Benefits of Backing Fishing Line: Where, What, When, Why, and How To Use It

Growing up fishing for trout and other freshwater fish with a spinning rod, I always used straight monofilament on my reels. I had never heard of backing line, but as I got more into bass fishing and started using baitcasters with braid and expensive fluorocarbon lines, I began hearing more about it.

While other fishermen would mention using backing, they failed to mention the when, why and how to use it. So in this article I'll save you the trouble of searching old fishing forums and give you the rundown on how much backing line to use, when and why to use it, and discuss the benefits of using it.

What Is Fishing Line Backing

Fishing line backing is simply a cheaper line, most often monofilament, that's spooled onto your fishing reel before loading the main line. Backing a spool of braid with mono not only is a money saver, but it helps prevent the braided fishing line from slipping on the spool, though backing isn't only used with braid.

What Type Of Line To Use For Backing

Most people use a cheap 8-14 lb monofilament fishing line for backing. I even have reels with 6 lb mono backing. The strength of your backing line isn't very important because you should rarely, if ever, cast it out. If you're casting far enough that you're exposing the backing line when fighting a fish, then you need to remove some backing and increase the amount of main line you're using.

Can you use fluorocarbon or copolymer as backing?

Sure, if money saving isn't an issue. The reason why monofilament is most anglers preferred choice for backing is you can get a lifetime supply of it for cheap.

Cost Saving Benefits of Using Backing Line

Some brands of quality fishing lines can be quite expensive. A quality braid or fluorocarbon line can run upwards of $25 a spool while a spool of mono can be under $10. If you don't fish regularly this might not seem like a big deal, but if you regularly go fishing and have multiple fishing poles, the cost of fishing line can start putting quite a dent in your wallet.

Because I primarily bank fish, by using backing line I can usually spool 2 reels with a single 150 yard spool of braid, cutting my costs in half!

How Much Backing Line Should You Use?

How much backing line you need depends and is partially a preference thing, but the consensus seems to be to fill your fishing reel about halfway to 2/3rds with backing line. You'll have to play around with it but you only need as much main line as you'll be casting.

To figure out how much backing you need you'll need to determine how much line you typically use. The average fisherman's casting distance is around 25-30 yards so having somewhere around 70 yards of mainline is probably adequate.

By using only as much main line as you need you'll not only save money, but it'll help keep your reel full of fishing line. A half full spool of fishing line can affect casting distance and how fast you can retrieve your lure as you'll have a smaller diameter spool of line. Just don't overspool your line or you'll end up backlashing and picking out a bird's nests instead of fishing.

If saving money isn't a primary concern for you, you can use less backing line. Just make sure it covers the spool so the braid doesn't touch it and slip underneath. The downside though is that after retying enough times or breaking off, your reel will start running low on line and you'll be wasting a lot of braid.

Do You Need To Put New Backing Line On Every Time You Respool?

No, you can absolutely use the same backing line for a long time. I've had the same mono backing for over a year and never experienced any issues. So long as the line isn't frayed badly or anything, you should be able to continue using it. I usually cut back a foot of backing or more each time I respool the braid on my line.

Occasionally you may want to pull all the line out and reel it back in so the backing is nice and tight on the spool though. You can peel the line off your reel quickly by attaching an empty spool to a power drill if you think you need to respool it.

When Is Backing Line Necessary?

Generally speaking, the only time a backing line is absolutely necessary is when using braid as your main fishing line. Braided fishing line tends to slip on the spool, acting as if your reel's drag system is slipping.

Should You Use Backing Line With Fluorocarbon?

If you're trying to save some money, you can use a cheap mono backing line on a reel while using fluorocarbon for your main line. The only real difference to using backing instead of straight fluoro is cost.

Should You Use Backing Line On A Spinning Reel?

Any time you use a braided fishing line, you should use backing to avoid the spool slipping underneath the braid. This goes for any baitcasting reel, spinning reel, spincaster, or fly reel.

How to Spool A Reel With Backing Line

The process of spooling braid with backing is mostly the same as you would normally spool a baitcaster or spinning reel. The only difference is

Equipment Needed

  • A fishing rod and reel
  • Backing line (I use 8lb monofilament usually)
  • Main fishing line
  • Something to cut the fishing line: scissors, knife, fishing line clippers
  • An open space to work in
  1. Run the backing line through the tip of the rod and down through the eyes of the fishing rod.
    • For baitcasters, make sure you run the line through the level wind guide before attaching the line to the reel's spool.
    • For spinning reels, open the bail before tying the line on the spool.
  2. Attach the backing line to the spool.
    • The arbor knot is a common fishing knot for tying fishing line to a spool. You can also use a piece of tape in addition or instead of a knot. You should never have enough line out that you're relying on this knot to fight a fish.
  3. Place the spool of backing line so the line comes off the spool vertically.
  4. Apply some tension to the line with one hand by grabbing it near the first eye of the fishing rod.
  5. Begin reeling to load the spool with the backing line.
  6. Stop when you've reached the amount of backing line desired.
    • If you're unsure of how much main line you'll need, a safe bet is to only fill your spool half way with backing.
  7. Cut the backing line and grab your main line.
  8. Attach your main line to the backing line. I just use a double uni knot for this, but you can use whatever joining knot you know, just make sure it has a small profile.
  9. Once you've joined the backing and main lines together, continue reeling to load the main line onto the reel's spool.
  10. Stop about 1/16th to 1/8th inch before the spool is full. And that's it! Cut the main line and tie on a hook or lure.

Wrapping Up

If you've gone through the steps in this article to spool your fishing reel with backing line, don't forget to set your baitcaster's spool and brake settings before making your first cast and adjust your drag to match the line's test strength.