Learn to Spool Your Own Reels

Many retailers of fishing gear offer services to wind new fishing line on reels.  It’s a nice service for beginners and also people with limited eyesight or motor skills.  But for a serious fisherman, this is a bad idea.  Fishing line is such a vital piece of equipment connecting you to the fish, that it should be understood inside and out.  Learn how to fill your fishing reels with fresh line, and you will be a better fisherman.

Line is changed out either because it is worn or because there is a change in fishing techniques.  Once this skill has been learned, a fisherman will be more inclined to change line more frequently resulting in fresher line more often and using the appropriate line for a given technique more often as well.  All of which ultimately improves the catch!

Fishing with worn line is just simply bad news.  Weak spots form as a result of tangles, backlashing or fishing around abrasive cover.  My experience has shown me that monofilament line wears faster than fluorocarbon or braided lines because it is also weakened by UV light and water absorption.  If an angler knows how to change out line, then they will always be fishing with good, fresh line.

Then there are those occasions when we need to change a reel’s application.  Countless times I’ve gone from fishing a lake requiring heavy gear, to one the following week that requires a light-line, finesse approach (or the other way around of course). Or sometimes I’ll visit a lake and realize that what I expected for fishing methods is completely wrong.  So I’ll respool a few reels overnight before launching my boat the next day.  Many bass fishing techniques are quite line specific to produce maximum potential.  Being capable of changing out line allows an angler to best apply the proper line to a technique.  Flexibility like this is impossible if one doesn’t know how to spool their reels themselves.

The process of winding line provides an excellent opportunity to inspect your rod and reel up close.  With the reel, now is a nice opportunity to oil the bearings once all of the old line has been removed.  Regarding the rod, as it is restrung, the eyes and blank can be visually checked for damage.  Eyes may groove or chip while a rod may crack.  A damaged eye can destroy the line’s integrity in just a few casts, while a damaged rod can break the next time the hook is set.

Spooling line also helps in understanding your gear.  It has to do with simply being more familiar with it, by feeling it, looking at it, winding it, and so on.  Over time, after winding all different types of line having varying sorts of strengths, diameters, stretch, and memory, a better understanding can be achieved.  Knowing when line has gone bad is better understood as well!

Money can be saved by doing it yourself too.  Well, not exactly I guess.  The money not spent on somebody else winding your line will probably get spent on purchasing more line because it will be switched out more often.  Oh well.

The process of winding line is very simple and doesn’t take much time.

Step 1. Pull off the old line.  There are battery-powered tools that strip line off of a reel very fast and save time. But they aren’t necessary.

Step 2. This step is only needed if braided line is being spooled.  Because of braided line’s no-stretch characteristic, it has a tendency to slide and rotate around a spool.  For example, if you hook a fish that pulls extremely hard, the braided line will fail to grip the spool as you crank the reel’s handle.  The crank spins the spool sure enough, but the line is not retrieved because it is slipping on the spool and the fish can swim just about anywhere.  To rectify this problem, I like to first apply a couple wraps of electrical tape around the spool first.  Braided line grips the tape well.

Step 3.  Thread the new line through the rod’s guides and around the reel’s spool.

Step 4.  Tie a knot around the spool.  I use a clinch knot with six or seven twists.  There’s probably a better knot, but with how and what I fish for, there is no threat of ever having my line taken down to this knot.

Step 5.  Properly position the spool of new line.  Yes it matters.  Done wrong and annoying line twist will be the result.  The type of reel will determine how to position the new spool of line that is about to be cranked on the reel.  For baitcasting reels, the new line should “roll” off the spool.  In other words, it should spin like a bicycle tire as the line transfers over to the baitcaster.  I have a special spot in my Ranger bass boat where I can place a new spool of line and it will stay propped on its edge and spin.  That’s how I do it.  Just figure a way to prop it on edge.  Or poke a pencil through the spool’s hole and have somebody hold it.  For spinning and spincast reels, the new spool of line must lay flat on its side.  And the line coils off the side of the spool as it transfers over to your reel.  It is important to place the new spool on the proper side otherwise line-twist will develop.  On one side, the coils will unwrap off the side of the spool in a clockwise rotation.  On the other side, they will unwrap counter-clockwise.  Just about all spinning reels require that the spool of new line unwrap counter-clockwise.  To verify for sure, note which direction the spinning reel is rotating as you crank it.  And be sure to view it from behind as the rod tip points away from you.  Whichever way it rotates should match the rotation of the line as it unwraps from the new spool.

Step 6. Crank the reel and wind on the new line.  As I do this, I like to have the line running between my thumb and forefinger on the hand that holds the rod.  This allows me to pinch the line a little and have the line wrap tighter onto the reel’s spool.  I fill my reels to just slightly under full capacity because they perform best at this level.  Don’t overfill!  Overfilling a spinning reel allows the line to easily jump off the spool on its own causing tangles and frustration. Backlashes are more common when overfilling a baitcaster.  Under-filling either type of reel results in shorter casting potential and less line pick-up per revolution of the handle.

Winding line on a reel yourself is a very important part of being a better fisherman.  Line can be switched when needed, so your line will be fresh and applicable to the fishing method at hand.  Additionally, the process allows the chance to inspect rods and reels close-up for damage and provides an angler a more thorough understanding of equipment.

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