Clear Line for Clear Water? Maybe Not

By Bob Jensen

The line that we put on our reels when we go fishing is a very important consideration. Your line is the only connection between you and the fish. If your line doesn’t do the job, you don’t land the fish. But the line you choose, in the minds of many, will also play a role in getting a fish to bite the bait attached to your line.

I spent a couple of days on the waters of Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin with my friend Mike Gottheardt recently. Mike can catch smallmouth bass with the best of’em. His tournament successes prove that. Mike spends a lot of time on Sturgeon Bay because Sturgeon Bay is one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the world. Sturgeon Bay also has extremely clear water, and extremely clear water can make fish spooky. They can get line-shy. Mike likes to use line that will be hard for fish to see. His choice of line is Sunline. Sunline is a line of the highest quality. It comes in monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braid, and it comes in several colors. Mike has investigated the various colors, and much scientific research has also been done regarding line color and visibility. You might be surprised at the results of that research. I know I was.

We had three different line colors with us: Clear, green, and gray. I assumed we would employ the clear line in the clear waters of The Bay for the ultimate in invisibility. Nope! Clear would have actually been our last choice. Gray is the least visible line under water, green is second, clear is third. Interesting stuff!

Line visibility, or more accurately, line invisibility, is most important when an angler is using a slow presentation. On Sturgeon Bay we were throwing tubes and marabou jigs, slower presentations, so the bass got a good chance to look at the baits. If we had been using crankbaits or spinnerbaits or buzz baits or any other faster moving bait, line color wouldn’t have been as much of a consideration.

And, there are those folks who like a bright line. They know that a bright line is easier for them to see, so they can see their line “jump” on a soft strike, so they’ll catch more of the soft biters. But with the sensitivity afforded by fluorocarbon, you’re going to feel the strike regardless of how soft it is, and the fluorocarbon is less visible.

There are others who believe that a bright, very visible line that the fish can see better gets the fish’s attention and attracts them to the bait. Maybe so…I don’t know. I just know that I want to give myself as much of an opportunity as possible to get more fish to bite on my lure. In many waters, the fish are pressured and can be spooky. In waters that aren’t as pressured, there are times when the fish get indifferent about eating: If your bait is presented in an appealing manner, they’ll eat it, but if it isn’t appealing, they won’t eat it. And, it seems like much of the time, a bait on a too-visible line just isn’t very appealing to fish.