Fishing line is specifically formulated and imbued with certain properties to make it useful for catching fish. Among those properties are abrasion resistance, breaking strength, diameter, elasticity (stretch or lack thereof), knot strength, visibility, and flexibility.
Some of these properties can pose difficulties, none more so than flexibility, which is usually referred to as memory or fishing line memory. Lines with low memory (high flexibility) are called limp, and lines with high memory (low flexibility) are called stiff.
What is Fishing Line Memory?
Most lines take a set when wrapped around the spool of a fishing reel, especially if the line stays in that position unused. The longer the line stays in that position, the greater the chance that the set becomes prominent and/or problematic. You’ll recognize fishing line memory when you pull line off the spool and find a significant amount of coiling. This can impact castability (reducing distance), contribute to snarls, and affect the appearance and performance of some lures or bait. Memory is more likely to form on spinning and spincasting reels than on levelwind reels.
Not All Lines Take A Set
Some lines, either because of manufacturing or materials, have minimal memory. Most braided lines have little memory and don’t coil significantly on a spool. Nylon monofilament lines are especially prone to coiling, with cheap bulk products, and strong high-diameter lines, more likely to have significant memory.
How to Avoid or Remove Memory from Fishing Line
There are steps you can take to decrease the chance of having line memory or to remove memory from fishing line.
Avoiding. Start by purchasing good-quality fishing line, not bargain products. Buying line that comes on a large-diameter spool is also helpful. People who have reels filled at tackle shops generally don’t have to remove memory from fishing line because the shop uses a huge-diameter bulk-supply spool to take line from.
But that won’t help long-term if you leave the line unused for a long period on a small-spool fishing reel. Avoid keeping a rod and reel outside, exposed to sunlight and temperature changes. Store it in a relatively stable environment inside to maximize the life and condition of the line. If line is low on the spool, refill with fresh line. A low spool hampers casting and increases coiling.
Removing. To remove memory from fishing line, try stretching it. Take 50 to 75 feet of line off the reel, tie the end to a stout object, then wrap your gloved hand around the other end of the line and pull firmly. Pulling with the rod will not suffice.
Another option is to soak the line, particularly nylon monofilament, which relaxes when it absorbs water. Remove the spool from the reel and soak it in a bowl of warm water for a while. An hour should do it, but for best results you’ll need to soak it in advance of fishing. If you discover a fishing line memory problem at the lake, try soaking the spool for a short while before using it.
Another option could be using one of the liquid line-detangling products available at tackle shops. I haven’t done this, so I can’t say if they work, but they do have proponents.