BACK TO BASICS: Spooling Up Part 2
In the first part of this blog series on spooling up your reel, I looked at attaching the end of your line to the spool of your reel before beginning to crank all that line on… Now it’s time to work up a sweat as we finish the job!
Hopefully, you’ll remember that in that first part I instructed you to fit the reel to a rod, run the end of the new line down through at least one runner, wrap it several times around the spool core, then secure it firmly in place with a five or six turn Uni Knot. I also stressed that if you’re filling a spinning (threadline) reel, you’ll need to open the bail arm first, before attaching the line, while if it was a baitcaster, the line would need to pass through the level wind carrier first.
After tying that important Uni Knot, tightening it firmly and trimming the knot to leave a one or two centimetre tag, you can actually begin spooling up… This is the physically active part of the process! (Note that if you’re spooling with braided or fused gel-spun polyethylene line, lots of people suggest laying down a base of 15 or 20 metres of mono first and tying your braid to this. To be honest, I don’t usually do this, but it’s not a bad idea.)
A heap of complicated literature exists about the best ways to pull line off the bulk holding spool you bought it on, including dragging the line over a specific side of the spool for some types of reel, or pulling it directly off the spool for other styles. If you come across such conflicting (and confusing) information, the best thing to do is forget it. It’s all tripe!
The best way to take the line off the plastic spool (for ALL reels) is to insert some type of axle in the central hole of the holding spool so that the line is drawn directly off the spool, as shown in the photos hereabouts.
The ideal axle for holding the spool in this way and allowing it to spin is either a thin piece of wooden dowel or a metal rod, but a long screwdriver shaft, a knitting needle or even a chopstick will do the job. You can even use a pen or a pencil when winding line off relatively narrow spools.
Spooling up is made so much easier if you have someone to help you hold the spool of line. Over the years, I’ve become quite adept at grasping the axle between my toes, but this method isn’t always practical — especially if you need to apply extra more tension to the line, as I’ll explain in a moment, or have an awkwardly long rod.
Assuming you can rustle up an assistant, have them hold the spool of new line on its makeshift axle while sitting or standing directly in front of you, a little more than the length of the rod away. Hold the rod and, pointing the tip of the rod at or just above the spool, begin to crank the reel handle to pick up line.
Now, this next bit is important, so pay attention! Whenever you wind line onto a reel without a weight on the end (such as a sinker, a lure or a hooked fish) you need to apply tension to the line. This tension ensures the line feeds neatly onto the reel with firm, tight wraps and no loose loops that could cause knots. The process of adding tension is especially important when first spooling up because winding line on loosely when you fill a reel, can lead to all sorts of headaches later. In a worst case scenario, loosely spooled line can cut down into itself or even slip and spin on the spool. The stronger the line you’re spooling up, the greater the tension you’ll need to apply.
If the line you’re filling your reel with has a rated breaking strain of less than 4 or 5 kg, you can apply all the necessary tension simply by running the line between the fingers of your rod-holding hand as you crank it onto the reel. The preferred method of applying pressure with this hand is to squeeze the line firmly between the pad of your index finger and the ball of your thumb.
With lines much heavier than a rated breaking strain of 5 kg, you need to apply extra tension, which is where your assistant begins to earn his or her keep. The assistant can apply a slight amount of tension by pressing on the ends of the spool with their hands. This slight amount of pressure, combined with your own finger pressure, offers enough resistance for lines with breaking strain up to about 8 or 9 kg.
Be warned, however, that your assistant is quite likely to cry out in pain after a short period because the friction between skin and spinning plastic can really heat things up! To avoid this, the assistant can wear a pair of light gloves or place a piece of fabric, such as a towel, between their hands and the spool rims.
Lines stronger than 8 or 9 kg — and particularly braided or fused gel-spun polyethylene (GSP or PE) “superlines” — need to be spooled up under considerable tension. This can be more pressure than you may imagine! Lines with breaking strains of 24, 37 or 60 kilos, as used by heavy tackle game anglers, need to be spooled under a serious amount of pressure, and to achieve this a couple of strong assistants wearing oven mitts or thick gardening gloves (to press against the spool ends) are almost a necessity. As a rule of thumb, if you don’t raise a sweat spooling 300 metres or so of heavier line onto a reel, you’re simply not packing it down tightly enough!
Avoid running the line itself through a towel or a gloved hand to add tension because the resulting friction can severely damage fishing line (especially nylon or fluorocarbon monofilament), causing it to break when you hook a fish. Instead, always apply additional tension or pressure to the spool rims, rather than directly to the line. The line itself should pass over or through nothing but the rod’s runners on its way to the reel.
Next time: How much line is enough?