What’s the Straightest Line to Fishing Heaven? The One You Choose for Your Reel!
Are you asking yourself: What is the best fishing line? or Which fishing line type should I choose? Then this guide will help you to make the right choice.
Most anglers live in a mono world—using monofilament to catch fish since their childhood.
This slim, deft, but sometimes tangle-prone material may continue to meet every one of your fishing needs quite proficiently.
It stretches when needed, it casts smoothly and far with weight, and it is practically invisible to the human eye under water—supporting the hypothesis that fish eyes are equally strained to detect it.
However, there comes in a junction in every angler’s life when you start to eyeball different approaches to fishing—a new thrill.
For some, the epiphany comes in the form of seeing another angler artfully slinging a fly line free of any swivels or sinkers that either floats or sinks into the aqua-world.
Then seeing the same angler play a fish directly, without the interference or leverage of sinkers and finely tuned drags in a spinning or bait-casting reel.
For others, the sight of someone pulling in a 25-pound muskie on one of TV’s many Saturday morning fishing shows proves stirring and soul shaking.
This catharsis leads you to investigating a line that is as tough as a turtle shell yet limber enough to let a lure wiggle and dive just enough to emulate an actual swimming treat for a lunker’s hardy appetite. Such is the essence of braided line.
Your transformation from mono, on the other hand, might have unfolded while noticing someone in a boat next to yours hauling in a line with about 40 feet of monofilament leader connected to a thick weighty looking line.
On the end of it thrashed a three-pound koke. After practically collaring that angler on shore, you learned about leaded line.
Nearly every angler reaches a stage in their fishing life when they become tantalized by a newly discovered means to playing and catching fish.
Almost always, this newfound world spins on the axis of a line new to your itchy casting finger.
However, if you still stumble over the difference between a tippet and backing or braided and Nanofil, read on.
Best for: Casting lures or bait; trolling with sinkers.
The ability of monofilament to stretch, spool tightly and not snap under extreme pressure from a fish derives from a stretchy but terse singular strand of nylon (thus the word “monofilament”).
Though not the most sensitive of lines, this most popular variety remains sensitive enough to serve most still-fishing, bait-casting, spin-fishing or trolling needs.
However, be aware that its stretch can be either advantageous or detrimental, depending on how you are fishing it, what you are fishing for and whether the species of your pursuit is culling its quarry aggressively or gingerly on a given day.
When trolling monofilament behind a boat via downrigger, for instance, its stretch is reduced because your line is usually clipped near the lead ball at a distance of around 15-30 feet from the bait or lure.
Therefore, a faster setting of hook or hooks is achieved when trolling herring at a snail’s pace in pursuit of hard-lipped salmon.
When still-fishing, stretch can become a problem with soft bites from clever fish that can actually mouth the bait and pull on it before you feel a nibble.
However, auxiliary tackle such as sliding sinkers and even bobbers help to mitigate this fairly limited stretch zone.
Monofilament mysteriously becomes a multi-filament line when different varieties of nylon are merged together to produce various measures of stretchiness, strength and resistance to nicks or cuts.
These lines are sometimes called co-monofilament or multi-polymers if you wish to sound a bit like an Einstein of fishing.
Nanofil and fluorocarbon: better than mono?
Speaking of scientists, this community is busy trying to outdo the versatility and merits of mono with such innovations as Nanofil by Berkeley and fluorocarbon line.
However, Nanofil’s extreme thinness—allowing for out-of-orbit casts—also presents problems with nicks from its own pressure under knots or tight spooling.
Meanwhile, fluorocarbon’s greater lack of visibility in the water comes at the cost of less memory than monofilament, resulting in more bird’s nesting off the spool when casting.
Best for: Bait fishing and trolling for very large fish.
Braided line basically consists of dense polyethylene that is reduced to fishing line dimensions. Its miniscule fibers are indeed braided together, leading to its name.
The fibers are either fused together or left loose, the latter remaining as strong as fused braided line but softer, more sensitive.
The former minimizes instances of looping around rod guides, bird’s nesting on a spool or twisting up in general because it is stiffer than non-fused line.
Braided line is one of the strongest defenses against a fish breaking free due to its sheer force and size. When fishing for behemoths such as sturgeon or 300-pound catfish, it comes in handy, to say the least.
Often, it requires monofilament backing with a strong blood knot connecting the two lines. Mono grips the spool more tightly than braided line, which is prone to slip under extreme stress. That said, braided line suffices as backing for fly line on a fly reel.
Best for: Imitating insect hatches and minnows or shrimp in lakes, streams and saltwater.
A handful of designs make up fly lines on today’s market, including double tapered, shooting head, sinking tip and level line.
A double-tapered fly line drops gentler into the water than level or shooting-head lines because its two ends are tapered down to create less splash or disturbance on the water’s surface.
When one end begins to wear, you can essentially gain a new line by reversing it to the unused end—getting two lines in one.
A shooting head works great for long casting with big, buggy, floating imitations commonly used for bass or for steelhead in the wide streams of the Pacific Northwest.
A level line is one which sinks at a steady rate, similar to leaded line. It creates a more direct line to a fish’s strike.
A sinking tip best emulates swimmer imitations, submerged insects morphing toward insect status as they swim toward the surface.
Leaded, copper, wire (stainless steel or titanium)
Best for: Trolling in lakes for fish dwelling in deep water.
Lines of lead, copper or wire serve almost solely as a trolling line in mostly fresh water. They are usually sheathed in braided Dacron or microfilament.
Their merits include an evenly distributed density that causes the entire line to sink at a consistent angle—unlike mono with a sinker and leader, which sinks to the depth that the sinker takes it and then trails at roughly a 20- to 90-degree angle, depending on sinker weight, amount of line in the water and trolling speed.
Copper and wire lines don’t require as much distance to sink as leaded line does and will sink better than lead at faster trolling speeds. Also, they are toxin free as opposed to lead.
Because of its visibility in the water, extremely long and much less visible nylon or monofilament leaders must be used to fool the fish when fishing lead, wire or copper lines.
So What’s Your Fishing Line?
The mysterious and amazing nature of fishing lines should never lead to confusion. Know what you will fish for and how you plan on fishing for it. There is a line tailored just for the type of fishing that catches your imagination and obsession.
Want to know more about freshwater fishing? Check out our Beginners Guide here…
Image credit: Title image by Tom Hart/flickr (CC-BY 2.0 license)