Braided fishing line made from Gel Spun 100% Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene Fiber has incredible strength at only a fraction of the diameter of traditional monofilament. Among other advantages, braid allows you to pack more line on smaller reels. The first time I saw these lines at the local tackle store I couldn’t wait to try them out, and I soon learned they, like a lot of other things in life, come with a learning curve.

I bought a spool of 40 pound test and loaded it on an old Penn Squidder. I dreamed of putting away the heavy, clunky 4/0 and 6/0 reels and using the relatively small Squidder to winch up all sorts of leviathans from the deep. We headed twenty miles out of Port Canaveral in east central Florida to a big patch of live bottom called Pelican Flats. I tightened up the star drag on the Squidder and pulled off some line and found I had less than a pound of drag. I tightened more and pulled more and despite my efforts couldn’t get even a pound of drag. Finally I cranked down the star drag as tight as I could yet I still had less than a pound of drag. There was nothing wrong with the reel’s drag. I eventually figured out the spool was locked down and the entire mass of line was slipping on the spool.

I learned lesson number one; braided fishing line is slick stuff. It doesn’t grip like monofilament. If you tie braid to a spool arbor the same way you do with monofilament it can slip. Some reel manufacturers now incorporate rubber, gasket like features into their spool arbors that allow Gel Spun lines to grip. This is typically one of the main features manufacturers tout when they claim their reel has a braid-ready spool.

There are a few ways to secure these super-lines to the arbor of a non-braid-ready spool. Some folks put a layer of electrical tape on the spool arbor to provide a tacky surface for the line to grip. You can also tie Gel Spun line directly to the spool and put a layer of tape over the knot. A third option is to tie a short length of monofilament, say a few feet, to the spool and then tie the braid to the monofilament.

Back to my story of the old Penn Squidder, I stripped off all the line and re-spooled using the third option. Again I had problems with the drag. Line pulled off against the drag would catch and bind and jerk. It was so bad I had no confidence in using the reel on a decent fish.

I learned lesson number two; braided fishing line is thin stuff that can dig into itself on the spool. It has to be wound on tight. I typically wear a heavy leather work glove and run the line through my fingers to provide tension as I spool. Don’t try this with a bare hand because braid can cut your fingers.

It also helps to cross wrap the line so that each layer of line crosses the previous layer at an angle. Most modern spinning and baitcasting reels do this automatically. Many older reels don’t so some older reels, particularly spinning reels, don’t perform well with Gel Spun lines. If you like to use older reels you may have to resolve yourself to the fact that your older reels may not perform well with these new lines.

I stripped the Squidder for a second time and re-spooled, this time under tension. I’m happy to say this setup worked beautifully. If you are filling a reel spool 100% with braided fishing line remember to secure it to the spool in a way that won’t slip and wind it onto the reel under tension. Following this advice should help you avoid hassles and provide a setup that will perform well on the water.