How to Put A Line On A Fishing Reel (7 Easy Steps)

Have you ever been wrangling in a trophy fish, only to have your precious monofilament or braided line get horribly messed up or damaged?

And now you’ve got a spool full of twisted, knotted, and otherwise unusable lines that you’ll have to cut up and get rid of? Even worse, you’ve never had to do something like this by yourself and you’re at a loss as to how to re-spool your reel. This is why we’ve put together this guide on how to put a new line on your fishing reel. 

Types of Fishing Reels

Before we get into step-by-step guides on how to put a new line on your fishing reel, we’ll first look at all the different types of reels. The type of reel you have will change how you should replace your line. 

multiple fishing reels next to each other

There are 3 types of fishing reels: spincast, spinning, and baitcast.

Spincast Reels

A Spincast reel is by the far the simplest model of a reel on the market. It has a very simplistic design that makes it easy to use, making it popular with beginners, young anglers, or fishermen on a budget. While it’s not the most widely used model, it certainly has its merits. 

This reel has all of its inner workings hidden beneath a nose cone. On the bottom of it, there’s a handy little button that will act as your reel control. Pressing it will toggle between letting the reel drag out or locking it. A unique feature of this type of reel is the drag adjustment.

Essentially, this tool will adjustment how much resistance a fish will feel when they’re pulling the line. These reels are extremely easy to cast, hence their popularity with fledgling anglers. Simply hold down the button on the bottom of the reel, swing the rod, and then let go of the button.

Upon release, your line will fly out to wherever it is you were pointing with your rod’s tip. You can stop your line at any moment during the cast by pressing the button again. There are a few problems with this type of reel. The covering over the spool has a tendency to capture water, dust, and other debris causing damage to the line.

Unfortunately, these types of reels are usually not the best quality and don’t typically last more than one fishing season. They also don’t have as big of casting distance as other reel types and generally aren’t as precise. 

Spinning Reels

Next up are spinning reels. These are a step up from Spincast reels because they’re just a little more complicated. Spinning reels are the most popular type of reel out there and many expert fishermen likely have one or have used one in the past.

They’re also popular with beginners as they’re not hard to use. A spinning reel does not have any sort of covering on it as you’d see on a Spincast reel. Instead, this one uses a completely open design that features a drag adjustment mechanism on top.

By far, the most important feature on a spinning reel is the metal bail. This device locks the line, prevents it from unspooling, and ensures that the line will come back evenly on the spool as you reel in. The final feature of spinning reels is unique to them specifically.

This type of reel is attached to the underside of the rod, unlike Spincasters or Baitcasters. The position of the reel creates a more natural holding position and reportedly allows for a more balanced cast. Casting a spinning reel is extremely easy and really only requires a few auxiliary steps for a successful cast.

You’ll need to place a finger on a small part of the line that’s exiting the spool, above the bail. Then, you’ll simply disengage the bail and give your rod a swing, as it comes forward, take your finger off of the line and let your lure loose.

When the bait is landed you’ll want to reengage the bail. Most spinning reels will actually do this automatically when you start reeling in. However, that first spin of the reel can sometimes unbalance the line and cause a tangle that will ultimately require line maintenance if not a complete replacement. 

Baitcasting Reels

This is the most advanced type of fishing reel, both in terms of technology and in terms of the learning curve. The reason for this is because this type of reel features more moving parts than the previous two. However, mastery over a Baitcasting reel will ultimately give you the greatest casts you’ve ever seen. 

But what makes this rod so special? Well, besides the semi-enclosed and more durable makeup, the Baitcaster reel has two extra mechanisms that increase performance and allow for added customization. These two additions are the spool tension knob and the braking system.

These systems allow you to adjust how quickly the line will spill from the reel. Unlike the Spinning reel, a Baitcaster does not have a bail. While casting you’ll need to use your own thumb and press against the spool in order to stop the line from going out.

Once your bait has hopefully landed in your desired spot, simply press the clip to keep the line locked. This type of reel is recommended for advanced users because differing weights in lures require special settings while using the spool tension and braking system.

You’ll need to make sure to mess with both of the mechanisms to find the sweet spot every time you use a new lure. Additionally, these lures are the most expensive of the three. 

How to Put A Line On Each Fishing Reel 

Now that we’ve covered the different types of reels, we can get into how to change out the lines. We’ll start with the most simple type of lure, the Spincaster. 

How To Put Line On A Spincaster:

  1. First, you’ll need to take the cover off of the reel. As mentioned above, all spincaster have some sort of nose cone, whether it is plastic or metal. Some of these reels might have screws or latches that hold this nose cone together. 
  2. Now replace the old line by removing it from the spool. You can easily pull the old line from the Spincaster’s spool. A good strategy is to leave enough of the old line still in the spool for backing. 
  3. You’re now ready to start putting the new fishing line on the reel. Run the line through the first guide (the one closest to the reel) and then run it through the hole in the nose cone. If you don’t do this, you’ll have no way of putting the line through the nose cone.
  4. Now, you’ve got to tie the line to the spool. Tie an overhand knot and trim off the tag end with a pair of scissors. Then, tie a slip knot. This will create a big loop in the line with a tag end. Now, place the loop over the spool and pull on the end where you made the overhand knot, a type of fishing knot. The line should stop tightening once it hits the overhand knot. 
  5. Next, simply replace the nose cone. Remember to make sure it is locked in place! 
  6. Now you’re ready to start spooling. It is best to create some tension on your line by holding it between your thumb and index finger between the first guide and the nose cone. You can then start cranking until you have the desired amount of line inside of your spool. Don’t be afraid to remove the nose cone to see if you’ve used too much or too little of your new line. 
  7. Now, that you’ve got your line spooled. Cut off however much excess you’d like and then thread the end of the line through the remaining rod guides. All that’s left to do is tie on your favorite lure to your fishing rod! 

How To Put Line On A Spinning Reel: 

  1. If you have any old or tangled line still on the spool, remove all of it. 
  2. Next, you’ll need to run your line through the first guide and get ready to tie it around the spool. 
  3. Before you do that, you’ll need to remember this important step. It’s crucial that you open the bail arm of your spinning reel. If you skip this step and try to reel in the line, it won’t get picked up by the bail. Make sure to do this right before you tie your line! 
  4. Now you’re ready to put your line on the spool. Loop the line around the reel spool once and then tie an overhand not and pull it tight. Then, tie one more overhand not and make sure it’s tight just like the last one. Some people like to loop the line around the spool twice for extra security. This is known as an arbor knot. Make sure to cut the tag end off of your knot as close to the not as you can. 
  5. Winding the line onto the spool is a little tricky. To ensure there are no problems, have the new spool’s label facing upwards. The clockwise rotation of the new line will match up with how your reel spins. 
  6. Now, pinch a piece of the line between your index finger and thumb away from your reel. This will create tension and allow you to easily get your new line onto your reel. Start winding, but don’t go too quickly as you can burn your fingers. It will be full when it’s about 1/16th of an inch below the capacity of your spool. 
  7. Now, clip any excess line with a pair of scissors and thread it through the rest of the rod’s guides. Thread your new line through the rest of the line guides and then tie on a new lure. Now you’re ready to go fishing! 

How To Put Line On A Baitcaster:

  1. If you haven’t already, be sure to apply your Baitcaster reel to your fishing pole. 
  2. The next step, like with any of the different reel types. Is to remove any old or tangled line you’d like to replace. It is possible to save the old line and tie on the new line if you’re an angler who likes to save money. 
  3. Feed your new line through the first guide. On the front of Baitcaster reels, there is a hole known as the “wormguide.” Feed your line through that. 
  4. Next, wrap your line around the spool. Then attach it securely to the spool using two overhand knots. Remember to clip off the tag ends with a pair of scissors or fishing pliers. 
  5. Now you can start re-spooling. Like spooling a new line into a spinner reel, keep the packaging of your spool of line facing upward.  Remember to put some pressure on the line by holding it between your thumb and index finger! Then, start reeling. 
  6. Spool enough line until there’s about 1/8th of an inch of space from the edge of the reel’s spool. This is the ideal amount of line to have on your spool and will ensure smooth casting from the get-go. 
  7. All that’s left is to clip any excess line from your new package of line and then feed the freshly spooled line through the guides. Now just open up your tackle box, grab your favorite lure or bait, and start fishing!
Fly fisherman using a spinning reel with yellow line in a close up view on his hands against water with green reflections

A fly fisherman attaches a yellow line to a spinning reel. 

How To Attach New Line To Old Line

Something we’ve mentioned a few times in this article is that you can save the old line of your reel. This is something we highly encourage as it can save time and money. But when is it appropriate to try and save your reel’s old line? The answer to that question really depends on how big the damage is to your line is.

If your line is super tangled up and looks like a literal bird’s nest, then there’s no point in trying to save it. At that point, the line is far too tangled and damaged. If there’s only a little line twist, it can be salvaged. Another point to watch out for is how much weight your new and old lines can withstand.

If you plan on angling big fish, it probably isn’t the best idea to attach the new, stronger line to an older, weaker one. You might lose that trophy fish in the heat of battle! Instead, it’s best to just replace the entire spool. The actual process for attaching new lines to old ones is actually pretty simple.

First, you need to clip off whatever tangled part of your old line is left to make room for the new line. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to attach the new line. The best way to do this is to use a special kind of knot known as a double uni knot.

The process for tying this sort of knot is a little complicated and is better explained by watching a demonstration, rather than having us try to explain it to you. This video will show you the quickest and easiest way to tie such a knot.

Final Verdict

As you can see, putting a new line on a fishing reel isn’t all that complicated. The biggest thing you have to worry about really is tying the right knot on your fishing line and making sure you don’t over-spool your line. If you’d like to learn more about the different types of fishing knots, check out this article

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Riley Draper

Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.