Ron's Tackle Tips — Backing Material

Ken Jones

Staff member
Backing Material

By Ron Crandall of Ron's Reel Repair (January 2000)

Why do you need backing material? Read on!

If you are using any of the modern lines, either mono or the super lines, you will have noticed that the diameter of the line has gotten much smaller, and that it now takes more line to fill a spool, than you will ever use, or can afford. Why waste the money?

You have a couple of choices. The first is to buy a smaller reel. But there is a catch. Most small reels also have small drags and if you are using thirty pound spectra on a reel that was designed for six pound mono you will be pushing the drag beyond its limits or not getting the benefits of having spectra.

The more logical choice is to either get a reel that is properly designed for spectra, or use the proper amount backing material to bring the spool capacity up to a useful range.

We’ll use the very popular Penn 146 Squidder as an example. This reel (according to Penn) has a capacity of 220 yards of 20-pound mono, which is comparable to 500 yards of 50-pound spectra. In most fishing conditions if you have a fish out more than 75 yards you have already lost, so what is all that extra line doing, except costing you a fortune to store. If you use sufficient backing on your reel, under most conditions, you can use only the 125 yard spool that line comes on, and save yourself a lot of money.

The best way to get the proper backing amount so you can have the spool filled to its optimum amount is to install your 125 yards of spectra line first, then add the backing until the spool is full. Then remove the lines and reverse the installation. This is easily done if your have a $2,000 line winder, or a Sunday morning school yard where you can you can stretch your line out on, and then rewind it in the proper direction.

As for type of backing, the two best are Dacron trolling line and fusion super line. Don’t waste your time with; chalk line, grocery store cotton (it rots and will ruin your spool), or mono (it changes size (tightens on the spool) as it ages and can break or bend your spool).

The whole idea behind this exercise is to have your reel filled to its best working capacity. Remember that for the ratio of retrieve to work properly, it requires the largest spool diameter you can have. If our Penn 146 Squidder with its 3.3 to 1 retrieve ratio, has a nearly empty spool, the retrieve is miserably slow. But, if the spool is properly full, with an ample amount of backing and the appropriate amount of line, it is suddenly a wonderful retrieve ratio, for most fishing conditions.


Well-Known Member
i've only used Dacron backing on my fly fishing reels. Seems to work. I only got spooled once all the way down to the backing. It was a oversized brown trout at putah going downstream. ugh

otherwise I don't believe in line to line knots. I got spooled by a huge striper and it snapped off my splice knot that I made to top off a low winded spool. Nowadays I just use one line on a spool.