Spooling For Big Game Success

Capt. Steve Dougherty July 15, 2009

It doesn’t matter if you enjoy drifting and dreaming for broadbill swordfish on the 50/50 line, chasing yellowfin tuna on the other side of the Gulf Stream, or trolling for blue marlin in The Bahamas, targeting powerful pelagic predators is far from child’s play and requires the proper rigging techniques and serious tackle maintenance. It’s inevitable that after bending the rod a few times against determined fish that potentially weigh hundreds of pounds, you’ll eventually be faced with the arduous task of stripping and re-spooling your heavy-duty reels for your next big blue water adventure.

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A power drill makes the stripping process quick and easy.

As many anglers know, the lifespan and breaking strength of monofilament fishing line is greatly reduced by exposure to sunlight, as well as harsh saltwater contaminants. Battle a brutally strong blue for two hours and the line is as good as garbage. Add in the fact that during a day’s fishing, your line will likely come in contact with other lines, or even worse, could get briefly tangled around a rod tip or guide. These actions can easily put nicks or chaffs in your mono that can quickly put a halt to any future battle, which is why spooling your reels with fresh monofilament is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your odds of catching the next monster fish that swims into your spread.

…spooling your reels with fresh monofilament is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your odds of catching the next monster fish that swims into your spread.

When it comes time to strip and re-spool your big game reels there are many ways to accomplish the task. The simplest involves taking your reels to the local tackle shop, but if you’re not interested in paying someone to do a simple chore that you can easily perform on your own, you’re not in the boat alone.

Many anglers choose to pull off the old line by hand, however, when working with multiple reels and hundreds of yards of line this can be very time consuming. Creative anglers with curious minds have developed unique devices to make the process a bit less arduous.

As a kid I spent my summers in The Bahamas and with fresh sashimi on the menu after most days’ efforts, we always had chopsticks on board. With the extra sets lying around I came up with my own solution. Simply thread your line though the gap in the chopsticks and place the thin tapered end into a power drill. Slowly start stripping the line while applying pressure or slight drag on the spool to avoid a catastrophic backlash. Be sure to properly dispose of your old line in a monofilament recycling bin.

The pros will tell you that when spooling for big game success it’s a good idea to utilize a Dacron backing. This helps save money in the long run as you never have to replace all of the line at once. While your monofilament will need to be changed, your backing will last for many seasons, if not indefinitely. Nevertheless, some big game crews choose to spool with straight mono because it’s easy and requires no advanced rigging techniques. There are, however, a few disadvantages to this practice.

Monofilament line stretches approximately 30-percent and under the pressure of a determined adversary you may be fishing upwards of 40-pounds of drag. When monofilament is stretched and put back on the spool, the spool can actually change shape and get crushed under the enormous pressure. Believe it or not, the extra pressure created can literally explode the spool of even the toughest big game reels.

There are many benefits to spooling with a backing and while you may be thinking that spectra is a better option, don’t be mistaken. Dacron is easier to work with and the extra line capacity thinner spectra affords is simply unnecessary. Splicing Dacron can be accomplished in numerous ways, and the method is similar to the serving technique used when manufacturing wind-on leaders. While at first it may appear challenging this technique is not difficult and can be easily mastered with just a little practice. This rigging technique also creates a connection with a breaking strength that is at or near 100-percent. The mono to Dacron splice is similar to the concept of a Chinese finger trap. The more lateral pressure that’s applied, the tighter your connection becomes.

Mono/Dacron Splice

  • Start by tapering the monofilament with a razor blade, which will make it easier to thread into the Dacron backing.
  • Thread six to eight-inches of monofilament into the end of the Dacron. Some anglers choose to thread up to four-feet of mono, but this is absolutely unnecessary. If your connection is going to fail, the extra length won’t prevent it from fully slipping. (Image 1)
  • Next, take dental tape or rigging floss and create a girth hitch. (Image 2 & 3)
  • Make an inch long serving with consecutive half hitches along the Dacron all the way to the mono connection. (Image 4 & 5)
  • When you reach the Dacron to mono connection, trim tag ends of Dacron and continue serving over the mono. (Image 6)
  • Trim tag ends and coat serving with super glue. (Image 7)

An hour into a taxing battle is no time to question your connections and line strength. If you haven’t changed your monofilament for a few seasons, you’re likely in for a disheartening surprise the next time you come tight. Good luck in your quest for the big one.

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