How To Spool A Spinning Reel

My first reel was a spinning reel. I remember thinking: Yes! Now I can get out there and start landing trophies.
Of course I wish I knew everything I do now about spooling a spinning reel up properly. This guide will give you all the details. So, read on.


Choosing a line may be the easiest decision of all.  Your reel and rod will govern what line weights you are able to use and sometimes the most suitable material.  You may want to pick a specific color depending on your local water.

Pound Test

This is simply the breaking strength of the line.  There is a trend to go with a very high strength line to resists breaking when you have a fish on but it is unnecessary in most cases.  I have caught many 5 and 6 lb. bass on 2 and 3 lb. line.  I will generally opt for the lowest pound test that I can get away with based on my target species.


If this is your first time or one of your first times fishing, go with a monofilament line.  They are easier to use and get set up with. Fluorocarbon is stronger but much easier to get twisted and tangled.


If you fish a variety of waters, stick with clear but if are more likely to fish in water that is similar, match your line to the water.  Green for murky water and glue for the cleanest reservoirs and salt water.


For most of the tasks of setting up a rod and reel, you will need very little but there are some tools that are handy and can make the job easier.

Cutting Tool

For weaker monofilament line, most any cutting tool will work but as you move into the stronger materials and line sizes, having a dedicated tool is a good idea.  Line snippers, wire cutters, and line scissors are all good options.

Line Stripper

If you are removing old line from your reel, having a motorized line stripper can speed things up and avoid tangling issues.  For the price, they are worth it.

Line Spooler or Line Winder

This is just a tool with two names.  It is a holding device that keeps the line from getting tangled when putting it on the reel.  Most of these are hand crank but some motorized ones exist.  While this is not strictly necessary, it is a very useful tool to make sure things go perfectly.

Step 3:  Attaching your Reel to the Rod

 1. Open the Reel Seat:  The reel seat will have a fixed socket in the front and a movable socket in the rear that is close by a threaded nut.  Start by opening this nut all the way to the rear.

2. Install the Reel:  Simply slide the front portion of the reel foot into the front socket and tightening the nut on the rear socket until it firmly engages with the rear portion of the rod foot.

3. Close the Reel Seat:  If your reel moves inside the reel seat, make sure the nut if firmly tightened by hand only.  There are very few occasions where a reel is too small for the reel seat but if this happens to you, count on replacing one of the two parts.

Step 4:  Spool on your Line

This step will greatly benefit from having a line winder.  If you do not have one and have a two piece rod, I prefer to keep the reel attached to the bottom section of the rod.  If you do this, start by passing the line through the eyelets from the tip of the rod down to the reel.

1.Open the bail:  This will ensure you keep the line on the correct side of the bail.  Otherwise your reel will not function correctly.

2. Attach the line to the spool:  If the spool has an attachment point for the line, use that.  Otherwise I prefer to use an Arbor Knot but most any not will work.

3. You may trim excess line but never burn it.  The heat will break down the line for quite a distance from where you apply the flame.

4. It will sometimes help to do a few wraps by hand around the spool to help the line get started.  In order to make sure the line goes on evenly, keep it around 10 wraps or less.

5. Close the Bail:  Position the line across the roller.  You are now ready to reel on the line.

6. Slowly Reel on Line:  Keep tension on the line either by holding the line or by keeping some pressure on the roll the line came on.  If you are using a line winder, it will likely do this for you.

7.Reel until you reached the desired length which will be specified by the reel manufacturer.  Most spools will have a mark inside the spool arbor showing the maximum line.  Avoid getting too much line which will cause tangling issues.  It’s better to have too little than too much.

Step 5:  Stringing the Rod

Now that you have your reel set up, it’s time to get the line through all of the rod guides.

1. Starting with the bottom guide closest to the reel, simply pass the line upward.  In order to get free line, you can either open the bail or adjust the drag knob until the line pulls from the reel easily.  I prefer the latter option.

2. If you are having a lot of trouble, try attaching the line to a large sewing needle to add some weight and stiffness.

3. As you move up the rod, if you drop the line it will often slip back through every eyelet you have complete.  This can be frustrating.  Using the needle will help but you can also pinch the line to the rod below the guide you are working on, moving it as you complete a guide.

Step 6:  Attach a Hook or Lure

When you’re ready to attach a hook or lure to your setup you’ll need to learn some knots. If you’re using monofilament or fluorocarbon line, then there is a simple knot knot you can use.
The Uniknot is easy to tie and it can be used for tying your line to a hook, lure or even for splicing lines together.

Here is a diagram on how to tie the uniknot. If you’re not using braided line, you can skip step 2.

How To Tie The Uniknot

Step 7:  Set your Drag

Knowing exactly where to set your drag will take experience and knowing the fish you are after.  You will want to set it close to where you want it before you get on the water but you can always adjust as you go if you need to.

1. Turn the drag knob clockwise until it stops.  This is the stiffest drag you can get.  If you were to hook a large fish with your drag this high, it would likely break your line.

2. Slightly turn the drag back counter clockwise, pausing about every 1/8 turn to give the line a moderate pull.  Repeat this stem until you hear a clicking sound from the reel and the line unspools a little.

3. Very slowly turn the drag knob until you are no longer able to unspool line with the same moderate tug.  From this point, I always turn my knob between 1/8 and ¼ turn clockwise to stiffen it up.

4. If you have trouble getting your drag set, consult with your local outfitter or fishing shop for advice.  These people are professionals and should be able to quickly help you.  Having the drag just right is vital.

If your drag is too loose:

1. You may hear the clicking sound when you go to set the hook.  If this happens, it is likely that the fish was not hook well or at all.  Check to make sure you can’t easily unspool the line by hand.  If you can, repeat the steps above.  If you can’t, tighten the drag another ¼ to ½ turn and try again.

2. You may successfully hook a fish and he may run, stripping out line behind him.  If this happens, very slowly tighten your drag while keeping your rod tip up.  This allows the rod tip to act like a spring to keep the line from snapping.  Tighten a half turn and see if the fish is still running.  If so, you can tighten more or try to wait till he is too tired to run anymore.

If your Drag is too Tight:

1. In many ways a loose drag is easier to deal with than a stiff drag and much more forgiving.

2. Drag that is too tight will most commonly lead to snapped line but in a worst-case scenario, it can break the tip of a pole.  Having the drag too tight is often hard to gauge until it’s too late.

3. If you are unable to fight the fish in or it is very difficult to do so, loosen the drag slowly until you hear the clicking sound and let the fish run himself a ways before you try to pull him in again.

A properly set drag should allow a fish to pull out line but not quickly.  It should take some effort.  Drag is a way to keep the fish from breaking the line but also provides a means for him to tire himself out so you can fight him in.  If you have a fish on and he is pulling out line, keep your rod tip up which should help keep pressure on the hook and keep him from getting off.

Leave a Comment