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How to Pick The Right Fishing Line (And All The Types of Fishing Lines)

Ask 10 anglers what the most important piece of equipment they possess is and you will get 10 different answers. Some will insist the rod, while others will swear by the reel or lure. However, picking the right fishing line is one of the most important aspects of the sport.

To pick the right fishing line, consider where you plan to fish, what size of fish you plan to catch, and your budget. Monofilament is the cheapest and easiest to use, while braided is the strongest and most expensive. Fluorocarbon line is very sensitive to strikes, but is hard for some beginners.

You can have an amazing reel or rod and a tackle box full of lures, but if you don’t have the right type of line – and quality line at that – you are at a severe disadvantage. Below, we give you tips for picking the right fishing line, and take an in-depth look at the different types available.

Why Fishing Line Is So Important

With fishing line, if you do not have the right line or if your line is damaged, you risk it parting and leaving you with a mangled end with no lure or fish. Therefore, it’s important to understand the potential issues of using the wrong type of fishing line, so you can use the right one.

Not Strong Enough

Fishing line that is not the right lb-test runs the risk of a fish snapping it and it parting. Another risk is the fish running it against underwater structure and it fraying to the point it breaks. There is nothing as frustrating as having your line break after a hard fight with a fish that you so very nearly landed.

Frayed

Fraying can happen when your fishing line runs against anything sharp or rough. This may be:

  • Rocks
  • Docks
  • Branches
  • Stumps
  • Underwater structure
  • The sides of boats

Weakened Line

Fishing line weakens over time. If you have the same line on your reel for more than one season, you risk it developing a weak spot and breaking at an inconvenient time. Depending on the line, there are multiple reasons a line can develop a weak spot, including it being manufactured with a defect.

Nicked Line

A nicked line differs from a frayed line in that a nick tends to be more severe than a frayed portion of the line. A nick can be the result of your line hitting anything that is sharp, including the sides of the boat, docks, underwater structure, etc. You can also nick your line on the eyes of your rod.

Line That Is Too Large

Just like line that is too small lb-test, line that is too heavy can cause problems too. Higher lb-test line is thicker than smaller lb-test line. Line that is too heavy not only takes up a lot of line on a reel, but it can also strain the gears in a reel, particularly baitcasting reels, or it can jam the retrieving action of a reel.

3 Types Of Fishing Line

1. Monofilament Line

Monofilament is often called “mono” and has been a fishing staple for decades. It is by far the most popular fishing line, particularly for those just starting fishing.

Mono gets its name because it is a single strand of line, made from polymer that is melted and mixed before it is forced through a fine strainer that creates a single line. Once the line is made, it is strung onto spools. Once it is manufactured, it is spooled onto drums. Typically, it is spooled onto three types of drum:

  • The small size you buy in stores
  • Intermediate size that is bought in stores but can be used to spool several reels
  • Larger size drum that is used to spool many reels in a store or can be used for trolling

The lb-test determines the line’s thickness. Its limpness, flexibility, buoyancy and color depend on the polymers used. Generally, line is either extremely buoyant, sinks slowly, or sinks quickly.

Because it is the most popular of the different types of fishing lines, there are dozens of manufacturers and types of line. Lb-test sizes range from a couple of pounds up to over 1,000 pounds.

Mono Characteristics

Mono tends to be very strong. It also stretches to absorb impact and is nick resistant. It is also very easy to knot, and the knots are generally very strong. Mono is also very strong and is ideal for bringing in large fish. This is particularly true for newer anglers who are not used to playing a fish.

On the downside, mono is very susceptible to weakening when exposed to sunlight and saltwater. It can also make detecting strikes very difficult because it is flexible.

Highly visible in water, monofilament line can reflect sunlight, even from several feet under water. This is true even with line that is colored to make it harder to see. The shine from the line and flashes of reflections can scare off fish. It can also absorb moisture, which can create weak spots in the line.

The worst thing about mono, however, is that it has “line memory.” Line memory is when a fishing line “remembers” its shape on a spool and retains that shape when it is being used. This can lead to twisted line and backlashes, tangles, and with baitcaster reels, birds’ nests.

How To Deal With Line Memory

The best way to get rid of the memory of monofilament line is to tie it onto a fixed point and unreel it until there is nothing left. Tighten the line until it is taut. Then, let it set for up to an hour, in sunlight if possible.

This will not get rid of the coils. What it will do is reform the line memory from the coils to one of a straight strand of line. Once the line is recoiled, it will begin to reform the coil memory.

Another way to get rid of mono’s line memory is to use it a lot. While this will not erase the memory, it will reduce it enough so that it is not a major issue. Regardless of what you try, however, the chances are that you will have to deal with a tangled line because of line memory at some point.

2. Braided Line

Braided line is the oldest line still used. It is composed of multiple strands of fibers that are woven together to create a very strong amalgam of lines that functions as a single line. The most popular type of material used with braided line is Dyneema (which is also used in body armor).

Braided line also comes in many different tests, although you must calculate the lb-test of a braided line when comparing it to mono or fluorocarbon. It is much stronger, so when a braided line is 10 lb-test, it is actually 10 lb-test multiplied by however many lines go into the single strand of braid.

Braid Characteristics

Braid line has no memory, which means tangles like twisted line knots do not happen, or only happen under particular circumstances. It can also generally cast longer than mono or fluorocarbon because it does not coil off the spool when cast. Additionally, braid is very sensitive because it does not stretch, which makes it ideal in cover and in deep water.

Braid also floats, which makes it great for using topwater lures and, when you use it underwater, it is abrasion resistant. Finally, it tends to last much longer than either mono or fluorocarbon, and you can use the same braid for years.

However, braided line is much more expensive than nylon lines. It is also very difficult to knot, and knots do not hold, meaning you must constantly check your knots to make sure they are intact. Finally, braided line is highly visible underwater, which can scare off just about all fish in the right circumstances.

3. Fluorocarbon Line

Fluorocarbon line is also made of polymer, much like monofilament. Specifically, it is made of a monofilament-nylon alloy. It was once only used as leader, and not used as the main line for fresh and saltwater lures. It is often called “fluoro” or “carbon.” Since migrating from leader to main line, it is has only grown in popularity.

Fluoro Characteristics

Fluoro is invisible even in the clearest of water. It reflects virtually no light, so it is invisible to just about every fish because it is so translucent. This makes it ideal for fishing very picky fish like trout.

Another advantage of fluoro is that it sinks naturally. This makes it very suitable for deep diving crankbaits and jigs. The sinking property drags bait down and can work as a secondary action creator with plastic baits. Additionally, it does not stretch easily, which makes it sensitive to strikes.

Downsides include that fluoro is more expensive than mono, although not as expensive as braided line. It also is very stiff, which can be a challenge for new anglers because the line “falls” off the reel and that can lead to tangling. The stiffness is also difficult to knot, and the knots tend to come apart more easily.

How To Take Care Of Fishing Line

Change Out Line Periodically

Most fishing magazines and books recommend changing out your line at least once a year. “At least” is the key part of that sentence. You should change out your line if it:

  • Becomes frayed or nicked
  • Starts to tangle frequently due to line memory
  • You fish water that has a lot of underwater structure
  • Your total line on a spool gets to under two-thirds capacity
  • Your line has sat dormant for more than a month or two
  • The quality of the line you used is sub-par

These conditions are in addition to changing your line out once a year. It is not uncommon to change out your line a few times per season. Another rule of thumb is to change out your line three times during the year, whether it seems like it needs it or not:

  • Once at the beginning of each fishing season in the spring
  • Once mid-summer
  • Once in the late fall when you switch primarily to underwater ground bait like Ned Rigs and suspending stick baits around structure

If you are on a budget, only fish occasionally, or purchase pre-spooled reels, the following rules should be applied:

  • If you are beginner and only fish occasionally – change out your line once a year
  • If you only fish a few times a season – change out your line every couple of years
  • If you only fish during that one family vacation – change out the line every few years as long as the line is stored in a climate controlled environment
  • If you only fish freshwater – change out your line at the beginning of each season
  • If you fish saltwater – change out your line every six months
  • If, for the majority of months, you fish more than two times a week – change out your line with each season (beginning of spring, summer and fall)
  • Change out your line before any major fishing trips

Sunlight

Sunlight is the enemy of fishing line. If you live in an area where your line is exposed to sunlight for long period of time, being fished or stored, your line can weaken. This is thought to be because the sunlight dries the line out over time, making it brittle.

Saltwater

Saltwater is also the enemy of all fishing line. Even line that is treated for use in saltwater only has a finite lifespan. Prolonged exposure to saltwater can weaken line and make it brittle. Additionally, salt is corrosive and can literally start to eat through line if it is not cared for after each use in saltwater. To care for your line, rinse it off in freshwater after each use in saltwater.

Inspection

Periodically inspect your line for frays, nicks, cuts and overly tangled portions. These will all happen at some point, often all in the same day.

A nicked or cut line can lose a trophy fish with a flip of its head or part with just a little impact from underwater structure, such as rocks and branches. Also, if you do get snagged, damaged line can give way quicker and easier than line that is in good shape. Both scenarios also lose lures, which can add up over the course of a season.

Before any fishing trip, run about 25 to 50 feet of line through your fingers to identify any areas of the line that are showing wear. If you discover a portion of the line that has a lot of wear and tear, cut it about a foot or two above the damaged portion.

When To Replace Your Fishing Line

Overly Stretched, Nicked Or Frayed

This is a major red flag that a line is in a danger zone in terms of breaking. This includes when line splits from wear or tear. It also applies to line that has been yanked on repeatedly to the point that it starts to become elastic.

Discolored Line

Line that becomes discolored is an indication that it is breaking down. Typically, clear mono line will discolor to an orange and even slightly brown color. Colored mono is more difficult to identify, but its green takes on a yellowish look. The same is generally true of fluoro. With braid, the discoloration is when it becomes less vibrant than its initial coloring.

Mildew

Mildew generally only appears on monofilament line. In areas where it is humid or if the line is stored wet, mildew can form on the line. It appears as brownish spots. Whether it weakens the line is not clear, but it might be an indication of other problems with the line, so it is a good idea to change the line out anyway.

Permanently Twisted

Another description of this type of problem is that the line is “bent,” usually at the ends and in several places. This happens when a line is stretched or when a knot gives out. To address this situation, cut the line about eighteen inches above the last bended point in the line.

Final Thoughts

Picking the right fishing line usually comes down to the particular situation in which you plan to fish. Each type of line – monofilament, braided, or fluorocarbon – has its own advantages and disadvantages, concerning things like line strength, visibility, and price.