HuntnFish has spent many years on the water fishing and has caught nearly every species of fish in Washington State.
Anyone who has dealt with a twisted fishing line knows it's a huge pain. Honestly, when I was a kid, I'm pretty sure constantly untangling my fishing line was the reason my dad eventually stopped taking me out. Twisted lines lead to knots, tangles, poor casting, lost gear, and even lost fish—and I've experienced all of them.
While some people just resign themselves to the fact that line twist happens, it's actually largely preventable. Use these tips to reduce the amount of time you spend untangling gear, and spend more time fishing.
7. Correctly Spool Your Spinning Reel
How to Spool a Spinning Reel
Proper line management on a spinning reel starts with the initial set-up of your fishing gear. If your fishing line is improperly spooled onto your spinning reel, you're bound to have line twist issues from the start. The general idea to to transfer all the intended line from the fishing line spool to your spinning reel spool, while maintaining the exact same natural curve the line has acquired from sitting tightly wound on the spool sitting on the shelf at the warehouse and store.
The Wrong Way:
- Spooling your spinning reel by placing the purchased line spool over an axle (e.g. pencil or pen), handing it to your buddy, and reeling in line. What this does is add a transverse twist to your fishing line, as the natural twist of the fishing line is being turned 90 degrees as its loaded onto your reel. Line loaded in this way will tend to jump off you spool.
The Better Way:
- Lay the spool of fishing line on the floor with a heavy weight on top, or nail it to a piece of scrap wood. The idea is to restrict its ability to spin. Thread the fishing lines through the eyes of your fishing rod, and tie to the spool with whatever solid fishing knot you choose. The Arbor Knot is conventional, I usually use a Uni Knot. While applying slight pinch pressure to the fishing line around the first eyelet, and holding the fishing rod between your legs, slowly being to reel in line with your free hand. After a number of turns, lower the point of the fishing rod toward the spool. If the line seems to tangle up, twist, or form loops, you're spooling line on 180 degrees from its natural bend and must turn the spool over (maybe wait on the nail until this step). If it doesn't seem to form any loops more noticeable than its natural bend, you're all set and keep spooling. If you can't quite tell initially, keep reeling and try again in a few more turns. If done properly, this will load the line onto your reel with the same natural curvature.
The Best Way:
- The best way to load fishing line onto a spinning reel is with a spinning reel line spooler. These systems involve removing your spinning reel spool from the spinning reel entirely, loading the line on separate from the reel, and then replacing the reel spool once fishing. These systems can be purchased online or created DIY with an electric drill. The easiest though, is to go to a local fishing store. Chances are they have one behind the counter, and if you buy the line they'll probably spool it up for free. We always did where I worked. Using a spinning reel line spooler is the best way to guarantee the fishing line is loaded onto the fishing reel with the same natural bend.
Other Spooling Tips:
- Don't overfill your reel. Leave a gap from the top of your line stack to the lip of your spool, roughly 1/8". Too little gap and line will jump off your reel. Too little and it will create unnecessary drag during casting.
- Don't wrap line onto your spool by hand, this will almost guarantee twist.
- Don't apply too much tension to the line while spooling line. If the line starts to feel hot in your fingers you're pinching too hand. Fishing line is stretchy and will act like a rubber band if stretched too much, retracting and unspooling itself when the tension is relieved.
- Don't apply too little tension to the line while spooling. If the line packs loosely onto the spool you will have a lot of tangles in your future. Apply just enough pressure to have the line stack snug and even, and none more.
6. Pre-condition Your Fishing Line
Give New Fishing Line Time to Relax Onto Your Spool Before Fishing
Even if you spool your spinning reel with the same bend direction, chances are it came off a different sizes spool diameter than your spinning reel spool. If the line came from the store on a 4" diameter spool, and you place it on a 1" diameter spinning reel spool, it will still want to naturally flex back to the 4" diameter. This can be mitigated in a couple ways.
Spool your reel with line as much ahead of time as possible. If you plan on fishing this weekend, try to spool your line midweek rather than Friday night, or worse yet, in the boat the morning of. The longer the new line sits packed onto the spinning reel spool, the less memory it will have of its past life on the factory spool.
In order to expedite the process, once you fill the spinning reel spool, but before installing it back onto the spinning reel, place the filled spool (with the loose end either taped or tied off) in a sink of warm water. Slightly heating the line will relieve some of the stress in the line from the new spool diameter. Leave the spool soaking for a few hours, then remove from the sink and allow to thoroughly dry. As the line cools back down, it will sit more naturally on the new spool diameter.
A Serious Line Tangle
5. Proper Spinning Reel Bail Handling
The Better Way to Cast a Spinning Reel
Here's a really quick one that will pay off big time.
Most spinning reels have an auto-trip function on the bail (the wire portion you flip back and forth when casting and reeling). The auto-trip function will automatically flip the bail from the cast position to the retrieve position if you start reeling. Do not use the auto-trip function.
Every time you use the auto-trip, you natural line twist and spinning reel line management mechanics will fall out of sync by a half rotation or so. This can really start to add up over time. Whats more, you will be creating twist in your line deeper into your spool, which is much more difficult to get rid of.
Get in a habit of manually flipping your spinning reel bail back to retrieve mode after casting. If you watch a bass tournament, all the pros do it. I know plenty of fishermen who have intentionally disassembled their spinning reels to remove the auto-trip function. You don't need to be that extreme, just choose not to use it.
4. Use a Swivel
Use Swivels to Prevent Line Twist
Better yet, use a quality swivel. Swivels are fishing tackle components which are tied or clipped in line with you rig, that can naturally twist to help prevent your line from twisting.
For most application, a barrel swivel will be sufficient. Barrel swivels spin fairly freely under low tension, and will help relieve twist from spinning tackle, like spoons or baited lures.
For higher tension loads, such as flashers and dodges or large spinning bait rigs, select either ball bearing swivels or swivel chains. Ball bearing swivels spin freely under high tension loads. Swivel chains have the advantage of acting as multiple swivels in line.
Oh, and if you're fishing in saltwater, make sure to use stainless steel swivels. A rusty swivel is no better than no swivel at all.
Sampo Ball-Bearing Swivels
3. Check Your Line Often
Checking Your Line for Twist Before it Gets Too Bad
Some of the worst line twist issues come while trolling. Perhaps you forgot a swivel, perhaps your swivel got covered in weeds and stopped spinning. Whatever the case, you want to stop the twist and fix the problem before it gets any worse. There have been a number of times when I was trolling, hooked a nice fish, and had my line break part way through the battle. When I would reel in my line, I could see hundreds of tiny loops and kinks in what was left of my severed fishing line. This has happened more times than I care to admit. Line twist significantly reducing breaking strength.
Rather than just sitting there and waiting while your line twists up, every now and then pinch your line at the first rod eyelet and pull it back to your reel seat, creating slack in the line. If the line immediately jumps and twists into loops, reel in your rig immediately and check your swivel and lures. If you keep fishing with the twist in your line, you could very well lose your next fish.
2. Be Careful When Baiting Lures
Baited Lures Behave Differently than Un-baited Lures
Many lures are designed to spin in order to attract and catch fish. Clearly with these a swivel is required to prevent line twist. However, there are plenty of lures which are designed to NOT twist. Examples include spoons, in-line spinners, and wedding ring style trolling lures. While these lures can generally be fished without a swivel without issue, as soon as you add bait to the lure, you change the lures flow mechanics, and will more often then not cause the lure to start spinning in the water. Some baits, like worms, are worse than others. You can always make a short cast to check if your bait addition is causing your lure to spin, but better yet, if you add bait, add a swivel too.
1. Use Quality Fishing Line
Cheap Fishing Line is Much More Likely to Twist and Tangle
This one is a no-brainer. Line management and line twist issues are one of the biggest drawbacks of cheaper spinning reels and cheaper fishing line (we already mentioned cheap swivels). A few extra bucks on the front end will ultimately save you many hours of fishing time dealing with line twist and tangles. The difference between a three-dollar 900-yd spool of no-name fishing line and a six-dollar 300-yd spool is night and day when it comes to casting, line management, line twist, and tangles.
Questions & Answers
Question: I have line on a spool that was never put on a reel for a least 10 years. Will that line tend to twist and could it be degraded?
Answer: Great question! You're right on both. Old line is more likely to maintain the form and curvature of the spool it was stored on, meaning it will be more likely to twist and tangle after loading it on the reel spool. Your other point is even more important. Line loses its strength over time, and ten years is very old in fishing line years. Storage conditions can help maintain the life of fishing line, especially if kept out of direct sunlight and temperature extremes, but even in the best conditions, I'd say 10 years is too old. Old fishing line will break much faster than a new line, and losing fish on broken lines is terribly frustrating.
VMan on October 09, 2019:
No idea what you’re talking about.
Been spooling spinning reels for more than 50 years, using homemade systems similar to those sold commercially, which pay out line off rotating filler spool at 90 degrees to reel spool.
Reel spool in place and rotor rotating.
Never... repeat... Never had any problem with line twist.
Also, ball-bearing swivels often do not turn freely - even the best.
Quality roller swivels more dependable.
Not likely to take tackle advice from anyone who calls guided “eyes” or “eyelets.”
Walter on January 12, 2019:
Thanks I had no idea.
Sean Woodburn on October 05, 2018:
Mostly spot on.
One grave exception was about loading line. The UK Carp fishermen and tournament casters are fixed spool artists and have proven beyond any doubt that the best way is to soak the line for thirty minutes and then have your friend poke with a pencil etc. The line then come off the spool opposite the way it went on.
The exception is side cast reels such as the Australian Alvey or South African Night Hawk where line should be taken of the spool sideways because they cast with the spool 90 degrees from the retrieve.
Some of these guys are casting over 240 meters. You think YOU get line twist?? Imagine what happens when you retrieve 800 feet of line!
huntnfish (author) from Washington on September 10, 2018:
Regarding which direction line should come off the spool, I honestly can never remember how it goes when I'm actually sitting down to spool new line. It complicates it even more when some older reels spin in the opposite direction. I just go by the twist rule. I'll wind on a few (maybe 10 or so) spins, then stop and see if the new line is trying to tie itself in knots. If it does, you've got the fresh spool backwards and are adding twist so just flip the spool over. If the line doesn't seem to tangle after the first 10 or so cranks, you've got it right, just keep going. Don't worry about having a few backwards rotations at the base of the spool, it will have relaxed by the time you ever make it that deep in your spool.
Regarding Reel Snot, I don't use it, but its oil based, so soaking the spool in warm water shouldn't have any ill effect. It's fishing line after all, the product was made to get wet.
Good luck out there!
Mike on September 07, 2018:
Excellent article!! More detail here than what I have seen on YouTube minus any visual instruction. I've looked at a lot of YouTube videos on this topic. Maybe I overlooked my question in your article but ill ask u anyways.
I've heard both opinions, which is right? The spinnining reel spins clockwise to put line on so the new line coming off the spool with the new line on the floor should come off clockwise, but the next guy says counter clockwise. Which is it?
One more question, do you think line conditioner, like Reel Snot, is useful? Seems to me it is, but what do u think? Because if im going to soak my spool in warm water it might wash off the reel snot? Or maybe the reel snot has already done its job by pinching the towel soaked with reel snot while spooling the new line through the towel with the Reel Snot.
huntnfish (author) from Washington on August 31, 2018:
I spent a lot of time in college fishing the Yellowstone and other nearby rivers, you're going to have a great time!
Anyway, regarding line, I'd stick with a monofilament. Two of my favorites for casting spinners and spoons are P-Line CX and Berkely Trilene XL. They are both small diameter, tough, smooth casting, and affordably priced. The P-Line CX is slightly smaller diameter than an equivalently rated Trilene XL.
Between 6 and 8lb test, make the selection based on the types and weights of lures you'll be using. The lighter the lure you want to cast, the lighter your line will need to be.
Joe Newman on August 31, 2018:
You seem to have a lot of experience. What is the best line for a spinning reel: 6-8lb test, river fishing (Yellowstone) for trout.
Susan Sears on June 16, 2017:
Very interesting I have often had trouble with twisting and tangling...after reading your article I am sure it is the way I am spooling my reel...I have used the pencil method more than once. Though to my benefit, I use a swivel.