Spooling Up: Part 1
  |  First Published: April 2012

This month we welcome well-known fishing communicator and presenter, Steve ‘Starlo’ Starling, to the pages of Fishing Monthly with his new column: “Back To Basics”. To kick off this nuts-and-bolts, how-to series, Starlo takes a close look at the critically important subject of spooling up your reels with line. Whether you’re a new chum or an old hand, this one’s well worth reading!

Welcome to the first instalment of my Back To Basics series. As the name of this new column implies, it’s all about the fundamental building blocks of our sport, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s intended purely for beginners… far from it! Lots of experienced anglers will benefit from re-visiting some of these basics, and I’d like to think that even the guns of the sport may pick up a gem or two from reading these columns.

Over the coming months we’ll tackle subjects like filling and top-shotting your reels with line, selecting and adding leaders, setting your drag, hooking, fighting and landing fish, handling the catch, improving your casting, putting baits on the hook properly, working and tuning lures, organising and maintaining your gear and a whole bunch more. However, if there’s something you’d specifically like to see covered, please jump on my Facebook page and tell me. You’ll find it by using the search bar on Facebook to look for StarloFishing.

This month I want to kick off with an aspect of tackle preparation that’s glossed over in many how-to books and DVDs, but which is critical to successful, trouble-free fishing: spooling up your reel with line.

Spooling up is an easy enough process, but if you get it wrong, your fishing life is likely to become a misery of tangled or buried lines, slipping line loads and lost fish. These potential hassles are only compounded when using modern, gel-spun polyethylene or ‘PE’ super lines and braids.

The process of spooling up any reel is made easier by first fitting that reel to a rod. If you’re doing the job inside (while watching the cricket on telly, for example!), it’s fine to use just the lower half of a two-piece rod.

Take the spool of line you’ve bought to put on the reel and find the end of the line. It may be covered with a piece of tape, knotted back over itself or trapped in a slit on the edge of the plastic spool. If the end of the line is kinked, damaged or covered with sticky goo, cut half a metre or so off the line.

Next, take the end of the line and pass it down through the runners of the rod. You don’t have to go all the way from the tip if you don’t want to. In fact, you can just pass the line through the stripper guide (the largest runner, closest to the reel).

The next step — attaching the line firmly to the core of the reel’s spool — varies a bit depending on the type or style of reel you’re using. If it’s one of the very popular spinning or threadline reels (also known as eggbeaters or coffee grinders), you’ll need to open the reel’s bail arm first, then tie the line to the spool core before closing the arm over the line. I stress: moving the bail arm into the open position before tying on the line is vital!

With a baitcaster or plug reel that has a level-wind mechanism, you’ll need to pass the end of the line through the little ceramic or metal line carrier on the level-wind device before tying it to the spool. This can be fiddley on smaller baitcasters, but it’s important to get it right. Similarly, if you own a spincast, closed-face or “bull’s bum” reel, you’ll need to unscrew the conical spool cover, pass the line through the hole in this cover, tie it to the spool core and then re-fit the cover.

Sidecast, fly and overhead reels without line guides or frames are easier: simply attach the line directly to the reel’s spool core.

Before tying the all-important knot that will secure the end of the line to the reel, take the line and wrap it tightly at least three times around the spool core. Four to six times is much better with slippery, braided super lines (and no, you don’t really need to add any nylon backing first if spooling up with braid, despite the claims that many people make about this).

There are a number of knots you can use to secure the line to your reel, but a six-wrap Uni Knot is ideal, and don’t be afraid to leave several centimetres of tag end to resist slipping.

It’s critically important to tie a really tight, secure knot when attaching the end of the line to your reel. Not only will this help to prevent the line load slipping or spinning on the spool, it may also save you from losing a big fish, a lot of line… or even your whole rod and reel! Let me explain:

A really big, strong fish can potentially rip all of the line from your spool, despite the resistance imposed by the reel’s drag. This is called getting spooled or being clean spooled. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen all that often, despite colourful yarns you may hear to the contrary, but it can happen. Chances are, if a fish is big enough to empty your reel, it’s also big enough to snap the line. However, if the line holds, that knot at the spool core may prove to be critical!

Similarly, the knot you use to tie the line to your reel also becomes important if you drop your outfit overboard while the reel is in free spool or the bail arm is open. If you’re lucky enough to be able to grab the line at such a calamitous moment — or someone else hooks it out of the water for you — you’re going to have to pull all the line off the submerged reel into a big pile and then haul the rod and reel up from the depths. Once again, that connection between line and spool is extremely important at this point! So, make it a good one.

Next month: Winding on the line load.

Fast, hard-sprinting fish like Spanish mackerel can potentially empty a small spinning reel of light line on their first run. If it happens, you’ll want a damn good knot connecting your line to your spool!

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