Which Line is Best For You to Use ?

This is a area where opinions are like elbows, everyone has at least two. Here I will try to give you some history plus information on the pros and cons of the many fishing lines available in today’s market. There are many manufacturers of fishing line with their different versions. Lines all do the job of connecting a fish to the reel that is being held onto and reeled in by you. Some fishermen have been using the same brand of line for years, some do so simply because that is what dad and granddad used. Others may be using what a salesman suggested. I guess if you are one of these, are happy with what is on your reel and you catch fish, then that is all that matters. But times have changed.

Fishing line has changed considerably over the years. And each fisherman may have different needs depending on his/her fishing style/methods.

History:  Prior to World War II most of the fishing mainline was Cuttyhunk, which was a braided linen. It was usually a dark greenish brown similar to a military OD color. It was considerably thicker in relationship to poundage than we know now. Evidently it also needed to be dried when not being used for some time as it could become subject to deterioration. Also most of the deeper salmon trolling in those days was done using solid stainless steel wire spooled on narrow larger diameter direct drive reels. This stainless line could have also been used because of the thick diameter of the Cuttyhunk, requiring considerably more weight to achieve the desired depth.


Spools of old Cuttyhunk line



Shortly after WWII a braided Dacron showed up that was then mostly used for mainline. This was considerably smaller diameter than the Cuttyhunk and was usually a black color. Dacron, unlike linen, did not require drying prior to storage. Following the Dacron, DuPont developed their patented process for making a single strand Nylon monofilament line. This monofilament soon became standard usage for leader, but was not totally accepted as a mainline until about the early 1950s as the early mono line was very stiff or “wiry”, and difficult to handle and cast. This early monofilament did, however, have good knot strength and very low visibility to the fish, creating a small loyal following among fisherman.

In 1959 DuPont introduced Stren, a thinner and much softer monofilament line (normally called “mono” by fishermen) that could be used in a large range of reels, including newly introduced spin casting tackle. Stren’s monofilament lines soon became a favorite with many fishermen because of its overall ease of use and it spawned a whole host of imitators.

The Lines Themselves:

(A) Most mono does have a stretch factor of 10% when dry, plus another 10% when being wet. This can be good and bad. The good is that it acts like a shock absorber to some degree if a large fish makes sudden movement without breaking off, so it has popular usage among guides who’s clients may be inexperienced. This in turn allows the fisherman to use a slightly stiffer rod because of this stretch. The bad is that if you are fishing deep or a long way out, your hookset needs to be considerable, while yet not a whole arm length swing. It is also has a “spongy” feeling from the fisherman to the fish, that you have little feel as to what the fish is doing other than pulling.

These lines are made by many different companies under different trade names and with different materials. Some of the names are DuPont’s Stren, and Prime Plus, Berkley’s Trilene, Maxima Chameleon, P-Line and Ande mono to name a few. Traditionally mono is underrated as to breaking strength, where a 20# rated line may actually break closer to 25# if the knot is of a good style.

Some brands or types can be made to vary from very limp to rather stiff, with the stiffer types not really conducive to being used on spinning reels as it does not stay on well unless under tension.

It seems hard to really compare lines alone as knot characteristics are thoroughly involved in this also. Some fishermen do not rely on advertised line weight, but by line diameter. Apparently some manufacturers over rate while others under rate their lines as far as weight goes. Others, if they do list the diameter on the spool, it may not be totally true because of rounding off the last digit. And if so, will always be smaller than actual, because they somehow want to relate line size to being smaller for less visibility or water resistance, putting out the impression that their line is better.

Another thing that you need to be aware of is that some manufacturers have different grades, or versions of lines. So do not get caught off-guard if your friend says he uses XYZ line but does not give you the version of it. When you go to buy a mate to his, you may get a lesser grade than he was using. And some sporting goods stores may not carry all the versions of each brand, just what their buyers order, inventory and sell. Then many fishermen are known to be CHEAP, so will buy a $1.98 spool of a generic brand instead of paying $14.95 for a good brand, OK, but there may be a good grade in the middle.

Knot breaking will include many other things other than actual line breaking strength. This being the case, one knot may be right for a specific line, but appears totally unsuited for another brand of line.

Mono has been used for leader material for many years, but under some conditions, are limper and therefore do not impart action to trolling lures that have no action (hoochies) unless the mono leader is considerably heavier/stiffer. This negates any option of using a lighter leader thereby saving the lure/tackle if a hang-up occurs. But these conditions are usually associated with open water salmon trolling using dodger/flashers and that is why the manufacturers specify a set of leader lengths behind their product.

If monofilament line is protected from damaging heat and UV light, the stuff lasts forever. Storage habits are the key, keep it out of sunlight and in a moderately cool location. I have some that is still on the original spool that is over 40 years old always being in a cabinet in the garage which appears to not be effected by age.

(B) Newer Poly-Carbonate or Fluoro-Carbon lines appear to be an offshoot of mono, but with a better abrasion resistance and are more invisible to the fish because of the light refraction percentage being better. These are a bit stiffer and being more expensive are normally used just for leader material. The one thing about them is that they are not as resistance to heat. For the fisherperson, this means that when you tie a knot, you NEED to WET the line as you pull it tight to cut down the friction, which equals heat.

(C) Braided fishing lines (also at times referred to as Spectra fiber) have become very popular during the past few years (after about 1993). They work well in certain fishing situations and are extremely strong. Braids are made by braiding or weaving fibers of a man-made material like Spectra or Micro-Dyneema into a strand of line. This makes a very strong, tough line that is very abrasion resistant. This line is so strong that you have trouble breaking it when you get hung up which can break a rod or quickly cut a finger. A fish is very unlikely to break it unless you may have not tied the proper knot. Which brings about a new bunch of knots designed specifically for these lines.

These lines are made by many different companies under different trade names and with different materials. Some of the names are Spider-Wire, Fire Line, Power Pro, T.U.F. Line to name a few. Power Pro list theirs as a microfilament braid.

The Pro Side of Spectra Lines Are :

High tensile strength, Spectra is so strong that it is used in bulletproof vests. It is about 10 times as strong as steel, pound for pound.

The finished line has a tensile strength of about 600,000 # PSI versus monofilament which has a tensile strength of about 100,000 # PSI.

Low stretch, Spectra has very low-stretch (3% maximum) which means a fish bite is easily felt and the hook-set is quick and sure. This is especially good when trolling deep, (over 150′) off a downrigger, as when a fish hits, you are connected better as compared to when using mono. However here many salmon will hook themselves, if not, then all the fisherman needs to do is a light flip of the wrist, but not the deep sweep you would normally use with mono.

Small Diameter and light weight, a very high strength-to-diameter ratio of Spectra is attractive because more line can be put on a given reel. They also are very limp and don’t have any memory as mono does.

Smaller reels may be used in a given application where a greater breaking strength line may be spooled on the same reel.

Long life, Spectra has a very long life, it does not rot, and is not readily damaged by ultraviolet rays in sunlight, as monofilament is.

Plus it does not swell in water, or lose strength when wet.

The Con Side of Spectra Lines Are :

Since Spectra lines do not absorb water and have very low-stretch, the fisherman may feel the fish before it actually is hooked, where the hook set is then too early, pulling the lure out of the fish’s mouth before it is engaged into jawbone. You need to learn to let them munch on the bait or tie the hooks differently on lures to help remedy this situation.

These lines are very visible in the water. For that reason many fishermen do not like it in clear water. It may spook the fish, especially on finesse baits where you are trying to entice a fish to bite a lure where they can see for some distance.

Some folks say some brands of Spectra will cut into rod’s inexpensive guides. Also if you happen to get it wrapped around your outdrive propshaft, it can very well cut out the water shaft seal very quickly because of its abrasiveness. River fishermen hate it when someone hooked bottom then broke the line off above the terminal gear, leaving it still in the water forever so if you get a fish on that tangles with this abandoned line it will usually cut YOUR line.

If you use it, you may consider using a longer / lighter action rod which acts as a shock absorber so not to break your rod because of the lack of line stretch if you set the hook too hard or are fighting a large fish when it makes a sudden run. And you need to have your reel’s drag set lighter so a fish does not rip the hooks out of its mouth if it makes a strong run right at the boat.

Another thing about this type of line is that since it is so small a diameter, IF THE LINE IS NOT WRAPPED TIGHTLY on the spool, AND IF you happen to have the line on the spool near the edge when you hook a big fish, get hung up, or get a backlash, this line since being so small will burry itself down along the spool’s side burying it to the core, becoming almost impossible to salvage. Since this is a distinct possibility you then need to use a heavier line, not for the strength of the line, but so it won’t cut into itself. Many Columbia River salmon fishermen use 50# and 65# Spectra line, where the mono fishermen still uses 25# with both being about the same diameter. Or add a 20′ section of 20# mono to the lower end of your spectra to act as a shock cord.

And these Spectra lines will usually break at the specified line test with no warning.

Most Spectra lines are not designed to function correctly off a open faced spinning reel. And you may get a lot of rod tip tangles with spectra lines because of it’s limpness. However recently I was at a sporting goods counter where the salesman mentioned he finally had in a reel designed for this line.

One fisherman confessed that he had a huge problem with spectra line when he first started using it. He couldn’t prevent leaders from snapping instantly when hooking Coho. What he finally discovered is, you can’t use a fixed mooching type sinker with braid, a SLIDER was a must. Also if you use divers for Coho, you will need a bungee for the same reason.

Plus when using some spectra lines on downriggers, some release clips have a problem holding.

So just re-spooling your reel with braid type line means that you really need to do some research trying to understand just how you need to relearn some of your mono forgiving habits.

In 2010 while halibut fishing in The Straits of Juan DeFuca, my partner hung bottom at 250′ or water with 80# Power Pro line. The tide was going out at a decent clip but he basically anchored my 3200# boat. DO NOT try to break this stuff by wrapping it around your hand. Wrap it around your Billy club then tie off to a cleat, as it will deeply cut or even take a finger off under the wrong conditions with this stuff.



Assortment of fishing line spools



(D) Dacron is still being made which is used many times as leader for big fish like halibut or sturgeon. It is limp enough that it does not alter the fish’s taking of bait.

Line Color: Since about 1992 different colored lines have raised their pretty heads. At first, my thought was “those are bright” will they scare the fish? I was informed that these colors were probably brought out by request of PNW river fishing guides, who wanted to be able to distinguish their client’s different lines apart and while being able to see a fish bite for their inexperienced fisherman. Made sense to me, especially since I could not see the plain “clear” colored lines before or entering the water.

It took a while to convince me, but after thinking about it, I have had a problem for years seeing the line as it enters the water, especially if NOT on CALM water. Now these brighter lines were starting to make sense. The line manufacturers have apparently selected or figured out how to make lines that humans can see, yet not so visible to see fish underwater. I now use the lime-green for my personal color, with my loaner rods using a different colors. Life is now not so frustrating when you get a tangle.

The one I really like as far as visibility is P-Line fluorescent green, which is really a bright lime-green. That combined with painting my trolling rod tip a bright orange strike indicator color, sure helps me see my rod AND where the line enters the water.

Knots: Each type of line may require different knots. The Spectra or braids being especially susceptible, so use the knot suggested on the package. These lines being so strong, if in making the knot, the wraps do not lay just right, one wrap can cut everything off.

Tying mono knots, you will see many fishermen pull the line thru their mouth. In reality they are spitting on the mono to lubricate it so they do not burn or create an abrasion when they pull the knot tight.

To connect braid to mono, there are two knots that seem to be good, (1) the modified Albright knot can be used. Here the braid is wrapped back over itself the same number of times it was initially wound on. And the Mono is formed into a double 1/2 hitch that the braid passes thru. (2) The easiest is to use a double Uni Knot, (one on each line) but double the braid at the knot location. The doubled braid helps make it “stickier” and less likely to cut into the mono. To clarify this, the doubled over braided line created by your loop AS a single strand and then tie your double Uni Knot as you normally would on each end.

For a more detailed article on fishing knots and their breaking strengths, CLICK HERE.

Observations: This spectra type line transmits ANY movement to the rod. Using this line you can even feel fish bumping the line if going thru a school. About 2005, we were fishing in about 150′ of water off Duncan Rock at Neah Bay Washington, the boat I was on the boat owner did not have his sensitivity adjusted so we could see shallower water under us clearly. I had just hooked and brought in a Black Rockfish from near the bottom. I was using a newly acquired line-counter reel, and when I was when letting back down, I felt something ticking the line when it got to about 45′, I hesitated, put my thumb on the spool stopping decent but did not realize what was going on, let out a few more feet and when it got about 48′, I immediately had a fish on, and then a second on my 2 hook rig. Dropping it back over the side and then stopping at the magical 45′ level each time, I pulled 6 nice suspended fish, (all being doubles) in that one drift. What I apparently was feeling was the school of fish running into my line. If I had not had this spectra type line AND the line-counter reel, I would not have known what was happening or where the fish were under us.

With the many lines on the market now, you have a choice, but I now still use mostly mono, however do have a few reels spooled with Power Pro for specific usage. Or, I use Spectra or braid as a mainline and then tie a 20′ end section of mono for a shock cord if being used for anticipated larger fish.



Copyright © 2011 – 2013 LeeRoy Wisner All Rights Reserved, however the knot illustrations are not mine

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