Why Your Fishing Reel Keeps Tangling Or Coming Off

Why Your Fishing Reel Keeps Tangling or Coming off

Fishing is usually all fun and games until your reel starts coming off after every few minutes, or you cast the line only to find yourself in a tangled mess – quite literally.

To enjoy fishing for the fun activity that it truly is, it’s essential to learn how to avoid a tangled fishing reel and prevent it from slipping off every so often.

Line tangles not only make it difficult to fish successfully, but can also force you to return home empty-handed.

If you are tired of coming across line tangles and having to spool a new line onto your reel more frequently than required, it’s our fair guess that you are relatively new to this sport.

A simple solution will be to choose spinning reels over fixed spools as their mechanism and design automatically reduce tangle-producing backlashes.

But if you still experience the same problem, there’s no need to worry anymore.

In this guide, we will help you master the art of fishing without entangling yourself in the process.

But before we discuss ways to prevent a fishing line from twisting and coming off the reel, it’s essential to understand why your fishing reel keeps tangling in the first place.

Why Your Fishing Reel Keeps Tangling

avoid line falling

Although some types of fishing reels are more prone to forming tangles than others, the fact is that in most cases, line knots are formed because of the one handling the rod and the reel.

You might have noticed certain products in the market labeled anti-tangle or tangle-proof fishing lines.

But if you have tried them out yourself, you will probably be aware that even such specialized lines usually fail to deliver the desired performance.

So, what exactly is the reason why fishing lines become tangled?

Well, it’s mainly a result of casting into the wind and the differences in speed that arise as the line moves from the spool to the tip of the rod.

If you are fishing against the direction in which the wind is blowing, your line slows down drastically when you cast it into the air.

The part of the line that is between the reel and guide nearest to it moves considerably faster than the line that has already left the rod.

This inconsistency in the line speed creates coils in the line leaving the spool.

These loops double over themselves, forming knots that can be hard to untie.

It is for this reason that fishing line tangles are also called ‘wind knots’ (i.e., they are caused by casting into the wind).

How to Avoid a Tangled Fishing Reel?

knots and tangles on a role

Keeping in mind the effect of air resistance, the obvious solution to prevent line tangles would be to avoid casting against the wind.

However, it goes without saying that that is not always a feasible option.

You can try casting as low as possible (close to the water surface), but that requires skill and practice.

Here, we have listed down the top tips for preventing knot formation when fishing opposite the direction of the wind.

These tips will help you avoid a tangled fishing reel, whether you are fishing on a bank or from a boat.

Tip #1: Don’t Cast the Leader Through the Guides

This is one of the main causes of line tangles normally overlooked by most anglers.

If the knot connecting your leader to the mainline momentarily gets stuck in the guide, the line behind it will immediately slow down and start overlapping.

Expert anglers recommend that the best practice to avoid this problem is to manually pull the knot past the last guide on the rod (also known as the top tip) every time before casting.

Alternatively, you should avoid making thick knots like the double uni, and always connect the leader to the mainline using an FG Knot.

An FG Knot, short for a fine-grip knot, is a very thin yet strong knot that keeps the leader connected without getting caught in the small holes of the guides.

Tip #2: Don’t Cast Too Hard

What the best way to make your lure go the farthest distance possible?

If you think that swinging the rod with excessive force is the right answer, unfortunately, you are wrong.

Casting too hard only puts you at a higher risk of getting a tangled fishing reel.

When you swing the rod too hard, the line might leave the spool quickly, but the extra energy is rarely transferred to the line past the tip of the rod.

Similar to the effect of wind, this also creates varying speeds along the line, eventually causing it to overlap and become tangled.

Tip #3: Don’t Use Rods with Flimsy Tips

young man trying to untagle fishing line

It’s no secret that the material and make of the fishing rod can make a world of difference when it comes to getting the best catch at sea.

The type of fishing line and its compatibility play an important role in determining whether you will be fishing effortlessly or sitting aside, opening one knot after the other.

You definitely don’t want to be doing the latter, right?

To ensure that you stay on top of your game, use a rod that has a sturdy tip.

Lighter action rods might be more suitable for specific scenarios, but their soft and thin tips make the line more susceptible to tangles as it moves up and down rapidly when the line is cast.

However, since different manufacturers have different concepts of what makes defines the action and power of a rod, it might take trial and error to determine which type works for you.

The key to remember is that fishing rods that have a fairly stiff tip are the perfect choice for minimizing the chances of line entanglement.

Tip #4: Don’t Slack the Line When Reeling It In

It doesn’t take a genius to figure that slacking the line is bound to make it tangle up.

If you slack the line when reeling it in, it begins to gather into loose coils on the spool.

You might be done for the day, but if you stow the rod just like that, don’t be frustrated if you have to run to the store before your next fishing trip because the spool looks more like a bird’s nest than a roll of fishing line.

To prevent the line from slacking when retrieving it from the water, hold the line taut using your thumb and two fingers.

The sharpness of the wire can cut through your skin, so don’t forget to protect your fingers using a small towel.

A smart hack is to put band-aids around your fingertips.

It is more feasible and effectively shields your fingers as the thin line zips between them.

Why Your Fishing Reel Keeps Coming Off

new line spooled on role

A constantly slipping line can be a real buzzkill for all anglers.

Compared to a tangled fishing reel, it is relatively easier to deal with a line that keeps coming off the spool – you only need to reel it back on after all.

But having to do so over and over again can quickly rob you of all the fun in fishing. 

It not only distracts you from the main task at hand but also disrupts casting and retrieving the line.

Plus, if your reel keeps coming off, it can quickly turn into a large mess of twists and turns, forcing you to discard the spool or at least cut and throw away a significant proportion of the line.

There are two main reasons why your fishing reel might be repeatedly coming off:

  • You have spooled a fresh line
  • You put too much line onto your spool

How to Stop a Freshly Spooled Line from Coming Off?

A newly spooled fishing line tends to fall off multiple times because it cannot conform to the reel.

You need to help the line ‘memorize’ the new position so that it stays put.

The easiest way to stop a new line from coming off the reel is to run it under hot water for a couple of minutes.

The heat causes the line to form a memory of the reel by making it more pliable. This also ensures that the line doesn’t twist and tangle later on.

How to Check If You Have Put Too Much Line on the Spool?

tangled line

Never fill the spool to the edge as it is guaranteed to form tangles as the coils fall off from the sides.

To check whether you have put on too much line on the spool, hold the part of the line beyond the tip of the rod.

Now, open the bail (the curved metal arm on the spool) and yank the line once.

If the spool spins and coils start falling off, it’s a clear sign that you need to reduce the line.


Braided fishing lines have many advantages over monofilament lines in terms of casting over distance with accuracy.

But the problem of slippage and entanglement is common to both.

Regardless of the type of line you are using, the tips discussed above can help you fish easily by reducing the likelihood of knot formation.

So, follow these tricks and get rid of tangled fishing reels once and for all.

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Roy Ericson

Roy Ericson started fishing when he was just a boy, like many of us did. He spent far too much time on the piers not being able to catch anything, until his uncle brought him deep sea fishing, out to the lakes of Michigan, where he lived, and to the various ponds in neighboring states. He’s been all over, caught over 400 different species of fish, and doesn’t believe you should embellish your stories. He’s just here to teach you about his absolute favorite thing in the world: fishing.