Is It Smart To Spool A Heavier Line On A Reel Than What It’s Rated For?

Like most recreational anglers, I have tried lines stronger than what a reel was rated for. I did this when invited on a once-off boating trip to catch really big catfish a few years ago. The catch was that we had to use very light tackle.

Not believing that my usual six-pound bass rig could get the job done, I upped the line to fifteen pounds. It worked great for straight up and down fishing but was no good for casting far.

Spooling a reel with a line that is heavier than the line rating is not smart but can be done, provided the line does not inhibit the normal functioning of the reel. Drawbacks are reduced line capacity, risk of damaging the reel or rod when under load, reduced bite sensitivity, and shorter casts.

Using a heavier line than what your reel is rated for may not be something that we consider when spooling on the thicker line in anticipation of a long-awaited fishing trip.

Let’s explore what we’re getting ourselves in for if we decide to use a thicker than recommended line.

Can Fishing With A Heavier Line Than The Reel’s Rating Damage It?

Using a heavier line can cause damage to the reel if the angler applies too much pressure on the reel.

Could You Damage Your Reel If You’re Fishing For Larger Fish?

With the line being stronger and thus harder to break, the angler may be tempted to tighten the reel drag more than necessary. In reality, the pressure we exert on a fish during the fight is very little; therefore, super tight drags are not required.

Over tightening the drag can damage the reels braking system components and even pull the hook from the fish’s mouth. Not to mention the real possibility of breaking your rod.

Should the reel be too small for the chosen line, the drag may not be able to apply sufficient pressure on a large fish to tire it out.

When fishing and your lure gets snagged, be careful of pulling too hard on the line.  An excessive load may be exerted directly onto the reel, resulting in a bent spool shaft or damage to the reel mounting. The same applies to fighting a big fish.

Using a thicker line on a small to medium-sized reel will result in line capacity being sacrificed due to the thicker diameter of especially monofilament lines.

When fishing large bodies of water where large fish are the target, the very real possibility exists that the fish may run all the line off your reel.

What To Consider Before Spooling Heavy Line On A Light Reel

Reel’s Line Capacity Will Decrease Spooling Heavier Line

A heavier line significantly reduces the line capacity of the reel due to its larger diameter.

Line capacity loss can be overcome by exchanging a monofilament line with a braid of the same diameter, which is stronger or replacing mono with “fireline or superline,” which has a thin diameter.

There is a great reel capacity calculator that you can use to estimate how much line you can put on a reel.

Fishing With Heavier Line Could Make It Harder To Cast

Thicker lines, especially monofilament and fluorocarbon, tend to be harder and more “springy.” Loading your reel with these lines may result in the line peeling off the reel in bunches when the tension is released during casting.

Thicker lines are also prone to curling caused by the line forming a memory (taking the shape of the reels spool). Resistance caused as the line curls are forced through the guides reduces casting distance.

Less sensitivity in the line will result in bites being missed. This is less of a problem when retrieving conventional lures but may be undesirable when fishing very light artificial lures such as plastic baits.

The added diameter of the line also causes the line itself to be heavier, which in turn requires a heavier bait to achieve a good casting distance.

Heavier Line Will Make It Harder To Feel The Bites

Thicker lines are less sensitive when feeling bites as the line forms a bow in the water between your rod and the bait or lure, resulting from drag or resistance on the line by water and wind.

The bigger the bow or slackline, the less you’ll feel a bite.

Line Memory Will Increase As The Line Weight Increases

When using monofilament and fluorocarbon lines especially, line memory becomes more noticeable as the line weight or thickness increases.

For most recreational anglers who use small to medium-sized reels, a change from 15lb line to 20lb or 25lb is a significant jump, and line memory becomes noticeable.

Minimizing line memory is possible in the following ways:

  • Using alternative lines such as fireline or braid.
  • Use a swivel near your bait to allow the coils to unwind.
  • Stretching the line reduced built-up memory.
  • When spooling fresh line onto the reel, don’t wind the line on too tight.

Stronger Lines Could Increase The Risk Of Breaking Your Rod

When switching to a heavier line, don’t forget to check the rating of your fishing rod itself.

Thicker lines are stronger and harder to break, which increases the force exerted on the rod.

Exceeding the line rating of your rod is risky as the rod itself may well break in the heat of the moment.

Does The Type of Fishing Line Matter When Spooling A Heavier Line Over The Reel’s Rating?

Fluorocarbon line is most prone to building memory as it’s stiffer than other lines.

Monofilament lines are prone to building memory and are more noticeable as the line diameter increases.

Braid does not build a memory, so it is potentially the most suitable line for exceeding the reels line rating.

Does The Reel Type Matter When Spooling A Heavier Line Than What It’s Rated For?

Popular med sized reel types and suitability for use with thicker lines:

Reel TypeSuitabilityComments
Bait CasterAverageSeriously Reduced line capacity. Potential birdnesting. Reduced casting distance
Spinning ReelAverageReduced line capacity. Reduced casting distance. Potential birdnesting.
Surf Casting ReelVery GoodWell suited for thicker lines Good spool capacity. Reduced line capacity but not critical. Minimal casting distance sacrifice
Spin CastPoorThe closed face will interfere with thicker line hindering effective casting and feeling. Limited line capacity to begin with
Trawling ReelVery GoodDesigned to use thicker lines. Ample line capacity

Reels that have small spools are generally lighter constructed and designed for use with thin lines.

How Heavy Should Your Line Be For Your Reel?

All quality reels are labelled either on the chassis or the spool of the reel for spinning reels. Alternately the reel packaging or instruction manual will list the reel specs.

The “line capacity” info shows the recommended line diameters, breaking strain, and line capacity of the spool for suitable lines. The largest diameter line quoted is the recommended maximum diameter to be used on the reel.

Staying within the recommended line specs for the specific reel is important to ensure optimum overall reel performance and ensure the reel will last a long time.

Placing excessive strain on the reel by using a line that is too strong can physically break parts of the reel or even your rod.   

Suggestions If You Still Want To Exceed The Reel’s Rated Line Test

Exceeding the reels rated line test is not recommended. The risk of damaging the reel or rod and the sacrifice in line capacity and casting distance may not significantly improve the chances of catching more fish.

Try these suggestions should you decide to go for it:

  • Don’t exceed the reel line rating excessively.
  • Don’t over-tighten your reel’s drag.
  • Don’t exceed the rods line rating.
  • Don’t exceed the rod’s weight rating.

Fishing With Heavier Lines Is Not Always Smart

Heavy fishing lines are seldom required for the average fish that anglers catch. What’s more important is having sufficient line on the reel and ensuring that the reel’s drag is set correctly to avoid the line not breaking when the fish decides to run.

Happy Fishing & Tight Lines

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