By now most of you are more than ready for the open water walleye season to begin – we are too! The past couple of months we’ve all been surfing the net visiting various websites and on-line forums, thumbed through all the new catalogs and magazines, and attended sport shows and seminars, all in an attempt to gather the latest intelligence on what’s going to help us catch more and bigger walleyes in the upcoming season. In that time we as pros have been fielding question upon question, and while these inquiries span the gamut from jig size to outboard fuel economy one subject comes up again and again; “What fishing line should I be using?”
To answer that, one needs to start by understanding the techniques you’re using to catch the fish. Walleyes are highly adaptable fish, and thus walleye anglers use a wide variety of presentations to catch them. From big water trolling, to ultra finesse rigging, each tactic presents its own criteria when it comes to line choice.
Let’s start with the most basic of presentations, vertical jigging. It’s an intimate technique incorporating finesse, stealth and sensitivity. The angler needs to feel the jig to know it’s in the strike zone as well as the bite, which can often be quite subtle. This is a technique where synthetic, or “Super lines” are a good choice. These high-tech, synthetic fiber lines like Berkley FireLine and Spiderwire Stealth, feature a small diameter (compared to equivalent pound test monofilament lines), and no stretch, making them extremely sensitive and able to telegraph “feel” better than most other lines.
Line color can also be a choice consideration. While the smoke colored FireLine is a great all-around choice, many jiggers prefer high-visibility lines so they can more easily see the line whether to detect light bites or to help them keep their lines vertical on a drift. This is where FireLine in Flame Green comes in, as well as the more subtle FireLine Crystal, which looks white above the water, but turns more “translucent” under water, making it a good choice in clear water scenarios.
For more horizontal finesse tactics like pitching jigs, live bait rigging or jig trolling, the choice depends a lot on your level of fishing experience. For the novice angler, one that has yet to develop the “feel” of a more experienced angler, no-stretch super lines like FireLine work best. If you’re an angler that occasionally has a tough time distinguishing between a bite and hesitates setting the hook, a “Super line” can compensate for this hesitation, resulting in more hooked fish.
For the angler with a more experienced feel, there’s a group of lines best described as refined monofilaments. Berkley’s Trilene Sensation and Spiderwire Super Mono EZ fall in to this group. These lines tend to be smaller in diameter than standard monofilaments, but with greater strength and less stretch. Most feel is retained, like with super lines, however, there is some stretch so jigs are not so easily pulled away from fish with quick hook sets.
The most popular line size for jigging and finesse presentations is typically six pound test. However, four pound test may be called for in ultra-finesse situations or on the other end of the spectrum, eight or even ten pound test may be the right choice if you’re dealing with heavy snag infested waters.
One low-stretch line category that is especially good in ultra-clear water is fluorocarbon. Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon and Berkley Vanish Transition Fluorocarbon are great examples. Fluorocarbon lines have a light index very similar to that of water, making them virtually invisible under water. The Vanish Transition features a unique characteristic in that it takes on a highly visible gold color (or red is also available) above the water, making it easy for the angler to see the line and visually detect bites that may otherwise go unnoticed.
Another popular walleye technique is trolling. While feel is not nearly as critical here, line choice still plays a key role in your presentation’s effectiveness. Consider that when trolling crankbaits for instance, you’re typically running long lengths of line out behind the boat. That means that once a fish is hooked, it’s reeled in a great distance. If you’re dealing with big fish, as often is the case when trolling big water in The Great Lakes, the chances of losing that fish increase with every second spent reeling it in. A fishing line with a good amount of stretch to it can act as a shock absorber, taking the brunt of hard runs and surging head shakes over the course of a long battle.
Also consider what kind of wear and tear your trolling line is liable to go through in a day on the water. The use of clip-on apparatuses such as planer boards, downrigger releases, and Snap Weights, not to mention the hazardous environment trolling lines often get drug through (rocks, timber, Zebra Mussels) can wear on your line, so it makes sense that a line with a high abrasion resistance would be essential. Berkley Trilene XT and Trilene Sensation fall into this category. Here too, fluorocarbons can come in to play when dealing with very clear water and spooky walleyes.
Ten pound test is by far the most used size for most walleye trolling applications. In fact, when the book Precision Trolling was released, they used ten pound test Trilene XT as their standard line for determining running depth of all the crankbaits they tested. However, when the need arises to run baits deeper than they will typically go on ten pound test monofilament, you do have a few options. You can go with a smaller size mono, or you can switch to a super line such as Berkley FireLine in ten pound test. Its smaller diameter (ten pound test FireLine has a diameter comparable to four pound test mono) can help you get as much as thirty percent more running depth from a bait with the same amount of line out.
Of course there are a ton of other great fishing lines out there, and each may have a place in your arsenal of walleye fishing techniques. Lines like Berkley Trilene XL are very limp, low-memory lines that, in eight to twelve pound test, work great in casting situations. Then there’s the category of fluorocarbon leader materials like Berkley’s Vanish Leader Material which is stiffer than fluorocarbon fishing line and works great for tying up spinners and rigging snells.
The key to choosing the right lines for your walleye fishing is to select those that fit the presentations you fish. Whether the tactic calls for no-stretch, low-stretch, ultra clear or high-vis, line should never be an after-thought. It’s the critical link between you and that fish of a lifetime. Choose the right line for the presentation you’re using and you’ll always be ready for your Next Bite!
If you have questions or comments on this or other articles of ours you may have read, contact us through our website at www.thenextbite.com