By Ed Nelson
It’s that time of year again; time to get your tackle ready for another fishing season. This month let’s talk fishing line. Have you been shopping lately? Monofilament, Fluorocarbon and Braid “OH MY”. There seems to be an endless number of choices out there. How do you choose the right one for your fishing conditions? I’m a bass fisherman but the principals discussed here can be used for any fishing situation. Let’s get started.
First has to be Monofilament or “Mono”. It’s the most popular fishing line in use today. It’s created by passing molten plastic through a die that creates a single thin strand of Nylon. Hence the name “Mono” meaning single. It has a few distinct advantages that might make it the right choice for you. It’s easy to tie and works well with the majority of knots. It spools easily on any rod and reel combo and is available in limp for open water or tough for heavy cover as well as an array of colors to match your fishing conditions. Its will stretch up to 25% which acts as a shock absorber when fighting big fish on lighter lines. Don’t worry; it’s an elastic like stretch so it returns to its original form after the load is removed. It’s cheap and readily available. “Sounds perfect, I’ll take it”. Well not so fast, there are some disadvantages to it too. It develops memory, especially on spinning tackle, so it needs to be changed regularly. It degrades in UV light and care should be taken in storing spools out of sunshine. It also absorbs water which increases stretch and weakens break strength up to 20%. Lastly, it floats until it becomes saturated with water, then it becomes neutrally buoyant. This is both good and bad. It’s great for top water baits and bad for bottom baits.
Second is Fluorocarbon. It’s created by bonding a polymer of Fluorine to Carbon at the molecular level. Way to high-tech for me but the results produce a high density, UV resistant fishing line that doesn’t absorb water. High density also means more abrasion resistance. It has almost the same refractive index as water which makes it much harder for the fish to see. It’s also a stiffer line than Mono so it’s much more sensitive and it sinks. So I guess you are wondering what the disadvantages are, “Glad you asked”. First of all it’s expensive, twice the cost of Mono in most cases. Its stiffness while good for sensitivity has its down falls. It doesn’t sit well on spinning reels especially in the larger sizes. It also means more line memory which translates into more frequent line changes. Although advertised as low or no stretch, new Fluorocarbon stretches 28% to 38% which is actually greater than Mono. The difference is, when Fluorocarbon stretches it does not return to it original form. The stretch is actually the line fracturing at the molecular level. If you’ve ever heard someone saying that they “hate Fluorocarbon because it’s so brittle”, they have stretched their line and not replaced it. My rule of thumb is, any time I have to do a straight pull on my Fluorocarbon to break off a bait that’s stuck beyond retrieval, the line that is not on the reel at the time of breakage is removed and discarded. I consider it to be fractured and therefore unreliable.
Your third option is Braided or “Braid”. It consists of inter-twined strands of synthetic fiber which are 10 times stronger than steel. This produces a super thin line for its rated break strength when compared to Mono. A thin diameter also means less wind resistance allowing for longer casts, less water resistance allowing plugs to dive deeper, and more line on your reel.
It has a high abrasion resistance and it floats. It does not develop memory like Mono or Fluorocarbon which translates into less line changes. It also has little to no stretch meaning increased sensitivity and better hook sets, especially at a distance. As with the others it does have its down side. What you gained in sensitivity you lose in visibility. It’s expensive, comparable in price to Fluorocarbon. Proper spooling is a must. If done incorrectly the line can “slip” on the spool, over-riding the drag or it can “bury” inside itself and lock in place (get out your pocket knife for this one). Also, you must exercise control when setting the hook at a short distance.
Thoroughly confused yet? Let’s narrow down the search. If you are looking for a cheap, general use line. One that works well in the majority of fishing situations, Monofilament is the choice for you. More specifically, if you are trying to keep a bait up in the water column, be it a top water bait or a diving bait that you are trying to control its depth. Example, if you are trying to keep a lipless crankbait just above the grass Monofilament will help hold the bait up. If you are fishing clear water, Fluorocarbon is your best bet. Having a line with a similar refractive index as water will definitely benefit you when trying to fool line-conscious fish. It’s also a better choice for your bottom bouncing baits. Since it sinks, it does not bow underwater and in turn you get far better feel. Especially, when fishing with slack line baits like jigs or worms. When fishing heavy cover, the answer is Braided. The ultra thin diameter paired with high tensile strength and abrasion resistance means more control of a hooked fish. That means you can move a fish out of heavy cover and into open water instead of having to play the fish and getting wrapped up or worse, broken off.
There are also a couple of products on the market that are blurring the lines between Mono, Fluorocarbon and Braid. One is known as a Copolymer, the other is a Gore-Fiber Braided.
Copolymer is a cross between Mono and Fluorocarbon. More precisely it’s a combination of the two. Depending on manufacturer, it’s created in one of two ways. It’s either produced by wrapping Monofilament with a Fluorocarbon coating or combining them through an extrusion process (kind of like mixing them together). The result is a fishing line with the sensitivity of Fluorocarbon and the suppleness of Mono. Its UV resistant, will not absorb water, is low stretch, low memory, has a high abrasion resistance and it sinks. It’s a line with a smaller diameter than an equivalent strength Mono. A supple line with a thin diameter can only equal one thing, excellent castability.
Gore-Fiber Braided is a sinking Braided line. It’s intended to fill the niche between Fluorocarbon and Braided lines. It’s also being currently manufactured in two ways. Suffix has released the 832 Braid. It weaves 7 Dyneema fibers and one Gore Performance fiber together at 32 weaves per inch. Hence the name 832 (8 fibers and 32 weaves). Spiderwire on the other hand has released their version called Fluorobraid. They weave at a 50/50 mix. That’s 2 Dyneema fibers and 2 Gore Performance fibers. The exact production methods are a trade secret but the result is a smoother casting Braided line that sinks. The Gore Performance fibers are marketed to have a “low coefficient of friction”. This means less vibration as the line passes through the guides. Less vibration means less friction, less friction means longer casts. The low coefficient of friction also means the line can more easily break the surface of the water and therefore sink easier.
The latest addition to the fishing line market is the Uni-Filament. More specifically, Berkley’s NanoFil. It’s not a Mono and not a Braid. It consists of hundreds of stronger than steel Dyneema nanofilaments that are molecularly linked, gel-spun and shaped into a unified filament fishing line. The exact bonding process is proprietary but the end result is a zero-stretch, zero-memory fishing line. It is advertised to increase your casting distance upwards of 25%. It has an incredibly high strength/diameter ratio and superb sensitivity. As with most things it does have a few downsides. Uni-Filament technology is designed and best suited for spinning tackle. Because of its ultra-thin diameter, it may dig into baitcast reels on aggressive hook-sets. Also, proper knot tying is paramount. NanoFil is super thin and super slick, this is great for casting but not for knot strength. A new spool of NanoFil comes with a knot book and it’s important you follow its advice. Not every knot will hold in it.
The choices might seem endless, just take a minute and look at your fishing conditions and I’m confident you can choose the proper line for you. For a more in-depth discussion of fishing line or any other bass fishing questions drop me a line on my blog at basspro.com or Bass Pro Shops Facebook page. You can also find me on YouTube at fyafishing or as always feel free to come visit me at Bass Pro Shop. Just ask for Ed.
Tight lines to all and to my bass fishing brethren “See you at the scales”