How to Spool a Spinning or Baitcaster Reel for Zero Line Twist

Expert Billy J. reviews the basics of line selection and gives you step-by-step instructions on how to spool your fishing reel for both spinning gear and baitcasters!

Someone holds out a fishing rod and reel that's strung with orange line. They are outside and the background is bright green and forested.

Photo by Clark Young

The fishing reel and line is one of the most important tools for an angler. It can make or break the success of the lure or hook you use. Whether it's a spinning reel or a conventional reel (baitcaster), it's essential to know how to spool it correctly to avoid costly mistakes later on. Here, we'll go over the basics of line selection, and then give you step-by-step instructions on how to spool your new fishing reel for both spinning gear and baitcasters!

Different Types of Line

Line is an essential part of fishing gear. There are three main types of line: monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braid. (There is such a thing as a co-polymer but for the sake of simplicity we’ll focus on the main three).

A chart made by the author that explains differences between monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided line with headers such as "Examples of recommended brands," "Properties/strengths," "Weaknesses," and "Environments."

Knowing how to spool a fishing reel with each of the types of line will save you time and headache in the future. There is a right way to spool your line on your spinning or baitcaster reel so that the line memory is compensated for and reduces line twist. Line memory is when the line holds onto the shape of the spool. If you spool your reel incorrectly, this memory will cause your line to twist or want to “jump off” your spool. This will create a backlash, wasted time, and even cause you to miss the fish of a lifetime!

How Much Line Do You Need?

Another question you’ll face when shopping for fishing line is how much should you buy? This will depend on the capacity of your reel. Check your reel's model specifications, or you can look at the reel itself. It will give a range of numbers that look something like: 6/200, 8/140, 10/120.

A photo of the author's reel that reads: "GEAR RATIO -- 3.6:1" and "4lb/260yds ; 6lb/140yds ; 8lb/125yds."

Photo by Billy J.

Secret code? Not quite! This designation means if you spool 6lb test line, it will hold 200yds. If you choose 8lb test line, it will hold 140yds and so on. It’s important to note, however, that this is an estimate, and is oftentimes based on monofilament.

Braid has a VERY low diameter for its size compared to monofilament; 40lb test braid has a diameter that’s closer to 10lb test monofilament. This can change depending on brands. If you want to use braid, and save some money, read on to the next section to see how you can use up that extra line you have!

Backing: Essential or Unnecessary?

In some situations, a backing line can be used on your spool. Backing line means you use filler line to fill up your spool for the bottom portion (about a quarter or so), then use a connection knot to then spool on the rest of your main line. This is not needed if you use monofilament or fluorocarbon on your spinning or baitcasting reel, but you can save money by using cheap monofilament as a backing line and then use fluorocarbon as your main line.

For braid, however, you absolutely need to use backing. Braided fishing line is a slippery line, and will freely slide around on your spool if you do not use backing. The only time you would not need a backing when spooling braided line to a fishing reel is if the reel is already made for braid. If your reel is made for this, you will see vertical sections of rubber placed on the inner surface of the spool. This is called “braid ready.” If your spool is nice and smooth all throughout, you will need backing.

There are two ways to achieve this. The most common is to simply spool with some monofilament line for the first 1/4 or 1/5 of the spool, and then use a connection knot to your braid main line. If you do not have spare monofilament line to use, you can tape a piece of electrical tape down on the surface of the reel spool, making sure it's stretched tight. It CANNOT be any other type of tape; electrical tape’s surface has friction for the braid to “bite” into. Other tapes will make things worse. Read on to get started on spooling your fishing reel!

How to Spool: Spinning Reel

1. Open your bail. The bail is the rounded wire piece at the top of the reel.

2. Thread your line through the bottom line guide on your rod. If you are using a line spooling tool, please follow the directions included with your tool.

3. Tie an arbor knot directly to the spool. If you have placed electrical tape onto your spool, you can use braid directly at this step. Otherwise, you’ll be likely using mono backing. Trim your tag end (nail clippers work great)

4. Close your bail.

5. This is the tricky part. If you are using the line spooling tool, follow the listed instructions for orienting your new spool. If you are going freehand, take note of the direction your bail moves when you turn the handle. If you are looking down at the top of your reel, it should be moving clockwise. You need to orient your spool of line so that as the line comes out it is also moving in the same direction as your bail does on your reel. We want the line to go onto your reel the exact same way it's currently sitting in the spool. It can be helpful to visualize if you take a top-down view.

A top-down view of a reel that's being held between someone's thumb and their fist. The spool of line is next to the reel on a marble countertop.

Looking down at your reel can help to visualize how the line will go on the spool. Note that the line is coming off the new spool at the bottom in a clockwise direction, same as the way the bail moves on the reel. Photo by Billy J.

6. This part is easier if you have a friend to help you, but it can be done solo too. Slide a pencil or a screwdriver into the spool so the spool can rotate as needed. Have a friend hold it for you, or you can hold it between your feet. You do have to secure it so it does not bounce around on your floor.

7. Reeling at a moderate pace, reel the backing line on until you cannot see the surface/color of your spool anymore. Tie a connection knot between your backer line and your main line. You may use a double uni knot, fg knot, or Alberto knot. Trim the tag ends.

8. Begin reeling at a moderate pace, while applying tension to the line. Ideally, apply this tension BEFORE the line enters the bottom line guide. If you are applying tension after the line passes through the bottom line guide, make sure you do not hold the line far away from the rod.

9. Continue reeling until there is about 1/8in or 3/16in of space left to the spool’s lip. Having a line counter can be handy for measuring the amount of line you put on.

10. Done! Tie your leader on or fish straight braid!

How to Spool: Baitcasting/Conventional Reel

1. This type of reel is straightforward. Thread your line through the bottom line guide on your rod. If you are using a line spooling tool, please follow the directions included with your tool.

2. On your spool, there will be a hole or set of holes drilled into the spool. if you cannot see it, turn your reel handle a few times until you see it.

3. Thread your line through the line guide on the reel, then put the line into the hole.

4. Slowly turn the handle until the spool brings that hole and line back to you. You've now looped the line around your spool.

5. Tie an arbor knot to secure this line to your spool. If you have placed electrical tape onto your spool, you can use braid directly at this point. Otherwise, you'll likely be using mono backing.

6. Adjust the knot so it is sitting directly in the middle of the spool. Ideally, have the knot situated so it falls into a hole in the spool.

7. Adjust the line guide on the reel so it is aligned with your knot. To achieve this without pulling in line, set your drag loose, keep your thumb on the spool so it does not move, but turn the handle. You will see the line guide moving, but your spool will not. Do this until the line guide and knot is aligned.

8. Place your spool of new line so that the line is coming off the top of the spool.

An image of a reel being strung with a spool of line that is close next to it. They are both sitting on a marble countertop.

This is a close-up to show the direction the line should be coming off the spool. During actual spooling, avoid having the reel this close to the spool. Photo by Billy J.

9. Slide a pen or screwdriver into the spool so it spins freely. Having a friend do this part helps but you can also hold it between your feet on the ground. Make sure it is secure and will not be bouncing or running around.

10. Reel in line while applying steady spool tension. Do not reel too quickly, slow and steady is best. Once you no longer can see the surface of the spool, you are ready to tie your connection knot to your main line. Best knots for this are double uni, fg knot, or Alberto knot. Trim the tag ends (nail clippers are great).

11. Continue reeling at a steady pace to spool on your main line until there is about 1/8in of space to the edge of your spool.

12. Done! Tie on your leader or fish straight braid!

FAQ

What is the best line? This depends on your experience and the fishing conditions! Generally, beginners benefit the most from monofilament fishing line. More experienced anglers prefer braid to a fluorocarbon line or monofilament line as leader. In super clear water conditions, fluorocarbon leaders reign supreme.

My braid is constantly getting knots after I cast? You likely overfilled the spool. Remove 10yds of braid and try again. Lighter braid tends to bunch easily. If you’re using light braid, practice slack line management!

Do I need to soak the line before spooling? No this is not necessary.

Do I need a leader? This depends on your water clarity! Fishing clear water benefits greatly from using leader lines. Keep the leader length short enough that your connection knot does not go into your spool.

Do I need strong line for my backing? No, the pound test rating for your backing line will not impact the performance of your main line.

Still getting line twist or tangles? Go to a field or somewhere with enough open space. Tie your line to a swivel and hand it to a friend. Have your friend hold only the opposite end of the swivel, so that it can rotate freely. Open your spool and walk at a steady pace until you’ve let all your line out. Reel the line back in while applying tension. Remember to reel at an even, steady pace. Do not rush this, as reeling too fast can impact line overlay.

If you have any questions about the best reels or line to use, don't hesitate to reach out to me or any other Fishing Experts on Curated for free, personalized advice and recommendations. We're always happy to help!

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I've been fishing since I was a kid! Fishing was initially a portal into the underwater world as I was obsessed with aquatic life. That turned into a lifelong passion and here we are! I grew up fishing Lake Michigan and other waters in Chicago, and now I live in NYC. I fish a variety of waters here,...

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