Fishing Lines; Braid, Mono or Fluorop The Critical Lines
By Nick Johnson
Back when I started fishing as a young kid all I knew was monofilament and the brand was either Stren or Trilene for the most part. There were braided lines on the market but they were heavy and I really didn’t have a need or want to fish with them outside of tip-ups for ice fishing. Mono was a staple and I caught a lot of fish with it, but it left me pretty limited in certain scenarios.
In my teenage years, brands like Power Pro, Suffix and Spiderwire began to flood the market with micro-fiber super lines that were half or even a quarter of the diameter of their monofilament counterpart for poundage. Fluorocarbon soon followed in popularity and nowadays choosing a line can be as challenging as selecting the perfect pumpkin from a pumpkin patch at the local orchard. These lines all have their applications and if you do some serious fishing or fish specific applications it can make a world of difference to have the right style of line for the job.
Monofilament line is what most people started out with and became used to. It is relatively cheap in comparison to other lines and works well in a wide variety of applications. The nature of how this line is made gives it some stretch, superior knot strength and slight abrasion resistance which many anglers find helpful, especially river anglers. It comes in many colors and for the most part has low visibility under water. Most monofilaments float too which can help anglers visibly detect bites and also keep light sub surface lures closer to the surface.
One application where mono shines is for bass anglers throwing topwater lures or shallow diving crankbaits. The casting abilities on bait casters even in heavier tests is superb in this case and when not fishing heavy cover can be a go-to option. When fishing these baits, the slight stretch the line provides helps to keep hooks attached to an attacking bass.
Mono also shines for anglers fishing walleyes and panfish, especially if trolling for either. The visibility helps with the scrutinous eyes of both sets of species and the stretch ability comes into play again when trolling to prevent ripping hooks out of striking fish.
The cons of mono are about as broad as the pros. For one, the line tends to get memory on the reel even after a couple months. If fished frequently this tends to happen over a longer period of time but even sitting over the winter the line will take on a slinky appearance the following spring. It pays to change mono out once, twice or more per season and the cheaper price of this line makes it less of a burden.
Mono also makes a poor choice when targeting larger predatory fish, or fishing heavy cover. The stretch provides inadequate hook sets for big fish like muskies and pike and when fishing heavy cover, who wants to throw 50# mono to help bring that big bass out of the weeds. Mono does have some abrasion resistance but also tends to wear quite easily. Toothy critters like pike can cut it like butter and bass fisherman often find themselves cutting off and re-tying when bass drag the line through wood and other debris.
I would say that 80% of my bass rods are spooled with some type of braid ranging from 30# to 50#. This line shines in many applications and provides the small diameter brute strength to make long casts and retrieve fish from heavy cover.
Micro-fiber braid, or “superlines” as they are now classified have become extremely popular in recent years. Their no-stretch nature makes for powerful hook sets when dealing with big fish or fish that you need to pull out of heavy cover. If I am throwing topwater frogs, spinner baits or jigging in heavy vegetation you can bet that a super line is spooled up.
Another plus to braid is that it is durable and stands up to a lot of abuse. It does not get memory near as bad a mono and I often find myself going an entire fishing season without having to re-spool. Even braid with mild wear and abrasion holds a fair bit of its original strength.
One of the downsides to superlines is that they tend to be expensive. Power Pro or Suffix 832 are my favorites and they will run $15 or more for the small spools, which if you have numerous rods to rig up can get spendy real quick. The plus side to this is that re-spooling doesn’t happen very often unless you have a bad bird’s nest that needs to be cut out.
Superlines can also cut easily when they are taut and come in contact with a sharp surface like a rock. This can make river fishing a little tough especially targeting species like catfish and carp that are notorious for dragging gear through obstacles. I still fish a lot of braid for catfish but I have had more than one occasion where my line was cut on something under water.
Braid comes in a wide range of colors but most are quite visible in the water which makes fishing clear water or targeting pressured fish a little tricky. In this case I like to use a chunk of fluorocarbon line for a leader. You will get the non-stretch ability of both and still have the power and casting distance with the braid.
Another popular line in the market today is fluorocarbon. This line resembles monofilament but behaves differently. Fluoro is a line that I have fished before but not to the extent of the other lines. It’s famous for being nearly invisible in water and tough to resist abrasion and cutting. I use it most often as a leader coupled with braid while fishing for muskies, pike and walleyes.
Fluoro sinks unlike the other two lines and makes for an excellent option when deep jigging in clear water for many species. A lot of my bass fishing friends use it on their drop shot rigs when targeting smallmouth or pressured bass. It also makes a great line for fishing trout in clear water. Its ability to sink lets you fish light jigs and crankbaits more efficiently at greater depths. The limited stretch nature also allows for stronger hook sets at longer distances which in clear water can be a game changer when trying to keep distance from weary fish.
Just like superlines, fluoro tends to be on the expensive side in comparison to mono. It doesn’t get memory quite like mono so re-spooling takes place less often and it’s quite tough which will allow it to last longer. The one major drawback to fluoro is that in heavier tests it gets pretty wiry which can cause backlashes on baitcasters and it can spring off the spool on spinning reels. The heavy fluoro makes great leaders for toothy fish but in general the line limits anglers to target smaller to mid-range species.
As far as knot strength goes fluoro falls behind the other two in comparison. Because it is a dense, hard line, improper knots are prone to slipping. If you decide to use fluoro do some research and find a good knot that you are comfortable tying and repeating. A simple Google search will bring up a multitude of options.
Fishing line nowadays comes in so many different styles and colors that it can be a little intimidating to choose one you may not be familiar with. I’ve gone out on a limb myself to try a different brand and been very satisfied with the performance of some of the new lines available. The three main styles share a lot of common applications but also specialize in others. Do a little homework and pick a line that best suits your style of fishing for a specific rod. Good luck on the water!