In the comment section of a recent blog, the subject of braid/superline deterioration came up. Considering the cost of braid and superlines these days, it’s no surprise that anglers get upset when these products don’t seem to perform up to task. I hear countless stories about how “brand X” is the best braid ever and “brand Y” is garbage. I have a few reels spooled with braid that I have not changed in at least 2 seasons, and the line continues to perform well. And I too have watched fresh superline snap for seemingly no reason. I got in touch with Joe Meyer, Product Development Manager for Superlines at Pure Fishing (which owns Berkley, Stren, and Spiderwire) to get a crash course on why braids and superlines fail, and how to stop it from happening. What I learned was fascinating, and can definitely help you extend the life of these pricey lines.
Understanding why these lines last or fail begins with understanding how they’re created. According to Meyer, all braids and superlines, regardless of brand, are made of gel-spun polyethylene. To explain just how tough the stuff is, Meyer noted that in chemical labs, most beakers and test tubes are polyethylene, because the material is not harmed or changed by any chemical and can withstand pretty extreme temperatures. The same goes for braid and superline. Unlike monofilament, fairly high heat, chemicals, and UV rays will not degrade braids and superlines.
Meyer says all of these lines eventually lose their color because you can only put color on polyethylene, not in polyethylene. Nothing likes to stick to the material, but loss of color does not mean a loss of strength. So if these lines are so tough, why do they break or degrade? Here are Meyer’s top 4 reasons.
Bad Guides: “When someone comes to me and says ‘I just put this line on and it keeps breaking,’ the first thing I do is look at their rod. Most of the time I find a crack in the ceramic, chip, or rough spot in their guides. Braid and superlines are made of polyethylene fibers all woven together, so naturally if you start fraying those fibers, the line gets weaker.”
Re-Tie Refusal: “I’ve heard guys say, ‘Well, it’s a superline. It’s so strong I don’t need to retie.’ That’s wrong. Your first 3 or 4 feet of line, whether you’re catching fish or not, will weaken the fastest. Polyethylene doesn’t like to bend, so just from hanging at a 90-degree angle off the rod tip, fibers can slowly fray over time. The line starts to look ‘hairy’ as anglers often say. Abrasion is the worst enemy of these lines. You have to check for it often.”
Mismatched Gear: “It’s very important that when using braid or superline, you match it with the right rod and reel. Because braid has no stretch, it doesn’t handle shock very well. So if you have a rod that feels like a cue stick matched with light braid and you set the hook hard, you’re not going to be happy. It’s going to snap. I see it with muskie guys. They backlash on the cast and that heavy, expensive lure just keeps on going.”
Hook Hangers: “I see a lot of anglers hook their crankbaits and other lures onto their reels when traveling between fishing spots. All it takes is one point touching the line or digging into the spool and it’ll start to fray.”
It’s important to note that just because all braids and superlines are made with polyethylene doesn’t mean they’re all created equally. If you are a firm believer that a certain brand is better than another brand you used to fish, check the fiber/strand count. The fewer the fibers, the faster fraying on a microscopic level is going to weaken the braid. However, in theory, a length of 30-pound braid with a lower fiber count should be as strong as one with a higher count provided that line is in perfect, unfrayed condition.
So what does all this info from Meyer mean? Ultimately, your superline will take as good care of you as you do of it. If your braid keeps breaking, check the rod guides and line roller on the reel before you blame the brand. When you put the rod away at day’s end, is the line or spool leaning on something that might cause it to abrade? These small details can help you get mulitple seasons out of your braid and superline.