Spooling your reels sounds easy enough on paper, but there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to preparing your reels. Variables like the type of fishing you’re doing, where you’re fishing, and what you’re fishing for can influence how much fishing line you should have on your reel.
As a general rule, you’ll want to fill your reel up to 80% or 1/8″ inches below the max fill line to 100% of the reel’s capacity. Keeping your reel full is the best practice for many fishing styles. Of course, there are a few instances where more or less line would be optimal.
Read on as we cover how much fishing line you’ll want on your reel, whether you’re casting, trolling, or anything in between.
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How Much Fishing Line Do You Need When Casting?
Compared to other fishing techniques, the amount of line on your reel is critical when it comes to casting. Several factors influence how much line you’ll need on your reel when casting, such as how far you need to cast, what type of fish you’re targeting, and the reel you’re using.
The average angler will be able to cast about 20 – 40 yards. This depends on skill and equipment. At a minimum, most anglers would be good using a reel capacity that can hold 100 – 150 yards of line.
The first thing you need to consider is how far you need to cast. If you’re fishing on a lake for bass, you may only need to cast 10-15 yards to be effective. Meanwhile, if you’re surf fishing for striped bass and you need to bomb casts beyond the breaking waves, you might need to cast out 100 yards or more.
You’ll also want to consider what kind of fish you’re targeting. If you’re fishing for large game fish known for taking long runs after you hook up with them, you’ll need to keep that in mind when spooling your reel.
Finally, you’ll want to consider the type of reel you’re using. If you’re using a spinning reel, keeping it close to its capacity will reduce friction during casts and allow you to cast further. If your reel doesn’t have much line on it, it will rub against the lip of the spool as you cast, which creates friction and limits your casting distance.
You’ll want to account for the line you’ll lose when tying knots, rigging up your terminal tackle, or cutting your losses after a nasty tangle. As a conservative estimate, assume you’ll lose five yards of line every time you go fishing to rigging and tangles.
Considering all this, it’s always best to keep your casting reels as close to their spool capacity as possible. You’ll lose line throughout the season, but you should have more than enough on your reel to handle any fishing scenario.
How Much Fishing Line Do You Need When Bottom Fishing?
When bottom fishing, a safe rule of thumb is you want at least 4x as much line on your reel as the deepest depth you’re fishing.
Keeping this much line on your reel will ensure you have more than enough line to reach the bottom, and you’ll still have plenty of line to account for snags, tangles, rigging, and fishing pulling drag.
How Much Fishing Line Do You Need When Trolling?
When you’re trolling, many variables affect the depth at which your lure is running. Trolling speed, rig weight, line diameter, and the amount of line you have out in the water all influence where you’ll present your bait in the water column.
Letting out an extra foot of line doesn’t mean your lure will suddenly run a foot deeper in the water. There’s some fairly complex math involved in calculating trolling depth, which is why I use a trolling calculator to estimate where my lures will be running.
Most freshwater anglers keep a minimum of 150 yards of line on their reel when they’re trolling. For offshore anglers, that number multiplies significantly. Most offshore reels can accommodate 800 yards or more of heavy line, which is critical for landing large gamefish.
Without enough line on your reel, a large fish can easily dump whatever line you have left on the spool, costing you a trophy fish and $50 of fishing line in the process.
The Amount of Line Needed When Inshore Fishing
Inshore fishing doesn’t typically require you to have a ton of line on your reel, and on most trips, you can reliably get by with around 100 yards of line on your reel. With infrequent exceptions, most inshore fishing takes place in 100 feet or less of water.
So, keeping only 100 yards of line on a reel gives you more than enough line to cast or fish the bottom while providing plenty of extra line to account for rigging or tangles.
There are several resources available for a more accurate idea of the depths you’ll be fishing in your area. Apps like iBoating are beneficial for finding water depths in your area. NOAA is also a reliable source for coastal depth maps.
The Amount of Line Needed When Offshore Fishing
Venture far enough beyond the shoreline, and you’ll enter the domain of offshore fishing. Here, trophy bluefin and sailfish can peel off hundreds of yards of line from your reel before you even have the opportunity to start fighting the fish.
Offshore angling requires specialized equipment, and the reels have much higher line capacity than inshore or freshwater fishing. Offshore reels commonly hold around 1,000 yards of line, and when trolling for giant gamefish, you can find yourself using every bit of line to land a fish.
When fishing offshore with spinning tackle, you’ll want to keep your reel close to its capacity, which is typically 400-500 yards of line. You’ll use less line with spinning gear than when trolling with a conventional setup, but you still need plenty of line to stop a running gamefish.
When deep drop fishing offshore, resources like iBoating and NOAA help estimate how much line you’ll need to reach the bottom. The boat’s electronics can also provide real-time depths, so you know exactly how deep you’re fishing.
Happy Fishing & Tight Lines