-type are much easier to install, but also break more frequently and can be easily made from spring wire if yours is no longer available (early Daiwa and Shimano types). Lastly, the easiest one to change is the current Coil Spring types (think ball-point pen) (current Daiwa and Shimano types). These rarely break, but the support arm that the spring ride on frequently breaks.
If you have an older reel and with a broken spring, and if you can’t locate an original replacement, frequently a substitute from some other reel can be used. Examples are Quick series reels like the 330, 440, and Finessa can use a spring from the Penn 710. The dog leg-type can usually be replaced by springs from Daiwa or Shimano. Talk to your local repair shop. They should be able to help you locate or substitute the needed parts.
If doing the replacement yourself, remember that nothing has to be forced if you are doing the assembly correctly. If you start to force parts, then something else is wrong. Stop before you cause bigger problems.
Lastly, since this is winter time, clean your equipment, service or have your reels and rods serviced, and store them properly, until the next time you need to use them. Don’t wait until the night before a fishing trip to determine that you never cleaned your reel and now it won’t turn, or you have missing or damaged tips or guides on your rods.
This Tackle Tip offered Ron Crandall of Ron’s Reel Repair