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Fishing Skills

How Much Line Should You Put On A Spinning Reel

by Tom Melton 17 Jul 2022

Spooling up your reel is probably one of the most important elements before fishing it. The biggest question however is how much line should I put on my spinning reel? For years and still today anglers head to the local tackle shop and say, “Spool up my reel with new line please.” Most anglers have no idea how much to put on, so they leave it up to the professionals. I have been fishing a long, long time, and have spooled up thousands of spinning reels, which in my opinion makes me somewhat of an expert at it. Read on, and the next time you need a spool filled, you can do it yourself, and be right on target.

All my spinning reel spools are filled this way

Spinning Reel 

Maximum Capacity? 

Every spinning reel’s capacity is written on the box it came in. And, most however will definitely have it listed on the spool. Over time though, this marking may wear off, so hang on to those boxes! A reel’s capacity listing does not mean that is what you put on it. There are a lot of variables when spooling. If a reel is listed to hold 250 yards of 12 pound test monofilament; 250 yards of brand X, compared to 250 yards of brand Y may yield totally different levels on the spool. If you use a backing line also may alter the fill. A reel calling for 250 yards of 12 pound test braid may only use 100 yards if the reel is backed with another line or even yarn like we used in the old days. 

This is how close to the lip I fill my reels. (Photo A)

Spinning Reel Fishing Line

Bottom line is the capacity listing is a guide to let you know approximately what it will hold. This capacity listing may help you choose the “right” reel for the application. If I am fishing offshore with the new Kapstan Elite Spinning Reel, the spool capacity could factor in if I was targeting tuna, which may run the spool! 

How Far Can You Cast? 

I could ask 100 anglers how far to fill the spool on a spinning reel and get 100 different answers! Some anglers like it below the lip so they don’t get annoying wind loops or line “falling” off the spool (neither of which has anything to do with reel spool capacity). Some anglers, me included, like the spool filled to maximum capacity, and in fact, almost beyond what some would feel is “right.”

It may not seem like a lot, but this spool will not cast nearly as far as one fully spooled to the lip or just below. And, after the cast the line will be even lower on the spool which will affect the drag pressure. (Photo B)

fishing spinning reel

Before we get into how much line you really need on a spinning reel, think about this. How far do you think you can cast? Are you throwing it 25 yards? 50 yards? 150 yards? Are you fishing a species that may peel line off the reel like a missile taking off for Mars after it is hooked? Before you guess, head down to your local school’s football field and take a few casts. You will be surprised at what your final distance is. Most anglers believe they are casting a lot farther than they really are. 

As a reference to distance, in 1983 Ron Arra broke the DuPont Stren U.S. Open "Distance Surf Casting" world record with a cast of 212 yards with a 4-ounce bank sinker and an 11-foot rod. I know Ron very well, and although I do not remember the reel, it was a baitcaster, and I believe the bearings were heated, boiled, oiled and fine-tuned! So before you think you are heaving a 1/4 ounce spinnerbait 50 or 75 yards, really think about how far that is. 

How Much Line Do I need? 

In my opinion, your reel needs to be filled to maximum capacity, and I mean to the top of the spool (Photo A). Your reel will perform best at this capacity. Your drag will be even, and not altered by a spool that does not have enough line on it. A spool that is not filled and starts off well below the lip will be greatly lower on the spool after a good cast. In this case, the drag pressure will be greatly altered. 

I set the drag at 10 pounds with my reel filled (Photo A). After the cast, the drag pressure was 13 pounds. I performed another test starting with a spool not filled properly (Photo B). Before the cast I was at 10 pounds again. After the cast, and with the spool significantly lower, the drag pressure jumped to 16 pounds. 

The amount of line you put on your reel will vary with the technic, type of spinning reel (size) and what size and type line you are using. I always use a backing on all of my reels (Except the Spin Finesse Fishing SFS). The backing will fill the spool to an area where I can add my “fishing” line to the end. As a rule of thumb, I use approximately double the amount of line I will need to make my longest cast with the outfit. 

My 7-3 Speed Demon, with a 3000 Zephyr Carbon reel is used primarily for throwing Senko style stick worms. I can cast them about 20-25 yards, so my reel is filled with at least 50-75 yards of line. How much backing I use will depend on what diameter and type line I am using to fish with.

To figure out the amount of backing to ensure filling is where I want it, it is a trial and error process until you get it right. By utilizing the new KastKing Kalibrate Line Spooler, you will know exactly how much line you have on your reel.

The only time I will use more than double the line needed to cast is in a situation mentioned above where you may be offshore fishing or in very deep water, or fishing a very strong and fast fish – tuna, tarpon etc. In this case, I will adjust the amount of line on my spinning reel, and may even go full spool with no backing. 

Whether you use inexpensive monofilament or other material as backing, just keep it to where it will not interfere with your “fishing” line. 

spinning fishing reel

In Conclusion 

To close out the question of how much line do I need on my spinning reel, the answer is really not about how much the reel holds, but at what point do I want the line on the spool after filling. For me, I want to line just barely under the lip (Photo A). For me, this works. As for amount, like I said earlier, depends on distance, type of fish or water depth. The last important factor of a full spool is casting distance. A full spool will greatly outcast one that is only partially filled. 

Some anglers may argue that a spinning reel filled to this capacity is going to give you wicked wind loops and other line issues. Line issues have nothing to do with the amount of line. Line issues arise because you are not paying attention to your spool. If your spool becomes loose or spongy, you will get these issues. The key is to spool up tight, and keep a good feel on the spool. If after casting for a while, the spinning reel feels soft, after your next cast apply pressure to your line with your thumb and fore-finger to tighten the line back on to the spool. Trust me, if you are attentive to your spool, line issues will be minimal, if not at all. 

Filling a spinning reel to capacity does not mean just reading what it can hold. You need to experiment, know how far you can cast, what you are targeting, and possibly how deep you are fishing. It is not rocket science, but you may need to experiment.

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