How to put line on a fishing reel

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How to put line on a fishing reel

How to put line on a fishing reel

There are four common types of fishing reel used in coarse fishing. The spinning reel (fixed spool reel), the centrepin, the closed face reel and the baitcaster (multiplier). Between them, these four reels cover everything from casting a heavy lure to controlling a light stick float. Each reel has it’s own requirements and best practises when loading line.

How to put line on a spinning reel

How to put line on a spinning reel

Spinning reels come in a range of sizes from small ones designed for light lines used in float fishing, to large reels used for thicker line to land specimen fish. Whichever size of reel is being loaded, there are two rules which should be observed. The line should not be allowed to get twisted and the spool should be filled to the top.

To load line onto a spinning reel, you will need a rod, a bowl of water and a pot of jam. Begin by attaching the reel to the butt section of the rod. Thread the new line down through the rod rings towards the reel.

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Tying the line to the spool

Use an Arbor knot to attach the new line to the spool as follows. Tie a overhand knot in the end of the line. Moisten the knot before you pull it tight and cut the tail off short. Tie a overhand knot around the line a few inches up, moisten with water or saliva and tighten. You should now have a loop of line to slip over the spool.

Arbor knot

Open the bail arm and pass the loop of line over the spool. Pull the line to tighten the loop down. A little pulling back and forth might be required to close the loop down tight.

Attach fishing line to spool

Close the reels bail arm and turn on the anti reverse.

Arbor knot video

How to spool a reel with line

Sink the new spool of line in the bowl of water with the label uppermost. Put the pot of jam on top to hold the spool in place.

How to spool a reel with line

Hold the rod over the bowl of water with the rod ring above the spool of new line. Hold the shaft of the rod with one hand and turn the reel handle with the other. The line must be loaded under tension. Allow the line to pass under your fingers and apply some tension as the line passes. It’s difficult to quantify the tension required, but enough to ensure the line lays neat and flat on the reel. In other words some tension but not too much. The new line is made wet as it’s drawn from the bowl of water which reduces the possibility of getting a friction burns or cuts to your fingers.

Loaded fishing reel

For all fixed spool reels no matter their size or line used, continue loading the line until it reaches to within 2mm of the front lip of the spool. Loading almost to the top, greatly improves ease of casting and range.

How to spool a reel without line twist

To avoid twisting mono and fluro lines, ensure the line is comes off the spool and onto the reel in the same direction. I have found that having the line spool with the label facing up in the bowl of water is normally correct, but stop winding now and then and lower the rod down to see if the line curls up into loops. If it does, turn the new spool over in the bowl, wind on a little more line and check again. But you should find that the spool in the bowl is label up most of the time.

If the line is allowed to get twisted, it will cause no end of problems and tangles while fishing. Modern stiff lines with a high memory are the worst, monofilament is better, while braid has extremely low memory so tends not to cause any problems.

How much line is needed

Most fixed spool reels come with two spools, one deep and one shallow. Deep spools are intended for stronger thicker lines and shallow spools are for finer fishing line. A spools recommended capacity is usually written on the skirt of the spool. This does not mean the spool should be loaded with the quantity and diameter of line indicated, but only that it is one option.

Shallow and deep fishing reel spools

The amount of line a spool can hold may not be the same thing as how much line is actually needed. If an angler spends every trip fishing a method feeder to an island 30 meters away, there seems little point loading 300m of line on the spool, most of it will never see the light of day. To avoid being wasteful, think about how and where you intend to fish, then base your line needs on that.

On my float reel for example, I might load as little as 50m of line, it all depends on what I’m using the reel for. Most spools, even the shallow ones, will need a great deal more than 50m of line to fill to the top. Rather than wasting good line, use some cheep line as backing to partly fill the spool, then put the good line on top.

Backing line

I generally use whatever I have to hand as backing, or I buy a bulk spool of cheap monofilament. My only prerequisite is that the backing has a stronger breaking strain than the working line on top, just in case a fish should take enough line to reach the backing.

It can be hard to know how much backing to load, yet leave enough room to fill the spool to the top with good line. I use this handy online Advanced fishing reel line capacity estimator, which can calculate the amount of backing needed for the length of working line.

Attach the backing to the spool using an Arbor knot. Tie the working line to the backing with a double Uni knot or similar. Cover the joining knot with a little masking tape to prevent subsequent layers of line catching on it. Wind on the new line on top of the backing until the spool is full. Finally, expect to replace the line at least every season if not more often.

How to Load line onto a Centrepin

How to Load line onto a centrepin

Most anglers use a centrepin for only one task, trotting a float down a river. For best float control and presentation, long trotting for the common river species is best done with light lines. Monofilament fishing line of 4lb breaking strain or less is, in my opinion, the best line for river float fishing.

Although the drum of a Centrepin is deep enough to hold miles of line, only load it with about 50 meters. Put too much on and the upper layers of line are likely to bed in causing problems when trotting or casting.

Attach the new line to the drum with a an Arbor knot. Cover the knot with some masking tape to stop the the subsequent layers of line catching on the knot. Have a friend hold the spool of new line on a pencil and allow the spool to spin as you wind the line on. Apply a small amount of tension and distribute the line across the drum as best you can.

The choice of whether to have the line coming of the top or bottom of the reel is a personal one. There are various opinions as to which way is better, I prefer to take the line off the bottom. It just feels more natural to me when winding in and controlling a fish, but in the end it is entirely up to you.

Loading fishing line on a closed face reel

Loading fishing line on a closed face reel

Closed face reels are designed to allow an angler to float fish quickly and efficiently for Roach and silvers. They are can be used on lakes or rivers, but excel at long trotting down a river. Just like a Centrepin, they perform best when loaded with light lines.

How much line to load

Closed face reels are similar to fixed spool reels under the cover. They have a spool and a means of wrapping the line around the spool when the handle is turned. Please refer to the instructions for your reel to remove the cover and access the spool.

As closed face reels are made for light lines, the spools are all quite shallow and backing is not needed. The line should spill off the reel smoothly when long trotting. Put too much on and the upper layers will bed in and come off the spool in fits and starts ruining any chance of good presentation. An amount of 40 or 50 meters of 1½ to 3½lb monofilament is what I would recommend to load onto a closed face reel.

Tie the new line to the spool with an Arbor knot. Cover the knot with some masking tape to stop the the subsequent layers of line catching on the knot. Just as with a spinning reel, the line should be loaded in the same direction as it comes off the new line spool. In other words, with the label uppermost on the new spool of line. How to do this can be found under “How to spool the reel with line” above.

Loading line onto a Baitcaster reel

Loading line onto a baitcaster reel

Baitcasters are usually used for lure fishing for Pike here in the UK. Braided line is the best choice for this style of fishing because braid has no stretch, permitting a firm strike into the bony mouth of a Pike. I use 30lb braid with a 15 or 20lb wire trace for all my lure fishing.

Attach the reel to a rod and pass the braid down through the rod rings. Pass the line through the line guide on the front of the reel.

Braid will slip if tied directly onto the smooth spool of a baitcaster reel. Either use a backing of monofilament line which will not slip, or if the spool has a tie to point or any holes in it, these can be used to secure the end of the braid. If a mono backing is used, join the braid to the mono with an Albright knot or similar.

Have a friend hold the spool of new line on a pencil and allow the spool to spin as you wind the line on. There are no concerns with twisting braided lines, but the line should be loaded under tension. Allow the line to pass under your fingers to apply tension as you wind it on. Fill the spool to within 2mm of the top, or whatever the manufacturer recommends.


Each type of reel is designed for a particular method in fishing. For a reel to perform well, the line must be loaded correctly.

Some fishing lines are very prone to twisting as they are loaded. Once twisted, line has a tenancy to jump off the spool and go into knots very easily. Care should be taken when loading fluorocarbon and nylon feeder lines which are stiff and have a high memory for kinks and twists.

A correctly loaded reel is a pleasure to use and will improve your fishing as a result.

Best of luck.


Reel line capacity estimator