The Flourocarbon Advantage

New lines stack the odds for fisherman

Flourocarbon leader gave Mark Abetz the advantage at Westport, Washington last summer, bagging this nice king.

Do fluorocarbon leaders really increase catches? My answer is a “heck yes!”

Whether it’s live-baiting for albacore tuna or trolling hoochies for salmon, those who use the highly touted stuff swear by its effectiveness, myself included.

Originally perceived as a commercial offshore line because of its roots in the commercial tuna fishery, fluorocarbon has proven itself equally valuable for coaxing more strikes from many species of game fish.

Fluorocarbon leader material has experienced a huge surge in popularity in all sport fisheries. In fact, many savvy anglers won’t use anything except fluorocarbon for leader material. It’s also fast becoming the line of choice for serious bottom fishermen who target halibut and lingcod with jigs. Experienced fishermen understand the advantages of fluorocarbon leaders and willingly shell out the extra money for it. However, many anglers remain unconvinced over the exact benefits of this low-visibility material and whether it offers any advantages over standard monofilament.

As a leader material, pure fluorocarbon offers several advantages over standard monofilament. Manufactured from extruded polyvinylidene fluoride, fluorocarbon’s number-one selling point is that its refractive index in water, the degree to which light bends, or refracts, as it passes through a substance, is very similar to that of water. That makes it more difficult for fish to see. For example, some fluorocarbon formulas have a refractive index as low as 1.41, with water registering around 1.31, the refractive index of nylon monofilament is around 1.51. Pure fluorocarbon is also unaffected by the suns UV rays that weaken normal monofilament line. This is a another reason that fluorocarbon leader works great for tying up leaders on salmon hootchies and flies as it will remain durable and can be stored a lot longer than standard monofilament.

Depending upon the brand, fluorocarbon can have a diameter that’s generally smaller than that of nylon monofilament of the same breaking strength, which makes it less noticeable to weary fish. In addition to low visibility, fluorocarbon has very little stretch and a hard, smooth finish that is extremely abrasion resistant. Less stretch means more sensitivity, which allows you to detect subtle bites and attain a better feel of the performance of baits or lures moving in the water, including any contact they make with structure or the bottom. Low stretch also promotes solid hook-sets and fluorocarbon’s tougher finish stands up better to the rough abuse of big game fish.

Fluorocarbon also contains more material than mono and is nonporous. Since it’s denser than water, it sinks. And since it doesn’t absorb water, it maintains its rated breaking strength wet or dry. By comparison, a nylon monofilament absorbs water and can lose as much as 10-15 percent of its rated breaking strength when it’s saturated with water.

Fluorocarbon fishing lines are generally less expensive than the pure fluorocarbon leader material and are often purchased by price-conscious anglers seeking to use them to make mooching and trolling leaders. However, the two have very different properties. Fluorocarbon itself is based on a different formula than fluorocarbon leaders that makes them conducive for use on reels. Hence, they are supple and less prone to memory, characteristics similar to a nylon monofilament. A disadvantage of pure fluorocarbon is its stiffness and memory, which makes it impractical to use as a primary fishing line. It simply won’t cast as well as a standard nylon monofilament or fluorocarbon fishing line. On the other hand, because fluorocarbon fishing lines are softer and more flexible than pure fluorocarbon leader material, they’re not as durable and should never be used as leader material.

Although its price has come down, fluorocarbon still represents a moderate expense for many anglers. Is the investment worth it? When you look at everything else you spend money on when it comes to fishing, and what it costs for just one fishing day’s excursion with gas, bait, and gear, a spool of fluorocarbon isn’t much at all. When you consider the increased edge it will give you over standard monofilament I’d say it’s money well spent.


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