Is the wrong winding shape one of the causes of wind knots ?

I know that none of you here ever get wind knots, do you ? Each and every single time our braid flies out there with not a care in the world, hell, not even a hint of a little fluff-up would ever think of gracing our spinning reels. OK, so joking aside, I do actually very rarely get a wind knot, but then I tend to slightly underfill my spinning reels when fishing with braid, and I don't think that I have a particularly whippy kind of a cast. This "new" leader knot I am fishing with has also removed any issues of a knot catching in the rod rings as well.

There seem to be a number of causes of the dreaded wind knot, from loose coils of line lying over the lip of the spool through to good old dodgy casting techniques, but up until recently I had not thought that much about how the "shape" of the braid on your spool might affect things - and let's face it, a lot of us are using modern braids that ain't exactly cheap, to the point that a bad wind knot and a loss of loads of line means a certain amount of money down the drain. Surely then we owe it to ourselves to do what we can to minimise wind knots actually happening ?

So how many of you wind your new braid onto a new spinning reel and go all gooey because you end up with a lovely, good looking, flat winding shape as per spool no.2 above ? I love it when I get a winding shape like this and I tended to think that this was the shape I needed to have for these modern braids (and yes, it looks the nicest) - but it turns out that perhaps I was a bit mistaken..................

I have been trying out a very expensive, high-end and utterly stunning spinning reel, the Shimano Vanquish C3000. I will get around to a review in due course, but if you must know it's close to the price of a Stella and it's utterly sublime to fish with - as it should be at that price. But I had a situation recently when I actually thought there might be a distinct flaw with the reel that perhaps all the technical gurus at Shimano Japan had gone and missed. Imagine then my slight trepidation when emailing Shimano to say that I thought I had found a serious flaw in one of their flagship reels. "Dear Sir, your rather expensive reel's got a problem.............."

What was this "flaw" I thought I had found ? I was getting wind knots for no reason that I could fathom. I'd be fishing away and start to feel the braid almost "catching" now and then on the cast, and suddenly out of the blue I would get the mother of all wind knots and I'd be left jumping and down with rage. At first I thought that perhaps Daiwa and Shimano were getting at each other in some weird way because it was the 25lb bright green Daiwa Tournament 8-braid that was giving me the issues (on a Shimano reel), but I know this line backwards and trust it implicitly - so the idea of a potential issue with the reel started to form in my head.

I changed braids to the YGK G-Soul WX8 - a hugely impressive but not remotely cheap braid. I had been using the stuff on another reel with no issues at all, but when I loaded it onto the Shimano Vanquish, I got problems almost straight away - and for the life of me I could not understand it. So I thought about it some more and ended up emailing Shimano to say that I thought there was a flaw with either the bale-arm or the spool lip, and especially because it felt as if the line was almost "catching" sometimes on the cast. Surely such an impressive reel was not that choosy about the lines I used on it ? And in case you were wondering, yes, I also tried different rods with different kinds of rings, plus all manner of lures.

My email was obviously shuffled around until I soon got a very detailed reply from somebody within the company. We corresponded back and forth and tried to strip out the variables to see what the "problem" might be, and a few emails later this kind soul emailed me through what you can see above. Sorry if it's a bit small, but the general sense of it is that the Shimano people are saying in general (note "in general" here, because there are categorically no hard and fast rules), the optimum winding shape for these modern braids and indeed fluorocarbons is NOT the lovely flat one that I like so much (no.2), but in fact is the (not quite so good looking) tapered no.1.

So I read it all through, thought some more, and then remembered that when I had taken the Vanquish C3000 out of the box and wound some braid on, I had initially ended up with a slightly more exaggerated version of the tapered no.1 winding shape. Sod that I had thought, and I remember playing with the number of washers to get the (lovely looking) flat winding shape you can see in the photo above. That's more like it - but I was wrong.

Not all spinning reels come with spare washers that you can add to the shaft of the reel to alter the winding shape, but if they are in there, have you ever played around with the shape of the line on the spool ? I did in this situation, and I did it without knowing much about it other than I was after a nice looking flat winding profile because it looks so nice. So I read what the Shimano bloke sent me, removed the extra washers I had (wrongly) added, wound all the braid and backing off the Vanquish and then wound it back on - and then I got a slightly more exaggerated version of no.1, so I took all the line off again, added the thinnest extra washer that came in the box and wound all the backing and braid back on.

And now I've got the shape you can see above, which of course is much more like the recommended diagram no.1, which Shimano says is the optimum winding shape for braids and fluorocarbons. As the diagram says, no.3 will give the "ultimate casting distance", but "a winding shape that tapers to the rear of the spool results in line leaving the spool with a minimum amount of energy and can result in too much line springing off at once..........................increases the chances of wind knots". So there you go.

I loaded the Vanquish up with the braid that I initially thought the reel didn't like, the usually impeccable Daiwa Tournament 8-braid, but of course it's now on the reel with that no.1 style tapered winding shape. Off I head down to the banks of my local estuary to see if either I end up eating a bit of humble pie with the Shimano people, or if there is actually a problem with the reel and little old me has gone and discovered it here in good old Blighty.

Well try as I might now and I can't get the reel to misbehave at all, and believe me when I say that I tried. I deliberately did some ropey casting (no comments required), worked a surface lure with a very exaggerated movement to mess with the line tension on the reel, and also very slowly retrieved some soft plastics, but never once did the braid not come off this stunning little reel properly. Surely it can't be that simple ? Well it seems that it is. The reel is "cured", indeed there never was a problem with it in the first place. The "problem" was that I didn't know how the winding shape was affecting how the braid flew off the spool in the cast - and I would bet that many anglers know virtually nothing about this as well - hence this blog post. Please give me your thoughts in the comments section below.

But of course this winding shape thing now throws up a bunch more questions, because as far as I can tell this issue is not an exact science at all. This little Shimano Vanquish is now working for me as it should (holy frigging cow, do I not want to send this thing back), but the winding shape on my Shimano Sustain 4000FG for example is about as perfectly flat as you can get (see photo above), indeed this is what I got out of the box - no added or removed washers - and I cannot tell you how impeccably this larger Sustain 4000FG behaves when fishing with braid. I have not had even the merest hint of a wind knot with any of the braids that I have used on it. Does this potentially mean that a larger spool works differently to a smaller one ? Yes, my head is spinning, but this all stems from me believing that minimising the risk of wind knots makes simple good sense.

I also find myself thinking about the "problems" I had with the rather fantastic Sufix 832 braid - read my review here and you will find that it performs flawlessly for me on the larger Sustain 4000FG, but that I was getting problems with it on the smaller Sustain 2500FG - and I concluded that perhaps this particular braid just did not like the smaller reels that much. But what would happen if I were to now play around with the washers on the Sustain 2500FG to try and get that no.1 style winding shape ? Would the Sufix 832 now "behave" properly on the smaller reel ? (because I absolutely love this braid). More messing around required...................