how to put line on a spinning reel

How to Put Line on a Spinning Reel (Ultimate Spooling Guide)

Imagine the feeling of reeling in a fish so giant it takes your breath away. But before you can even cast your line, you need to make sure your reel is loaded correctly. Don’t let a poorly loaded reel ruin your fishing experience! We’ll take you step-by-step through everything you need to know, from selecting the perfect line to spooling it on without a tangle to tying the perfect knot for a secure connection. Let’s learn how to put a line on your reel like a pro, and the next time you go fishing, you’re ready for the catch of a lifetime!

Quick Cheat Sheet: How To Put Line on a Spinning Reel

Tips For Choosing Your Line

  • Use a monofilament line for fishing with floating baits, as it has more stretch and helps keep the hook in the fish’s mouth.
  • Pick fluorocarbon lines for fishing in calm, shallow waters, as they are more challenging for fish to see and hold up well to abrasion.
  • Choose braided lines for bottom fishing, as they have a more considerable casting distance, better-breaking strength, and won’t stretch.
  • Be selective when using braided lines, as they are visible and float well, making them great for top-water baits.

Tips for Loading the Reel

  • Determine if the reel turns clockwise or counterclockwise by turning the wheel a few times, as this will determine the spool direction of the line.
  • Hold the reel properly by wrapping the fingers of your casting hand around the mounting bar and letting the reel hang while reeling with the other hand.
  • Open the bail by flipping the small handle up, remove any old fishing line from the spool, and string the line straight through the guides.
  • Secure the line to the spool using an arbor knot and cut any extra line, leaving at least 1/4 inch of an additional line from the knot
  • To tie an arbor knot, wrap the line around the arbor and tie an overhand knot in the standing line, then a second overhand knot in the tag end and pull the standing line to slide the knots down to the spool.

Tips for Spooling Your Reel

  • Close the bail and place the spool on the floor with the label facing up, making sure the line is coming off the spool the same way it will be going into the reel
  • Pinch the line and slowly crank the reel, stopping every 20-30 cranks; inspect for twists and apply light pressure to the line while loading.
  • Fill the spool until it’s 1/8 inch away from the rim to give enough line to use without overloading the reel.
  • Use line cutters to cut the line close to the supply spool and secure the free end with a lure, swivel, clip, or rubber band.
  • Tips: You can have several spools for different weight lines to switch between depending on the water conditions and fishing needs.

Step-By-Step Guide to How to Spool a Spinning Reel

When spooling a spinning reel, you must do it perfectly, or you’ll be tangled and jinxed for days, so let’s learn the proper way. Here’s the ultimate guide to spooling a spinning reel like a fishing champ.

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Choose your fishing line type

There are three main types of fishing line:

  • Monofilament: the most used type of line is beginner-friendly, simple, and affordable, and you can buy it in any fishing supplies store.
  • Braided: the most durable type of line that allows you to pull up those heavy beasts from the abyss that will have your friends exclaim, “what the heck is that!?”. Its diameter is thin, so you fit a large amount of line around the spool.
  • Fluorocarbon: another strong type that is transparent and looks invisible underwater which is suitable for clear water.

Which one you choose depends on your needs, but as a beginner, a mono line works great, and you can try others as you become more experienced.

Prepare your reel for the line

Remove the old line from the reel

You must remove any line left on the reel before loading it with a new one. Open the bail and use your fingers to pull the line off the spool, or use pliers or scissors to remove it, but be gentle and careful not to scratch the reel or rod.

Clean the spool and reel

Now that your reel is empty is the best time to clean it before you attach a new line, making sure there’s no dirt or debris stuck on there that will cause trouble for your line later. To clean it you can use a gentle brush or washcloth and then rinse it and dry it thoroughly. If there are rust or damaged parts, now is the time to get that cleared and fixed.

Attach your new line to the spool with an arbor knot

It’s time to attach the new line by tying a solid knot to secure it. The best option here is the arbor knot, which is quite simple to tie and does the job of holding the line on the spool. Here’s how to tie an arbor knot:

  1. Wrap the string around the arbor.
  2. Tie an overhead knot in the standing line.
  3. Tie a second overhead knot in the tag end, about one inch from the first knot.
  4. Pull the standing line and slide the first knot down to the spool.
  5. Slide the second knot down to the first.
  6. As the knot is tied, use scissors to cut the tag end shorter but leave 1/4th of an inch of line.

Load the spinning reel

The most important thing to remember when loading the reel is to keep the line straight and tight to avoid tangles as you spool it. Any open line may cause you problems when you cast it. Here’s how to load a spinning reel:

  1. Open the bail. Lift the wire arm thing that spins around the reel.
  2. Take the end of the line and run it through each guide’s eye from the top/tip to bottom towards the reel.
  3. Tie the lien to the reel spool with an arbor knot.
  4. Close the bail.
  5. Try to crank the reel handle to see which way the bail rotates.
  6. Lightly grip the line between your thumb and your index finger
  7. Turn the reel handle roughly 20 times.
  8. Let out some line to test it for tangles by looking for any loops or twisting.
  9. Continue loading the line in the direction of the bail rotation.
  10. Fill the spool with the line until there’s about 1/8th inch of space from the rim or lip of the spool. Then it’s complete.
  11. Cut the excess line and detach it from the spool.
  12. Use a rubber band to secure the line and keep the tension.
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Some tips when spooling line onto the reel

  • Set drag correctly. It’s the amount of resistance the reel puts on the line as you pull it out. Spinning reels should have a drag knob at the bottom of the reel base that you can turn to adjust. Pull it tight enough to hold the line straight but not so tight that you can’t turn the handle.
  • Hold spool of line and reel
  • Slowly turn the reel handle to spool line
  • Keep an eye to see if the line is even and level on the spool
  • Leave 1/8 inch space between the line and spool rim
  • Inspect the line for twists/tangles
  • If you see any knots or tangles while doing this, you need to unspool it, straighten out twists, and spool the reel again.
  • Distribute the line evenly and keep the spool leveled to avoid tangling
  • Use a spooling tool for a braided line.
  • Always apply light pressure to your line while loading it. If you don’t, the line will go on the loose and become tangled later. 
  • It’s a good idea to obtain several spools for your reel and fill each with a different line weight, which allows you to switch to a lighter, thinner line when fishing more transparent water and a heavier, thicker line when fishing in dirty water, weeds, or brush.

Additional Tips for Loading a Spinning Reel

You can use many different knots but stick with an arbor knot if you are a beginner

When you line a reel, the knot has to be strong so that if you cast and release all the line with a heavy lure, it won’t snap the line off. You can use different knots, such as a double uni knot, clinch knot, and arbor knot, which all have pros and cons, but an arbor knot should be good enough for beginners. Follow the step-by-step instructions, and avoid getting creative when tying a knot. A proper knot is like a reliable recipe that always turns out perfect if you follow it to the tee, but it can be disastrous if you skip a step.

Make sure the line and the reel are correctly connected.

A common mistake is overloading the reel. Instead, leave 1/8th of an inch from the rim.

Distribute the line evenly and keep it leveled on the spool. Usually, a spinning reel will move the line up and down, so it levels out evenly.

If you’re using a braided line, you can use a braided line spooling tool to help you.

You can use a line winding system, also called a line winder or reel spooler, to help you put a line on your fishing reel faster and without causing headaches.

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How to Maintain Your Reel

Keep your reel clean and lubricated

If you want a perfect reel that will last a long time, keep it clean and lubricated. You can clean the reel by disassembling it and removing dirt, brushing it gently and washing it with mild soap and water, removing rust and replacing any damaged components, and letting it dry completely. 

If the reel is wet after using it, you can wash it, rinse it in clean water, and dry it thoroughly before putting it away, which will prevent rust. If you apply reel lubricant, it will spin smoothly.

Store your reel properly

Another thing you need to do to keep your reel high quality for years to come is to store it correctly. Extreme temperatures, either moist, freezing, direct sunlight, strong ocean breeze, or a dusty environment, can wear it out. The best thing to do, especially between seasons or when storing it for extended periods, is to remove the line, disassemble the reel, clean and dry it, and store it in a container, bag, or cabinet.

Troubleshoot reel problems

If you’re having reel problems, I feel bad for you, son.

When you face any problems, you should troubleshoot to figure out what is causing them and fix them. Perhaps your reel doesn’t spin, or won’t release the line, or the bail is stuck, or the line constantly tangles. There are so many potential issues and many factors that can affect how the reel works and feels. Check the drag, the knot, the line you are using, tangles and loops, the rotation, and the handle. You may need to change a component or buy a completely new reel.

Frequently Asked Questions About Spooling a Spinning Reel

How to load a spinning reel with a braided line?

Using a spooling tool will help prevent your braided line from tangling. Attach the braided line to the spool with an arbor knot, slowly spool it onto the reel, and avoid loops, twists, or tangles.

How to load a spinning reel with a fluorocarbon line?

Attach the fluoro line to the spool with an arbor knot and spool it onto the reel, and keep it very tight to avoid slack.

How to load a spinning reel with a monofilament line?

Attach the mono line with an arbor knot and start rotating the handle to spool it onto the reel.


Loading a spinning reel is pretty straightforward. Just pick the correct fishing line, remove any old line, clean the components before you start, put the line through the guide eyes, tie it to the reel using an arbor knot, avoid tangles at all costs, and keep good maintenance to have it last for years. If you need more information about fishing, there are many good resources, youtube videos, fishing blogs, local fishing shops, and other articles on this website.