How to Put Line on a Fishing Reel

Here’s the Proper Way to Fill Baitcasting, Spinning, and Spincasting Reels

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Photo © Ken Schultz

How you put line on the spool of a baitcasting, spinning, and spincasting reel is key to minimizing line snafus and to having trouble-free fishing.

Improper spooling of line, especially nylon monofilament, can cause twist. Nylon monofilament has memory and develops a “set” in that position in which it has been placed for a long time, such as the plastic supply spool on which it is wound for packaging.

In addition, line on a supply spool is slightly coiled, which is an inherent part of the manufacturer's spooling process. Coiling is less pronounced in top-grade lines, in lines that come off of large-diameter supply spools, and in braided and fused microfilament lines. Generally, no matter who the manufacturer is, the smaller the supply spool the more likely there is to be coiling. Taking line from a large supply spool is always preferable to taking it off a small one.

Line that is put on baitcasting reels is fairly free of twisting problems as a result of spooling because it is wound straight onto the reel arbor of a spool that revolves. However, line on spinning and spincasting reels is especially prone to twisting because the spool of the reel is stationary and a moving arm wraps line around the spool, often putting a twist in it as it wraps.

How it’s Done Right

With all three of these reel types, the key to proper spooling is watching how the line comes off both sides of the supply spool.

Take line off the side with the least apparent coiling and apply moderate pressure on the line before it reaches the reel.

To begin spooling, mount the reel on the rod and run line from a supply spool through the rod guides beginning at the top of the rod. On a spinning reel open the bail, tie the line firmly to the spool arbor (an Improved Clinch Knot will do), snip off the tag end excess, and close the bail.

On a spincasting reel, remove the hood, run line through the hood hole, tie it to the arbor, snip off excess, and re-attach the hood. On a baitcasting reel, run line through the line-winding guide, tie it firmly around the arbor, and snip off excess.

Place the supply spool on the floor or any flat surface. The line should balloon or spiral off the spool as you pull it up. With the line threaded through the rod guides and attached to the reel, hold the rod tip 3 to 4 feet above the supply spool. Make fifteen to twenty turns on the reel handle and stop. Now check for line twist by reducing tension on the line.

Lower the rod tip to one foot from the supply spool and check to see if the slack line twists or coils. If it does, turn the supply spool upside down. This will eliminate most of the twist as you wind the rest of the line onto the reel. If the other side has more of a coiled or twisted nature to it, go back to the first side and take line off while it is face-up.

The trick here is to take line from the side that has the least amount of coiling. With spinning or spincasting reels, this method in effect counter-spools the line on your spinning reel and cancels the curling tendencies that would otherwise exist.

While some recommend placing a pencil or other object inside a spool to let that spool run freely while you put line on your reel, this is not as good a method as the one previously described. Although it may suffice for spooling baitcasting reels, it compounds the twist problem on spinning and spincasting reels.

Tension is Important

Keeping moderate tension on the line with one hand as you reel with the other is important when filling any baitcasting, spinning, or spincasting reel. Do this by holding the line between your thumb and forefinger with your free hand. A loosely wound reel results from not applying this tension and may cause overwrapped loops of line to exist on the reel spool later when you use it for fishing.

Braided or fused microfilament lines need more tension than comparable nylon monofilaments when spooled onto the reel so that the pressure of fighting a large fish doesn’t cause wraps of line to bury into a loosely packed spool.

Wear a glove if necessary to help keep the microfilament line from cutting into or burning your fingers while applying tension.