Lead image: Henry Gilbey (www.henry-gilbey.com)

When using braid it is critical to spool spinning reels properly to avoid wind knots. Most manufacturers of spinning reels made for use with braid are aware of the importance of line lay and have designed the rotor and line roller to fill the spool evenly from top to bottom with braid of a specified diameter. If you use the correct diameter line and spool the line correctly then there is little likelihood of developing wind knots during casting.

However, most spinning reels are designed for use with braid and nylon. This inevitably means compromise as nylon is thicker than braid and sometimes the line lay on the spool is not optimal for either nylon or braid when the reel is spooled straight out of the box. To get around this problem most new reels come with a package of spool washers to allow the angler to fine tune the line lay.

This was clearly reinforced to me recently during testing of a prototype spinning reel. I took great care to ensure that the braid was tightly wound onto the reel during spooling but even though the line level on the spool was several millimetres from the lip and line lay looked even there was a small gap adjacent to the spool lip. Sensing this small gap could cause an issue I removed the line and tried several times to make the line sit snugly against the spool lip. No matter what I tried the line roller was not quite delivering the braid tightly against the base of the spool lip. The reel was obviously designed for nylon and not braid and the thinner diameter braid could not be delivered evenly across the width of the spool by the line roller. This is shown below.

uneven line lay

Solving this problem is relatively straightforward by adding a thin spool washer to the shaft. Deciding whether to add or remove a spool washer is nicely summarised in the schematic below (taken from http://fishing-nation.org/technical/linelay/linelay.html).

The size of the spool washer needed to fill out the spool properly will have to be determined by trial and error but it is best to start by adding thin arbour shims rather than large washers. As mentioned earlier, most reputable spinning reels will come with a set of spool washers to allow the angler to customise the line lay and when fine tuning it is best to start with the thinnest washer.

Spool line lay (Fishing nation)

It is important to note that not all uneven line lay is a shortcoming. Some reels are designed to have line lay slightly tapered either towards the top or bottom. Check the reel manual before making any adjustments. However, if there is a noticeable gap at the top or bottom of the spool then it will probably be necessary to add or remove a washer or shim as if you don’t line will slip into the gap and go slack.  It is this slack line which causes issues when casting.

As the schematic above shows there are 3 types of unbalanced line lay.

    1. Top of the spool holds more line than the bottom with a groove. The spool is sitting too low on the main shaft. To counter add a washer.
    2. Bottom of the spool holds more line than the top with a groove. The spool is sitting too high on the main shaft. To counter remove a washer.
    3. Finally, unbalanced line lay (grooves) along the entire spool. This occurs when drag washers are worn out. Replace the washer set.

The following videos show how to spool a spinning reel correctly with braid and how to adjust the spool washers to alter the line lay.



This video uses a second spinning reel to speed up the line removal and re-spooling process. Elegant simplicity.


It may take a couple of tries to get the line lay perfect but when you do the chances of creating wind knots during casting is greatly reduced.

There are a few other things that have to be considered in spooling and using braid to counter the formation of wind knots and these are covered in detail in:- AVOIDING WIND KNOTS WITH BRAID

Once the line lay and level of braid on the spool are optimised, using braid should be simple and stress free.


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