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Fishing Line Twist - How To Avoid It And How To Get Rid Of It

Line-twist is the bane of anglers. You fire out a cast, and the line clatters up the guides, sometimes even catching on a guide. Sometimes the twisted section of line picks up some more line and in short order there is a nice tangle to pick out. Bellowing out some oaths and curses may release some anger but it does nothing to fix the problem.

Line twist illustration

Worse can follow. After spending valuable fishing time un-picking a truly well made tangle, the next cast leads to another tangle, even more swearing, and still no solution.

Line-twist is the culprit, and no amount of un-picking tangles will fix the problem. If the core problem is not fixed, the line-twist will remain, and so will the problems it causes.

Line-twist is easy to identify. Pull some line off the reel, and let it hang limply. Line-twist will reveal itself as a series of curling twists (see above).

Some anglers blame the line itself for twisting. 'That line is too stiff - it twists easily," or "that line is too soft - it twists easily."

Sorry, but line does not twist by itself. The angler always causes line-twist.

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So how does line-twist form?

It is really quite simple. If the end of the line - the bait, lure or fly end - can rotate around its own axis, line-twist will work its way up the line. The more line out from the reel the further the twist will work its way up the line.

Using swivels that do not swivel is a good method of building line-twist.

But don't all swivels, swivel, you ask? Of course they do, I reply, but, and there always is a but - they will only swivel under the right conditions.

Too many anglers use a swivel that is too big.

Swivels come in different sizes for the express purpose of matching fishing line-sizes. As a rough but good guide, the diameter of the wire used to make the swivel should match the diameter of the trace or leader you are using, not the main line.

If you use too big a swivel there is not enough torque in the trace line to swivel the swivel.

Some anglers attempt to use a swivel as a stopper, i.e. in a running rig. Theory is the swivel has to be big enough to stop the sinker jamming down on the swivel or passing over it and running down onto the hook.

A much better idea is to place a plastic bead on the main line above the correct sized swivel.

Using the wrong-sized swivel really shows up when trolling.

There can be very few methods of building a better line-twist problem than when trolling. I have seen line so badly twisted the only cure was to re-spool the reel. Here is some news - line-twist from trolling is rarely caused by swivel failure. It is more often caused by incorrect trolling speed.

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Despite their name, most 'spinners' are not designed to spin.

Most spinning lures should more correctly be called wobblers or shakers. They are designed to wobble from side to side, or move with a tight shimmy.

If these lures are retrieved too fast, they will spin in a wide arc, too wide for the swivel to cope. To avoid this a lure should be dropped in the water where you can see it, and retrieved or trolled, till you can establish its correct trolling speed.

But what if a pattern of several lures is the aim? Well there really is no way around the problem, other than to run lures that all have a similar trolling speed.

Another cause of line-twist problems when towing lures is caused by the lure picking some weed or other watery dross. This weed or junk can cause the lure to spin out in a wide rotation pattern, too great for the swivel to handle.

Careful observation is the only way to overcome this problem.

Watching the rod tip will often reveal small changes in the way the way the lure is running, and so reveal a lure that is 'in trouble.' Fresh water anglers who troll 'Tasmanian Devil' type lures know that if the rod tip stops making a regular 'nodding' movement and just stays static, weed is on the lure.

Misuse of spinning reels is a very common method of producing line-twist.

When playing a fish on a spinning reel and the fish starts to peel line off the reel, the angler must stop winding.

If line winding continues while line is being pulled off the reel, every turn of the reel handle will place, on average, five twists in the line.

Another way of putting line - twist in the line is incorrectly filling the reel with line.

Spinning type reels must be filled with the side plate of the line-spool facing the front of the reel's spool. The line coming off the line-spool must be coming off in the same direction as it is going onto the reel.

For overhead reels the line should come off the spool directly, with the line on the spool facing the line on the reel.

But why get in a tangle about it - your tackle shop will make short and correct work of it, using their line winder.

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Line-twist is relatively easily removed, especially if you have a boat.

Motor the boat ahead at around five knots. Remove all terminal tackle. Feed out around 50m of line behind the boat, and leave it to straighten itself out, after a few minutes feed out another 50m, and so on until all the twist is gone.

You can test if removal is complete by pulling in some line, about 1 or 2m, back from the water and allow the line to fall loosely between your two hands. If the line does not twist you can wind the line back on your reel.

Shore-bound anglers have a real problem. If you are near a rock platform that juts out into a strong current, the 'boat' method can be tried. Finding a river is another way.

Freshwater anglers can use a river to get rid of line twist. Stand in the current and slowly feed out line until the line twist is gone. If you are fly fishing remove the fly and indicator if any.

Another method is to find a beach with no swell, and walk along the beach feeding out line as you continue to walk along the water's edge, as in the 'boat' method.

New on-land Method

Tie a swivel (matched to your line size) to a tree or fence and then attach the line, walk backwards letting line off the reel. Every 5 metres or so, take hold of the line and let it form a loop below the reel with no tension. If there is twist keep walking back until the line does not form a twist when tested.

Then using a cloth, pinch the line between your thumb and forefinger, and wind it back on the reel, keeping the line under tension as you move forward.

This method works best if you use a good quality ball-bearing swivel.

Line-twist is one of those problems that usually arises when some attention to the details is ignored. To me, there is nothing more frustrating than to be in a situation when fish are jumping out of the water to try and get at my bait, lure or fly, and I am sitting there muttering dark curses at a impenetrable ball of twisted line.

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Article written by Tony Bishop (Bish)

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