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How To Choose Fishing Line

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On: Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 2:10PM | By: Lee Clymer


I’ve seen fishing line used for everything from holding up a radio antenna to tying back a ponytail. When it comes to uses like those there’s not a lot of picking and choosing. If catching a fish and actually putting it in the cooler instead of passing on the story of the one that got away, you absolutely have to give some thought to the high tech string you wrap around your spool. Surprisingly to some, you should probably give it a lot of thought.

You may have found something you really like and have used in the past and continue to use, but technology doesn’t slow down for anyone and constant improvements are being made. It might be time to take a look at one of your main tools of the trade.

The first thing most people think about is size. Everyone wants to catch the big one and would absolutely freak out like a Republican caught at an Obama rally if it gets away due to a broke line. It’s a good story to say the line broke, but think about how it reflects back on you. Bad life choice, isn’t it.

The importance of strength is obvious, but what about the subtleties of line that make it your personal choice? What about flexibility? Casting ability? Sensitivity? Light refraction? These are all factors in choosing a line for a particular situation and different equipment.

Let’s start out with why we must buy line. Let’s face it, line gets stretched if we’re lucky. One thing we don’t think about is the age of the line. If it’s been on the reel for any length of time it needs changing. Besides becoming brittle it starts taking on a coil-like shape reminiscent of a slinky. It’s called taking on memory. Just because it’s fresh out of the box doesn’t mean it can’t walk down the stairs because it will take on those same qualities while sitting on the shelf. What that means is that you need to buy your line from a place that sells a lot of line. Don’t buy dusty line. Line is not like beer or milk…it doesn’t have a born-on date or an expiration date.

Probably the best way to understand line is to understand how it’s made. If you grasp its makeup it’ll help you understand its qualities, and thus its usage. Monofilament is the most common line out there. Fusion is typically strong and flexible. Braid, synthetic, and fluorocarbon lines round out the field, although there are some lesser known lines as well.

Just like the your science teachers took all the excitement out of their voice by removing pitch and volume when they described frog anatomy in “monotone”, monofilament is a single strand line. Boiling plastic is squirted through a measured hole in a process known as extrusion. During the process the line is monitored carefully to ensure proper quality control. This includes chemical makeup, extrusion, and storage. Monofilament is widely used because it is typically a very quality line.

A secondary quality about the extrusion process is the ability to control flexibility. Monofilament allows for all types of line, commonly described in terms like limp, extra thin, or extra tough. Tough, light, and thin are qualities to look for. The more you get of those qualities, the more the price goes up, and it can vary drastically from manufacturer to manufacturer and composition. Spinning and spin cast reels almost demand those qualities because they usually provide flexibility, which goes along with great casting. Monofilament will also typically be abrasion resistant, good for those jetties and rocky bottoms. Don’t, however, just presume the brand you pick is indeed abrasion resistant. Do your homework and make sure if you fish rocky bottoms and/or where you might get caught in vegetation like mangroves, or under docks, where the fish might get wrapped up.

Like brothers in arms, co–filament line puts up a united front to give strength. Even though the line is stronger it still provides sensitivity and abrasion resistance through its dual extrusion process. There is an inner core of standard monofilament plastic with a nylon wrap around it. The line has drawn a lot of attention with its strength and sensitivity, but it’s not as used as much as you would think. Its lack of stretch comes in pretty handy when setting a hook with a lot of line out. The downside is obvious in that it’s thicker and that takes away from the amount of line on the spool. Probably its typical extra cost and lack of colors is its biggest fault. Most will go up a notch to braid if they’re willing to spring for the extra buck.

To go a step further with the co–filament idea comes fused lines. There aren’t many downsides to fused lines. These lines are made with many layers fused together and covered with a thin coating. This line is thin, light, and works incredibly well. Few lines allow for a better hook set. Its strength and abrasion resistance rates it among the top lines in the world. It also is part of its downside because it’s hard to cut and, although I wouldn’t call it a high visibility line, visibility can be an issue in clear water.

Braided lines are the strongest thing out there. They consist of intertwined filaments of nylon and synthetic fiber. Its makeup deems it a multifilament line and provides a thin strong line. It can be hard on your hands but it’s worth it. Make sure you learn the required knots for braided lines since a hard set or fight may cause a knot to come loose if not properly tied. A good superglue helps. It will fray and nick so watch it as you cast. I use it primarily on my spinning reels.

The final line of this discussion is my all time favorite, fluorocarbons. This has nothing to do with the atmospheric pollution. It comes from fluorine polymer bonded to carbon microfiber. This stuff is incredible. It too is very strong, and has an advantage over just about everything else out there. It has a refractive index closely matching water so when it sinks it is almost invisible. It doesn’t float, it doesn’t reflect, and the sun doesn’t hurt it nearly as bad as other types of lines. It also doesn’t absorb water, so it stays strong and doesn’t succumb easily to slinky memory. It works pretty well on any reel and pretty much matches its advertised strength making it good tournament line. Remember, if you’re going for a record the line must not exceed its rating.

One last question I figure you’re asking is what about colored lines. Think of them as camouflage. In muddy water use brown line. In water with vegetation use green line. Blue water…you got it…blue line. There’s no mystery here.

I’m sure you will have your own favorite, but I hope this clears a few things up when you’re standing in front of the counter with all the different colors and brands.

May reel zings ring in your ears.




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