How to Fix a Fishing Line That Won’t Reel in (4 Steps)

There are some times that most modern fishing reels get jostled, which causes it to turn back or won’t even reel in. However, there are some instances that this method won’t be enough to repair the issue. So, here’s how to fix a fishing line that won’t reel in.

A fishing line that won’t reel in is usually because of two common problems: a tangled line or the cast-bail is askew. You have to start by checking the reel and look for any problem with its mechanism. You have to get to the root cause of why your fishing line won’t reel in. Here are some simple steps that you can do.

  • STEP 1: Remove the Housing Cover. 
  • STEP 2: Check Both Ends of the Spool. 
  • STEP 3: Examine the Cast Bail Mechanism.
  • STEP 4: Pinch the Cast Bail.

Fishing lines and reels are like peanut butter and jelly – they would always go together. If one is not functioning well, the other one would not be in a good state too. Therefore, constant checking and maintenance are part of the game. So, let us allow you to help fix some common issues on fishing reels and how to take care of them properly.

How to Fix a Fishing Line That Won’t Reel?

As mentioned, either tangled lines or the cast-bail is askew are the primary reasons why you can’t reel in your fishing line. Fortunately, you can fix these problems even at the convenience of your home or in the fishing field. The steps are straightforward, and it only requires minimum hand tools.

  • STEP 1: Remove the Housing Cover. Turn the reel housing cover counterclockwise and remove it to see the spool. The fishing line is still out, so it connects to the reel housing cover through the thread-hole.
  • STEP 2: Check Both Ends of the Spool. Make sure to examine the spool, especially the part of the bushings. It is the gear that allows the fishing line to go in and out of the reel. Look for any fishing line stuck in the bushing. If there are caught fishing line, you can use the tip of a flat screwdriver to remove it. Gently get under the stuck fishing line and let it out.
  • STEP 3: Examine the Cast Bail Mechanism. It looks like either a semi-circle of hard wire attached to the end of the spool or a lever attached to a thumb button. Look for any tangled fishing line because even a single strand of fishing line off the bail can cause reeling problems. If you can see a tangle, again, pry it out using a flat screwdriver.
  • STEP 4: Pinch the Cast Bail. For the final step, pinch the cast bail of fishing reels, and release its two ends out of the cast bail housing. Check for any signs of bends to make sure that there are no signs of askew. Then, place it back into the case and test the reel again.

How to Fix a Spinning Reel That Reels Backward?

If you have a fishing line that only reels backward, here’s a straightforward guideline that you can follow to fix the problem. Just as a reminder, when you have to disassemble your reel, always remember the positioning of each part. Take note of everything, even to the smallest screw.

  • STEP 1: Check the Reel’s Reverse Switch. To ensure that you don’t have a stuck fishing line, first, check the reel’s reverse switch. Most modern reels have this feature often located at the side of the fishing reel. Visually, it’s near the spring bail or thumb button.
  • STEP 2: Remove the Housing Cap of the Reel. Start by carefully unscrewing the housing cap of the reel. Watch out for any broken parts. If all is clear, you can remove the spool washers. Then, use a ½ -inch socket to remove the rotor nut as well.
  • STEP 3: Disassemble the Rotor. Take of the rotor assembly, and look for the clutch bearing. Once you find it, start unscrewing the series of screws that surround the rim of the bearing cap.
  • STEP 4: Remove the Clutch. As you open the rim of the rotor, you can see its clutch assembly. Pull it out and be careful not to move the pinon to even an inch. 
  • STEP 5: Check the Clutch. After pulling out the clutch, see it the roller clutch nests in a large diameter bushing. Then, make sure that the clutch bearing aligns with the anti-reverse grip. However, you have to replace it with a new one if any part got broke.
  • STEP 6: Assemble the Reel Back Again. Put back all the parts of the reel in reverse order of the disassembly. As mentioned, it is essential that you meticulously remember the position of each component. Otherwise, the fishing reel won’t function right.

Why Does My Fishing Line Keep Coming Off the Reel?

A fishing line that keeps on coming off the reel is another common issue in fishing. More often, it is a result of using the incorrect type of fishing line to a fishing reel. Assembling a fishing line is easy, but there are some things that you have to keep in mind to avoid twisting and other unnecessary “coming off the fishing reel” problems. So here are the steps in putting a fishing line regardless of its type and the kind of reel.

  • Always Secure the Fishing Line. It is the part where you have to take the tag end of the fishing line onto the spool and attach it to your fishing reel. If your spool has holes called whiffling, you can insert the fishing line through the hole and back out to another. Then, tie it with a simple knot. Here are some tips for monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided lines.
    • Monofilament and Fluorocarbon. Most expert fishers would say that the best way to secure both Monofilament and Fluorocarbon fishing lines is with an arbor knot. It is a half knot tied around the main fishing line and another half knot at the end of the fishing line. The last knot serves as a “catch” whenever you pull it tight. 
    • Braid Lines. When it comes to braided fishing lines, you can tie a couple of knots and tape it to the spool using a small slice of electrical tape. It is because most braided fishing lines have a coating, so and arbor knot is not the best option since it will just slip away. 
  • Unspool in Different Directions. When spooling fishing lines, it is essential to know the right direction the line is coming off the filler spool. Then, reel it on the reel’s spool in the same direction. In spooling, take note that monofilament and fluorocarbon have the most memory. Meanwhile, braid has nothing.
  • Keep the Tension. You have to make sure to spool line onto the reel under tension. It will help you avoid any loose fishing line, overrun, and bird’s nest on your fishing reel. If you have a slack spooled line, it will likely dig into the other fishing line on the spool that causes backlashes, frayed or damaged fishing lines, and even break off. Therefore, spooling helps the fishing line to gain more memory.
    • How to Keep the Tension Effectively? Run the fishing line off the spool down to the guides. Then, secure the fishing line to the reel spool. Start reeling it on while pinching your fingers on the fishing line down on the rod.
  • Avoid Overfilling Your Spool. It’s hard to keep track of the amount of fishing line that’s going on your reel. Overfilling may absorb the water quickly or get more brittleness. You can, of course, do the math and figure out how many inches of fishing line are there in a single handle for every turn. Then, count the rounds it would take the fishing line to get to a certain distance.
  • Avoid Too Little Fishing Line on the Reel. On the other hand, the little fishing line will give you problems in getting more friction, and your casting distance may get compromised. So, as a rule of thumb, manufacturers recommend 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch from the edge of the spool. It will give your fishing line enough room for expansion and for closing to the side of the spindle for easy casting. The most important thing to remember is to put just the right amount of fishing line on the fishing reel so that you can cast well.
  • Put Backing on Your Reels. It is a cheaper fishing line that you can connect to your mainline. Then, spool the new fishing line on to the fishing reel. 

Why Should You Clean Your Fishing Reel?

You should often clean your fishing reels because they are sophisticated mechanisms. If you can’t clean it right away, there’s a possibility that the fishing reel will get damaged. Using a dirty and gritty fishing reel will result in poor performance and other unwanted issues. Salty waters are the number one worst enemy of most fishing reels. After fishing in salt waters, you have to make sure to clean it right away to avoid any corrosion of the bearings, gears, and reel body. Freshwater fishing may also give your fishing reel dirt and grime over time.

What are the Effects of Corrosion on the Fishing Reel?

Corrosion can significantly affect the performance of your fishing reel. For example, retrieval becomes harder, and other reeling functions may get affected as well. Therefore, cleaning, removing, and reapplying of grease is essential for the reel’s gear and bearings. This method will keep it working and in excellent condition.

How To Clean Fishing Reels?

Proper reel maintenance ensures its effectivity and increased durability. There may be different types of fishing reels, but their mechanism works the same – and the process of cleaning remains the same. You already know that cleaning and maintaining your fishing reels will give you the best results. So, here are the steps to provide its long-lasting performance. 

  • STEP 1: Disassemble Your Reel. Remove the reel cover, spool, center-shaft, and clutch ring because you have to clean them all. Be careful of the tiny parts, and make sure that you don’t lose any of them while cleaning. You can use masking tape to number each part, so it would be easier to reassemble after cleaning.
    • TIP: Avoid placing the metal parts of the fishing reels together. A tweezer would help hold wire clips and springs.
  • STEP 2: Clean the Fishing Reel. To prevent water contamination of the drag, tighten it on the fishing reel. Then, lightly wipe it using a sponge with warm and soapy water. Never immerse the fishing reel under high-pressure water because it can cause damage to the gearing and drag systems. Instead, rinse it off gently with fresh water. Then, wipe dry with a clean cloth.
    • TIP: You can remove the spool and wash it under fresh and running water. It helps in eliminating salt or any dirt from under the spindle and the top of the reel rotor. After cleaning the real, spray some use some lubricating protectant for the finish. 
  • STEP 3: Clean the Spool. Remove the drag knob and slide the spool off the reel. Then, start cleaning the underside of the spindle. Grease the main shaft lightly before putting the spool and drag knob back. Remember, the drag knob should stay loose to keep the pressure — lastly, oil the handle knobs, line rollers, bail arm springs, and folding handle.
  • STEP 4: Clean the Other Parts of the Fishing Reel. Remember, avoid using gasoline in cleaning the other components. It can melt plastic and can be catastrophic for the fishing reel. Instead, use a product that won’t ruin fiber material or plastic materials like mild dish detergent. Brush the other parts with a toothbrush or small paintbrush to reach the smallest area.
  • STEP 5: Rinse the Other Components. Just like what you did with the fishing reel, rinse each part thoroughly with fresh water. Then, dry them with a clean cloth.
  • STEP 6: Grease Gears And Oil Bearings. Make sure to put lubricants to all accessible moving parts. You can apply a light coating of grease on the gear and oil the ball bearings. This method prevents corrosion of the fishing reel.
  • STEP 7: Reassemble The Fishing Reel. Make sure that all parts and components are arid before reassembling. Also, ensure that all of them are working safely, storing it, and ready for your next fishing trip.

Fishing Reel Maintenance Tips

  1. Always use fresh water to clean your fishing reels.
  2. Make sure to clean your reels after every trip and let it dry in the air after wiping with a cloth.
  3. Use lubricant to the most accessible moving parts. It is essential if you’re fishing in salty waters.
  4. Lubricants prevent corrosion of fishing reels. It’s better if you can use a lubricant intended for fishing reels.
  5. Remove salt residue if fishing in saltwater, and any dirt from freshwater.
  6. Use a soft cloth to clean the grime, then a garden hose or spray bottle for easier dirt removal. 


What Side Is the Right Location for My Reel Handle?

Most traditional reels have a handle on its right side. It means that most anglers would have to make a cast on their right hand. Then, switch their hands to the left so that they can crank the reel with their right hand. Fortunately, some modern reels will allow you to put the fishing reel on either side.

Why Does My Reel Keeps Getting Tangled?

One of the most common reasons why a fishing reel gets tangled is because of slack fishing lines. It’s because they are more prone to creating loose coils on your spool the moment you reel in the slack fishing line. Therefore, these loose coils will come off the spool quickly when you start casting. This scenario will lead to the overlapping of coils leaving a tangled reel.

Can You Put Fishing Line on Backwards?

Yes, you can put the fishing line backward on most modern fishing reels because of their anti-reverse clutches or mechanisms. This feature allows the fishing reel to spin in both directions without any problem. 

Final Words

Jostled and tangled lines are common problems in fishing. Fortunately, there are simple ways that you can do to fix the issue. You always have to start by checking the reel and look for any problem with its mechanism. Figure out the root cause of why your fishing line won’t reel in. Then, follow this procedure.

  • STEP 1: Remove the Housing Cover. 
  • STEP 2: Check Both Ends of the Spool. 
  • STEP 3: Examine the Cast Bail Mechanism.
  • STEP 4: Pinch the Cast Bail.

Maintenance is a part of the game, even for fishing. You to check your reels, rods, and fishing lines regularly to avoid any issue while fishing. As much as possible, it’s better if you can do it before, during, and after every fishing trip. Nothing would last forever, but that would give you less headache because you can foresee what’s going to happen to your fishing tools.

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