How to Put Fishing Line on a Spinning Reel – Easy Step by Step Guide

Today we’re all about fishing line. The main focus is revisiting how to spool up your spinning reel easily, and for the best results.

We’ll link to knots, techniques, and other how-to videos to make things a little more engaging and practical. 

Ideally, we’ll create a concise one-stop fishing line reference point that covers core basics. We’ll delve into the murky waters of which is better, mono or braid. 

This argument tends to highlight the importance of fishing line selection, which we’ll also look at in some depth.

In fishing as in everything else, there are few strict immutable rules. Much of what we’ll discuss is driven by preference and experience.

However, there are some universal basics, principles, and guidelines that will boost your fishing skills and enhance your fishing experience.

Let’s start at the most logical point. How to put fishing line on a spinning reel.

How to Spool Up A Spinning Reel

There are lots of differing opinions and ideas about this. Some I find a little odd, some completely contradictory. I’ll link you to a few and let you be the judge.

In my opinion, I feel too many anglers obsess about line twist (mono) and arbor knots – i.e. the knot that holds the line to the spinning reel.

With mono on a spinning reel, a level of line twist is inevitable. Fuss as much as you like to reduce it. But I’ve never fussed, and I never have a problem.

Similarly, people go to crazy lengths to secure line to the reel. All you need to achieve is to stop your line from slipping around the arbor to get a spool-up started. 

You don’t even need a knot to do this.

People use superglue, tape, special knots, and all sorts of little tricks. I don’t know why. 

If you’re spooled to the arbor in a fish fight, you’re done. No knot is going to save you from there.

I’ll tell you what I do; It’s simple, fast enough, and requires no special tools. I usually do this by myself. It’s nice to have help, but independence is key.

Essentially, this is for braid and mono. There are a few extra considerations for braid which I’ll address separately. At the end of this article, you will find some practical video guides.

Let’s spool up.

Step 1

Grab your rod, reel, and your spool of line. You need a chair, a pencil or screwdriver, and some socks. Put the socks on.

I have a spool-up rod. It’s an old rod about 6 feet. I like it because the reel seat will take surprisingly large reels. I use this rod to spool up my 1000 reels to 8000 spinning reels.

Step 2

Thread your line from the tip guide through to the reel. Open the bail arm and tie on your line with a simple slip knot. Pull tight and cut off the excess. Close the bail arm.

Step 3

Do a few slow winds without any tension so that the line has a chance to grip the arbor. It’s essentially griping against itself.

Step 4

Put the pencil through the new line spool and hold the pencil between your big toes. 

Add tension and begin to wind. The trick here is to add the tension with your feet pressing against the feeding spool.

I find that the combo of foot pressure and the line fed through all guides gives the rod its natural bend under pressure allowing me to pack the spool evenly with consistent pressure. 

I can feel the pressure with my feet and see the pressure with the bend in the rod.

I use as much pressure as possible without causing uneven line lay. This pressure delivers enough stretch to mitigate some of the line twist from mono.

Step 5

Continue to fill your reel until just below the bevel on your spool lip. Do not go beyond this. 

An over-full spool will deliver a knotty mess when it comes time to cast. 

An under-filled spool will decrease casting performance and reduce your fighting power, should a large fish take a long run.

Step 6

I do the same with braid. However, I spool up a third mono, then join braid for the top two-thirds of the spool using a uni-knot.

Braid slips on the arbor, and it can be a complete pain. Many reels come with a “braid Ready” feature which are rubber grips built into the arbor. 

These will degrade over time, but they do prevent slippage, so you can easily connect braid directly to the arbor.

This is never an issue for me. I will always use a mono backing. It just saves money. Braids can be terribly expensive. If I can use a third less every spool-up, then happy days.

Why Line Selection Is Important

Obviously, fishing line is important. It’s a tough day’s fishing without it. But how important is line selection? 

Should you use mono or braid? And what about leaders?

Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, I had a choice of mono or mono. Trace was mono too, yet we’d step up to steel trace if we targeted anything with serious teeth.

There were plenty of mono brands from which to choose, but braid wasn’t really on the radar for the average angler.

In fact, I wasn’t seriously looking at braids until the late ’90s.

In the absence of braids, mono was used for almost everything. And it was very successful then, as it still is now.

Quality mono was also very affordable and continues to be available at accessible price points. However, premium brands have a habit of inflicting a little pain on the pocket.

Our traditional reliance on mono brings into question our current obsession with braids and line selection. 

Young fisherman is fishing in river with spinning reel

Do we really need to spend the extra money on braid? Will it guarantee that we catch more fish? After all, the end game is catching more fish, right?

Line selection is important. It’s always in your best interest to select the right fishing line for the application. 

But I’m not necessarily talking about braid or mono here. I simply mean any fishing line that suits the purpose.

For example, If I’m chasing GT’s and tuna from the ocean rocks, I want a very strong line with excellent abrasion resistance.

When fishing around rock and reef, it’s nearly a guarantee that your line will contact sharp structures while under load. Poor abrasion resistance, in this instance, is a recipe for heartbreak.

If I’m flipping and pitching for bass in clear water in the cooler months, I want a small diameter line for excellent casting properties, as light a line class as I dare for peak lure action, and a line/leader that is as invisible as possible in the water.

In short, is my line the right strength, appropriate for casting demands, suitable for lure style and weight, and is it the appropriate color or translucence so as to not spook the fish?

Importantly, line selection should be appropriate for the reel. For example, Packing a 2500 spin reel with 80-pound mono is disproportionate to the extreme. 

You’re not chasing grouper with your 2500. Needless to say, you’ll get very few yards of 80 pound on a 2500 anyway.

On the same token, filling a game reel with a 10-pound braid will cost you a small fortune. 

And in practical fishing terms, the marlin and yellowfin will laugh and poke fun at you, as they see your 10 pound as no better than cotton.

Braid and mono are very different products. They are made of different materials, manufactured differently, and have very different performance qualities.

Both have their pros and cons. And both have applications where one either outperforms the other or is more suitable.

Don’t let anybody tell you one is better than the other. But there are circumstances where a selection of one or the other may well impact your catch and the quality of your fishing experience.

When choosing mono or braid, we’re effectively tweaking our rig to extract maximum performance. 

Achieving maximum performance will enhance our catch ratios and the fishing experience generally. 

Let’s look a little closer at braid versus mono.

Should I Use Braid Or Mono?

I really need to preface this section with an underlying truth. It’s up to you. Choose the line you are comfortable with and the line you can afford. You’ll catch fish.

Braid came to prominence with the dramatic rise of lure fishing over the last two decades – soft plastics in particular.

This rise created an undercurrent of bizarre fishing line elitism reminiscent of the old spinning reel versus baitcaster snobbery.

Braid is far more expensive, requires far more developed knot-tying skills, and is associated with precision lure fishing. It certainly requires more care when handling.

But braid has some outstanding performance qualities that make it an excellent choice for a bunch of fishing applications.

Let’s look at the critical differences between mono and braid. Then I’ll discuss which line I would choose for certain applications. 

Remember, other anglers see mono and braid applications very differently to me.

Mono Features

  • Single strand construction
  • High level of stretch
  • Sensitive enough, but variable. Sensitivity decreases as line diameter increases.
  • Visibility. Can be high-vis but excellent for translucence. (Brand Dependent). Some brands are perfect for clear water where spooking fish can be an issue.
  • Good to excellent abrasion resistance. (Brand dependent)
  • Poor line strength to line diameter ratio
  • Very forgiving relative to casting errors and other mishaps such as a poorly set drag.
  • Outstanding knot strength for standard knots
  • Very high memory causing line twist
  • Propensity to twist, especially on spinning reels
  • Very affordable. (brand dependant)
  • User friendly
  • Good to excellent casting properties
  • Susceptible to damage from friction-generated heat.
  • Large line diameters limit the amount you can spool up.

Braid Features

  • Multi-strand construction
  • Next to no stretch
  • Superb sensitivity
  • Variable abrasion resistance (poor to good, brand dependant)
  • Outstanding line strength to line diameter ratio
  • Very unforgiving. Poor shock capacity
  • Poor knot strength (requires advanced knot skills for secure knots)
  • Low memory
  • Low twist
  • Very expensive
  • Not so user friendly
  • Excellent to outstanding casting properties
  • Reasonable tolerance to friction-generated heat.
  • Small line diameters allow you to spool up with a lot of fishing line.

My Braid and Mono Applications

There are few rules here. The best I can do is give you my fishing line habits and justification. 

It’s important to note other anglers will feel differently. It’s also important to note that it wasn’t that long ago that I was using mono for every application listed below.

For Surf Fishing – Choose Mono

I prefer the ‘feel’ of mono in the waves. Braid is a little too sensitive relative to the constant pounding of the wave action.

I often cast large baits and weights and prefer the forgiving stretch in mono for this. I also feel mono is a little more forgiving in the ever-present surf-side wind.

I prefer having the stretch of mono on my set rods. I can have the drag set heavily without the fear my rod will be pulled into the sand before I grab it from its sand-bedded rod holder.

I rarely use lures in the surf except for heavier metal slices. Again, the stretch of the mono ensures casting is a little more forgiving.

Lure Fishing – Choose Braid

For feel, braid is best in my opinion. Mono is fine, but the sensitivity of braid is amazing. 

You really can feel everything. It’s like having eyes on your lure. I also think you get better lure action using braids.

There are exceptions here. I will use mono when the water is very clear, and also when sight fishing. I may consider mono if I’m casting into structures like oyster racks.

Lure fishing inshore is almost exclusively braid. I like that I can use a smaller spinning reel, while still having plenty of line and line strength available. 

I like the feel of casting braid from small spinning reels. Accuracy is excellent, so too is length.

A hint of caution to beginners is that braid with a full graphite rod, and fast action can get you into trouble with poorly timed aggressive striking. 

Hooks are frequently pulled on strike. It’s a feel thing that’s learned over time.

Ocean Rocks – Mono and Braid

Again, like the surf, I’m often using live baits and heavier natural baits, and heavier weights. I like mono for casting these.

I also prefer mono for its abrasion resistance. Others will argue this point. 

But in my experience, I have had mono stand up to rock, reef, and barnacle better than braid. I have landed big fish with my line looking like it’s been through a meat grinder, yet it held on.

I will use braid if I’m casting large stick baits and poppers. I can cast them miles because of the small line diameter, yet I don’t have to compromise on line strength for distance.

I can cast further (generally) with a far more powerful line. Importantly, I impart a far better action on these lure types with braid, especially the poppers.

I choose braids with advertised better abrasion resistance. 

But I really cannot attest to their efficacy as I have never seen the point at which the line was cut to make conclusive comparisons.

Trolling – Mono

When offshore trolling for bigger fish it’s mono. Braid can be so unforgiving. I saw a Spanish mackerel, (not a very big one mind you), take bait trolled closely to the boat. 

The was drag set incorrectly. (In fact, the drag was wound up hard and not set at all…And it wasn’t me).

The fish struck, the rod tip hit the gunwale and took a nasty gouge. The rod tip was shattered, the line cut, and the rod recoiled with such force that it jumped out of the rod holder and into the water. 

This all happened in the blink of an eye.

While this was an error, it still demonstrates how braid can be unforgiving. It has no shock-force capacity at all.

I like mono as the stretch delivers forgiveness. I feel this is important with set rods targeting big fish to avoid lost fish on strikes and gear disasters.

I use mono slow trolling inshore as well. However, I will also use braid frequently as I’m generally holding the rod and can take immediate action should I hit a snag.

Jigging and Fishing Deep. Braid

Braid is great for jigging and fishing deep. Braid offers less sinking resistance, so my bait gets there faster.

Without the stretch of mono, I get a much better lure action when vertical jigging. I can use a smaller jig and generate plenty of fish-attracting action.

With a lot of heavy line out, mono isn’t so sensitive. 

Even with a heap of braid out, I can still feel everything that is going on at the business end. In my books, braid is great for these applications.

General Land-Based Family Fishing. Inshore. Mono

Getting out and chasing whatever fish with the kids is one of fishing’s greatest joys. 

For this application, it’s always mono. Simply because it’s easier. Knots are easier, the kids don’t cut themselves on the line, and it’s far more forgiving on mistakes, snags, and tangles.

This is a great article discussing mono over braid. We tend to see fishing line issues similarly, but that’s not why I’m linking to it. 

The author in this article gets opinions from experienced anglers, which I find valuable and interesting.

A Note About Safety

Grabbing mono under load as it’s peeling from your reel can cause nasty burns. Braid, however, can cut wet hands and fingers to the bone.

Getting your finger caught in a braid loop as you’re pulling in a game species can be very bad. 

Should that big yellowfin decide on one last desperate run while your fingers in a braid loop, it’s goodbye finger.

Always be extra cautious with braid. When you’re pulling a fish onto the rocks, bank, or into the boat, make sure you have a grip on the leader, NOT the braid.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I Have to use Braid?

No, you don’t have to use Braid. I don’t let anybody tell you differently.

Should I Soak My Mono?

You can soak mono. However, I see no value in it at all. It’s meant to reset your line memory to your reel spool and limit line twist. 

I’ve found little if any value in this. Nor do I find any value in line conditioners. Others will disagree.

Soaking your line in warm or hot water while on the spool only invites water into your drag system. Which is Bad!

What is the Best Fishing Line for Spinning Reels?

Monofilament and Braid are of equal value depending on the application.

Can You use Fluorocarbon Line on a Spinning Reel?

Yes, you can use Fluorocarbon line on a spinning reel. But again, I find no benefits to it at all relative to the high price. 

Fluoro is an excellent trace material and now extremely popular despite the high price.

Why Does my Fishing Line Keep Twisting?

Mono is prone to twisting based on the action of the bail arm and twist and turn of baits as you pull them through the water. 

Mono will twist straight off the new spool because of line memory. Refer to the instruction above to reduce line twist when spooling up. 

Stretch through use will mitigate line twist, but there’s no substitute for a quality swivel to mitigate line twist when fishing.

How Much Fishing Line Should I Put on my Reel?

Always fill your spool to just below the bevel on the spool lip. Never overfill your spool as an over-filled spool will shoot line off in mass loops causing a horrible mess.

Reference List

Videos of spooling a spinning reel. Note the contrasts in understanding, beliefs, and techniques. There’s more than one way to skin a cat. 

But a few of these anglers tend to overthink it.

I like the way I do it. In 40 years, I’ve never had any serious issues with line twist with the only exception being poor mono quality.

Where quality is concerned, I avoid cheap lines and avoid the top shelf. I’m not brand loyal, I go for value. 

And I’ve found heaps of brands I really like in both mono and braids.

Experiment, and try them all. I go for supple mono for knot strength and compromise with abrasion resistance. With braid, I look for abrasion resistance pretty well all the time.

Spooling up Video. Note his belief about feed direction.

Spooling up Video. Note the braid-ready spool and over-the-top arbor connection.

Spooling up video. Note the contrast with video one.

Spooling up Video. Note the comments. So many crazy ideas

Spooling up video. Note the truth about line twist.

Spooling up video. Note the jig. Also, he’s a soaker. I question the tension of holding it with a towel.

Here is a very interesting video on cast distance comparisons. 

I’ve never used a line conditioner, and I’m never likely to. But here’s a couple of links so you can check them out for yourself. Reelsnot Reel & Line Lubricant and Line & Lure Conditioner Kevin VanDam’s.

Knot Videos

Arbor knot

Uni knot

FG Knot

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