Tim Mead Fishing
The Dreaded Nine Mile Backlash
By Tim Mead        Nov. 3, 2018

Spinning Reel Backlash
Spinning Reel Backlash

The following article is copyright by Tim Mead and may not be duplicated or reproduced without his expressed written permission.

Every angler who uses spinning gear has experienced long skeins of line jamming against the first guide, resulting in a tangle which rarely can be unraveled.   Craig, my son, when he was first using spinning gear, named the resulting mess a nine-mile backlash.

If slack line is wound onto the spool at the beginning of the retrieve, the resulting loop causes the tangle.   No cast is perfectly flat.   Between the lure on the water and the rod tip the arc of the line caused by reduced tension on produces a loop on the first revolution of the reel bail.   As the bail continues to turn, the loop is buried by additional line.  

There are ways to minimize the danger of an imbedded loop on the reel spool.

Donít Put Too Much Line on the Spool:

For me, too much line on the spool is a major factor in my spinning gear troubles.   Spinning reels release line by letting line peel off the end of a stationary spool.   Unlike the revolving spool of bait casting reels, there is no spool inertia to slow the line.   Line releases merely by slipping off the spool.   If too much line is on the spool it may slip off with little or no pressure.  

Line falls of the spoil
Line falls of the spoil

Keep Your Index Finger Near the Lip of the Spool:

As line peels off the end of the spool, keep your index finger near the lip of the spool.   As the lure nears the water, slight pressure against the spool will slow the lure and reduce the amount of slack line when the cast ends.   Just as the lure strikes the water, prevent additional line from leaving the spool by stopping it with finger pressure.  

Finger on the spool.
Finger on the spool.

Flip the Bail by Hand:

When spinning equipment became common shortly after World War II, reels did not have modern bails like those on contemporary reels.   Before reeling in line, anglers had to place the line manually over the roller.   Stan Fagerstrom, a longtime casting instructor, removes the bails from his reels and places the cast line over the roller manually.   Doing so assures him a loop will not be wound onto the spool.

It is not necessary to remove the bail to accomplish the same end.   If the bail is flipped by turning the reel handle slack is often part of the first revolution of the bail.   Manually moving the bail into position alerts the angler to any loose line about to be wound onto the spool.   Simply take the hand not holding the rod and pull the bail into position.

An additional advantage of moving the bail manually is it reduces stress on the bail spring, a principal cause of spinning reel failure.   As the bail weakens before failing altogether, the bail only closes part way, and in turn the first revolution does not come onto the reel under tension.  

Raise the Rod Tip Before the First Turn of the Reel Handle:

Tom Mann of Eufala, Alabama was among the pioneers of tournament bass fishing.   Among the early B.   A.   S.   S.   anglers, Mann was the only one who relied on spinning gear.   While watching Mann fish, I noticed before he began to retrieve line he lifted his rod tip several inches.   It took me quite a while before I understood why he did it.   The upright rod took up some of the slack in the cast line.   Line between the rod tip and reel should have a little tension.   Thus, reducing the prospect of a tangle.


None of these practices will eliminate the nine-mile backlash.   But they sure will reduce the frequency of them.


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           Last updated on February 18, 2019