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How to Spool Line on a Reel

Updated on August 16, 2010
Fishing is a popular sport and hobby throughout the world.
Fishing is a popular sport and hobby throughout the world.


For many thousands of years, fishermen were restricted to fishing very close to shore or close to their boats.  Then in 1667 came the brilliant invention called the fishing reel.  Rudimentary reels have been used in China since the 3rd century BC, but with the advent of the modern reel, fishermen could fish many times further than before.

With the modern reel came variations of the reel for different fishing conditions.  The most common are the spinning reel, the baitcaster reel, and the fly reel.  Likewise there are several kinds of fishing line – monofilament, fluorocarbon, braided, and fly line – and not all lines are suitable for all reels.  Choosing the right line for the reel is as important as spooling it.

A spinning reel.
A spinning reel.

How to Spool a Spinning Reel

Spinning reels are considered one of the easiest reels to use and are common among fishermen who do not fish often though many excellent fishermen swear by a good spinning reel.  Spooling one of these reels is easy to do alone or with a friend.  Spinning reels work best with smaller line, usually less than 16 pound test for monofilament or fluorocarbon.  Braided line has greater strength for its diameter so braided line up to about 30 pound test can be used with a spinning reel.

To begin spooling a spinning reel, run the end of the line through the bottom eye of the rod.  Tie the line on the reel with an arbor knot or slip knot.  If you have a friend available to help, have him hold the spool with a pencil or dowel through it to keep the tension on the line.  If you are alone, use a pencil or dowel to secure the spool and run the line through the pages of a heavy book to keep the tension on the line.  Using the crank wind the line off the spool and onto the reel.  Keep an eye on the reel to make sure the line is going on evenly across the entire reel.  When there is about 1/8 to 3/16 inch between the line and the edge of the reel, there is enough line on it.  Cut the line off past the tip, string the line through the remaining eyes from the bottom of the rod to the tip and tie on your favorite lure or leader. 


1) Spool the line on counterclockwise.  Most reels will wind on clockwise so taking the line off the spool in the counterclockwise direction will help tame some of the twist.

2) Use a monofilament backing when using braided line.  The monofilament backing will not slide on the reel like the braided line will.  Tie the monofilament on e with an arbor knot or slip knot, wind on a couple of turns then cut the monofilament.  Tie on the end of the braided line with a uni knot and wind on the braided line until the reel is full.

A baitcaster reel.
A baitcaster reel.

How to Spool a Baitcaster Reel

Baitcaster reels work better with heavier line and can easily accommodate 16 to 20 pound test.  To spool a baitcaster reel, run the end of the line from the spool through the bottom eye on the rod and the line keeper on the reel.  Make a couple of turns around the reel and tie the end of the line in an overhand knot.  Using the crank, wind line onto the reel.  The line keep will ensure the line winds on evenly across the width of the reel.  When the reel is full, cut the line off past the tip of the rod and starting at the bottom of the rod with the next eye in line, string the line through the eyes to the tip.  Tie on your favorite lure and head out to the lake.


1) Soak the fishing line in water for an hour and let dry for at least a half hour before spooling it on the reel.  This will help tame the twist in the line.

A fly reel.
A fly reel.

How to Spool a Fly Reel


 Fly fishing reel is unique among fishing.  There are special fly rods, fly line, fly backing and fly reels, not mention the lures or flies used as bait.  To begin spooling a fly reel, decide what kind of fish you will be targeting.  If you are fishing for larger saltwater fish, use a braided fly backing.  Otherwise, use a monofilament fly backing.  Tie the backing onto the reel and wind it on.  About a hundred yards should be sufficient.  Be careful to make sure the backing (and the fly line) are spooled on over the top of the reel and not from underneath.  When the backing is on, tie it to the fly line at the bitter end – the untapered end – using an Albright Knot.  Wind on the fly line, guiding it across the width of the reel with your finger.  Finish it off with a leader and fly, and you are ready to head out for a relaxing morning of fishing.


1) For the backing, use the same weight line as the weight of the fish you are targeting.  If you are fishing for 20 pounders, use a 20 pound test backing. 

2)  If you cannot spool all of the fly line onto the reel, you will need to take off the spooled fly line, cut the Albright knot, take off some of the backing and start over with the knot and spooling the fly line.

Learning how to spool line on to a reel will save you much time and many headaches out on the water.  Using old or deteriorated line can end with “the big one” getting away and time spent respooling.  Using fresh line and secure knots will insure a fun day on the water.


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