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Ensuring that your fishing reel has been spooled correctly is one of the most important techniques to master. How to put fishing line on a reel “correctly” is one of the most frequently asked questions, even from an experienced angler.

If your line has not been spooled correctly, you will find your chances of catching a fish diminished before you even put your line in the water.

Having a correctly spooled reel will enable you to cast more effectively, reduce line twist, birds nest tangles, and will ultimately let your line sit more naturally in the water, improving your chances of catching.

Follow these simple steps on how to put fishing line on a reel, and you will be trouble free and catching fish like a pro.

Different Techniques Require Different Setups

First, it’s worth pointing out that different fishing techniques require different tackle setups, and this means different fishing reels. For example, spinning setups use a spinning reel, which hangs underneath the rod and typically has a single-sided handle that you operate in your non-dominant hand. A spinning set up is excellent for medium- to close-range fishing using floats, lures, and spinners. It is generally a more straightforward setup to master than a baitcaster, so tends to be favored by the beginner angler.

It is therefore ironic, that putting the line on a spinning reel is deemed to be more difficult than spooling a baitcaster reel.  Do it correctly and your spinning reel will be trouble free. Do it incorrectly, and you will be plagued with line twists and tangles all day long.

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How to Put Fishing Line on a Spinning Reel

Once you know the secret to spooling a spinning reel, it’s a simple process that will significantly improve your casting ability and prevent continual line twists and tangles. The most important thing to understand about spooling a spinning reel, especially when using monofilament line, is that the line has to be put onto the reel spool in the same direction it comes off the spool it is stored on.

The second thing to understand is the line capacity of the spool you are filling and the tensile strength/diameter of the line you are filling it with.

To get maximum performance, you need to fill the reel to about 2 mm below the spool lip. Therefore, if your spool capacity is 1,000 yards at the 10 lb. tensile strength, you will need at least 1,000 yards of 10 lb. line, or say 1,500 yards of 6 lb. line (check the instructions on your specific reel model to the strength of line you are loading it with).

  • You need to see which way the bail arm on you reel turns when you wind the handle forward and match it to the way the line comes off the spool. Usually, you will find that if you put the spool of line on the floor in front of you and put the label facing upwards, it will be correct to the fishing reel direction when loading the line.
  • Thread the line the reverse way down your rod through the line guides. You don’t need the fully assembled rod – just the bottom section with a line guide and the reel attached will be fine. Now tie the line to the reel using a secure knot. My preference is an arbor knot as this has good strength and nice line trim.
  • Lower your rod tip so that it is slightly to the right and level with the spool on the floor, so that as the line comes off, it is roughly in line with the rod and reel.
  • Wind a few turns of the handle so that the line begins to wind around the reel spool ensuring it has made a grip on the spool. Gently hold the line using your finger and press it lightly against the rod handle to create some light tension as you wind the line in. You can now start to wind in the line smoothly and speedily so that the line sits evenly and smoothly across the reel spool.
  • Keep winding until the line is almost at the top of the spool, then slow down your line retrieval ensuring you do not exceed the level of the spool lip. The optimum amount of line is about 1-2 mm below the front rim of the reel spool.
  • Now cut the line and fasten to the reel spool using an elastic band, or the line fastening clip on the side of the spool if you have one, and you’re ready to go!

Top Tip 1

If you find that the line is not sitting correctly on the spool and it is twisting and spilling off the reel, don’t worry as there is a failsafe way to correct this.

Set your rod up to fishing position and attach a small ledger weight to the end of the line. Standing in a field or park, make a cast as far as you can across the grass, then put your rod down and walk to the end of the line and detach the weight. Next walk back to your rod and reel, and with the tip touching the ground (in the grass) and your finger creating tension on the line as before, reel the line back onto the reel.

As the line is free of any spool or fixed end resistance, as it moves through the grass and back onto the reel, it will be free of any memory, creating the perfect load.

Top Tip 2

If you don’t have enough line to fill the spool entirely or you are on a budget, then backfill the reel spool with your old fishing line. This will ensure that your new line will fill the rest of the spool to the max rather than only filling it half way.

For example, if the spool has a capacity of 1,000 m and you only have 500 m of the new line, then leave 500 m of your old line on the spool tie the new line using a suitable knot and then fill the remaining 500 m of the new line to the spool, so it is correctly loaded.

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How to Put Fishing Line on a Baitcasting Reel

Putting the line on a baitcasting reel is much simpler as it doesn’t have an orbital bail arm and front-facing spool. This means that line twist and spooling is much less of an issue. The crucial points when filling a baitcasting reel is to ensure that it has the correct fill level. As with the spinning reel, not enough line restricts casting ability but conversely an overfilled spool will cause the spool to jam in the reel.

Baitcasting reels tend to have a much larger capacity than spinning reels, so the matching capacity of the new line to the spool capacity is critical.

It is very common to use braided fishing lines with baitcasting reels, and as such, it is recommended to always use a monofilament backing as braided lines tend to slip on the aluminum reel spool. Monofilament creates a firmer bond to the reel spool than braided lines and as such this creates better performance when you have released a lot of line and are playing big fish.

Just follow the same process highlighted for spinning reels above, however the direction of the line memory is not essential making spooling much easier.

When filling baitcasting reels, I like to put the new line spool onto a pencil or stick so that it is free to spin. As before, connect the line through the line guides in reverse and tie to the line backed onto the spool.  Place your thumb onto the line, this time pressing it against the top of the rod handle as the reel is top mounted. Gently but smoothly retrieve the line onto the reel until it is about 3 mm from the edge of the reel guide.

Once completed, fasten the line using an elastic band, and you’re ready to go.