Ultimate Guide • Updated Wed, Nov 1, 2023
Selecting the appropriate fishing line is crucial for maximizing your success on the water. Choosing the correct line ensures you can cast accurately, land fish without breaking off, detect even the subtlest of takes, and avoid spooking fish. When heading out onto the water, it is vital to consider your target species, fishing conditions, fish habitat, budget, water depth, and much more to choose the appropriate fishing line. This article is your comprehensive guide to selecting the right line for your needs — covering monofilament, braided, fluorocarbon, fly, and wire lines.
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Monofilament lines are created by extruding a material, like nylon, into a continuous filament. Monofilament line is extremely popular among all anglers for its versatility.
Many types of anglers find advantages in using monofilament lines. It is generally cost effective, it is a flexible line allowing accurate casting and natural lure movement. Monofilament fishing line is also a buoyant fishing line, making it a favorite of anglers throwing top water lures. Monofilament lines have stretch which is good for casting, but not optimal for line sensitivity. It may be difficult to detect subtle strikes when using monofilament fishing line because of its elasticity. Monofilament is also somewhat visible underwater, making it easier to spook wary fish in ultra clear water.
The versatility of the monofilament lines makes them suitable for a range of fishing techniques. It is effective for spin fishing, bait fishing, inshore saltwater and freshwater fishing. Monofilament is also a popular choice for leader material, and for beginner anglers as it is easy to tie knots with and is fairly inexpensive.
Braided fishing line is constructed by weaving together multiple strands of synthetic fiber. The weaving process creates a strong and durable fishing line, known for its exceptional strength relative to its thin diameter.
There are several advantages when fishing with braided line. It is extremely durable and strong, allowing you to handle larger and more aggressive fish. It has extremely low stretch, making it hypersensitive for detecting even the slightest strike from a fish. Braided fishing lines are also very abrasion resistant, meaning you can fish in dense or rocky areas. However, braided line can be more prone to knots caused by the wind or poor casting technique — due to its lack of rigidity. Braided line is also much easier to break if damaged, nicked, or scraped against rough surfaces. Be wary of braided line with visible fraying as it is liable to snap more easily.
Braided line is commonly used in fishing environments where strength, sensitivity, and line capacity are paramount. They can be used for deep-sea fishing, trolling and targeting larger species. Braided line can be pricey, but it is often worth the added cost.
Fluorocarbon fishing lines are made from a special type of polymer as a more high-tech response to monofilament fishing line. The polymer material is extruded into a single strand, resulting in a fishing line that has unique properties that make it distinct from monofilament fishing lines.
Fluorocarbon lines offer many benefits to anglers. They have a similar refractive index to water, making them nearly invisible even in crystal clear water. Fluorocarbon line is also more dense than water, allowing the line to sink quickly, which can be advantageous for some types of fishing. Fluorocarbon are stiffer than other types of fishing line, making them more sensitive than monofilament, but they are much more expensive too. Fluorocarbon lines do not have great abrasion resistance when fishing in high cover or rocky environments, and nicks in the line make them instantly more visible to fish.
Like monofilament lines, fluorocarbon lines are often used as leaders on top of other types of lines such as braided lines or fly lines. Fluorocarbon leaders are virtually invisible and are good for wary fish in clear water environments. Fluorocarbon lines are popular while using finesse fishing techniques, like drop-shotting or euro-nymphing, where invisibility and sensitivity are key.
Fly fishing lines are often made from PVC or other similar material, built over a nylon core with specialized coatings and tapers. The way they are constructed allows for efficient casting and presentation of flies, and they can vary greatly depending on what type of fishing they are built for.
In other countries, anglers classify lines based on their grain weight, but in the U.S., fly fishing lines are categorized by different weight classes — typically ranging from 2wt to 14wt. Each of these weight classes have their own characteristics and applications. The 2wt to 4wt lines are the lighter options and are designed for smaller sized streams and fish. The medium weight options are often the most common, 5wt to 7wt, and are commonly used for larger trout, bass, and other freshwater fishing applications. The 8wt and above are often used for larger fish species and windier conditions that make it more difficult to cast, and are often specialized for specific saltwater use.
To fly fish, you must have a fly fishing line. The weight of the line is used to accurately present a near-weightless fly to a fish. Fly line material has become highly specialized. While there are still general use fly lines on the market, many are designed specifically for certain species and water temperatures. Keep this in mind when selecting your lines, as cold water lines will not perform well in warm water, and vice versa.
Wire fishing lines and leaders are made by twisting multiple strands of wire together. These are designed to provide durability from extreme abrasion and sharp-toothed fish.
The main advantage of wire leaders is their abrasion resistance, which would make them ideal for targeting toothy and strong-jawed fish such as shark, musky, pike, or barracuda. Wire fishing line reduces the chance of bite-offs and line breakage. Since wire leaders are quite stiff, they do a good job of preventing tangles, but also require special knots to incorporate into your setup — such as the haywire twist. With that being said, wire leaders are better used when bait presentation or lure finesse is less crucial to getting a bite. Heavy wire leader can make lures swim in a less natural way, making them less presentable to fish. One of the other possible disadvantages of a wire leader is that it is highly visible in the water, and will easily spook fish that are line-shy.
Depending on your target species, wire leaders can be very effective, if not imperative for landing fish. Utilize wire leader while fishing for predatory fish, where bite offs and line snaps are commonplace, or if you are trolling and want to achieve extreme depth at speed.
Selecting the proper fishing line is of utmost importance when targeting specific species of fish. Anglers must carefully consider the fishing conditions they will encounter, whether in freshwater or saltwater, and the varying levels of cover present. When fishing in areas with rough or rocky terrain and abundant cover, selecting a line with superior abrasion resistance is essential. It is crucial to match the strength of the line to the power and size of the targeted fish for optimal performance. Additionally, the diameter of the line plays a role in casting distance and line capacity, and overall effectiveness. The importance of line visibility depends on water clarity and fish behavior, making it important to adjust the line type accordingly. Use a clear line when dealing with easily spooked fish. In addition, reliable knot selection and proper knot usage is key — as some types of line like wire and braided lines require more specialized knots to prevent knot failure.
Choosing the right fishing line is paramount for a successful angling experience. By understanding the benefits, weaknesses, and applications of each type of fishing line, you can make an informed decision that suits your specific fishing needs. Monofilament lines offer versatility and affordability, although they have lower durability and higher visibility. Fluorocarbon lines provide invisibility underwater and excellent sensitivity, albeit at a higher cost. Braided lines offer superior strength and sensitivity, but they can be prone to tangling and have higher visibility. Wire lines are ideal for toothy fish but require specific handling. Finally, fly lines come in various types to match different fishing conditions and depths. Armed with this knowledge, you are now equipped to enhance your fishing prowess by selecting the perfect fishing line for your next adventure.
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