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May 2009 cover image eastern screech-owl

Skill Builder: Knot for Reel

The low-lying arbor knot will help prevent backlashes.

By Larry Bozka

When all else fails, read the directions. It took me only about five years to finally heed that advice. Inside of five minutes it forever changed the way I go about affixing line onto empty fishing reels.

I’ve been retrieving the benefits ever since.

There is definitely a wrong way to attach line to a reel spool, or "arbor." Unfortunately, it’s common to see "hump-backed" evidence aplenty on the reels of countless anglers who have yet to learn to tie the appropriately named arbor knot.

These are fishermen who almost invariably rely upon fishing’s most oft-used connection, the improved clinch knot, for the task of filling reels. As effective as it is for securing hooks and swivels to lines and leaders, the improved clinch knot is a lousy choice for effectively spooling line on the empty arbor of a new or freshly cleaned reel.

The consequences are most obvious, and frustrating, when the reel being "spooled" is a backlash-prone baitcaster. Spinning reels have stationary spools. They do not revolve unless forced to do so by the pressure of a fish pulling on the drag. Conversely, baitcasting reel spools make many high-speed revolutions in the course of a cast. Effective baitcasting hinges heavily upon a half-dozen or so factors: the quality of the reel, particularly the number and grade of ball bearings included in its design to enhance casting distance; the weight of the lure or bait being thrown; the flexibility ("castability," in the angling vernacular) of the line; the taper, or flex, of the rod; proper weight and size balance between the rod and reel; the centrifugal drag setting of the reel; and of course, the coordination and skill of the caster.

Nothing, though, is more critical than starting out with the correct line-to-spool connection. Fortunately, an arbor knot is extremely simple to tie.

First, attach the reel to the rod upon which it will be used. Thread the line through the rod tip and guides, on through the reel’s vertical line guide, around the spool, back through the vertical line guide and up to the base of the first rod guide. Then, tie a simple overhand knot (sometimes called a "square knot) around the line immediately above where it exits the vertical line guide. Leave enough slack to tie a second overhand knot an inch or two above the first. Using either a sprinkle of water or a quick spray of Blakemore Real Magic line conditioner or similar product, wet the line and cut the tag end of the uppermost knot as closely as possible.

The angler then need only put enough tension on the line to smoothly pull the two cinched-up knots together.

At that point, with the reel spool in a line spooler (or the pencil-through-the-line-spool-holding hand of a cooperative friend), crank the line onto the arbor. Maintain pressure during application, either through tension on the line spool or thumb-and-forefinger pressure on the line above the reel.

Being essentially flat, the square knot-on-square knot stack configuration allows the line to lie flat on the spool. Lest that not seem important, try using a Hula Hoop with a golf ball glued to one end. You’ll quickly get the concept.

A baitcasting reel’s tension-adjusting device is called a "centrifugal brake" for good reason. A revolving baitcasting spool often goes haywire when a tall, multi-wrapped improved clinch knot has its way with the reel’s centrifugal balancing act. Most line manufacturers include directions for the arbor knot inside their packaging. The five minutes it takes to read and practice them will pay for itself many times over as time is spent casting as opposed to desperately picking away at hopeless backlashes triggered by off-balance reel spools.

 

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