Changing out fishing line isn’t necessarily fun, but using good line is a key part of angling success. Line broken while fighting a fish or time lost dealing with bad line on a reel can put a real damper on a fishing trip. So the question of how often you should change your line is very relevant.
Railblaza sponsors three professional bass anglers – Ott DeFoe, Bradley Roy, and Bill Lowen. They will often change line after every tournament day, believe it or not. While that may seem extreme, it raises the point of what factors impact how often you should change your line.
What you Fish Matters
A list of those factors would include: the type of structure (rocks, trees, docks) fished, frequency of use, how the line is stored, the type of line, how serious you are about your fishing, or said differently, how much a lost fish would impact you.
That last factor, how much a lost fish would impact you, is why the Railblaza pros change out their line so frequently. A single lost fish in a Bassmaster Elite Series or Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour event can cost them $10,000 or more. Coupled with the fact that anglers at that level typically have a line sponsor that provides a year-long supply of new line, it makes sense to change out line if there’s any question it could fail the next time it is under stress.
But, for the sake of this article, we will assume you’re not competing at that level and are paying full price for your fishing line.
Line Can Last a Long Time
Unlike many products you buy, fishing line doesn’t come with a “best if used by” date on it. When stored properly, line can last for decades. However, the longer the line sits, the more memory it will build up, specifically fluorocarbon and monofilament. Braided line is an angling favorite because it doesn’t experience memory and lasts a long time.
Most weekend anglers can honestly fish a whole season without ever changing out braid. The exception there is when line gets too low on the spool. In that case, new braid, or any other type of line, should be added. One component of casting is having enough line on the spool.
Most anglers also know to use “backing” on their line when it is time to respool. Backing is older line that takes up space on the reel that the new line can be tied to. Anglers typically only use about 1/3 of the spool, so up to 2/3 of the spool can be filled with backing. Using backing makes line changing faster and saves money.
Check the First 5-10 Feet
“Fishing around heavy cover, rocks, and timber will result in weak spots in the line,” says Roy. “Check the top 5-10 feet of your line with your fingers. The line closest to the bait will receive the most impact from cover. Nicks, frays, and cuts in the line will be where most of the line breakage occurs.”
Many anglers will pull that 5-10 feet of line of each reel after a period of hard usage, so after doing that several times, it will be time to fill the spool with fresh line.
Use Line Conditioner
Another reason to change the line is the “memory” that builds up over time in monofilament and fluorocarbon lines. Bad amounts of memory in a line will result in more backlashes, which can weaken the line when they are picked out.
“I love to use a line conditioner to help with this,” says Lowen. “I use Lew’s Line Conditioner and have found it helps take that memory out of the line.”
Line conditioner comes in a spray bottle and is intended to be applied to dry line once it is on the reel. The benefits of a conditioned line are smoother casts, less memory, and longer line life. However, line conditioner will not repair damaged line.
DeFoe likes line conditioner, too, but limits its use to colder weather.
“I think it helps shed water off fluorocarbon and monofilament line, which is important in cold weather. I spray it on the rod guides, too. It really helps.”
Solutions for Those Who Don’t Like to Change Line
Use the RAILBLAZA Spooling Station. Designed with Ott DeFoe, the station makes changing line easy and effective.
“Changing line isn’t the most fun activity for anglers, but we designed this product to make it easier and more effective,” says DeFoe. “One mistake some anglers make is not changing their line out frequently. Hopefully, the ease of use with the Railblaza Spooling Station can make it a lot easier.”
Use heavier line—the heavier the line, the less chance it will break. Also, braided line requires less changing, offering multiple years of use. Note that many braids will discolor very quickly; however, it doesn’t mean the line needs to be changed. Braid is coated when it is made, and the duration that coating lasts will vary. However, a nick or a cut in braided line still needs to be addressed quickly with braided line.
Buy more reels. One reason you might change line is because the fishing conditions dictate it. Lighter line in clear water usually results in more bites. If you only have one or two baitcasting reels, then changing line to fish various techniques is needed. Fishing too heavy or too light of line to avoid changing lines is a bad idea.
Most weekend anglers tend to change braid about once a year, fluorocarbon a few times a year, and monofilament about the same once or twice a year. Returning to the part about how much a lost fish would impact you, most anglers tend to change line out before a tournament. Losing a fish in a tournament is such a bad feeling that anglers will do just about anything to avoid it.