How to Put a Fishing Line on a Reel

By Brenna Swanston; Updated September 26, 2017

'Reel' tips to help you become a fishing pro in no time

How to Put a Fishing Line on a Reel

An afternoon of fishing should mean hours of meditative silence, gazing over the water's glassy surface hoping maybe to catch something. But before you can get to that point, you first have to deal with pole assembly, a mess of fishing line and tying special knots. For such a peaceful activity, fishing can get annoyingly complicated sometimes. To reap the benefits of a few hours on the water, get the basics down pat first, including putting a line on your fishing reel.

Attaching line to the reel

First things first: Get the line on the fishing pole.

  1. Open the small wire arm on the reel – it's called a bail – by flipping it up.
  2. Run the fishing line through the first guide on the pole.
  3. Make sure the line is coming off the spool in the same direction that the reel turns.
  4. Tie the fishing line on the arbor of the spool with an arbor knot (see below).
  5. Close the bail by flipping it down.

Tying an arbor knot

It's a simple knot, but one of the most important in fishing.

  1. Wrap the line around the spool arbor with the tag end.
  2. Use the tag end of the line to tie a simple overhand knot around the line's standing end.
  3. Again using the tag end, tie a second overhand knot an inch or two from the first one.
  4. Pull the standing part of the line so the first knot slides down to the spool and the second knot slides down to the first one.
  5. Trim the tag end.

Spooling the spinning reel

Once the line is attached, it's time to spool the reel.

  1. Place the spool on the floor. Lay it flat, either label up or label down – not on its side.
  2. Pinch the fishing line between your index finger and thumb to apply some pressure and prevent line twist.
  3. Begin turning the handle to load the line. Give it 15 to 20 turns.
  4. Give the line some slack to check for twist. If it's twisting a lot, flip over the spool and try again. Continue with the spool lying on whichever side gives less twist.
  5. Keep filling the spool until it's full, about 1/8 inch from the rim.
  6. Remove the spool and set it in hot water for 10 minutes to give the fishing line some memory; otherwise, the line might seem like it wants to spring off the reel.

Other fishing tips

Once the line's loaded, the reel's spooled and everything's ready to go, take into consideration a few extra tips to help that peaceful fishing trip go as smoothly as possible:

  • Use a permanent marker to add lifelike bait fish patterns to soft baits. This will help attract fish.
  • Bait doesn't look natural if it's just cast and reeled. Think of how fish naturally move through the water, and try mimicking it with the rod tip to make the bait more realistic and attractive.
  • Explore different water depths to find where the fish are. Add or subtract weight, or try a sinking line if a top-water lure isn't working out.
  • Keep moving. If changing depths isn't catching fish, try a new location.

About the Author

Brenna Swanston