How to stop line twisting when spinning

Occasionally we hear from one of our readers who inspires us to write an article. This week we heard from Nick Ratsey, who wrote to us from the southern Spanish town of El Rompido. Nick recently bought himself a rod with the help of our surf rod section (glad you found it useful Nick!). Nick’s question, however, was how to stop your line from twisting when you’re spinning or trolling lures. So here goes…

Spinner and swivel - how to stop fishing line twisting

What causes fishing line to twist?

There are two main reasons why your line might twist – one at each end of your line.

At the angler’s end of the line is the fishing reel. If you’re using a spinning reel or ‘fixed spool reel’, like the highly rated Penn Battle below, then there’s a good chance that, over time, your line will twist. This type of reel uses a spool that is fixed – it doesn’t move. Instead, as you wind the reel handle a bail arm revolves around the spool, laying the line as it rotates. Fixed spool reels are great for spinning. They retrieve the line quickly and their design ensures the line is laid evenly across the spool, without the angler needing to think about it. Conventional reels, by contrast, often require the angler to spread the line manually and are harder to retrieve at high speed. For these reasons, spinning reels have become very popular. The disadvantage of a fixed spool, however, is that it is prone to line twisting. I won’t get into the mechanics of why but suffice to say it’s true. It’s not a major problem and it doesn’t happen quickly but, over time, line twist can build up.

Penn Battle Spinning Reel

At the fish end of the line is the lure. Many lures, especially plugs like the Rapala below, sit on an even plane and don’t twist when retrieved. Others spin by their very nature (hence the name “spinners”, of course). Although most spinners incorporate some kind of anti-twist feature, such as a blade that revolves around the body of the lure (see below), this is often insufficient to keep the line from twisting. The more you cast these spinning lures, the more the line will twist, until eventually you’ll see the line coiling when it’s not under tension.

Rapala plug

What do you do when your line twists?

If you notice that your fishing line has twisted, there are two things you can do – you can untwist it or you can stretch it (or both). Stretching it is relatively straightforward and will work well with monofilament (or ‘nylon’). Tie the end of your line to something solid, then walk away, paying out line as you go, until all or the majority of your line is stretched out between you and where you started. It’s best to do this in your garden or in a field, where the ground is soft and free of obstructions. Do it on stony ground and you risk cutting or damaging the line, which could make it more susceptible to breaking (on a fish!). Once you’ve paid out enough line, tighten up the drag on your reel until it can’t slip, shut the bail arm (or lock off the free-spool) and hold the reel to ensure the clutch doesn’t slip (sudden slips can result in the reel over-running, causing a ‘bird’s nest’, which is a real pain!). When you’re happy the line can’t pull off the reel, slowly back away, pulling the line tight and stretching it. If you’re using monofilament you might be amazed by how much stretch there is, and it will demonstrate why it’s important to strike hard into fish that are hooked at long range. If you’re using braid the stretch would be markedly less pronounced, meaning this is a less effective way of removing twist. Give the line at least two or three stretches, then wind it back onto the reel, keeping the line taught throughout and making sure it winds evenly onto the spool. You should find this will sort out most twisting issues.

Untwisting the line may be slightly tougher, but if you’re fishing with braid, it may be the only option. The first option is to find a lure that spins in the opposite direction to your line twist (it may require some trial and error). If you have a lure like this, simply tie it on, make a few casts and check to see if it’s making things better or worse. If it’s better, repeat until you’re satisfied. If you don’t have such a lure, but you do have access to a boat or a river, remove the lure entirely. If you’re in a boat, pay out the line behind you while you’re travelling, making sure to keep the line away from any propellors. You can simply let it hang out loosely behind the boat with nothing on the end or, if you need to, you can tie on a small weight to help it pay out (but check to make sure that what you tie on isn’t going to twist!). Leave this for long enough and the line should untwist itself. If you don’t have a boat but you do have access to a straight stretch of river, you can effectively do the same thing. Wade out away from the riverbank to avoid the line catching any obstacles, then pay out the line downstream of you. Once you’ve got it started, the current should hopefully be sufficient to pull the line off the reel. Once most of your line is off the spool, let it hang for a few minutes and the line should untwist naturally. When you feel you’ve left it long enough, wind it back in, holding the line (or asking someone else to hold the line) as you retrieve it to make sure there’s some tension. Winding in line with no tension may make it fall too loosely onto the spool, which may later result in tangles. If you don’t have a river perhaps you can achieve the same effect from a beach, letting the running tide do the work.

How do you stop your line twisting at all?

The best cure for line twist is to prevent it from happening in the first place. With a fixed spool reel, what actually causes most of the twist is not the winding, but the clutch. The more the clutch slips, the more the line will twist. To avoid this happening, reduce your use of the clutch. If you need to pull line off the reel, open the bail arm and pull line from the spool freely. When fighting a fish, try using the back-wind setting instead of letting the fish fight the reel’s drag (I must admit, I don’t do this often – I prefer using the clutch, as it allows me to fight the fish one handed, but then occasionally I have to stretch the line!).

Barrel swivel for fishing

There’s also a small piece of equipment you can use that will help. Instead of tying your line directly to a lure or spinner, try adding a ‘barrel swivel‘. Swivels use ball-bearings to absorb line spin. Simply fix a swivel two or three feet up the line from the lure – far enough that is won’t stop fish from taking the bait, but close enough that it won’t make casting difficult. The swivel has a metal loop at either end – one for attaching your hook length / leader, the other for attaching your main line. A swivel’s sole purpose is to stop a bait from twisting the line.

Johnson Slimfish Spoon

Some lures – usually the designs that spin the most like this Johnson SlimFish Spoon – incorporate a swivel into their very design. This swivel is designed to act as a buffer between the spinning lure and the hook length. Use a lure that incorporates a swivel, combined with a second swivel between your leader and main line, and you should be in a good position to avoid most line twisting issues.

Conclusion

Over the course of several weeks’ fishing it’s hard to prevent line twist from occurring completely, but using a swivel and minimising your use of the clutch on a fixed spool reel will definitely help. But it’s also wise to take preventive measures. Before line twist starts causing problems, make it a habit to untwist or stretch your line every two or three months (depending how often you’re using it of course). Looking after your tackle, including your line, will make sure it’s in good working order when you need it. You don’t want to be sorting out a bird’s nest when the fish of a lifetime is within reach! Tight lines – literally!

Video: Still not clear? Watch this…

This video gives a pretty comprehensive overview of the different kinds of swivels out there and when and where you should use each…

Credits:

Swivel image from Amazon.
Lure images from NY Times and Yakima Baits.

James Green About James Green

James Green loves nothing more than casting a fly in pursuit of salmon, seatrout or, when the opportunity arises, a tailing bonefish, tarpon or permit.

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