So you’ve got your new spinning reel home and out of the box? Congratulations! You’re just one step away from hitting the road and enjoying a day on the water. Now all you have to do is set up your rod and reel. If you’re a first time angler, you’re likely wondering how to set up a spinning reel.

Luckily, it’s really not as complicated as you might think. All the same, there are certain tricks that you have to employ if you don’t want to deal with a tangled mess down the road. By following this in-depth, step-by-step guide, you’ll ensure a positive experience once you get down to the water with your fishing rod in hand.

How to Set Up a Spinning Reel Fishing Rod

Getting the Reel Ready for Spooling

If you bring your spinning reel home in a cardboard box, then you might have to set the reel up before you spool it. This is a simple process with a few basic steps. First of all, you’ll likely have to attach the handle to the reel. This is done by inserting the handle’s shaft into one of the two holes on either side of the reel. Most right-handed anglers attach the handle to the left side of the reel, while some left-handed folks prefer the handle on the right. This is because anglers typically cast with their stronger hand and reel with their weaker hand.

Once you’ve inserted the handle, you’ll have to secure it. There are two ways to do this, depending on the brand of spinning reel. For some reels (Penns for example), you just have to crank the handle until it tightens into place. Other reels require you to insert the pin (which should be in the box) into the hole opposite the handle, which you’ll then screw into place. At this point, your reel should be ready for spooling.

Putting Line on the Reel

If you’re completely unsure of how to put fishing line on a reel, you could always have the reel spooled up at a local tackle shop. It is a quick and easy process that only sets you back a few bucks. The folks at the shop will only need the spool, which you can detach from the reel by unscrewing the drag knob on top of the reel.

Once you got the knob removed, just gently pull up on the spool until it slides off its shaft. Take the spool to the shop and as for whatever type of line you think is appropriate. For most freshwater setups, six or eight pound test monofilament will do the trick. For saltwater poles, you could go with seventeen or twenty pound mono or, alternatively, make the upgrade to braided line. The braid is a bit pricier and it tends to tangle, but it also provides a better cast and, since it’s thinner, it allows you to increase the pound test.

Home from the shop, all you’ll have to do is slide the spool back into place, screw the drag knob back on, and viola!

If you’re more of a DIY type of person, then there’s no reason you can’t spool your own spinning reel. In reality, it is not such a difficult job. All it requires is a bit of patience and a reliable helper. Trying to do it alone is a recipe for disaster.

If you’re using braided line, then you’ll want to put a thin strip of duct tape on the spool. This is because braided line is slick, and without anything for the line to grab onto the whole mass of line might just spin around the spool when you crank the handle. With monofilament line, it’s fine to tie the end of the line directly onto the spool.

Remove the line from the box, find the loose end, loop it around the spool (with the spool in place on the reel), and tie a normal knot. Don’t worry about tying some sophisticated, unbreakable knot. In reality, you want this knot to pull out if you’re every “spooled” by a fish so you lose only your line and not your rod and reel.

Once the line is tied in place, make sure it passes beneath the roller portion of the bail. This is the mechanism that rises and falls and distributes the line evenly on the spool. Skipping this step will cause endless tangles.

Next, run a pen, pencil, or dowel-like rod through the inner tube of the spool of line (the spool you’ve bought from the store that has the line on it). Have your helper hold the pencil/rod with two hands, while applying a bit of pressure on the spool with their finger. Then, you can take the reel and begin to crank the handle slowly and steadily. The reeling motion will pull the line off of the store-bought spool and onto the spool of your new reel. It’s important your helper keeps a bit of pressure on the store-bought spool at all times, since otherwise the line will pull off too quickly and you’re almost certain to end up with a tangle. Also, avoid reeling too fast if you don’t want to burn your helper’s finger.

Once the reel’s spool is full, just cut the line and stick it under the tab on the spool to avoid tangles. You should fill the spool until all but an eighth of an inch is covered with line.

Attaching the Reel to the Rod

Once your reel is all spooled up, it’s time to attach the reel to your rod. This is a relatively simple step. Just put the butt of the reel into the rod’s reel seat so the reel hangs below the rod. Then, turn the rings on either side of the reel seat until the reel is held firmly in place

Stringing the Fishing Pole

You might be struggling with how to string a fishing pole, but you’ll be happy to learn that this is actually one of the simplest steps in the whole process. First, pass the line under the bail of the reel. Then, thread it through each of the rod’s guides. The last step is to tie on your hook, rig, lure, or snap swivel (depending on the type of fishing you’ll be doing. As far as the knot goes, most anglers prefer a clinch or palomar knot. For braided line, the palomar knot is the best bet since the clinch knot causes it to snap.


Fishing should be a relaxing activity, and the best way to avoid stress out on the water is by setting everything up properly before you leave the home. By following this simple guide, you can ensure a peaceful experience and maximize your chances for fishing success. With a little patience and concentration, you can get your spinning reel set up in no time. Once your gear’s been prepared, all that’s life to do is hit the water, wet some lines, and enjoy one of the most classic outdoor activities. Good luck!

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