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Stroll into any tackle shop and you might end up overwhelmed by the number of fishing line types you have to choose from. Even in smaller stores, it’s rare to see just one or two options. It wasn’t that long ago when selection was far more limited, mainly because everyone used monofilament line for pretty much every type of fishing. That’s no longer the case. As technology has advanced, fishing styles have evolved, and fish have become more wary and pressured, new fishing line types have entered the market. If you’re a new or casual angler (and sometime even if you’re not), determining which line will suit your needs best can be daunting. So, here’s a breakdown of the differences between the three most popular fishing line types on shelves today. Whether you’re budget conscious or more worried about being stealthy on the water, this will help you spool up right.

Monofilament Fishing Line

  • Pros: Most affordable type of line, good abrasion resistance
  • Cons: Often kinks and coils due to memory, stretch can hinder long-distance hook sets

In 1937, the DuPont Company created the first synthetic nylon monofilament fishing line using material extracted from coal. At the time, Dacron and even linen lines were still the most popular, but shortly after DuPont began marketing the product to the public in 1939, the path was set for a monofilament takeover. The material and extrusion process that created nylon monofilament would be refined over the course of the next few decades, and it would reign supreme until the mid-1990s.

photo of monofilament fishing line
This monofilament line from bass pro sells for less than $5 for 330 yards. Bass Pro Shops

The beauty of monofilament is that it is by far the least expensive of the main fishing line types. You can buy an entire spool for as little as $5, and the price of a standard spool that would fill a freshwater reel rarely exceeds $12. What’s important to consider, however, is that monofilament is now so easy to make, and so many companies produce it, price often dictates quality.

One of the biggest issues with monofilament is memory—especially with bargain or off-brand mono. This line often conforms over time to the shape of the spool it’s on, which means when you cast, it flies off the reel in coils. This can hinder casting distance as well as create frustrating knots and line twist. The lighter the monofilament the less memory it has, making memory a more common problem with lines testing at 10 pounds or more, but I’d still recommend buying higher-end mono and looking for “low memory” stamps on the packaging.

Though monofilament has fallen out of favor with many modern anglers compared to other fishing line types, it does still have benefits. It has good abrasion resistance, meaning it can withstand being rubbed against wood or rock during the battle with a fish without instantly severing. Its suppleness helps it maintain excellent knot strength. And, if you do end up with a wind knot or bird’s nest, it’s much easier to pick it out of monofilament than some other popular lines.

Braided Line

  • Pros: Better bite detection, firmer hook penetration, increased strength, no memory
  • Cons: Less abrasion-resistant than other lines, requires a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader for all presentations

Braided line rocketed to popularity in the late 1990s, ultimately changing the way we fish forever. The first major players on the market were Berkley’s FireLine and SpiderWire, and for anglers accustomed to using monofilament, switching to braid took some adjustment. These fishing lines are made by weaving strands of super-strong micro filaments together to create a single strand. The process took years to refine and requires a lot of time and expensive custom machinery, hence the higher cost of braid. But despite having to shell out more money compared to monofilament, anglers quickly recognized the benefits of the new braided line.

photo of two braided fishing line types from Berkley
Berkley’s FireLine and SpiderWire were two of the first braided fishing lines. Bass Pro Shops

Braided line is far thinner in diameter than monofilament, yet much stronger. That means you can fill your reel with more line without compromising strength. Given that braid is so thin and often has a slick coating, it also increases casting distance and accuracy compared to other fishing line types. The biggest advantages to braid, however, are its lack of stretch and increased sensitivity. Because it doesn’t stretch like monofilament, bites are transferred the rod tip much more quickly. Likewise, when you set the hook, the lack of stretch provides surer, firmer, faster hook penetration. The thin diameter of braid also allows it to slice through the water with little effort, which aided in the development of many finesse presentations that requires getting smaller baits and lures deep and being able to detect subtle strikes.

Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

  • Pros: Disappears underwater, very strong and abrasion resistant
  • Cons: Stiffer than monofilament and braid, higher cost

Fluorocarbon line was invented by Japanese company Seaguar in the early 1970s, though it really didn’t gain a foothold in the U.S. market until the mid 1990s. While it’s created in a process similar to monofilament extrusion, fluorocarbon is made by mixing hydrogen, carbon, and fluoride, which behave much differently than traditional nylon.

photo of fluorocarbon fishing line from Seaguar
Seaguar’s Red Label fluorocarbon fishing line. Bass Pro Shops

Whereas monofilament can absorb sunlight and glow underwater—which can scare fish—fluorocarbon vanishes. It was this ability that boosted its popularity in the states as increased pressure made fish more wary and bass pros wanted to be as stealthy as possible when fishing in clear water. The chemical properties of fluorocarbon also made it significantly stronger than monofilament, as well as more abrasion resistant. Compared to other fishing line types, fluorocarbon’s early flaw, however, was stiffness.

For many years, fluorocarbon was primarily used as a leader material. This meant you’d only add a few feet to the end of your braid or monofilament. In that application, the stiffness was less of an issue, but if you were to fill an entire spool with fluorocarbon, it would cast poorly and mute the action of many lures. That stiffness and inability to conform also reduced its knot strength a bit. Over time, however, line manufacturers figured out how to produce lighter, thinner, more responsive fluorocarbon that would cast well and allow you to use it as your main line. Though it’s still slightly stiffer than monofilament, fluorocarbon tends to have less memory, and while it may take a little getting used to if you’ve been using monofilament, the benefits in terms of helping you fool and land more fish outweigh any of its minor hiccups.