How To calibrate your Line counter Reels On May 18, 2016

Line Counter Reels are you shorting yourself?   

By Kirt Hedquist Doctor Sonar Pro Staff


Lots of anglers like to troll, whether it be the great lakes, rivers and small lakes. Trolling is an effective way to catch fish, you cover lots of water and you can cover the water column effectively searching for active fish, the fish are always biting somewhere.  I have won 2 championships trolling over the years.

There is some science behind trolling, you need to know the depth your lures are running and there are a number of determining factors on how deep your lure or bait is running. Type of lure, size of lure, line size, with or against the water current and the amount of line between the rod tip and the lure.  Pretty much every lure or bait as dive curve based on specific data gathered, a great tool for dive curves is the Precision Trolling app, it’s a pretty slick deal the folks Precision trolling have taken the time to map this data out for easy reference.

There is one thing that maybe often overlooked the amount of line on the line counter reel.  Have you ever spooled up your trolling reel and said well ½ full is enough line and why waste the line?  There is a method of verifying that the amount of line let out matches the number on your line counter reel, its called calibrating your line counter reel, many seasoned trollers know about this. When you let out a 100’ of line is it really a 100’ or is it 60’?

Try this next time, measure out a 100’ in your yard or wherever, set your line counter rod reel up counter zeroed out and pull out the line and see where your line counter ends up, you may be amazed at where it ends up!

I spent some time playing with the amount of line on the reel vs the distance shown on my line counter reel.  I use the  Abu Garcia Alphamar size 16 Line Counter reels they are capable of holding 370 yds of 15# mono line, capacity varies with line weights. They are designed to use all sizes of line and most line counters should have this data on them or available online.  Line counters are designed to be the most accurate with a full spool of line.

I started out by spooling 800’ according to the line counter which put it at about 1/3 full on the spool, set the counter to zero and walked out to 100’ mark and looked at my counter and it said 165’! Doing some guestimation here and letting out what is presumed to be 100’ of line is only approx. 60’ of line approx.

So here is the scenario on the water with this much line on my reel because thinking that a reel 1/3 full was enough. Driving around marking suspended fish at 14’ down, open the handy dive app and it says a #7 Flicker Shad will dive to 13’ with 100’ of line out. Setup on trolling run letting out supposedly 100’ of line to get the Flicker Shad down to the required fish catching depth in reality it’s only approx. 65’ at a depth of 10’ falling short of where the fish are in the water column totally missing the fish and letting the skunk into the boat.

While experimenting with how full the spool was vs the distance out, I added enough line to fill it half way approx. 1000’ of line, at this point I zeroed out my line counter and pulled out enough line to reach my 100’ marker and the line counter now showed 139’ of line out I added another 200’ of line and tried it again and this time I was at 128’ on my line counter. As you can see the fuller the spool the more accurate the counter became. I did some more guestimation math in my head and added enough line to bring the spool up to full capacity which equated to 2000’ on the line counter. Again I pulled out enough line to reach my 100’ marker in the yard and I was at 105’, I added another 50’ of line and was at 97’ this time, I removed about 20’ of line this time and I hit 100’ right on the money. I double checked this a couple of times and it repeated itself.

With this in mind I repeated the same process of spooling up 2000’ on the reel line counter to my other 3 Alphamar 16 reels and each time I was within 4’ + or – of 100’, using the info I had found above I fine-tuned all my reels so each reads 100’ at my yard marker.

I also have some Abu Garcia 5500 LC’s with 300yds of 14# Fireline that I use for trolling and bottom bouncing and I repeated the same procedure as above. Because I didn’t want to fill my entire spool with Fireline and used Berkley Trilene Big Game 10# test backer initially, I measured on 300 yds of the Big game monofilament backer material then added my Fireline main line. I tested this with my 100’ marker and it came out to 99’, got lucky on this calculation.

Some tips on calibrating linecounters-

  • Use an inexpensive line like Berkley Trilene Big Game 10# test as backer or filler leave enough space or about 400’ for the mainline.
  • Use the same amount and make of backer on all your reels if they are the same.
  • Write these lengths down.
  • When replacing the line only replace the main line leave the backer in place.
  • Line counter reads more than the actual measurement add line to the reel.
  • Line counter reads less than the actual measurement remove line from the reel.
  • Use a bulk spool of line such as Berkley 10# Trilene XT Bulk Spool, don’t cut it off until the reel is calibrated correctly. This allows you to remove or add line.
  • As you are reaching full capacity on the spool start checking the calibration as described above.

Bottom line don’t short yourself on your trolling rod set ups spend some time calibrating your reels and keep the skunk out of your boat.


by Bruce Samson under fishing tips

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