What Is Fishing Line Backing And When You Must Use It

When I was younger I pretty much always used straight monofilament on my rods. When I started getting into the more expensive fluoro and braided line I started to hear a lot about using backing on your reels.

I don’t use backing all the time but there are definitely times and places where you kind of need to. We’ll be diving into everything you need to know about fishing line backing and when you should be using it.

What Is Fishing Line Backing

Fishing line backing is what you put on your reel before your main fishing line. The two main benefits of using backing are that it will save money and will prevent braided line from slipping on the spool.

As you might know, certain brands of fluorocarbon or braid are quite a bit more expensive than your standard monofilament. It’s probably not a big deal if you don’t fish a lot, but if you’re using your rod multiple times per week, the costs can add up.

Let’s say you fill your spool with braid. You use a certain amount of line, you cut off the old stuff, the amount of line on your reel decreases, and so does your performance. You really only need to put on as much line as you’ll use.

I like to put as much backing on my reels as possible. If I’m casting, I might only use 50 yards of line. What’s the point in having 200 yards of expensive braid?

It’ll save you some money and will make sure your reel is always full and performing well. I don’t know about you, but I kind of like that idea.

If you’ll be using braided line, you absolutely must use backing. I’m sure you’ve tried tying knots with braid, it’s not always that easy and you need to use certain knots to prevent slippage.

Guess what, it’ll also slip on the spool. If that happens, your line might not come in when you reel. It also might seem like your drag isn’t working. Both are not ideal if you hook into a monster.

Backing line grips the spool so much better. Tie the backing line directly to the spool, put on as much as you need, tie your main line to it, and be on your way.

What Type Of Line To Use For Backing

monofilament fishing line

The majority of anglers prefer using a cheaper monofilament as their backing line. The line weight will depend on what type of fish you’re after, but as a general rule, using 8-14 lb backing is ideal for most freshwater fishing.

Obviously, the first thing you need to do is figure out what type of fishing you’ll be doing. Going for small rainbow? Using 14 lb backing is extreme. On the other hand, if you’re targeting king salmon, you probably want something stronger than 14 lbs.

Probably about 95% of the time, you’ll never use your backing. That’s why you can use a cheaper line and that’s why the line weight isn’t super important.

Try to be pretty close to what you need though because you never know when something big might bite and go for a run. That would really suck if you lost something because your backing line broke.

Why do we use mono instead of fluoro? Simply because mono is cheaper. I really don’t want to spend more than I have to on something I’ll never use.

What type of mono do I like to use? It’s really not that important, but I normally use Maxima Ultragreen (on Amazon). It’s always done the job for me and I also like using it as a leader material (it’s tough and durable).

How Much Backing Should A Reel Have

In most cases, using a backing line to fill 1/2-2/3 of your spool is ideal for most types of fishing. For deeper trolling, filling close to half of your spool with backing should be perfect. For casting, not much line is needed and that’s why it’s fine to fill two-thirds of your spool with backing.

There really isn’t one perfect answer to this question because everything will be fishing a different way. Some people might be casting from shore, others might be trolling close to the surface, while others might be using downriggers.

What you’ll want to do is figure out how much line you typically use. If you’re normally letting 100 yards of line out, you should probably have somewhere around 120-150 yards of main line. The rest of your spool should be full of backing.

Just remember that your reel should always be (almost) full of line. If your spool is only half full, you’ll run into some issues with casting distance and you won’t be able to reel in your line as quickly.

That being said, we don’ want to overfill them either. A spool that’s too full will get the dreaded “bird’s nest.” About 1/8 of an inch below the top edge of the spool.

Do You Need Backing For Braided Line

When fishing with braided line, you almost always should use monofilament backing. Braided line tends to slip on the spool, which can cause issues with reeling in line or the drag system not being as effective.

The only time you might not have to use backing is if your reel has an anti-slip spool. Most reels don’t have this, and even if they did, I would still use backing myself.

There really isn’t any point in spooling your line 100% with braid. You’ll never use that much line, so why would you want to waste money on something you’ll probably never use.

If you only use 100 yards of braid at a time, fill the rest up with cheap mono, use that for however long it’ll last (braid lasts longer), take it off when it’s old, keep the old mono (which was probably never used), and add the new braid.

A 300-yard spool of braid might cost you 20 bucks, which is more than 300 yards of mono, but it’ll also last 2-3 times longer. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask me.

Curious what braided line we like? Read best braided line for spinning reels.

Do You Need Backing For Fluorocarbon

When fishing with fluorocarbon, you do not need to use a separate backing line. Fluorocarbon grips the spool well, so the only reason to use backing is if you want to save a little bit of money by filling 1/2-2/3 of the spool with cheap monofilament.

The majority of people using fluorocarbon on their reels are probably casting or jigging. If that’s the case, you might not use a whole lot of line.

The choice is completely up to you. You could fill half of your spool with cheap mono and fill the rest with fluorocarbon. You could also use 100% fluoro. The only difference is the price.

We always use backing with braided line because it slips on the spool. You won’t run into that problem with fluoro, so using backing isn’t all that beneficial.

Do You Need Backing For Monofilament

When fishing with monofilament, you do not need to use a separate backing line. Monofilament is the go-to fishing line to use for backing, so there are zero benefits to using something other than your main fishing line.

If you’re fishing with a fly reel then it’ll be a different story. There’s special fly reel backing that you should use, but when it comes to spinning, casting, or conventional reels, simply attach your main line to the spool and fill her on up.

The two reasons we use backing are to cut down on cost and to prevent slippage. Mono is cheap and grips the spool well. I can’t think of any other reason why you’d use a separate backing line.

Do You Need Backing On A Baitcaster

As a general rule, you only need to use backing on a baitcaster if your main fishing line is braid. Braided line is more expensive and tends to slip on the spool, so using backing line will save some money and improve performance.

If you’re spooling your reel with mono or fluoro, you don’t need to use a separate backing line. You can simply attach your main line directly to the spool and fill it up until there’s a 1/8-1/16 inch gap between the line and top of the spool.

When it comes to how much backing you add, it all depends on what type of fishing you’re doing. Is it casting from shore or a boat? Are you trolling in deep water? Maybe you’re trolling shallower water.

You only need to have as much braid as you’d normally use. If you never let more than 100 yards of line out, you don’t need to have 200 yards on your spool. Somewhere between 120-130 is probably ideal.

For me, I pretty much always fill half my spool with cheap monofilament. I normally troll with my baitcaster so that’s why I do half. If I just did cast and retrieve, I’d probably fill 2/3 of my spool with backing.

Do You Need Backing On A Spinning Reel

As a general rule, you only need to put backing on a spinning reel if you’re fishing with braid. Braided line is more expensive and tends to slip on the spool. Putting a cheaper monofilament on first will save you some money and will improve the overall performance.

If you’re going to be fishing with monofilament, you can attach it directly to the spool. The benefits of backing are that it’ll stop your line from spinning on the spool and it’s also cheaper. Mono is cheap already and it also will grip the spool well.

For fluorocarbon, you can attach that directly to the spool as well since it won’t slip on the spool. If you are a bit tighter on a budget, you could use mono backing. The only benefit is that mono will be cheaper than fluoro.

Want to know more about this? Read do you actually need backing on a spinning reel?

How Do You Spool Braid Without Backing It

Even though I’d always recommend spooling your reel with backing (for braided line), you can still get away with not using it. You just need a way to secure the line to your spool.

The first thing I would do is take a piece of electrical or duct tape and put a layer directly on the spool. You can then connect the braid using your favorite knot. Don’t know what knot to use? See our favorite knots here.

To make things even more secure, I’d put another layer of tape over the knot to really hold it in place. You can then fill the rest of the spool with line. Make sure you put enough to leave a small 1/8-1/16 inch gap between the line and the spool.

How Do You Spool Braid With Backing

The first thing you’ll want to do is attach cheap mono to the spool. It all depends on what type of fishing you’re doing, but for most freshwater fishing, an 8-14 lb test will do the trick.

The amount of backing will also depend on what type of fishing you’re doing. Fill the spool 2/3 of the way with backing if you’re going to be casting and retrieving lures. Fill it 1/2 of the way if you’ll be trolling.

Once you have your backing on, you can then attach the braid directly to the mono. I like using the double uni knot (see how here), but there are a bunch of other good ones.

You can then fill the rest of your spool up. I like to keep a 1/8 inch gap between the line and the top of the spool on a spinning reel. For a baitcaster, closer to 1/16 of a gap is good.

I also always like to use a leader when I’m fishing with braid. It’s a lot more visible in the water and the abrasion resistance isn’t that great. A mono or fluoro leader is an easy way to solve these problems.

Jon Webber

I'm by no means an outdoors or fishing expert, but it's something I've been interested in for over 20 years. I created this site to test out different gear and techniques to see what actually works.

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