Open-face reels and fluorocarbon line

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James Overstreet
Smith Lake

I’ve been fishing Smith Lake a lot lately. It’s a great place to practice because it’s deep, clear, doesn’t have that much pressure and it’s full of big spotted bass.

My favorite technique there is the drop shot, and it’s something I’ve needed to work on and get better at executing. My usual rig was an open-face spinning combination. My usual line choice was braid to fluorocarbon. The problem was that I couldn’t seem to get a solid hookset. I didn’t really know how hard to set the hook or how to handle my line combinations.

Adding to my frustration was that my friend who was fishing with me wasn’t having any problems at all. He was getting his fish to the boat with confidence and with certainty. I didn’t begrudge him his success, but I did wonder why I couldn’t do the same thing.  

Watching him, I noticed that he wasn’t using a leader. He spooled up with all fluorocarbon.

That sort of made sense to me except that I knew from experience that spooling fluorocarbon line on an open-face reel was a tough order. I didn’t really know of any good way to do it, any way that didn’t result in heavy line twist and frustration.

I did a ton of research, mostly on the Internet, and talked to my friend. I also tried a dozen different things at home. Finally, I hit on a way to do it that seems to work. 

Most anglers are told to make sure the line comes off the filler spool and onto the reel from the same direction — clockwise to clockwise or counterclockwise to counterclockwise. That’s the place to start but it’s just the place to start. There’s more to it than that.

Here’s how I do it:

Start by running the line from the filler spool through only one guide, the one closest to the reel. Don’t run it through all of them or even two or three. Then keep you filler spool as close to your reel as possible. A foot is as far away as you ever want the two of them to get. The more the line flops around the more twist you’ll get it when it’s on the reel. 

And now we need to talk about the direction of the line from the filler spool to the reel spool. I start in the conventional manner — same direction — but I never take my eyes off the line. I spool slowly. The second I see any twist between the filler spool and the reel I stop and flip the spool over. 

Twist will often show up several times while I’m spooling up. And so I’ll flip my filler spool over from one side to the next several times. With me, it’s not about the direction of travel. It’s about the presence of twist, or the lack of twist. 

There are a couple of other things I need to mention. The first is line quality. There’s nothing much you can do that’s good with cheap fluorocarbon. Do not even try to spool a spinning reel with it. I use Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. 

Along with that, always use a high-quality line conditioner on the line as you spool it and while you’re fishing with it. I use Reelsnot.

And don’t overfill your reel. Leave a little lip between your line and the face of your reel spool. Believe me when I tell you that’ll make all the difference in the world when it comes to line twist.  

That’s the way I deal with fluorocarbon line on my spinning outfits. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I’ve been able to come up with. If any of you know of any better way to avoid line twist, post it in the comments under this column.