Time once was that fishing lines were the simple part of fishing. The days of limited line choices are gone and today anglers are faced with a myriad of line types, colors and diameters to pick from.
All the line choices make fishing a little more complex to understand, but the benefits these lines bring to the table more than makes up for the homework needed to stay on top of technology and fishing trends.
Avid anglers might imagine that in this high-tech age, garden variety monofilament would be outclassed by new technology and new line types. Actually, traditional nylon monofilament fishing line continues to dominate a host of critical fishing categories. The reason monofilament has sustained itself over the years boils down to function and value.
Premium quality monofilaments bring to the party controlled stretch, great knot strength, exceptional abrasion ability and they are reasonable in cost. I still use and recommend monofilament for most walleye, trout, salmon, pike and musky trolling applications, including fishing with in-line boards, dual board planer mast systems, flatlines and also downriggers.
I also favor monofilament for casting crankbaits, in-line spinners and also spinnerbaits for a wealth of species. Fishing topwater baits and jerkbaits is another job best left to nylon monofilament. For my money Maxima Ultra Green is a great multi-species and multi-purpose monofilament.
On the spool and on the reel, most anglers could not tell the difference between co-polymer lines and nylon monofilament. Essentially co-polymers are modern fishing lines that tweak in small ways the primary characteristics of monofilament, providing the user some modest advantages.
For example, most co-polymers are a little thinner in diameter for their respective tensile strengths compared to monofilament. Co-polymers also tend to be softer and have less memory. The lack of memory helps co-polymers function better on reels that have small spools like ultra-light gear often used for perch, panfish and stream trout fishing.
Where co-polymers suffer is they can’t typically compete with premium monofilament in the knot strength and abrasion resistance categories. For general purpose fishing chores, co-polymers are very user friendly, widely available and reasonable in cost. Because most anglers don’t know the subtle differences between monofilament and co-polymer lines, these products tend to get widely interchanged in their applications.
Fluorocarbon line is different from monofilament and co-polymer lines in that the chemical make-up comes from combining fluorine, chlorine and carbon extruded into a single strand line that looks like monofilament, but has distinctively different properties. Fluorocarbon line is denser, heavier and has more abrasion resistance than monofilament. Fluorocarbon line also doesn’t absorb water like monofilament which means it retains its strength, sensitivity and handling characteristics when wet or dry.
Low stretch, greater sensitivity and almost zero visibility put fluorocarbon line in a class all by itself. This unique line first hit the market as a leader material primarily aimed at clear water fisheries such as trout and salmon applications. Bass anglers quickly latched onto fluorocarbon and many now use fluorocarbon as main line, largely replacing both monofilament and co-polymer lines in the process.
A few of the presentations that fluorocarbon excels as main line for bass fishing includes drop shot, fishing weedless jigs, Texas rigged worms and casting tubes and other soft plastic grubs. Of course fluorocarbon is also very useful as leader material and not just because this line type is tough to see in the water. Fluorocarbon also makes great leader material for all species fishing applications because it has more abrasion resistance and low stretch. Also because this line is invisible in the water anglers can use larger break strengths without sacrificing any results.
For example, when vertical jigging with braids I tie in a leader of fluorocarbon. Typically I’m fishing 10# test braids, but I favor a slightly heavier 12 or 15 pound test fluorocarbon leader. The extra strength and abrasion resistance at the leader helps in reducing bite off and other line failures without hampering in the fishing presentation.
Premium 100% fluorocarbon line is expensive, but it’s worth every penny in terms of the abrasion resistance and virtual invisibility in the water. Hybrid lines that blend fluorocarbon and co-polymers are unfortunate compromises that sever no master.
Fused lines are often confused with braided lines because both have near zero stretch. Fused lines are generally made with a fiber known as MicroDyneema and are generally recognized as the world’s strongest high-tech fiber.
Fused lines tend to be a little stiffer than braided lines and because of this they don’t have the nasty habit of wrapping around the rod tip. The disadvantage of fused lines is they are flat and they don’t load onto spinning reel spools as nicely as monofilament, fluorocarbon, co-polymers or even braids.
Fused lines are also modified to create low stretch lines suitable for deep water ice fishing applications. To accomplish this engineers bundle the fibers to create a line that is super thin, low stretch and yet doesn’t absorb water. Water freezing on the line is a major problem with ice fishing and most braided lines are useless in temperatures below freezing. Water penetrates the fibers and then freezes making it impossible to get the line off the reel spool!!
Fused lines that are bundled are the solution to this problem. Since water can’t penetrate the voids in the fibers, the line doesn’t freeze. Because these fused and bundled lines are so super thin, they have zero tolerance for abrasion. The slightest nicks cause these lines to loose most of their tensile strength which means it’s critically important to cut and retie often.
Braids are considered ultra-modern fishing lines, but the truth is fishing lines were braided for generations before extruded nylon monofilaments hit the market. What are new in braids are the fibers used to create them and the braiding processes.
Modern braids are created using Spectra fibers which are amazingly thin, strong and abrasion resistant. When twisted under pressure a super thin and ultra-low stretch line is created that handles much like monofilament.
Not all braids are twisted under pressure and therefore some less expensive brands tend to be flat instead of round in shape. Braids like Maxima’s 8 Strand are round in shape, spool better and cast like a dream. The trick to spooling these lines is to load them under pressure. This is achieved by wearing a pair of leather gloves and squeezing the line tightly between your fingertips while spooling.
Braids are thin in diameter, but not generally offered in break strengths below 10 pound test. Fused lines by comparison are routinely produced in sizes down to one pound test. A typical Spectra braid at 10 pound test tensile strength is normally about the diameter of two pound test monofilament.
Braided lines are ideal for both casting and trolling situations. Braids excel at vertical jigging, casting jigs, flippin’ into heavy cover and trolling diving planers like the famous Dipsy Diver, Slide-Divers and other big water gear.
A growing number of board trollers are using braid because it lasts much longer than any other line type. Unfortunately braided lines are not user friendly when it comes to planer board line releases. Anglers get around this problem by placing a half hitched rubber band around the braid and then putting the rubber band into the jaws of the line release.
Braids are hands down the fastest growing segment in the fishing line industry. As more anglers discover the unique properties of braid, more and more are finding applications for them on the water.
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of braids is the cost. On the flip side, braid lasts far longer than monofilament, fluorocarbon, co-polymers and even fused lines. Top dressing a reel loaded partly with monofilament is becoming a common sight among anglers who favor braid. This way they get to enjoy the properties of braided line, without having to fill the entire spool with expensive line.
Essentially braids allow anglers to have their cake and eat it too! While braid isn’t going to replace monofilament any time soon, it’s obvious that this super line has much to offer the multi-species angler.
A ton of attention has been focused in recent years on the invisible nature of fluorocarbon. That’s cool, but anglers are also discovering a growing need for high visibility fishing lines.
Hi-vis lines are currently available in monofilament, braids, fused lines and also co-polymers. Making the line more visible to the angler helps in a number of fishing presentations that require line watching.
For example, when vertical jigging for walleye I always use high visibility lines to aid in detecting when my jig is on bottom. The same is true of casting jigs. Often I see the line twitch and know I just had a bite before I feel the strike.
Steelhead fishermen are also finding unique ways to use high visibility lines. Recently on the Kalamazoo River my buddy Josh Crabtree showed me how using Maxima High Visibility line helps him direct his plug rods into productive water seams, log jams and undercut banks.
Trollers who use in-line boards are also using more and more high visibility line to make it easier to see the boards from inside the boat and also to help other anglers spot board lines quicker. The uses of high visibility lines are growing every year.
Tying directly to the lure when using high visibility lines probably isn’t the best decision. Most guys who fish hi-vis are also using fluorocarbon leaders at the terminal end. For jigging a two or three foot leader is ideal. For trolling applications a six to 10 foot leader of fluorocarbon is ideal.
The advancements in fishing line aren’t limited to the traditional categories. Sinking lines like lead core are also being manufactured with stronger and thinner braids. Making lead core thinner helps it fish deeper and that’s a good thing. There are lead core lines currently being produced with both MicroDyneema and Spectra fiber in the outer sheath.
Not only do these lines fish deeper, they are more durable and last longer than traditional nylon and Dacron lead core lines.
Summing It Up
Keeping track of the fishing line types currently available is a little daunting. By doing some homework anglers can set themselves up with lines that are the best possible choice for literally any species and fishing presentation.