Catfishing: What Line Should I Use?

By Brad Durick

Let’s see if we can start a fight shall we? What kind of line is the best for catfishing? This is the point where some rooms can get heated up with all the reasons why one line is better than the other lines that are available to catch catfish.

To keep it simple let’s break it down to two types of catfishing line, monofilament and braid. Both are great lines and what you prefer is more of a personal preference than anything. There is no right or wrong answer to the question.

Advantages of Monofilament
Some people absolutely hate monofilament line for catfishing. Many people think it is the way to go. I for one use mono in catfishing exclusively. As a guide who fishes many conditions with many different levels of angling prowess mono is a better choice for me.

Monofilament is very forgiving. It has some stretch and when people who are not versed at fighting angry fish in current that stretch takes the shock out making it easier to keep pressure on the fish for successful landing.

Mono is also very abrasion resistant. If you fish rocks or areas with sharp jagged structure mono tends to deal with it better and not break when you are actually fighting a fish. With that if a rock or piece of metal is too sharp it will nick the line and break it off. Sometimes this is just not avoidable no matter what the line.

Mono breaks easy. Now this may seem like a bad thing, however what is meant by it is if you get your line snagged up it is easier to break off and move on. Being able to cut and run is sometimes much easier than fighting the snag. It is also better to break a piece off than having to cut a bunch of line off and let it live in the water.

Monofilament is much less expensive and easy to find. You can almost always find mono in stores or even gas stations when in a pinch. It is very inexpensive compared to braid so you can spool a lot more reels for the money.

Disadvantages of Monofilament
When the fish are a little bit sluggish and not giving the rods a good pull to set a circle hook the stretch in the mono makes it more difficult to get a solid hook set. Sometimes you have to help the process a little.

Sometimes (not often) you will have a huge catfish stuck in a wood pile and when you give it a good hard rip to get it out the line breaks and you lose your trophy.

Mono is thicker in diameter than braid. The biggest problem with this is you can’t get as much line on your reel. It also can cause drag in heavy current requiring you to use bigger sinkers to stay in the strike zone.

Memory is always a problem with mono but some are better than others. If your line gets old it can get memory to the reel and be very coily causing even more of a pull to set a hook because now the fish has to pull out the coils and the stretch. The good news is that most of the time a few casts and the coils come out.

Lastly, mono can get weathered and brittle. If it sits in the sun for long periods of time it will become bleached if it has color and eventually become brittle causing for more breaks. This is why your rods should be kept inside and away from the sun when not in use. Your new spools should be kept in cool dark places so it lasts longer.

Advantages of Braid
Many advantages of braided line are the disadvantages of monofilament. Braid is a very strong line that is made to be thinner and stronger. This allows you to get more strength out of your line without getting your reel overfilled. If you drift or troll for catfish this thinner line will cut the water much easier allowing you to get your lure to the strike zone easier.

Braided line does not stretch. This means that when fishing with circle hooks you get a quick set because you don’t have to wait for the stretch in the mono to be pulled out before the hook actually sets.
Because braid tends to be stronger it gives you a lot of power to just pull in your fish. Instead of playing the fish you can simply pull it in if you want. This is a huge advantage when fishing near wood and debris. You can pull the fish out before it has time to wrap itself up in the junk.

Disadvantages of Braids
Braid is not without its issues either. The biggest disadvantage is its biggest advantage. Because it is so strong it is difficult to get it unsnagged or break it off. Getting 80 pound braid stuck in a log jam can be a chore to get out sometimes resulting in towing in the entire log jam.

Braid does not like sharp rocks either. If you are fishing areas of sharp and jagged rocks it can get severed and you will not know it until you have a huge fish on and it decides to give way. It is much more difficult to find nicks in braided line too so be careful.

Braid is much more expensive than mono and when you keep multiple reels spooled it can be a financial burden. The good news is you don’t have to spool your reels as often.

Situations where one is better than the other
Putting it all together there are some specific situations where one line is better than the other. For example. If you are fishing with people who are new to catfishing and need something that is more forgiving mono is the line for you.

If you fish near sharp jagged rocks or other debris you might want to use mono as it is more abrasion resistant.

If you are fishing near very snaggy stuff that you might need to break off the hook to move you will want mono as it is much easier to break when you need to break it.

In the situation where you are catching catfish from deep under a wood pile and need to get a quick hook set and winch that fish out of the hole braid is the line for you. The no stretch will allow for a quick solid hook set.

If you fish a relatively snag free area braid can be great because it will hold up much longer than mono will. This is also if you drift or troll. It will glide through the water easier with less drag and be more effective at keeping baits where they need to be.

What line should you use?
The short answer to this question is whatever one you feel will serve your purpose the best.

The long answer is keep a set of reels spooled with both. This will allow you to use mono when you are near rocks or fishing with inexperienced people and need a little stretch. When you are needing a quick hook up or planning to fish heavy current it might be advisable to use braid.

Most of us like one or the other better and stick to that. We don’t have the time or the money to have both so we simply make do with the one we like better and that’s ok too. Remember there is no right or wrong answer so no fighting.