You could have the best gear available but an incorrectly spooled spinning reel can ruin a day of fishing. Spool up wrong and you either get line billowing off the reel or you get a tangled mess because of extreme line twist.
Unfortunately, putting line on a spinning reel is one of those basic skills that most experienced anglers overlook and new anglers are unsure of. As a result, both new and experienced anglers often do it wrong.
So, if you are new to fishing or wondering why you always have trouble with line twist, it’s time to go back to basics and learn how to spool up a spinning reel right.
Major cause of line twist
There are many ways to introduce line twist on a spinning reel. For example, using lures or baits that add spin or continuing to reel while a fish is pulling drag. But this kind of twist is limited only to the portion of line that spans from your reel out to your lure. Plus, it is easily remedied with proper use of swivels and better fish fighting techniques.
However, spooling up your reel incorrectly is the worst offender because it adds major twist to all the line on your reel. So, cutting off 10 or 20 yards of line when it gets tangled won’t be the end of your troubles.
But how can spooling up a spinning reel cause line twist? It all has to do with memory. Monofilament and fluorocarbon fishing line like to maintain their coiled shape once wound onto a spool. As a result, putting line on a spinning reel in the opposite direction as it was put on the manufacturer’s spool puts tension and twist on the line causing wicked tangles.
Therefore, we need to try to maintain the same direction of the coiled memory or even reset its memory all together.
Spooling up by line type
Before we show you the best way to spool up spinning reels to eliminate line twist, let’s go over the differences between line types and how you should adjust your process based on the line you prefer using.
Monofilament is the most popular fishing line. Whether you use it as a backing, as the mainline or as a leader, its versatility is undeniable. For most of us, mono is the only kind of line needed for just about any fishing application. That’s why our fast and easy steps for spooling up a spinning reel right are geared towards anglers using mono. If that includes you, then skip below to see the step by step guide.
Fluorocarbon line is prized for it’s invisibility underwater, making it the ideal line for ultra clear water situations. It’s also highly abrasion resistant and more dense that mono which allows it to sink slowly in water. However, most anglers utilize it as a leader material or as a longer “top shot” section by attaching it to a braided or mono mainline.
Few anglers use fluoro as a mainline and for good reason. It has a high level of memory which makes it very difficult to use on a spinning reel. If you opt to use it as a mainline, use the same steps as you would for mono and be especially careful not to over spool the reel.
There’s a lot to like about braid but it is a completely different animal compared to mono or fluoro lines. Relative to breaking strength, braid is very thin and flexible. It does not hold much memory but it is still prone to line twist and wind knots.
When putting braid onto a spinning reel, you can skip the pre-soak but still orient the spool so that the line uncoils in the opposite direction as the rotation of your reel. Otherwise, it will introduce twist just like mono.
The primary issue with braid is spool slipping. Tying slick braid directly onto the reel spool causes it to spin in place when you start to spool it. You can tape it or do what most experienced anglers do and use a monofilament backing instead. A mono backing also lets you get away with using less braided line. Just fill up your spool 1/2 or 2/3 full with mono then join the two lines with a double uni knot and fill the rest with braid.
6 steps for spooling up a spinning reel without twist
These are the steps we use to spool up every spinning reel we own. The process works wonders, so follow along.
Step 1: Buy the right line for your reel
The first step, and the one many of us get wrong, is to buy the right line for your specific spinning reel. Every reel is rated for a range of monofilament line weights and corresponding capacity. You can easily see which line is appropriate by looking at the side of the line spool on your reel. Some reels may also list compatible braid weights too.
Don’t make the mistake of putting on heavier line than what is recommended. It will only cause problems. If your reel says 4, 6 or 8 pound test, stay within that range. The reel spool is sized to handle the memory of the recommended line sizes. Heavier line wound too tightly on a small spool will billow off every time you open the bail.
Also, choose a line that matches your intended fishing needs. Just because your reel is capable of using 8 pound test, it doesn’t mean you should use it. If you can get away with it, use lighter line. Not only is lighter line more manageable to fish with, it’s also less visible to skittish fish.
Step 2: Pre-soak the line
Once you choose the line, it’s time to give it a little pre-soak. Sounds odd to pre-soak fishing line but it really does help. In our experience this is the most critical step. So, don’t skip it. Soaking monofilament or fluorocarbon in warm water loosens the bonds in the nylon material.
A 10 minute soak in warm water (tap hot) is all you need. You can see the difference in the line below.
Pre-soaked line is more limp and the coils almost disappear. Now, when you spool it onto the spinning reel, you are not fighting the memory of the line. Instead, you are actually reseting it to match the line spool on the reel.
Step 3: Place the line spool with the correct side up
The importance of this step is up for debate. In my testing, spooling line on clockwise, counterclockwise or any other way you can think of results in some degree of twist. But the issue still causes some confusion. Should the line go on your spinning reel clockwise or counterclockwise?
Honestly, it doesn’t make a big enough difference to stress about. Yet, the general consensus is that spooling line on in a counterclockwise direction is the best practice. Intuitively, it makes since because line comes off the spool and goes on the reel in the same direction with this orientation. So, that’s what we do.
But here’s the most important thing to remember.
It is line memory that causes line twist to be such a major problem. Eliminate the memory and you’ll eliminate most of the symptoms of line twist. That’s why we don’t skip the pre-soak step.
Step 4: Attach the line to your reel
Now it’s time to tie the line on the reel. Start by attaching the reel to a rod. Then, route the line through the bottom rod guide. Next, with the bail open, make two wraps around the reel spool with the line and tie a double over hand knot to secure it in place.
You can actually use any knot you wish. The improved clinch knot or arbor knot are fine too. However, the strength of the knot is not very important. Mainly because if a big fish is able to peel off all your line, that knot is not going to save you anyway.
Tighten the knot as securely as possible and trim the tag end close to the knot. Sometimes the line can slip around on the spool while trying to reel it, so use a small piece of tape to keep it in place. This is especially an issue if you put braided line straight on a reel without a mono backing.
Step 5: Start winding line on the spool
With the line attached and the pre-soaked spool laying on the right side so it unravels counter clockwise, all that is left is to wind the line onto the reel.
Rest the butt of the rod on your lap and grip the line up by the first rod guide using a clean rag. Squeeze the line gently with the rag so that as you reel there is light tension on the line which helps it to lay evenly on the spool. You don’t need the rag but you can burn your fingers without it.
Be sure not to squeeze the line so hard while reeling that the drag slips. This will introduce twists in the line the same way it does when cranking in fish that are stripping drag.
Step 6: Don’t over spool your spinning reel
As your reel spool fills up, slow down your reeling so you don’t over fill the spool. An overfilled spool leads to the problem of billowing. That’s when line automatically coils off the spool when the bail is open and there is no tension on the line. Eventually, you’ll end up with a birds nest that is impossible to untangle.
So, how much line should you put on a spinning reel? Ideally, you should stop filling the spool when you are within 1/8th to 1/16th of an inch from the edge of the reel spool. This allows for optimal casting distance without billowing.
We like to use lighter lines if possible so we shoot for 1/16th of an inch from the edge. This gives us the ability to trim off line as needed without dropping below the 1/8th inch mark, which is when you will start loosing casting distance and slowing retrieval speed.
Watch our video for even more tips on spooling up right!
More tips to serve you well
- You don’t need fancy line spoolers: Using a line spooler has limited effect on line twist. Even so it’s just another tool that over complicates the whole process. They might work for level wind reels but avoid using them with spinning reels.
- Pre-soak vs. soaking last: Some anglers prefer soaking their freshly spooled up mono after it is on the reel to reset the memory rather than pre-soaking. That works too but you have to disassemble your reel to do it. Not only do you risk loosing small washers, you are also soaking some sensitive parts in water while doing it. Pre-soak the line spool instead.
- Line conditioners can help with memory: Some anglers opt to spray their mono or fluoro with line conditioner to reduce that troublesome memory. While it does work, it is not a replacement for pre-soaking line or improper spooling.
- Avoid line twists while fishing: Once you put in all that effort to spool up right, don’t undo it all with bad fishing technique. Never reel when drag is slipping. Every turn on the crank adds 5-6 twists in the line if you do. Use quality swivels when appropriate and manually close your bail after casts instead of reeling to close it.
- Spinning reel line twist is inevitable: Spooling up right and using good technique while fishing goes a long ways in eliminating most line twist. However, you’ll eventually end up with some level of twist after time. It’s simply a result of how spinning reels function. You might get a season or two out of your line before twist becomes a major issue. But if in doubt, just change out your line. Don’t risk breaking off a fish of a lifetime or loosing expensive tackle.
Putting line on a spinning reel seems like a minor task but it is the foundation of everything in fishing that comes after. Hopefully, our steps for putting line on a spinning reel unveiled the mystery and cleared up any confusion you may have had. Once you learn to spool up right to avoid line twist, everything else becomes easier.