How to Set up a Fishing Rod 101: Easy Guide on Setting Up a Fishing Rod

Featured Image - CO-0211 - setting up a fishing rod
Featured Image – CO-0211 – setting up a fishing rod

When you first start fishing, you may never have set up a fishing rod or fishing pole (they are the same thing) before.

Setting up a fishing rod is easy but you have got to get it right if you want to be successful, as the rod does most of the work in helping you catch fish.

I was lucky when I first started fishing as my dad was there to guide me through setting up my fishing rig but there is more to it than he described too, which I learned later after losing a few fishing due to tackle failure.

Join me as I run through everything you need to know about setting up your fishing gear. We’ll cover everything from putting your rod together to spooling your reel and even putting on a lure so you’re ready to fish by the end of it.

How do you set up a fishing pole/fishing rod?

Before we go into the details of setting up a fishing rod, let’s first look at the bigger picture of what you’re trying to accomplish once the process is complete, and this is assuming nothing has been touched since it left the shop.

By the end you’re going to want these things ticked off:

  • The fishing pole/rod is secure assembled using all its pieces
  • The fishing reel is secure attached to the rod, facing the right way, and spooled with line
  • The fishing line is correctly threaded through the eyes/guides of the rod
  • You have securely added an rig for an artificial bait or natural bait to the end of the line

The basic process we are about to discuss is the same for all fishing rods whether you have a spinning rod, fly rod, telescopic rods or any other types of fishing rods.

The Things You’ll Need To Set Up Your Fishing Rod

Spin Rod Used on a Lake
Spin Rod Used on a Lake

Before we get started, let’s make sure you have everything ready to go before starting the setup process.

Your Fishing Rod

As I said before, this can be a spinning rod or a fly rod, it doesn’t matter. Chances are if you’re new to fishing, spinning rods will be what you’re using. Make sure you have all the pieces of the fishing pole/rod too.

Your Reel

The next thing to have ready is your reel. It’ll be a spinning reel if you have a spinning rod and fly reel if you fly rod, and the same goes for the other types too.

Fishing Line

A fishing line spool of the line you have chosen to put on your reel. There are different types of fishing line to choose from including braid, monofilament, and fluorocarbon and the most common main line for a reel is braid or mono and the process is the same for both of them.

You will also need an extra line spool of fluorocarbon to make your leader with after you have set up the rod and reel.


As with every part of setting up anything to do with fishing, you’re going to need some scissors to neatly cut the tag end of the line after tying knots.

Lures or Hooks & Sinkers

Once we’re ready, we’ll go through tying on a heavy sinker for bait fishing or how to tie an artificial lure on spin fishing.

A Clean Dish Cloth, Pencil & a Friend To Help

You’ll need the cloth to clean a few things and the pencil and buddy for spooling your reel.

Parts Of Your Fishing Pole

Another to note is all the different parts of your rod. We have a very detailed article about this here if you’d like to learn more, but I’ll quickly go through it below, top to bottom.

  • Tip Top – this is the every last few inches of the rod with the final eye/guide on it
  • Rod Tip – the top section of the rod
  • Eyes/Guides – these run along the length of the rod and hold the main line
  • Ferrules – if your rod comes in multiple pieces then the joints are called ferrules
  • Hook Keeper – a ring of metal above the rod handle to store your hook on
  • Butt section – the bottom section of the rod
  • Reel seat – this holds your reel on the rod securely
  • Handle – A comfy place to hold your rod
  • Rod Butt – the final piece you might dig into your hip when fighting a fish

Now we know what the parts of the rod are, let’s focus on how to set up a fishing rod.

How To Set Up Your Fishing Rod

Clean Your Rod

Rod Ferrule
Rod Ferrule
Reel Seat
Reel Seat

Before beginning anything, you need to clean your rod to remove any sand, salt, or dirt from it. To do this, just gently wipe it with the clean dishcloth you have ready.

You should pay particular attention to parts like the ferrules and the reel seat as this is where dirt tends to cling to the rod the most and it will affect how well the setup is.

Assemble Your Rod

Most rods these days come in 2 or 4 pieces so chances are you are going to need to put the pieces together to build your fishing pole. If you have a one-piece fishing pole then you can skip this section.

Start off by laying out the 2 or 4 pieces gently in front of you and then identify the thickest piece (butt section) as this is the one you’ll be starting with. Then lay out the others in order of thickness, from thickest to lightest as this is the order you’ll be putting them together in.

When connecting two sections you need to do two things: line up the eyes and make sure the join is solid. Here is how you do it.

  1. Take the thickest section and the next thickest section
  2. Put the male ferrule of the thinner section into the female of the thicker section
  3. Once in, make sure the guides/eyes are in line by looking through them down the length of the rod
  4. If this is correct, then push the ferrules together tightly so the pieces are securely connected
  5. Repeat steps 2 – 4 until all the pieces of the rod are together
  6. One final check that the eyes/guides line up and then ferrules are secure

Attach Your Reel to Your Rod

At the bottom of your rod, as discussed is a reel seat. The seat consists of two hoods, one of which is adjustable, where the feet of the reel goes, and a collar that screws up to hold them in place once tight.

Before following these instructions, make sure your reel is facing the right way up with the spool pointing towards the top of your rod. Once you’re ready, follow the steps below.

  1. Slip the feet of the reel into the non-adjustable hood of the reel seat
  2. Slide up/down the adjustable hood to cover the other reel foot
  3. Screw the collar up or down and tighten to secure the hood and thus the reel
  4. Tighten it enough so it’s secure but not too tight as to damage the seat

Pick The Side You Want To Wind On

Fishing Reel and Reel Seat
Fishing Reel and Reel Seat

If you’re using a spinning reel, then you have the choice to change the side of the reel handle to your preferred side that you want to reel on. Usually, you use your strong hand for holding your rod and your weak hand for winding the reel but it differs between fishermen, so choose the side that suits you best.

To change the handle side simply:

  1. Unscrew the cap on the other side of the handle on the reel until it comes off the reel, this should release the handle
  2. Slide the handle out of the reel gently
  3. Put the hand back into the reel on your preferred side
  4. Screw the cap back on to the other side of the handle
  5. Test the handle winds the reel properly

Spooling Your Reel

Now it’s time to add your line to your fishing reel and there are two things to remember when doing this; make sure the line goes onto the reel in the same direction it comes off the spool and that the line sits tightly on the reel.

  1. Take some line off the spool and thread it from the top of your rod through the eyes to the reel
  2. Open the bail arm of your reel and make sure the line doesn’t go through it
  3. Tie an arbor knot to connect your line to the spool following the instructions in the video below
  4. Ask your friend to put a pencil through the hole in the middle of the spool and to hold the edge of the spool with a cloth so apply friction to it
  5. Starting winding your reel so the line comes onto your reel’s spool tightly and evenly
  6. Make sure your friend is apply equal pressure to the spool and ask them to add to reduce the pressure as you need to
  7. Wind on the line until the reel is full, leaving about an eighth of an inch from the edge of the reel spool

Here’s the video for step 3


Fishing Line Setup

Now it’s time to run the main fishing line from the reel all the way through the guides/eyes of your rod.

  1. Open the bail arm of your reel
  2. Using your thumb and pointer finger, pull line off and thread it through the first eye of your rod
  3. Repeat step 2 until the line passe through all the eyes/guides of your rod
  4. Check you haven’t missed any eyes/guides, if you have, start again
  5. Once the line is through all the eyes/guides, pull more line out so the end of the line reaches your reel
  6. Close the bail arm so you wouldn’t end up with loose line winding off freely

Now you’re almost ready to fish with your fishing pole, you just need to choose whether to use a lure or a bait to fish with.

Choosing Between A Lure or Bait

Fishing Lure Tackle Box
Fishing Lure Tackle Box

Choosing between a lure and bait comes down to a few things, one is your fishing situation, meaning is the fish you want to catch more likely to eat, a bait or a lure, and which is going to be more fun.

Lure Fishing

I much prefer lure fishing as it’s active fishing. You are constantly casting out a lure and winding it in to attract fish and when they eat the lure you have a direct connection to the bite.

Bait Fishing

Bait fishing involves adding bait to a hook, such as pieces of fish, small fish or worms. 

You can then fish your bait on the bottom with a running sinker rig using sliding sinkers or with diamond sinkers/walking sinkers. You can also fish your bait mid-water or near the surface using a bob rig, small split shot sinkers, and a quill float.

Either way, this is not active fishing, it is casting out your bait and waiting until a fish finds it and eats it.

Lure Fishing Setup

Adding A Leader For A Lure

The idea behind a leader is using a different weight line and line material the fish can’t see between the line on your reel and on your lure, and the best line for this is fluorocarbon.

So, a leader is another piece of line that you will attach to the standing line of your reel. You can do this using a swivel between the two pieces of line, or with a knot.

If you are using a swivel:

  1. Tie an improved clinch knot with both pieces of line to either end of the swivel
  2. Use an improved clinch knot for this following these instructions
  3. Once tied, cut off the leader line from the spool to the desired length, 3-6 feet

If you want to connect two lines without a swivel, line to line, use:

Attaching a Lure

Fishing Accessories
Fishing Accessories

After choosing among the different lures available, here is the final part, attaching a lure. Again you have a choice to either attach a snap swivel to the end of your line which you then snap onto your lure, or you can tie your leader directly to your lure, the choice is yours.

If you’re using a snap swivel, tie it on to your leader using an improved clinch knot and follow the video linked above.

If you’re tying your lure directly on to the leader, tie a Rapala knot following these instructions.

You’re now ready to start casting and catching fishing!

Bait Fishing Setup

Float Fishing

If you’re float fishing follow these instructions:

  1. Add a leader to your line using either of the two knots above, there is no need for a swivel here
  2. Next, thread the leader through the float and tie it off leaving enough line for your hooks to get to your desired fishing depth
  3. Now tie the hooks onto the bottom of the leader line using an improved clinch knot
  4. Add enough split shots to have your float working correctly
  5. Add the bait to the hook and start fishing

Bottom Fishing

When building a bottom rig, you will first build the rig on the leader and then tie to the swivel attached to the line coming off your reel.

  1. Tie on 1-3 hooks along your leader and then add the weight at the bottom – do this following these instructions
  2. Once done, tie your rig to the swivel using an improved clinch knot
  3. Add the bait to the hooks
  4. Cast it out and catch some fish

Beginner Tips

Practice Tying Knots

All the knots mentioned above are one’s you’re going to need to tie every time you go fishing and it pays to practice them at home.

By practicing you’ll make a much better knot that won’t break off on a larger fish and you’ll be able to tie them much faster and more easily.

There will be moments when you’re fishing and you need to tie these knots but your hands will be cold or wet, the line will be blown around by the wind, and so on. If you have practiced at home, you’ll waste less time on the water and have knots you can rely on.

How far should the weight be from the hook?

When rigging, you should leave at least 1-2 feet between anything a fish may deem unnatural and the bait it’s meant to eat, otherwise, it may spook off. If you have 1-2 feet between weight and hook, then you should be fine.

Rigging Out

Thanks for reading my article, I hope you found it useful and now know exactly about setting up a fishing rod the right way. It’s not too hard but fishing rods can seem very foreign when you first hold them and learning to do it the right way is key to your fishing success.

Please share the article with your fishing buddies and check out some of our other articles for more fishing tips such as this guide on how to string a fishing rod.

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