Trying to choose the right line for your reel these days can be downright aggravating. Between mono, fluoro, and braid, there are dozens of colors, pound test, and brands that create what seems like an endless number of choices. When trying to decide which line to spool your reel with, there are quite a few things to consider in order ensure that you make the right decision, depending on several factors.
Mono has been around since 1939 when the DuPont Company announced that they had invented nylon one-year prior. To put it plain and simple, monofilament fishing line is made from a single fiber of plastic by melting and mixing polymers and then extruding the mixture through tiny holes to create the line. For decades this was the line of choice for the majority of fishermen due to the fact that there options were limited.
The process used to create mono is relatively cheap, which is the main reason so many anglers choose it. You can purchase three hundred yard spools of the top brands for under $10.00, which allows you to spool multiple reels at a very low cost.
It’s also an easy to handle line due to its flexible nature. Because of this, you have several choices when deciding which knot to tie, and, can even cut it with your teeth, which makes switching out lures quick and easy.
It works well in clear water, due to the fact that it is more difficult for fish to see, and is somewhat abrasion resistant, which is vital when fishing around heavy structure. Mono floats and has a good amount of stretch (as much as 25-28%), which makes it a good choice for anglers that enjoy throwing topwater plugs or shallow diving crankbaits. The stretch in the line when the bite occurs, gives the fish an extra second to really get ahold of the lure before pressure is applied on the hook set. Also, because of the stretch, it has great shock absorption when going after hard hitting fish.
While stretch can be good in some situations, it can be bad for others. More stretch in your line, means less pressure during each hook set. While it may not be that big of a deal for trout guys, it can make a big difference when targeting redfish and flounder. Both of these fish have very tough mouths and a strong hook set is required in order for good penetration to occur. Because of the amount of stretch mono has, sensitivity suffers as well, making it difficult to detect soft bites and to know when your lure comes in contact with structure. This is especially true for anglers that make really long casts. The more line you have out, the less pressure you can apply and the less sensitivity you you will feel, due to an increase in the amount of stretch.
A few other problems with mono include a thick diameter, which doesn’t allow you to apply as much line to your reel and that the thicker line reduces the distance of your cast. Also, mono doesn’t last very long due to the fact that the material used to make it absorbs water, sunlight, chemicals, etc. Once this absorption begins, it will weaken your line very quickly, which in turn, will require you to replace it more often.
The majority of inshore fishermen seem to be moving away from using mono for obvious reasons. Poor hook sets and low sensitivity along with the fact that it doesn’t last very long far outweigh the fact that you can purchase it at a lower price. I haven’t used mono in years, and honestly, I don’t plan on ever going back.
Fluorocarbon is sort of like Monofilaments more athletic brother. You get all of its good qualities, with only a couple of its minor flaws. Fluorocarbon also has a few added benefits that mono lacks. While they look a lot alike, they are actually very different in many ways.
For starters, the material used to create fluorocarbon does not absorb water, sunlight, or chemicals. This is a good thing for anglers because fluoro will not break down and weaken like mono will. In fact, fluoro will last four times as long as mono, which allows you to use it for extended periods of time before having to replace it. Also, where mono floats, fluoro will sink, which is great for lures that are designed to sink, but not so much for those that are designed to stay on or near the surface.
For anglers that fish clear water, fluorocarbon is a great choice because it becomes nearly invisible once it enters the water. This is due to the fact that that the material used to create fluorocarbon comes very close to the light refractive index of water. It may not always seem like it, but fish are extremely intelligent creatures that can recognize when something is not right. A long, visible piece of line attached to what they are about to eat is one thing they tend to notice. By choosing fluorocarbon, you nearly eliminate any chance that a fish sees your line.
Another reason fluorocarbon is a popular choice, is that it is more abrasion resistant than any other line on the market. This makes it an excellent choice for anglers that fish around heavy shell, boat docks, rocks, or other structure that a fish might use to break you off. Even if anglers choose not to spool their entire reel with fluoro, most will at least use it as their leader material. Its ability to tolerate more abuse than the other two lines without breaking is one of its best qualities in my opinion.
As far as stretch goes, fluorocarbon does have some, but it is not near the amount that mono possesses. With less stretch comes more sensitivity, which many anglers rely on for sensing when soft bites occur and when their lure comes in contact with the bottom and/or structure. Less stretch also provides more powerful hook sets, which can be crucial when making long casts.
The down side to fluoro is that it has a large diameter, and is very stiff. These two factors make it very difficult to tie knots with, and it limits your choices when doing so. It is also more expensive, with some of the top brands costing around $20 for a 200-yard spool.
While fluorocarbon is probably the least used line of the three to spool an entire reel with, it is common knowledge that most anglers use it as their top choice when it comes to adding a leader. The fact that it becomes invisible to fish when it enters the water and has the ability to resist abrasions better than any other line, makes it a must have in every fisherman’s tackle box.
Over the last decade, braided fishing line has exploded in popularity, and has easily become the top choice for most inshore anglers. With a long list of pros, and only a few minor flaws, it’s easy to see why this line will outperform others, in most situations.
One advantage of using braid is that it allows you to increase the lb. test of your line, while keeping the diameter low. For example, 50 lb. braid has a diameter of .014 inches which is the same as 12 lb. mono and fluoro. This reduction in size allows anglers to spool their reels with more line, make longer casts, and throw lighter baits.
Not only is it smaller, but longer lasting as well. Even anglers that fish multiple times each week can get more than a year’s use before having to replace the line. So while braid has a more expensive price tag, it last several times longer, which in the long run, helps to balances out the cost.
One of the key factors that makes braid so popular is that it has no stretch. This makes for solid hook sets and an increase in the amount of sensitivity, both of which are important for inshore anglers. Redfish and flounder guys rely on solid hook sets to penetrate rubber lips and boney mouths, while trout, red, and flounder guys all benefit from the added sensitivity that allows them to feel even the softest bite.
The increased sensitivity also allows you the added bonus of recognizing when your lure comes in contact with structure, and in some cases, you can even tell what it is you are making contact with.
Finally, because braid does not stretch, it is great for pulling fish away from structure. When a hook up occurs, most fish will make a run for the nearest pier, rock, oyster, or tree in attempt to break you off. With the ability to add a higher lb. test line that won’t stretch, you can easily pull a fish from, or keep them out of these types of areas.
A couple of other advantages to using braid include stronger knots and no memory. A stronger knot is an advantage that requires no explanation, but having a line with no memory means that it will not coil up on you. This makes it a great choice for anglers that like using baitcasting reels, but even better for those that want to add a higher lb. test to their spinning reels.
Braid does have a few flaws, and one of them is that it is easily visible in clear water. This doesn’t mean that clear water anglers shouldn’t use it, only that they should use a long leader of fluorocarbon. By doing so, they get all the benefits of braid, along with the invisibility provided by fluorocarbon.
The other down side to brad is that it is not very abrasion resistant. This can be big trouble for anglers that fish near some of the previously mentioned structure (piers, oyster, trees, and rocks), but a short leader of fluorocarbon will solve this problem as well.
A few other minor flaws to consider are that backlashes are more difficult to get out, wind knots can occur on occasion, and that the guides on some lower end rods may not be braid approved. You will also need to apply a mono backing when using braid. This will keep your line from spinning around the spool and allows you to apply a much tighter wrap, which is important for all fishing line.
Each of the three lines consist of several pros and cons that have a time and place for all inshore situations. Factors like clear or dirty water, stretch or no stretch, topwaters or soft plastics, structure or open bay, all play a vital role in an angler’s decision when choosing his or her line.
Here on the upper Texas coast where I spend the majority of my time catching 4-10 lb. redfish around heavy shell, 30 lb. Fins Windtamer with a 16” piece of 30 lb. Berkley Vanish leader is my preferred setup. Whether fishing for fun, or competing in tournaments, braid gives me several advantages that the other two choices can’t provide.