By Chad LaChance
Classic emailed question: “What kind of line do you use?”
Standard answer: “In what application?”
Friends, there is no cut and dry answer for that question these days! Today’s angler has an almost overwhelming variety of line types, weights and colors to choose from which is great; that way we can match our line to our fishing. It’s also a bummer, because deciding exactly which line will help you catch more fish can be very confusing. Many take a head-in-the-sand approach and fish with whatever happens to be on their spool. Not me. Nope, I take a calculated approach and here’s the details.
First let’s look at the most basic types of line available. Nylon monofilament is still the king of line sales. More than fifty years of refinement has led to nylon monofilament line ranging from super supple to abrasion resistant, hi-vis to low-vis to multicolor and it’s available in a huge range of pound tests. Regardless of the characteristics built into the line, all monofilament lines are made by mixing polymers and then extruding the resulting goo through tiny holes.
Nylon monofilament has good knot strength and floats when dry, but will eventually absorb water and sink and the knot will weaken. It’s also susceptible to U/V damage. These two characteristics make it less durable than other line types. The process of absorption and drying, prolonged sun exposure or even excessive exposure to air will cause the line to weaken substantially. It’s the most elastic of all lines and is the least sensitive, but casts well and is inexpensive, at least initially.
Another form of monofilament is extruded from Polyvinylidene Fluoride and is commonly sold as fluorocarbon. “Flouro” as it’s often called by anglers has one main selling point; it’s less dense optically than nylon, meaning its light refraction characteristics are closer to that of water. Fluorocarbon virtually disappears in water. It’s also physically denser than water so it sinks. It’s U/V stabile and will not absorb water so it doesn’t break down as quickly as nylon. Finally, fluorocarbon’s surface is harder than nylon monofilament’s resulting in better abrasion resistance, but also more difficult casting due to increased stiffness. Fluoro has some stretch, though not as much as nylon and is more sensitive. It lasts very well, but is substantially more expensive.
The last major category is the “superlines”, so called because of their amazing strength to diameter ratio. Superlines are made of Spectra or Dyneema that has been “gel spun” to generate oriented strand fibers that can be braided to come up with the final product. One notable brand, Original Fireline, is thermally fused after braiding and more recently Berkley launched NanoFil, which is a single extruded fiber. Superlines or “braids” as many folks call them, are extremely thin and limp for a given pound test so they cast very well. They have almost no stretch, allowing for very solid hook sets. They are extremely sensitive and most float. Superlines tend to be very slick so they can be picky about which knots will hold and they are the most visible type of line under water. Superlines last nearly forever, but they tend to be among the most expensive line choices.
Enough background. Here’s our rundown on what line we use in specific situations:
Crankbaits, both lipped and lipless, are fished on fluorocarbon because it sinks which helps get the bait down. The slight stretch cushions against pulling the smallish treble hooks. Pound test for crankbaits will run from 8 to 20 depending on the size of the bait itself, cover types present and the depth of water, with 10-12 pound test being my favorite all around choice.
Topwater baits like a popper or walking bait are fished on nylon monofilament because it floats and is very controllable. Subtle twitches are a snap with monofilament. Pound tests range from 8 to 17, with 10-12 doing most of the work.
Jig fishing is a huge category, but fluorocarbon handles most of my jigging because of the invisibility, abrasion resistance and lower stretch. Since fluoro sinks, it maintains a straighter line from the rod tip to the lure which helps with sensitivity and hooksetting. Braids are used for snap jigging, vertical jigging or heavy weed cover. In most cases I’ll tip braided line with a short fluorocarbon leader while jig fishing to reduce visibility. For finesse jigging I’ll usually deploy 6 to 10 pound test fluorocarbon. For traditionally skirted bass jigs, I’ll be in the 12-20 pound range. Braid for jigging or Texas rigging will usually be in the 30-65# range.
Jerkbaits are a go-to technique in my angling and we fish them on braid with fluoro leaders in all cases. The reason is that the no-stretch, no memory braid allows for very precise, crisp and erratic lure action. The braid allows for very long casts and hooksets, as well as bite detection from finicky fish often associated with jerkbaits.
Spinnerbaits and buzzbaits are both fished on 12-20 pound nylon monofilament because it floats which helps keep the lures up and cushions monster hooksets well. These lure types are generally close range and target specific around visible cover so the controllable heavy mono works well here.
Small inline spinners and spoons like a trouter might use in the river are fished with 3-8# superline. These waters tend to be clear so invisibility is attained with a short leader if needed.
Bottom fishing with bait can be done with nearly any line, but braid gets my vote. Braid casts farther, hooksets better at distance and will allow you to detect subtle bites due to increased sensitivity.
So, now that you know what line types we deploy here at Fishful Thinker while guiding, filming or tournament fishing, here’s a rundown on the actual lines we use and why.
For monofilament, we use Trilene Sensation for light stuff and XT for heavy stuff. Around open water or general use, Sensation handles great, knots very well and is very easy to cast. XT is great around heavy cover because of its abrasion resistance and its stiffness allows for excellent lure control.
Our flouro is always Trilene 100 percent Fluorocarbon. That line has great shock resistance for hooksets, abrasion resistance and excellent knot strength.
Superlines are a little less cut and dried around our shop. Most of the time we use the new Trilene Braid because it is very supple while maintaining the overall toughness braids are known for. Tracer Braid is the same stuff, but with a color change every 2.5 feet. It’s my overall favorite because I can see it very clearly to watch for bites and the color changes allow me perfect depth control. I’ll usually tip it with a fluorocarbon leader so the fish don’t have the same visibility that I do.
For very light braids, I prefer NanoFil; this stuff casts and handles like no other! This super-thin line presents tiny lures very well.
So there it is — Our line selection guide in a nutshell. Considering your line is the only thing between you and the fish, seems like a good topic to pay attention to!