How to Spool a Fishing Line Onto a Reel

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How to Spool a Fishing Line Onto a Reel

by Garry Brummett

Many inshore saltwater anglers ask us, “Should I buy a filler spool of line and put it on the reel at home, or have you guys do it in the shop from your bulk spool?”

The answer for us is always to have the reel spooled in the shop, and here is why.  With professional spooling on a line winding machine, with professional, competent staff at the controls, you will get exactly the right amount of line for the reel, zero line twist, and the proper tension applied.

When you purchase a filler spool of line, that spool comes in a predetermined length, usually 125, 150 or 300 yards. Since every reel has a different line capacity at any given diameter, buying exactly the right amount is an uncommon occurrence.  So you will either have some leftover that really has little application, or you will leave the reel under-filled, which will hamper performance.

There are times, however, when refilling a reel with fresh line must be done by the angler.  For these times, there are a few important factors to consider.

First is line twist.  When your inshore saltwater reel is spooled on a machine in a tackle shop by professionals, the line comes off the bulk spool the same way that it went onto the bulk spool when it was manufactured.  This is in a direct line with the spool spinning on a horizontal axis.  In this way, there is no twist put on the line during spooling.  Conversely, when many anglers attempt to spool at home, the line is taken off the spool in circular loops without the benefit of the filler spool turning.  This can easily be remedied by inserting a pencil or other long-enough-thin-enough object through the holes at each end of the spool, and having your fishing buddy hold it up so it can spin.  A spool holding device can easily be fashioned from a large empty tin can and a pencil.  Drill two holes near the open side of the can across from each other, insert a pencil into one side, then push the pencil through the spool and into the other side of the can so that the spool of line is inside the can and able to spin freely when the line is pulled.  Now you have overcome the line twist challenge to home spooling.

The next factor to consider is line tension.  When line is correctly spooled onto your inshore saltwater reel by professionals, tension is applied to the line as it is filled. This usually takes the form of a shop rag gently but firmly pressed onto the spinning spool acting as a drag or brake.  This ensures that the line will lay down well in your reel and that when a big fish hits against your tight drag, your line will not get pulled down through loose line towards the reel’s spindle which will cause tangles during subsequent casts.  This is a mess you would like to avoid, I can tell you from experience.  To apply tension at home, run the line between the pages of an old phone book near the middle with one or two more books on top of it.  This will apply just enough drag on the line so that it is pulled snuggly and firmly onto your reel’s spool.

The last consideration is how much line to buy for the reel.  All quality reel manufacturers like Daiwa, Shimano, Avet and Van Staal all provide the angler with an approximation of how much line at what diameter, or which pound test, they feel the reel should take.  The challenge becomes that many lines are different diameters for same pound test.  The rule of thumb should always be to buy a big enough spool of line so you won’t ever worry about short-spooling a reel.  An un-full reel does not perform to the same standard as a properly filled reel.  In the spinning arena, casting is severely compromised by having an un-full spool.  And for conventional reels, the rate at which you retrieve line back onto the spool is lessened by an un-full reel. Many of our clients purchase bulk spools to use at home.  Bulk spools can be purchased from your tackle shop in 1500 yard sizes. 

So remember, always have your reels professionally spooled when you can.  If you must do it yourself, use these tips to guard against line twist, poor tensioning and impaired performance.


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