Hints For Successful Fishing Line Management

Published By Captain Mick Maynard
for the spring 2019 issue of Get Hooked Magazine

As a charter Captain I have the opportunity to guide fishermen of all skill levels, from the carefree novice to the meticulous professional. When my clients show up at the dock their individual objectives for the trip may be somewhat different, but they usually have some things in common; they want to catch a few fish, hopefully big ones, and they want to learn some things that will improve their fishing skills and knowledge. Very often the knowledge I pass on can be simple yet valuable. Fishing line is a basic part of an anglerís equipment. Itís a key link from the lure to the rod and therefore it is critical that it be in tip top condition and functionality. Proper management of fishing line is an essential part of an efficient and trouble free outing. An angler who is spending valuable time on the water untangling line or fighting with their equipment is not presenting baits to fish. The following line management tips will help keep fishermen off the sidelines and in the game.

As with most things in life, an indifferent approach can hinder achievement, and so it is with fishing. Novice lady anglers can be my easiest, most successful clients because theyíre open to advice and they donít have many bad habits. Success usually comes to the inquisitive angler while it eludes the passive or stubborn old school fisherman. We werenít born with knowledge; we gathered it along the way. No one is too old to learn something new, and that includes this charter Captain.

Off with the old line and on with the new to prevent the dreaded coil or twist

Spring is a great time for anglers to check the condition of fishing line on their reels. Keeping fresh line on your fishing reels will save time and eliminate a lot of problems. Line that is old or rotted can easily break and thatís obviously not good. In addition, old monofilament or fluorocarbon line can become stiff and brittle retaining a coiling property we call memory. The coils act like a spring, minimizing the action of lures. Coiling also shortens an anglers cast and leads to tangling. Perhaps most significantly, it can affect the fishermanís ability to detect a strike or make a proper hook-set!

Some fishermen donít realize that there is a right way and a wrong way to fill a spinning reel with fresh line. The angler should carefully load the spool so that the line doesnít twist. One mistake that can lead to line twist is to use a pen or pencil in the middle of the spool when filling a reel. An uncomplicated way to assure the line is not twisting as you load it is to place the fresh spool of line flat on the floor or facing you. Watch the line as it comes off. It should come off the filler spool in a counter clockwise direction and feed onto the reel as the bail rotates clockwise. Apply tension to the line as you go. Also, be very careful not to overfill your reel with line. This can result in line spilling uncontrollably off the top of the spool. Filling a bait casting reel is slightly different in that the line feeds onto the spool over the top rather than with the clockwise rotation of a spinning reel. Simply start with the line coming off the spool counterclockwise and watch for coiling as it passes from spool to reel. If the coils get tight flip the spool over to reverse the twist, then when coiling stops return to the counterclockwise emptying of the spool.

Reeling against the drag is another common mistake that leads to twisted fishing line. When a drag is set too light and is slipping as the angler continually casts and retrieves, the line will twist. Similarly, twisting will occur if a fish is pulling out drag and the fisherman is simultaneously cranking the reel. The drag tension should be set for the purpose of fighting a large fish, it should not be set lightly so a fishermen can pull on it to adjust the length of line before each and every cast. When I see anglers do this I shake my head knowing that they are twisting their line cast after cast, but even worse, when a fish hits theyíre ill prepared for a proper hook-set and the ensuing battle.

A simple way to remove the twist from the line after it occurs is to use a moving boat or current from a flowing river or stream. Remove any lures or terminal tackle from the line and let it out freely behind the boat as it idles along. If a boat is not available use the current of a river to pull the line downstream and off the spool. After leaving it trailing for several minutes in the moving water, begin retrieving the line. Pinching the line with the thumb and forefinger will also help to take out the twist and snugly collect it back on the reel.

Tangled, twisted, or compromised fishing line can lead to lost opportunities and a waste of precious time on the water. The line and lure needs to be in the water to catch fish! Simply put, if an angler is spending all their time untangling line theyíre not fishing. Proper line management will keep you fishing throughout your trip so you donít miss out on the big ones!

Cranking the bail closed leads to wind knots Another line issue many fishermen confront is a phenomenon we call a ďwind knotĒ. Wind knots happen most often with braided line. Todayís braided line has many advantageous attributes like small diameter, superior sensitivity and no stretch qualities. However, many anglers steer away from using it because of the difficulty resulting from wind knot issues. The problem can drive an angler to insanity and it can occur without the presence of wind. It happens when a fisherman fails to snug up slack line at the beginning of a retrieve and a loop-over occurs. A single revolution of line will lie loosely on the reel, typically across the top of the reel spool, creating a slight loop. As the unsuspecting fisherman reels their line in over the top of the lose coil they bury that loop deep in the spool. On the very next cast, as the line flies off the spool, it catches the buried lose strand and pulls it out from underneath causing a major mess. If the birdís nest canít be sorted out it may become necessary to refill the reel with the costly braided line. Benjamin Franklin once said, ďItís easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.Ē Loop over or wind knots will be minimized by doing away with one bad habit that a surprising number of fishermen donít realize is detrimental. Fishermen using a spinning reel should never crank the bail closed following their cast! Cranking the bail closed leads to wind knots and prematurely wears out the bail spring. Because of ďmuscle memoryĒ it may not be easy for fishermen to break this habit, but in the end it will be well worth it. A watchful angler should manually flip the bail closed and then snug up their line just prior to their retrieve. These two simple tasks will eliminate almost all the wind knot problems and reduce expensive wear and tear on the bail spring, the most vulnerable part of a spinning reel.

The no-stretch attribute of braided line makes it a good choice for jigging big lake trout in deep water. Its sensitivity allows the angler to impart erratic action to the lure, feel the strike, and make solid hook sets. Remember, itís important to close the bail manually on spinning reels to avoid both wind knots and damage to the reelís bail spring.

Be patient and remain in control, donít let weeds or a fouled lures get the best of you

Itís very common for fishermen to get bits and pieces of weeds or other debris on their line, lure or rod tip. Now and then a lure might foul, getting line wrapped around its hooks. These are minor issues and they should be patiently dealt with. What amazes me is how often I see anglers do crazy things to untangle a fouled lure or remove debris from their line or bait. Iíve been witness to fishermen slapping their baits on the water, whipping their lure perilously in circles or bouncing and shaking their rod tip to sort out the tangled lure. In most cases they end up turning a minor issue into a major complication. Obviously, if for no other reason than safety, fishermen should refrain from violently swinging hooks around. Thrashing or slapping lures on the water to remove weeds can damage expensive hard baits, tear soft plastic bait, spook fish and compromise knots. In most cases the angler has to surrender to the weeds and remove them with their hands anyway. Waving the rod tip about to shake off weeds or untangle a lure can lead to worse scenarios, like line becoming wrapped or knotted around the guides, or even breaking a fishing rod. Donít become your worst enemy out there, calmly take a moment to fix the issue and youíll quickly and efficiently get back to fishing. I often see fisherman awkwardly choke up on a fishing rod and struggle to reach a fouled lure they just reeled up to the very tip of their rod. Or, I see them set the rod down on the floor of the boat to reach to lure. Thereís a much better way. Itís another effortless trick often overlooked by even the most experienced fishermen. Simply leave out a rodís length of line and raise the pole vertically. This allows the lure to gently swing into the angler like a pendulum, within easy reach, where it can be simply cleared and sorted out without even setting the rod down. Getting in the habit of doing this will make a person a safer and more efficient fisherman.

Vigilance is critical where the line meets the lure, or terminal tackle

Anglers should choose their knots carefully and always be sure theyíre in good condition. There are specific knots for many fishing applications so it is wise to properly pair the knot with each application or lure. When casting repeatedly the knot should be monitored for wear, just as it should after each catch. Frequent examination of your knot assures that you wonít lose that monster fish youíve been waiting a lifetime to hook. I suggest learning the following five commonly used knots.

The Uni Knot (aka The Grinner Knot): As its name implies, this dependable knot has universal applications. The uni knot wonít slip when used with braided line. It can be tightened up against baits or terminal tackle or, the fisherman can leave a loop in the knot allowing for unimpeded action of lures. Itís an ideal knot for stickbaits and crankbaits. This is the knot that this author uses most frequently.

The Double Uni Knot: This knot is great for connecting two lines of equal or unequal dimensions. When a fisherman needs to add more line to a spool or fix a fluorocarbon leader to braided line this knot is ideal.

The Improved Clinch Knot: This popular knot has been used by freshwater fishermen for a long time. Itís easy to tie and works well with monofilament and fluorocarbon line up to 25 pound test. It is not reliable when used with braided line.

The Palomar Knot: This popular fishing knot has superior strength and is relatively easy to tie. It also works well with braided line. Itís typically used in drop shot applications because with a little manipulation it causes the hook to stand out at a right angle from the line.

The Non Slip Loop Knot (aka the Kreh Knot): This trustworthy knot was made popular by Lefty Kreh. Itís a perfect knot to be used in place of a swivel. Like the uni knot it allows for the free flowing action of a lure. Unlike the uni, it can not be tightened up against lure or hook.

Please keep in mind that it is in the spirit of helpfulness that I make these observations and recommendations. Hopefully Iíve been able to convey a little qualified insight into some well known fishing concerns with some less recognized solutions. The good news is that even if a fisherman already has a few routine oversights they can always recondition themselves to correct them. If theyíre willing to take a little constructive critiquing they can raise their game to the next level.

Ditch the Clip and Swivel Combo to Present a More Natural Looking Lure

When fishermen become complacent or apathetic they reduce their chances for success on the water. Using the proper terminal tackle, knots and lure presentation will increase opportunities for more and bigger fish. Many fishermen will use a swivel, clip or other form of terminal tackle when itís not necessary. Swivels are designed to reduce line twist. They are made for in line spinners, spoons and presentations that have the potential to rotate and thus twist the line. Every quality lure manufactured today is perfectly balanced out of the package for maximum action and made to look as real and enticing as possible. Why would a fisherman use a swivel on a perfectly balanced stickbait or crankbait when it takes away from the action and natural look of the lure? If youíre presenting a nice spinner, spoon or other lure that has the potential to twist the line, why not consider an inline swivel tied several feet away from the lure? A serious fisherman will take needless and unsightly terminal tackle out of the equation leaving the lure looking as natural as possible. Sure, tying knots takes time but the proper knot tied to a lure will allow for a much more convincing presentation. Use transparent leaders for line shy fish and tie directly to the lure whenever you can. Donít be that lackadaisical fisherman that leaves a swivel tied on just because itís easier to change baits!

Smallmouth bass have keen eyesight. Itís best to use a fluorocarbon leader and tie directly to the lure without using terminal tackle. Elevate your game and pay attention to detail with presentation, knots and line management. Efficiency matters so keep your lure in the water and running clean as much as possible. Donít settle for less than 100% of the fish that might potentially bite. The one you miss because you were tangled, being apathetic, or simply being lazy might just have been the trophy!

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