With all of the options available today, choosing a fishing line is not an easy task. Each fishing scenario has different challenges and finding the right one can make the difference between a frustrating day, or one with lots of photo opportunities. Let’s go over the different types of line materials out there and how to best use them.
Probably the most common line material is monofilament. Chances are most of your reels are currently sporting a spool full of ‘mono’. One major advantage of mono is its clarity. This is crucial for fishing clear water or when you’re using a slow moving lure presentation (such as a Texas rig) because the fish are able to closely investigate the situation. In these scenarios, any obvious line will likely spook them away.
Another advantage of mono is its flexibility. We all get a little excited when we go to set the hook after a big strike. Sometimes we get too excited and can rip the lure out of the fish’s mouth. Mono has a little give to it so there is not as much energy transfer when setting the hook.
This reduces the likelihood of ending up with just a pair of jaws on your hook when you get caught up in the moment. Major manufacturers such as Berkley offer monofilament with different levels of flexibility to emphasize strength or finesse.
‘Finesse’ or ‘sensitive’ versions increase the sensitivity of what you can feel on the line, like a light bite from a finicky walleye, but they aren’t quite as strong.
The flexibility of mono is also one of its most frustrating weaknesses. This is obvious when you are stringing up a fresh spool. You’ve probably seen how fresh mono can remain in a circular shape from when it was on its packaged spool. This characteristic is often called line ‘memory.’
After a lot of casting or pressure from fighting fish, the memory of mono can cause it to curl up onto itself and makes casting difficult. Clipping off a few feet of line and retying your lure often can help reduce this problem.
The other main weakness of mono is how easily it can break. Unfortunately, a few nicks in the line here or there can be fatal for mono. There’s nothing more frustrating than having your line break on a big fish. If you’re fishing in rocky waters or anywhere there is significant structure, you may want to avoid mono as your go-to line.
Are you going for toothy fish like barracuda, northern pike, or muskies? Are you fishing topwater frogs in heavy lily pad cover? Braided lines might be right for you. These lines are just about the toughest out there.
Unlike mono, these lines are made of (mostly) synthetic fibers that are woven together to enhance their strength. Remarkably, these lines typically require a lot more pressure to break than their pound test rating suggests and are actually quite a bit thinner in diameter than comparable mono lines.
On 12 pound test Spiderwire, I have actually hauled in one of the biggest things I’ve ever gotten into the boat: a submerged tree (I wish it had been a fish).
This strength also helps the line resist nicks if you fish in hazardous conditions with jagged cover. It is also a good idea for critters with sharp teeth. You should be using a metal leader anyways, but fishing braid for muskies and northerns will keep you from losing fish and lures in the event that they strike past the leader.
With this great strength, however, comes braid’s biggest disadvantage: visibility. Braids are very easy to see underwater for fish and people alike. This makes using them difficult in clear water or with slow moving baits as I mentioned earlier. If you’re fishing topwater in heavy cover or if you’re burning spinnerbaits or crankbaits looking for aggressive fish, this is not really a problem.
Fluorocarbon lines have become increasingly popular because they offer the most all-around advantages. Similar to mono, fluorocarbon is very clear and actually is more difficult for fish to see underwater. This makes it a fantastic choice in crystal clear waters.
The material used for these lines also allows them to be both thinner and stronger than mono at a given pound test rating. Although it is still not as strong as braid, fluorocarbon resists nicks and cuts much more than mono. If you aren’t fishing in extreme cover but still want to emphasize strength, fluorocarbon may be a great option.
As far as flexibility is concerned, fluorocarbon sits somewhere between mono and braid. It has enough give that it will make it difficult for a fish to throw the hook, but has enough backbone to let you feel all the little bumps and bites. This attribute makes fluorocarbon a great all-around option.
The most unique aspect of these lines is that they sink in water. Depending on your needs, this could be an advantage or disadvantage.
For topwater fishing, a sinking line would be an obvious disadvantage that ruins your stealthy presentation. For cast-and-reel lures, like spinnerbaits and crankbaits, a sinking line can help reduce slack on your initial retrieve and helps you set the hook on those explosive reaction strikes.
One final consideration to make for fluorocarbon is that it can be more expensive to load up your spools. One option to limit line usage is to tie on a fluorocarbon leader.
For example, if you tied a fluorocarbon leader onto mono, this will give you the virtual invisibility and increased strength of fluorocarbon, but the flexible forgiveness of mono while fighting fish. This is my personal favorite option for fishing spinnerbaits and shallow crankbaits along weed lines.
Which line is right for you? Check out all of our options here!