Keeping your reels loaded with fresh fishing line is one of the easiest and most economical ways to catch more fish on every trip. Just ask Berkley pros Justin Lucas and Tommy Skarlis, whose livelihoods depend on making every bite count.
"Life's too short to fish with worn-out line," quips Skarlis, a decorated walleye and crappie pro with numerous national titles to his credit. "It's the only connection we have to the fish. If your line fails because of a nick or other wear and tear, that fish is gone—and most times, there are no second chances."
Lucas, a top touring bass pro, agrees, noting that a variety of water hazards can weaken your line, including a fish's teeth and gill plates, plus zebra mussels, jagged rocks, woody cover and other rough or sharp surfaces. "Backlashes are also a threat, because they can put kinks in even the best monofilament and fluorocarbon lines, creating weak spots that can fail at the moment of truth," he cautions.
To avoid losing fish due to line damage, Skarlis religiously snips off five or more feet of line when tying on a new lure. "Checking the line by sliding your fingers along it is great, too, but trimming the end reduces the risk of losing fish to damage you can't see or feel," he explains.
Such precautions are helpful in the short-term, but Skarlis recommends changing your line frequently to mitigate the effects of environmental stressors such as the sun's UV rays and chemical residues in the water. "Berkley's engineers have designed the toughest lines on the market, but sunlight and harsh chemicals can still weaken it over time," he says.
Strength is only one consideration, of course. "Performance is a huge factor," offers Lucas, who firmly believes reels flush with fresh fishing line give him an edge over the competition. "Monofilament and fluorocarbon lines wrapped tightly around a small spool for extended periods of time are susceptible to memory issues," he continues. "The line comes off the spool in coils, reducing casting distance, accuracy, and limiting sensitivity."
Conversely, fresh, coil-free line fuels long, pinpoint casts and keeps Lucas in tune with his lure. "Supple, limp line casts better and gives you direct contact with the bait," he says. "For example, when throwing a jig in 15 to 20 feet of water, I can feel its every move. I can tell when the head hits rocks, wood or weeds, feel critical changes in bottom content, and detect light bites far better than I can with coiled line."
Due to Lucas' frequent and lengthy fishing excursions on the tournament trail, he respools reels filled with mono or fluorocarbon almost weekly. "Superlines last longer, although they can fray over time," he adds. "I typically change them two or three times a year."
No matter your personal fishing styles and time on the water, Lucas recommends changing your line as soon as you notice a decline in its performance. "If line wear or memory issues start affecting your casting, backlashes become more frequent, or you can't stay in contact with your lure, it's time to respool with fresh line," he says.
Skarlis offers similar advice, though he notes that specific fishing presentations can also affect how often to change your line. "Hank Parker taught me long ago that aggressive crankbait casting can stretch even best-in-class monofilament like Berkley Trilene XL and XT, so I often respool after a day's worth of hard casting. I don't toss the line, however. I transfer it to different duties, such as dragging jigs in snag-infested areas."
Skarlis also repurposes Berkley Trilene Braid and FireLine on his jigging reels. "When the business end of the line starts to show wear and tear, I simply spool the entire length onto a different reel," he says. "This puts the old line on the inside of the spool, giving me fresh line for jigging presentations, all while saving line and money."
When managing the Berkley Trilene XT on his line-counter trolling reels, which often tow crankbaits and spinner rigs behind bottom-bouncer sinkers and planer boards, Skarlis is careful to treat every reel the same. "By consistently trimming off equal lengths of line and respooling all reels at once, your line-counters will all register letback at the same rate," he explains. Such consistency is critical when dialing in and duplicating successful running depths.
To help extend line life, Skarlis recommends backreeling when fighting big fish on a spinning outfit spooled with monofilament, fluoro or superbraid. Reeling against the drag can be especially harmful. "Drag can twist and stress your line, so rely on your backreeling skills whenever possible," he says. In a similar vein, he recommends storing line in a cool, dark, dry place when not in use.
While such safeguards can help line last longer, it's still important to recognize when it's time to reload your reel—and respond accordingly. "Respooling is one of the least-expensive investments you can make to catch more fish," says Lucas. "Don't put it off."