How To Set Up a Spinning Reel: A Step-By-Step Guide

Every angler should have a spinning reel.

It’s easy for anyone to understand why spinning reels are so popular. From their ability to break wind and ease of use, A spinning reel is a reliable friend, whether you are fishing for bluegill in your local lake or catfish in slow-moving rivers.

It can be difficult to know how to set up a spinning rod if you are new to angling. We’d love to help you if your reel has just been unboxed.

This step-by-step guide will help you set up your spinning reel.

Spinning Reel Basics

No matter the size or intended use of the spinning reel, all have the same basic parts.

This will make it easier to follow the instructions.

The spinning reels have a fixed bail and a moving spool. The bail spins and winds the line around the motionless spinning spool. Casting is as easy as holding the line with your index finger. Once you do this, the line will flow from the fixed spool directly up and over its lip and down your guides.

While the lip of a spinning spool helps keep your line in place while casting, it can also be an obstruction during casts.

This basic design allows spinning reels to cast well in adverse conditions and is resistant to wind knots and tangles. They are also more efficient at casting light lines (anything less than 10-pound monofilament diameter), which makes them perfect for ultralight applications.

Our buying guide contains the Best Ultralight Reels.

The drag control is located at the front of most reels, where it can exert pressure. A few turns in either direction can dramatically alter the drag weight.

How to Spool Lines onto a Spinning Reel

Step 1

Close the bail.

Most likely, your reel arrived with the bail closed. Closed bails should be perpendicular to the axis on the reel.

An open bail will lie roughly parallel to the axis on the spool. It is usually at an outward angle.

This bail has been closed.

This bail is not closed.

Step 2

Refer to the line recommendations on your rod and choose the line that falls within the weight limits. I chose 6-pound Stren Original for my ultralight rod.

Use a Uni knot to tie your line to the spool. Although there are stronger knots, the Uni knot is strong and easy to tie.

This knot is a skill you need to master if you don’t already know it.

Trim the tag end (the bit leftover) to no more than 1/8 inch.

The tag end of my Uni knot is too long. I have attached it to the spool. If I leave it as is, it will affect casting.

I have trimmed the tag’s end and tied a knot. The replacement spool must be labeled upside down.

Casting may be difficult on larger reels that have heavier lines. You can use a little bit of duct tape to cover the knot and smoothen it against the spool if this happens.

You can cover the knot with a small amount of duct tape, but this is more trouble than it solves for ultralight or light reels.

Step 3

To apply just a little pressure, hold your rod close to the real.

Label the replacement spool with which you are taking line. This will ensure that the line comes off the spool in the same direction as it is wound onto your reel, which will improve its casting and lay.

Start cranking and loading the line onto your reel. Continue to crank until the line is filled to the limit of 1/8 inch from the lip.

For good casting, this spool can be filled as much as you need.

Casting performance will be affected if your spool is less than this. Your spool should not be too full. This will cause the line to slip on the lip and create the possibility of knots and tangles.

Keep your spool full. If it becomes empty, it is time to restring.

Step 4

It’s now time to drag.

A good rule of thumb is to start with a drag setting that equals roughly 1/3 of your line’s tensile strength. In this instance, I am using the 6-pound test. I need a drag setting that is approximately 2 pounds.

Start by attaching your line to a scale. This is best done directly without using guides.

My line is attached to the reel at one end and the scale at the other.

Turn your drag counterclockwise to loosen it.

Look down at the drag knob and turn it left or right to loosen the drag.

Next, weigh your line using the scale. Then tighten your drag until it reaches the desired weight. Because I will be fishing for small brook trout, I need slightly less than 2 lbs.

I’ve got my drag set for 1.4 pounds.

A properly set drag will protect your line and knots from sudden shocks. It’ll also work with your rod to tire fish in a tough fight.

You’re now ready to go!

Last Thoughts

I hope this guide helped you to set up your reel.

Please leave a comment below if it has!

Check out our guide on how to set up a fishing rod

Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.