The biggest conundrum most anglers face year in and year out, is line selection and what type of fishing line to use for different applications.
Your fishing line is the only connection there is, between you and that trophy fish you have hooked in the water. For many anglers, their fishing line is often just an after thought and they'll use whatever they can get their hands on. Unfortunately, this decision usually leads to regret.
Choosing the right fishing line can be the difference between you going home with a trophy fish that will be the envy of all your weekend buddies, and ‘oh there was this one time that I almost caught a record breaking largemouth bass’ but the line broke. (I’m sure everyone knows at least one ‘almost kinda guy) don’t be that guy! Anyway I digress!
In this article I am going to outline the different types of fishing line, their applications and their characteristics.
What you’ll learn in this article:
The three main types of fishing line
The three main types of fishing line you’ll find everywhere are monofilament, fluorocarbon and braided fishing line. These options can seem overwhelming at first, but I will fill you in on their uses and characteristics in the next section so you can choose the right fishing line for your needs.
Monofilament fishing line
Monofilament often known as ‘mono’ has been around for ages and is the standard within the fishing community. It consists of basically what the name implies (mono = single) a single strand of nylon.
It is one of the more readily available fishing lines with dozens of manufacturers offering it in a wide range of qualities.
Alert!: Saltwater and sunlight can damage monofilament lines. Make sure to rinse your spools with running water immediately after saltwater use and store them in a cool and dry place that is not exposed to sunlight.
Characteristics of monofilament fishing line:
There are many characteristics of monofilament that you need to consider when selecting this line. Its main advantage is that it floats.
Floats - making it a great choice for throwing top water presentations and baits that you want to keep above the water column such as popping baits.
Mono has a lot of stretch - This can be a good or bad thing depending on application:
A good thing if you’re using baits like crankbaits or treble hooks. The stretch will help absorb the impact from a strike, which will allow you to keep the fish hooked when it is fighting and putting stress on the line.
The stretch factor is also a disadvantage, because it makes it difficult to detect softer strikes from less aggressive fish. Stretch also poses a problem of not getting instant hook sets in deeper water because when you strike there can be a bit of delay resulting in you missing the fish.
Monofilament is visible in water - when you’re using monofilament during the day especially in clear water the light is going to reflect off the line and shine in the water resulting in you spooking the fish especially if you’re using stationary presentations.
It also has large diameter to breaking strength rating and larger diameter = more visible.
It has memory - One of the major disadvantages of monofilament is that it has memory causing the line to retain the shape of the spool affecting casting distance, and causing backlashes, tangles and birds nest that have plagued anglers for years.
Line memory also makes the line coil from the spoil often times affecting casting distance.
Applications for monofilament fishing line
Monofilament works best with hard body top-water lures and tremble hook baits such as crankbaits and other horizontal presentations.
Best knot for monofilament
The non-slip loop knot is my go to knot because it allows greater lure movement. Reason being, it creates a fixed loop which allows the lure to move freely. It excels with lures such as crankbaits, jigs and most topwater rigs.
Fluorocarbon fishing line
Fluorocarbon fishing line is a polymer made out of monofilament nylon alloy. It has graduated from only once being used as a leader line to now being used for a lot of different applications. Fluorocarbon seems to be one of those lines that many anglers have a love-hate relationship with, especially when using it for the first time.
Often referred to as Fluoro or carbon in the fishing community, it offers a number of advantages over monofilament. Unfortunately those advantages can also be considered to be disadvantages especially to new anglers. Nonetheless, its popularity continues to soar and it has become a very popular choice for most fishing situations.
Fact: Fluorocarbon is a little bit more expensive than monofilament. But usually you can justify spending the extra money on fluorocarbon because of its features.
Characteristics of fluorocarbon fishing line
Invisible - The biggest advantage of fluorocarbon is that it is virtually invisible underwater. Reason being, its light refraction factor is almost the same as water.
With fluorocarbon if light comes down and hits the line it is going to pass right through, as opposed to reflecting like it does with monofilament.
This makes it ideal for fishing line sensitive fish in clear water situations where finesse presentations are needed.
Sinks - The second biggest advantage of fluorocarbon is that it sinks. So you are going to want to use this line for applications that you want to keep lower in the water column such as crainkbaits and jigs. The sinking property adds depth to the dive of a crankbait and even adds action to soft plastic baits as they're sinking.
Less stretch - fluoro stretches less than monofilament. This adds sensitivity to the line allowing you to detect those subtle strikes. This enables you to have more positive hook sets.
Does not have absorb water - this is great because it won’t weaken as quickly as mono saving you money in replacement costs.
Stiff - Now one of the scary things for most beginner anglers is that fluoro tends to be a really stiff line. This causes the line to jump or fall off a spinning reel. One way to get around that is to use smaller pound test on a spinning reel than you would use on a baitcaster.
The stiffness also makes it hard to knot so extra attention must be paid when tying knots to avoid losing expensive lures!
Applications for fluorocarbon fishing line
Best knot for fluorocarbon
Fluorocarbon is slick so it won’t hold knots well. For tying lures and hooks to fluorocarbon, I use the Trilene knot .
Braided fishing line
Before monofilament and fluorocarbon there was braid. Braided lines have been around for ages. Multiple strands of fibers of materials such as Dyneema (used for body amor) or spectra are woven together to create these super lines.
It is now more popular than ever because advancements in line technology have made it easier to handle and smaller in diameter. Like fluoro braid also has some excellent qualities which make it a great choice for most fishing situations.
Characteristics of braided fishing line
- No memory - unlike the other lines braid has no memory which means it doesn’t coil off the spool when casting which can lead to increased casting distance.
- No stretch - This leads to increased sensitivity and gives you better hook ups in heavy cover and deeper water.
- Floats - Like monofilament braid also floats, making it a great choice for top-water fishing especially frog style baits in thicker vegetation.
- Abrasion resistance - And as a side note when fishing thick vegetation braided line helps cut through the grass making it easier to land that fish. When fishing around docks, wood and rocks it is a top choice due to its excellent abrasion resistance.
- Thinner diameter - Braid also offers higher pound test in smaller diameter, providing larger spool capacities and further casting distance.
- Lasts longer - For the budget minded angler a spool of braid can be fished for more years without being replaced as often as you would expect with fluoro or mono.
- One of the downsides to braid is that it is highly visible in clear water.
- Price - up front braid is more expensive than nylon lines it does last longer though.
- Braid is difficult to knot.
Applications for braided fishing line
Best knot for braid
There are a lot of knots you can use for braid, but my favorite knot for joining braid to lures and hooks is the palomar knot.
The knot I use the most for tying a fluorocarbon leader to braid is the FG knot. This is by far the strongest leader knot I've used.
Braided fishing line TL;DR
Buyers guide for the different types of fishing line
What should you consider when buying fishing line?:
Reel size limitations - your reel is usually made to hold a specific size of line (nowadays a range). It is important to know what number this is before purchasing line. This number is usually found on your reel.
Test - test denotes the strength of the line i.e the amount of force that is need to break the line. This is measured in pounds i.e 6lb test. For 6lb test line, fishing anything the applies under 6lbs of force will be fine but if you catch anything above that then the line might break. I say might because once you get adept at playing fish you might be able to land 8lb bass on just 6lb line.
Where you will be fishing - where you’re fishing also plays a huge role in selection. If you’re fishing near docks and in lakes or rivers with hard sharp rocky bottoms or if you’re fishing in heavy cover were you’re likely to get tangled. You're going to require fishing line with great abrasion resistance like braid instead of mono.
Diameter - diameter refers to the thickness of the line. If you have a choice, a thinner diameter for the same pound test is always better. The benefits of using thinner diameter fishing line are:
Stretch - how much the line stretches. As mentioned above stretch can be a beneficial or detrimental depending on application. Beneficial if you’re fighting a really aggressive fish the stretch will absorb some of that force and prevent the line from breaking. Also a good thing if you’re susceptible to setting the hook immediately after nibbles (which ends up with you yanking the hook out of the fish’s mouth) the hook won’t set immediately
Detrimental when fishing during fall or winter when you want sensitivity for example when the fish are not that aggressive and you need sensitivity to feel the the tiny nibbles (less forgive of mistakes)
Visibility - this denotes how easy it is to see the line. (high visibility) line will using depended on where you’re fishing and what you’re fishing.
A question you should ask yourself first is whether the fish are line sensitive or not. If their easily spooked then you need to use a line like fluorocarbon that is invisible or a line color that blends in with the water. For example if I am fishing saltwater I would probably choose blue over yellow.
If I’m fishing freshwater and need to use braided line which is visible in water I would use a color like moss green because it is slightly less visible in most water conditions compared to other colours. Some people prefer to use brighter colours like yellow for example as it makes it easier to see your line when fishing at night.
How to take care of your fishing line:
I hope this article has shed some light on the 3 main types of fishing lines. Taking into account the type of water and the lure you will be fishing will determine which type of line to use.
If you’re just starting out and you’re looking for an all around type of line, I suggest sticking with the versatility of fluorocarbon or braided fishing line. In a nutshell, monofilament is best for fishing topwater. Fluorocarbon and braid are solid all around, with fluorocarbon excelling in clear water and braid perfect for heavy cover.