How to Calibrate Your
Line-Counter Reel




 New Reel to You ;  OK, you just bought your new line-counter fishing reel, but more often than not owners manuals (if provided) don't have a lot of good instructions.   Some information somewhere may say to have a full spool of line.  What does that mean?  The mechanical counters are made to relay the spool revolutions into distance, BUT this is generated off the diameter of the spool.  Is it a full, empty one, or somewhere in between?   These mechanical ones do not have the ability to differentiate between a full spool and a partly full one, therefore if you get a correct reading with a full spool, as the line goes off, the numbers will be inaccurate the farther you go out.  So IF you have filled a spool and reset the counter at Zero, as the line goes out, say to 50', are you actually out 50' of line because as the lien goes out so does the spool diameter decrease. 


Then if you are using different line weights (different diameters)  how does the counter know?   As with smaller weight (12#) line on the spool, the spool diameter stays larger if 200' goes off than compared to using 25# line.  Spool diameter is what the mechanical line counters use to give a reading.  As line goes off, the diameter of the filled spool gets smaller and the reading uses averages, there us no way to know unless you calibrate it.


One other thing, not all reel manufacturers make their spools the same size, so if you plan on outfitting your boat with line-counter reels, you might consider having them all the same make and model, OR AT LEAST calibrate them all.  It may also be best to spool them with the same line (same diameter) and the spool filled to the same amount (diameter of spool).  This is to ensure that when you tell your buddy that you just caught your fish at 45' that when he lets his out to 45, that you will both be close, otherwise he may be shallower or deeper than you were.


The old way of stripping off line from the reel to the first eye of the rod, (usually 2', and called pulls) worked/works fine, but some people do not understand that, and just stripped line out at 1/2 that or what ever was comfortable to them.  There needed to be a standard.  However your number of may not have been in feet, but if all on the boat understood the length of a pull, it made no difference as it was only a reference anyway.  The same with these line-counter reels, except here, the constant is the diameter of the spool.  The other method was to tie bobber stops on your mainline at predetermined distances.


Establish a Known Distance ; Your only way to be sure is to measure off a known distance, (longer is better up to a point), but remember this will be just an average so if you calibrate it at 100' it will be different at that midpoint (50') than if you actually calibrated it at 50'.   Some say 100', but 50' seems to fit my type of fishing better, and it cuts down on my walking.   I measured this by using a 25' carpenter's tape measure.  


With a full spool, your diameter will be largest for the first few passes of the line going out, as it goes out farther the line on the spool decreases in diameter, effecting the true readings. 


The calibration method used here is to stretch your line out to your known target point and then compare that to what the reel's counter says.   Don't be surprised if the two are not even close.

Measure your distance.   I just happen to have a fence post that is just 50' from a barn door edge, which works for me.   Spool your reel with nearly as much as the spool will hold without running over.  This is usually suggested to within an 1/8th of an inch of the spool rim.  But don't cut the line.  At the start point, (my fence) I attach a downrigger clip onto the top fence wire, then insert the line into and it and clamp it into this clip at a point where you think the spool is full at.  Reel in until your rod tip is touching the downrigger clip.  Now put your reel into free-spool and walk back to your known mark, stretching the line tight enough that there is not a lot of slack.  Position the rod tip at your mark and read the number on the counter.  Ideally the two will be the same, but if not, you may have to add some more line to the spool, OR take some off.


Adjust The Spool Diameter ;  If your counter says 46' and you are standing with the rod tip at 50', theoretically all you need to do is reel in, move your downrigger clip back (shorten the line) 4'.  If the numbers are the other way around, then you may have to add more line onto the spool, (that is why you don't cut it initially).  Like I said theoretically, just add or subtract the number needed.  Well that number difference does not work out quite that simple as it is not the 4' length difference, but the diameter of the spool over the whole distance.   Well after numerous tries of shortening it maybe 25', I got it close.  But that is OK with me, as I got 49', but by the time I tie a swivel and snap on the end, AND after enough time on the water, if I trim a few feet off occasionally to ensure no abrasion, I should be close even after a few trims.


You need to understand that if you calibrate your reel at 50', then at 100' your actual distance will be shorter than the counter says.  However if you calibrated it at 100', your distance at closer distances will be off more the opposite way.  So depending on your fishing area and methods, chose your poison.


As said above, you will have an average, and if your counter distance shows 10' your lure may actually be 9 1/2', and with the counter showing 35', you may actually be 36'.  But this is a lot better than doing the pulls, or guessing.  And you know (approximately) where you are at at all times, whether you reel in a few feet or let more out if you are trying to maintain being close to the bottom, which is hard to do if you are using PULLS and need to reel in a bit. 


And in my type of fishing, (salmon trolling in estuaries) if I have to loose sleep over this insignificant small amount of error, I need to take up some other sport, as there are a lot more variables in this fishing game that are needed to turn fishing into catching.


Some makes of reels are very close with a normal full spool, like a Okuma Cold water was within 4" at 10', or 2 1/2' at 50' which is where I wound up with the one described above.


As seen in the photo below, the downrigger clip is your adjustment so you secure, but do not cut the mainline, (possibly too short) for this calibration process.  Reel down so the rod tip touches the clip and reset the counter, before you move out to your established distance.



Here you see the downrigger clip attached to the mainline as a temporary attachment


  If you change brands, or size of line, you will need to check your calibration out again.  And the line counter reels that I have encountered are designed for mono.  Since Braid is a lot smaller, the numbers shown on the reel will be considerably off.


Back to Ramblings

Copyright © 2018 LeeRoy Wisner  All Rights Reserved


Originated 02-11-2018, Last updated 03-20-2018
to contact the author click here