Newbie fishing person here. Trying to catch some trout in Steel Lake (Federal Way, WA). Since I am unaware of the right technique, I observed how the other people are fishing in that area, assuming they know what they are doing.

Many anglers are fishing from the same spot — a floating dock pier, marked orange on the map below. They cast their spinning reels in the direction of the gray arrow which brings the bait/lure into waters that are 15-20 deep, marked green on the map. I also suspect there's a submerged tree in that area. The lake bottom has some (not too rich) vegetation and is a bit silted.

The anglers use a similar tackle setup: ~1 oz swivel bell sinker with a leader. Now, the leader length varies from person to person; the shortest one I saw was about 1.5' (45cm), while the longest was closer to 5' (150cm) which is seems to be a huge variance.


I noticed that after casting the anglers have their rods resting almost vertically, leaning onto the pier handrail. The important part here is that the line is straight, and the tip of the rod is slightly bent. These two things point to obvious presence of tension in the line. I understand that it allows the angler register the vibration as soon as the fish bites the bait.

When I cast my rod, the line just rests on the water surface, preventing me from knowing what's going on with the bait. If I try to get rid of the slack, I just move my weight (and the leader) closer to where I am.

What am I doing wrong and how to achieve the tension? Should I use a heavier sinker (1 oz instead of 1/4 oz)? Should I fix the drag on my reel?

If it matters, my rod's length is 6.9' (2.1m). It's medium power and light action. The line I use is 7.9kg test (came in the same kit with the rod).

Support images

Lake map

Lake map

Issue illustration

Issue illustration

  • @guntbert Thanks for the edit! May 15, 2020 at 20:23

3 Answers 3


Try a little more weight. Get a Leatherman pliers/knife combination and some weights to test some things. You can obtain pinch-on lead weights that can be quickly attached to your line with your pliers. With some effort, a pocket knife can usually remove said weights by prying them open. If you get the weight right, then you can buy swiveling weights of the exact size you determine.

The line-slack problem is one of weight or timing. So if adding more weight does not do the trick, try allowing a little more time before you attempt to reel in the slack.

Other options:

  1. Take your rig to a bait shop and show them your rig. Ask them what you can do to your rig, keep your ears open, but then keep an eye on your wallet.
  2. Use new line. Old line stays coiled, so a lot of anglers change out their line every year.
  3. Use better quality line that is sold on a larger roll. The economy line tends to stay coiled. A bait shop will even install it while you watch.
  4. Try a bottom weight on the end of your line, then put the business end of the fishing apparatus (the baited hook or lure) on a swiveling branch a few feet up. The weight should be the lowest thing on the rig when casting. If that's what you mean by a leader, then disregard.
  • Thanks for your response! I am doing fine with 'how to use the tools'. My question is really 'how to achieve the intended result' which your second part of the response answers well. I will try this things out. My line is brand new (came in the same set with the fishing rod) but I have no idea how good is it quality-wise. May 13, 2020 at 19:22

You may just need to set the drag properly. Once you have increased the weight on the line, see if you need to flip a switch or dial a knob on your reel.

Many reels can be setup to be reversible. You do not want that selection for the type of fishing you are doing. If you pull on the line manually and the handle starts reversing, then you need to look for a switch or lever that enables one-way reeling. With that selected, the reel will hold tension and the handle no longer back-pedals.

If you have the correct setting on that, you can still have the drag adjustment set wrong. The drag adjustment is to permit tension on the line to force more line into the water. When reeling in a fish, you would set it low during the beginning of a catch and high for when you want to reel in a tired fish with no fight left. There is a small but real possibility that the drag is set very light, and thus any tug on the line causes more line to be pulled out with little resistance. You need to set the drag to medium-light while casting and reeling in an empty hook. Most reels have a low profile knurled knob drag adjuster that is rolled left or right with a (-) and (+). Dial it (-) and then try to pull the line. It should squeal and be easy to pull. Dial it (+) until it takes some effort. You should not be hearing the squeal unless you snag or get a fish.


If they're using 1oz sinkers and you're using a quarter ounce, doesn't that explain everything? Also take note of their line weights -- it sure seems like it's easier to maintain tension on a lighter line.

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