Spooling line onto a baitcasting reel can seem a little intimidating at first, but it’s really quite easy once you get the hang of it. If you implement these few simple tips, you can make short work of this task and ensure a smooth casting reel every time. Let’s get to it.
Thread the line and secure it to your reel spool
You can spool a reel without it being on a rod, but the best practice is to put the reel on your rod and then spool line onto it. This keeps the line form trying to pile up on one side of the reel. Simply run the end of the line through your rod guides, starting with the tip, and then run it through the guide in your reel.
There are several ways to secure your line to the reel spool. I like to tie a slipknot around the spool, and cinch it down tightly. This works well with fluorocarbon, monofilament and copolymer lines, as they all have some stretch and will tighten down onto the spool tight enough for the loop knot to hold without spinning once you begin to reel.
If you’re using braid, you’ll find that simply tying a slipknot around the spool and tightening it won’t work. The braid has no stretch, so it can’t be tightened enough to ensure that it won’t slip. The best tip here that I’ve found is to secure the line to the spool using a small piece of electrical tape. This will work with other types of line as well, if you need this added step to keep your knot from spinning.
Use something to hold the spool
You’ll need something for the spool of line to spin on as you spool your reel. There are lots of options here. I like to put it on a peg on my wall. But having another person hold the spool on some sort of makeshift shaft works well too. You can use a pencil, screwdriver or any other cylindrical device that will fit through the center of the spool to hold it. You’ll typically need to puncture the label on the spool to do this.
Avoid the temptation to simply toss the spool onto the ground or in the bottom of the boat, to let it spin freely and bounce around wildly as you spool your reel. This could damage the line and will definitely cause lots of other problems when you go to make your first cast. We find out why next.
Spool orientation and line memory
Making sure the spool is oriented correctly is one of the most important things when spooling a baitcaster. You want the line to come off of the top of the spool, especially with fluorocarbon, monofilament and copolymer lines. Basically, any line that’s not braided line will have some memory to it.
Memory refers to the lines tendency to maintain the shape it had while on the spool. Braid has no memory. These other lines have various amounts of memory. Stiffer lines have more, softer lines have less. You want to use this memory to your advantage, by reeling it onto your reel the same way it’s coming off the spool.
As the line comes off the top of the spool, it goes over the spool of your reel and under it as you begin to reel. So the line is in effect maintaining its same shape as it comes off the spool and onto your reel. This will prevent a lot of line twists and backlashes that will occur otherwise.
Keep tension on the line
You’ll want to loosely apply tension to the line as it comes onto your reel, to ensure that the line is wound onto the spool snugly. This will keep loops from developing that will cause backlashes later. The best way to do this is to use your non-reeling hand to hold the rod while simultaneously pinching the line between your thumb and forefinger of the same hand.
This may feel a little awkward at first, but this is the best way to keep a little tension on your line as you spool your reel. You don’t have to pinch it all that firmly, to the point that it’s hard to turn the reel handle. Think about the amount of resistance you’d feel if you were reeling in a big spinnerbait, and then use your fingertip and thumb to create that same amount of pressure.
Be sure to keep that pinch point of the line a couple inches above the top of your reel and directly in the center. The reel guide will move to the right and left as you turn the reel handle, evenly distributing the line across the spool. But if you slide that pinch point to the left or right, it will fight against the reel guide and cause your line to pile up on one side of the reel.
How much is enough
Not putting enough line onto your reel will keep you from being able to make long casts. But spooling too much line will cause the reel to backlash very easily. So you want to find the sweet spot. Most reel spools have a small transition near the edge of the spool where the spool goes from a smooth and gradual taper to more of a sharp angle. You want to spool your line until it’s just a couple rotations shy of this transition.
This is the perfect amount of line to prevent unnecessary backlashes, while also giving you enough line on the spool to make long casts. Being certain that you have as much line on the reel as possible, without causing problems, will also give you enough to spare as you lose a few feet when retying or if you lose several feet of line due to breakage.
This may seem line a lot, but as is the case with anything else, the more you practice spooling a baitcaster this way, the better you’ll get at it and the easier this process will become.