When it comes to choosing fishing line, much of it comes down to personal preference. However in some styles of fishing, the choice can have a significant impact on success.
There are three common types of line — monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braid. A few companies produce hybrids of these, but for this discussion I’m sticking to the fundamental types. Additionally note that chemical makeups, additives, and production techniques can to a degree altar the characteristics of each line type. So for example, one brand of monofilament may stretch more than another.
The key properties to consider when choosing between the three basic types are suppleness, stretch, underwater visibility, above water visibility, diameter, longevity, and floatability. Here’s a brief definition of each property followed by a quick comparison reference ranking the lines from most to least:
Suppleness – the limpness. braid, monofilament, fluorocarbon.
Stretch – The ability to elongate under tension. monofilament, fluorocarbon, braid.
Underwater visibility – The ease of which it can be seen by a fish below water. braid, monofilament, fluorocarbon.
Above water visibility – The ease of which it can be seen by an angler above water. All three types can be dyed from the manufacturer to be easily seen above water. However, when using the least visible of each type I would rank them as braid, monofilament, fluorocarbon.
Diameter – The thickness of the line. Given the exact same pound test, ranks are monofilament (thickest), fluorocarbon, braid.
Longevity – How long the line lasts through repeated use in various conditions. Braid, fluorocarbon, monofilament.
Floatability – How well the line floats. monofilament, braid, fluorocarbon.
So how does each property affect choice? Let’s discuss each one and how it ultimately affects what goes on a fishing reel.
Suppleness – This property alone makes fluorocarbon a bad choice for spinning. It is too stiff and tends to jump off the reel spool at inopportune moments causing crazy tangles. As an experienced angler I still use it on spinning up to 10-pound test because of some of the other desirable properties. Plus light weight line is more manageable than the heavy stuff. A larger spinning spool helps too because then it isn’t forced to compress into smaller coils which fluorocarbon seems to resist. Beginners to baitcasting will have the easiest time with braid because its supple nature allows it to cast so well. And a backlash with braid usually is more manageable to undo.
Stretch – I don’t like stretch mainly because it robs an angler of sensitivity. Therefore with any technique requiring high sensitivity, which most do, I avoid monofilament. Also note that the farther a lure is cast, the more line and stretch that comes into play. For an experiment, try longline trolling a crankbait. Eventually enough line can be let off the reel that the feel of a crank’s wobble will be completely deadened. You won’t feel the wobble even though the crank is still doing such. Regarding stretch and hooksets, stretch will rob an angler of a strong hookset on a long cast. An angler will also yield a bit of control to the fish on monofilament especially with long casts. Therefore, when I’m fishing in lilypads, around matted vegetation and such with frogs and toads, I always opt for braid. Braid gives me the “pop” on a hookset and the best control of a hooked bass.
Underwater visibility – Pressured bass in clear water can be line wary……I think. This is hard to measure, but it sounds reasonable. Therefore when using any slow-moving technique where a bass has the time to scrutinize my offering, I will use fluorocarbon. Techniques include, rollerjigging, shakyheading, jigworming, Carolina-rigging, dropshotting, and wacky worming.
Above water visibility – Line watching is an important element towards detecting bites when jigging, dragging, pitchin and flippin. If a person has a hard time seeing the line, braid or a dyed monofilament may be best, because typically fluorocarbon line come only in low-visibility clear.
Diameter – This translates into strength. I usually don’t pick a line type based on diameter first. I consider the other properties initially, and then after picking the type of line, I then choose an appropriate pound-test for the situation.
Longevity – When you are looking at the pricing of line, monofilament will be priced well below the other two types. But don’t forget that monofilament is the least durable and needs more frequent respooling. Not only does monofilament degrade during the rigors of fishing as does braid and fluorocarbon, but it also degrades more easily from heat, sun exposure, and water absorption. Braid and fluorocarbon aren’t nearly as affected by these elements. Regarding abrasion resistance, again my experience has shown monofilament to be the least resistant. Braid is the best for resistance, although nothing seems to be very resistant to northern pike teeth, zebra mussels, or rusty angle-iron under a dock.
Floatability – The floating property of monofilament makes it my favorite choice for fishing topwater plugs like poppers and walkers. Floating line least hinders the action of a topwater. Fluorocarbon sinks, so it can cause the nose of topwaters to dip down and negatively affect the action. I’m not so worried about monofilament’s stretch because I see everything and don’t need to “feel” any strikes. Plus, topwaters have trebles so I don’t need to blast a hookset, but instead just let the trebles hook themselves as I simply bend the rod over and reel for my hookset. Braid floats too, but I just prefer monofilament instead.
One trick that many anglers do is to spool their reels with braid and then simply attach a fluorocarbon leader. Flippers and pitchers like to do this because they can see the braid easily above water, while below water the fluorocarbon has low visibility. This trick is also useful for spinning applications. As discussed above, spinning and fluorocarbon do not perform the best together. However by spooling first with braid and then splicing on a fluorocarbon leader, an angler can have the benefits of easy castability, low stretch, and low-visibility underwater.
I fully understand there is some personal preference involved in choosing line, but by fully understanding the properties of each line, an angler can make the best, informed decision as to what is “right” for them. No doubt fishing techniques are enhanced with the appropriate line, and they can also be hampered by a bad choice of line.Hook a hot deal on fishing gear at Sportsman's Guide >