Not all fishing lines are the same. Use the wrong kind in the wrong situation and you will find it much harder to catch fish. There are three main types; braided line, monofilament line, and flourocarbon line. This guide will help you choose between them.
Braided Fishing Line
Braided fishing line is made from woven fibers and comes in a variety of colors. It is a low stretch, high sensitivity line with a much smaller diameter than monofilament or flourocarbon fishing lines of the same break strength.
Smaller diameter lines give anglers a couple of key advantages. They are easier to cast long distances. You can also fit more smaller diameter line on the spool of a fishing reel. This makes them a great choice for fishing lures like topwater plugs, crankbaits, or other baits that benefit from long, accurate casts. Smaller diameter lines are also great choices for fishing near the bottom in wind and current, where the action of moving water creates drag on your line. The thicker your line, the more drag gets created, and the harder it becomes to keep your bait in the strike zone.
Another key characteristic of braided fishing lines is that they don’t stretch very much. Lower stretch lines help you feel the taps from striking fish much more clearly than higher stretch monofilament or flourocarbon lines. Low stretch lines also drive your hook into a fish’s mouth better when you set the hook on a strike.
Braided lines are not best for every type of fishing. Braid is more difficult to manage than monofilament or flourcarbon line. It tangles easily and is harder to untangle. It’s also harder to tie knots in braided lines than it is in other types of line. These characteristics make braided lines harder to use for beginning anglers.
Braided line is also more visible to fish than clear monofilament or flourocarbon line. Most anglers will attach a length of clear line (called a leader) to the end of their braid to help improve their presentation. Many anglers who fish in clear water for wary fish species avoid using braid altogether, preferring to spool their reels entirely with flourcarbon or monofilament.
Monofilament Fishing Lines
These lines are made from a single fiber of extruded nylon plastic. Most monofilament lines are clear, but most manufacturers also make colored or fluorescent varieties. Monofilament line is generally less expensive than most varieties of braided or flourocarbon line.
It’s easier to tie knots in monofilament line than it is to tie them in braided line, making these lines better choices for beginners, or for anglers teaching beginners how to fish.
In some fishing situations experienced anglers turn to monofilament line first. Big game anglers who troll at higher speeds often use monofilament line. Because these lines stretch more than braided lines they are better able to absorb the shock when a big fish strikes a fast-moving lure.
Some anglers also often prefer monofilament over braided line for use on small baitcasting reels, since monofilament line is less likely to dig into itself (which can cause a backlash the next time you cast) when reeled onto the spool under tension.
Monofilament lines will stretch under tension, which makes it harder to feel taps from fish striking your bait. They are also thicker in diameter than braided lines of the same breaking strength. This makes them harder to cast long distances. That larger diameter also makes fishing light lures or jigs near the bottom more difficult in moving water or windy conditions.
Flourocarbon fishing lines are used most commonly for targeting line-shy species that spook at the presence of more visible lines like braid or even clear monofilment. Like monofilament lines, flourocarbon lines are extruded in single strands. They are thicker than braided lines of the same breaking strength.
Flourocarbon fishing line has the same refractive index as water, which lets light pass through with less distortion, making the line harder for fish to see underwater.
Flourocarbon lines are the least visible lines to fish underwater. They stretch less than monofilament lines, improving your ability to detect bites and to drive the point of your hook home when a fish strikes. Flourocarbon lines are more durable than monofilament lines. They don’t absorb water or degrade from exposure to sunlight and they are much more resistant to abrasion than monofilament line.
Flourocarbon lines also sink, which makes them a good choice for fishing light baits near the bottom, especially in places where moving currents won’t create drag on your line. This extra density can also help anglers retrieve lures like crankbaits or casting spoons at greater depths than is possible with floating lines like braid or monofilament.
Because flourocarbon sinks it’s not always the best choice to use with floating lures like topwater plugs, or for suspending lures or bait in the water column. Flourocarbon line is also more stiff, and has more memory than monofilament, which can lead to more tangles, especially if you try to spool too much on your reel. While flourocarbon lines stretch less than monofilament lines, they stretch more than braided lines, making them less sensitive for detecting strikes than braid.
Most experienced anglers attach a leader to the end of their line before tying on a hook or a lure. A leader is a short length of clear, low visibility monofilament or flourcarbon fishing line.
This flourocarbon leader is more abrasion resistant than more supple (and more expensive!) varieties, making it a good choice for fishing in heavy structure and for fish with big sharp teeth.
You use a leader for three reasons. First, it’s harder for fish to see a clear leader than it is for them to see braided line. Second, leader material has more stretch than braid, which helps absorb the shock caused by a striking fish. Last, most leaders do a better job of resisting abrasion than braided lines, which helps keep bigger fish from cutting the line with their teeth or by rubbing against sharp objects on the bottom.
Most fishing leaders are made from either flourocarbon or monofilament line. Monofilament leaders float, making them better for fishing floating lures like topwater plugs. Flourocarbon leaders sink, making them better for subsurface presentations. Flourocarbon leaders are also better at resisting abrasion.