Which Line to Use?
It is easy, particularly as a beginner, to overlook the importance of the line when you are fishing. The line is the only thing which separates the fish from you. Simply put, if it fails you won’t land the fish, and as any seasoned fisherman will tell you – that’s annoying. There are various different types of line; some are very versatile whilst others have specific uses. Using the right line for the job will make your fishing experience much easier and more productive.
What to Look for in Any Line
Each type of fishing line possesses a unique set of characteristics which makes it suitable for particular types of fishing. Fishing is all about attention to detail, once you have chosen the type of fishing you want to do and have selected the correct rod and reel for it, the next thing to consider is the line. Below are the various characteristics that you need to keep in mind:
- Resistance to Abrasion: Essentially just how durable the line is, normally coded as extra-tough or extra-strong
- Size: Indicated by the diameter, not the length, of the line normally shown as either hundredths of an inch or hundredths of a millimetre
- Stiffness: The flexibility of the line, normally coded as limp or extra-limp
- Strength: Possibly the most important characteristic, this indicates the amount of weight needed to break the line
- Stretch: The degree that the line will stretch when put under stress, normally coded as no stretch or low stretch
- Visibility: How visible the line is to the eye, normally coded as high visibility, low visibility or invisible
Select the line type that you are interested in to learn more
This is the most commonly used line, it’s been around for many years now and has proved itself as one of the most effective and inexpensive lines on the market. Plenty of different suppliers offer it in a broad range of qualities. You can find it coloured or clear and it is suitable for both saltwater and freshwater fishing.
Monofilament line is produced through a complex process of mixing various chemicals together; the resultant mixture is then heated to create a gelatine-like substance. Next, this hot gel is pushed through very small holes to produce a string which is rapidly cooled. As you would expect, the size and weight of the finished line is dictated by the size of the hole that it is pushed through.
Both sun and salt water can damage monofilament lines. Try not to store your reels and spare spools of line in direct sunlight and don’t forget to wash the line on your reels after use in salt water. Keeping your line in places which get very hot such as the boot of your car on a summers day is another big no-no.
The Qualities of Monofilament Lines
Monofilament line can be produced with various different characteristics allowing it to be used for different types of fishing. It can be limp for spinning reels, thick for extra strength, durable for fishing heavy cover or thin which makes it great for fishing light lures. It can also be coloured, allowing you to see it easier and watch for bites more astutely. A good line which is suitable for many types of fishing will often have a general mix of all of these characteristics; as focusing solely on one good quality will limit its usefulness in other areas. With that said, high end lines are generally made for specific uses and have very specific qualities, this information is often provided on the box or spool.
Monofilament line has “memory,” this means that it will keep the shape of the spool over time. Therefore line which has remained on the reel for a long time will try to keep its shape, meaning it will come off the reel in coils, causing problems when casting and trying to detect bites. Always keep the line on your reel fresh.
Applications for Monofilament Lines
When fishing in clear waters on flats or in shallow inshore waters use a thin, four- to eight-pound test line. Spool it on a spinning or spin-casting reel and couple with a light-action rod. Generally, thinner lines have more stretch and thus won’t break as easily when a fish makes a quick run. In addition they have increased flexibility, making them more suitable for spinning reels. However because they are lower test and have low abrasion resistance, they are not suited for big fish which like cover.
A higher test line with more abrasion resistance should be used when fishing in heavy cover or when chasing big fish. Fishing around brush piles, shell beds or offshore rigs all demand abrasion resistant line. This line will be stiffer and consequently works better with a bait-casting reel, ideally it should also be paired with a heavy-action rod. You won’t get as much fight out of it but overall are much more likely to land bigger fish.
If you’re after open-water game fish, such as hard-fighting saltwater fish, choose a line which has some stretch as this will make break-offs less likely and ensure that it is thin relative to its test. A thin line will cut through the water easily and have less drag when a lot of line is out, which is often the case when fighting a strong fish.
Monofilament line is a great choice for the majority of your fishing needs, especially when fishing in saltwater. It’s relatively cheap and you can change it regularly. Opt for brand names if you are able to and don’t buy too much otherwise it will go bad before you get a chance to use it.
Stay away from bulk spools unless you’re spooling up many reels or just use a lot of line. It’s impossible to tell how long it’s been sat in the shop and if you keep it for a while it won’t be anywhere near as good as fresh line. Buy spools of line that you intend to use up within a few months.
Some pros put in new line every day. Unless you are a pro too or just like to waste line and money, there is no need for you to change yours that frequently, however you should change mono-filament line as soon as it starts keeping coils, even if it’s only been used for a couple of casts. As mentioned earlier, old monofilament line has memory even after it has been wet, which makes casting and sensing bites much harder. Should this happen, take off the first eighty feet of line or so and replace it with fresh line.
Braided line, often referred to as braids, has increased in popularity in recent years, mainly because the fibres which make up the line have increased in strength and abrasion resistance. Braided line is formed by interlacing strands of a durable material such as Spectra or Micro-Dyneema into a tight strand of line. However this weaving process is pricey and thus braids are some of the most expensive lines you can find. But this price is somewhat justified as braids are the strongest line by far in relation to their diameter.
Braided line in a range of colours
The Qualities of Braided Lines
Braids float and because they are woven they have increased visibility. They don’t have any stretch and a tiny diameter for their strength. They’re incredible strength can actually be an issue, as breaking them if you get hung up can be a challenge. If you pull on them too hard they will cut your hands, so be careful!
Braids are very limp and unlike monofilament, they have no memory and so can last a while in storage. Despite being very abrasion resistant, braids are actually abrasive themselves and so demand durable line guides and reel parts to hold them. Soft line guides, reel spindles and level wind guides will get chewed up by braids over time.
Due to their very high visibility in water, many anglers like to distance the braid from their bait by using a leader of monofilament or fluorocarbon line. Braids also need to be spooled tightly on the reel to prevent the line from burying under itself, whilst out fishing this means you need to ensure your reel line is kept under tension at all times.
Question - How can I break a braided line when hung up?
Use a small dowel or similar to wrap the line around before you start pulling, this will prevent you from injuring your hand with the line. If you are out boat fishing, wrap the line around a cleat and carefully use the motor to break it.
Applications for Braided Lines
Braided lines are the perfect choice when you need a line which is incredibly strong, doesn’t stretch and when visibility doesn’t matter. They’re superb for flipping, which requires a heavy, strong line and the majority of bites are reaction bites, where the fish instinctively goes for the bait and doesn’t spend time inspecting it. The limpness of the line also allows the bait to drop straight down.
What is flipping?
Similar to fishing with a cane pole, “Flipping” is a fishing method which involves making short “casts” by swinging a lure with around fifteen feet of line. The lure is swung towards the target by using the rod tip.
Braids are great for pulling big fish away from cover swiftly. They’re also great for fishing around brush and rocks, as this requires a line with plenty of abrasion resistance and one which doesn’t stretch, to prevent the fish from darting back into cover. The main issue is if braided line does get hung up it won’t break easily at all.
Braided line on a reel
Braided line is also becoming more and more popular with anglers going after big-game saltwater fish. Its low stretch and high abrasion resistance make it a good option, but its propensity to bury into itself on the spool can be an issue. Braided line is perfect if you’re looking to make a long cast in open water and set the hook into a hard-mouthed fish. Use a three-foot monofilament/fluorocarbon leader and a sharp hook too. The low stretch of the braided line will assist in driving the hook in and the leader acts to distance the braid from the bait.
Go for a braid when you require its distinctive qualities of abrasion resistance, no stretch, and limpness. It’s not cheap though, so don’t fill your reel with it — use backing and tie just enough braid on top of it to make the longest cast you will need.
Something which puts into perspective just how strong braided line is, is the fact that when fishing for toothy fish such as pike, you don’t need to use a steel leader if you’re using braided line. Simply tie your bait directly to the line and you’re good to go, there is no need for the extra knot and hardware required when using a steel leader.
Braided Dacron Line
Dacron braid is a specialised form of braided line which has been around for a while and is preferred by many seasoned anglers for catching big-game saltwater fish such as marlin and tuna. It isn’t as smooth as the newer braids and so doesn’t bury itself into the spool of line like the newer ones will. But it doesn’t have the strength that the new braids do and is often chosen just because it doesn’t bury itself on the spool.
As the new kid on the block, fused lines are currently subject to a lot of attention. Made from the same fibres as braided line but unlike braided line, the strands are fused or glued together rather than being woven together. During their production, the fibres are fused together while still hot, and are then coated with an adhesive to bind them together. The number of fibres used to make the line will dictate the strength of it.
Black fused line
The Qualities of Fused Lines
Fused lines are exceptionally slick and thin for their strength. They have virtually no stretch and unlike many other types of line, don’t degrade when exposed to direct sunlight. They are more abrasive resistant than monofilament lines but not as resistant to abrasion as braided lines are. When brand new they can be a little stiff but it quickly become very limp with use.
If you watch the line to detect a bite, fused lines are great for you as they can often be found in bright colours and are much more visible that other types of line on the market. However, if you’re trying to catch line-shy fish, this type of line will make it harder.
Brightly coloured fused line
Just like braided lines, fused lines have properties which can cause issues. For their diameter, they are especially strong and so will cut your hand if you pull on them too hard. They’re also very slick and so can slip on the reel spool. You can prevent this by using a backing of monofilament line under fused line, or tape the line to the reel spool with some duct tape.
The number of companies which produce fused lines has increased, bringing the price down in recent years. Currently fused lines cost slightly more than monofilament lines, but they last much longer and so can be actually be cost effective as they do not need replacing as regularly.
Over time the coating on a fused line will begin to wear off and the line will start to look somewhat shiny. You may even see some “fuzz” as the fibres stick out. Contrary to what you might think, this doesn’t weaken the line significantly and it can still be used to great effect. Some people even prefer it in this state as it’s more limp.
Applications for Fused Lines
Fused line is thin enough and has sufficient flexibility to work well on spinning reels which handle light baits better. The thin diameter and incredible strength of fused line make it an ideal choice when fishing around vegetation as it will slice straight through lily pad stems and other plant life, preventing the line from getting tangled up in the undergrowth or getting damaged.
Due to its abrasion resistance, fused lines tend to hold up well when rubbing against wood. This makes them good for skipping baits under boat docks. Opt for a fused line when you need a slick, strong line with limited stretch. Use it when you’re after fish which aren’t line-shy and when fishing light lures as it’s very limp.
Fused lines are so slick that knots can slip and unravel. When tying an improved clinch knot or a trilene knot use extra wraps. Palomar knots don’t slip as much compared to other knot types and if you want to be extra sure it won’t unravel, use a drop of superglue.
Traditionally fluorocarbon lines have only been used for salt water fishing, but recently more people have been using them in freshwater too. These lines vanish once underwater, becoming invisible to fish. They’re incredibly useful when you're after line-shy fish and want to avoid scaring them.
The Qualities of Fluorocarbon Lines
Lines composed of 100 percent fluorocarbon have the lowest visibility in water, but they have other qualities which mean they’re not the first-choice line for most fishing situations. Fluorocarbon lines are stiff and hard to control when on a reel, therefore they don’t cast as well as other types of line. They are also not as strong as other lines of a similar diameter, but they are still tough and resist abrasion well. They’re slick too, so they don’t hold knots as well as other lines. They have low stretch and a comparatively large diameter.
A monofilament line (left) VS a fluorocarbon line (right). Can you see the difference?
Applications for Fluorocarbon Lines
Fluorocarbon line should be used in very clear water where you need a line that is totally invisible to fish or whenever you are going after line-shy fish. They are good as leaders for bait rigs because only a short length of line is used as a leader, meaning that it no longer matters if the line is stiff. You spool a different line which is easier to cast with on your reel, but still have the advantage of an invisible line between the bait and the main line.
Copolymer lines are produced by combining at least two different materials together, and, whilst fluid, pushing the mixture through a tiny hole. Copolymer lines are technically monofilament lines as the finished product is a single filament, but they differ from traditional monofilaments because the materials are combined, giving the line different characteristics. Generally, when polymers are blended together the best qualities from each one can shine, whilst the bad characteristics are reduced. Most copolymer lines are useful in a broad range of fishing situations but some are designed for use in very specific situations.
The Qualities of Copolymer Lines
The qualities of copolymer lines are dependent on the materials which are combined during their production and the way that they are combined. The majority are blended to combine flexibility with strength and abrasion resistance. They can be designed to be stronger and at the same time thinner than regular monofilament, but will often be a little stiffer too. Copolymer line often has less stretch and more memory than monofilament line. In addition, copolymers can have low visibility, providing them with most of the qualities fishermen desire and only have a few minor downsides.
Applications for Copolymer Lines
Copolymer lines are suitable for fishing just about anything, from plugs to plastic worms and live bait in fresh water, to jigging spoons in salt water. Most experienced fishermen have multiple reels, and at least one will always have a copolymer on it for all-purpose fishing. Heavier copolymers should be paired with bait-casting reels, and lower-test copolymers with spinning reels.
Fly-fishing lines are not like other lines because you do not cast the bait, instead you cast the line itself. Fly lines can be produced from various materials and need to be strong enough to hold the fish but light enough to cast. They also need to be soft and flexible in order to be spooled and handled without issue. Their surface must be slick to allow easy passage through the guide on the rod.
Fly fishing line
Leaders are used to separate fly line from the fly, this means that fly line can be particularly thick and have extra qualities if needed. Some fly lines float to ensure the bait is kept at the surface, whilst others sink to take the bait further down. Some fly lines even have lead cores to take the fly to the bottom as quickly as possible. Fly lines also often come in bright colours, allowing the angler to see them with ease. There are some fly lines which can be used in both fresh and salt water but generally fly lines are made for very specific tasks.
A note on colours
Some people find the sheer number of possible line colours confusing. From the vibrant colours of fused lines to the practically invisible nature of fluorocarbons, you can find line in just about any colour you can imagine. Some even have a fluorescent material included, resulting in a soft glow when in sunlight.
When fishing live or prepared bait, line with a low visibility is the way to go, this is also true when fishing lures that the fish focus on for a while. If you’re fishing a reaction bait, such as a jig, colour matters much less. Colour can also be important when you need to watch your line for a bite, just make sure you go for a colour you can actually see.