Is too much choice a bad thing? When it comes to fishing line, I answer with a resounding "no." The array of line types and their unique characteristics empowers anglers with plenty of options for customizing tactics and rigging to deliver the best presentation. Superline, fluorocarbon, nylon and trolling lines all have a time and place on the water. This guide will help you select the right line for your fishing needs.
Superline (aka Braid)
The minimal line-stretch of superline gives anglers an incredible feel, equating to increased sensitivity and the ability to detect hits.
Superline is a term used to describe braided and fused lines. The process for making these lines is as their names suggest. Braid is created by weaving several strands of Dyneema or Spectra fibers together. Treated fibers that are fused together are the second category of superlines. Both processes result in a single strand of tough, thin-diameter line with excellent strength, minimal stretch and subtleness for casting. The latest generation of superlines tout coatings and specialized fibers or strands that improve casting distance compared to earlier generations of these lines.
The minimal line-stretch of superline gives anglers an incredible feel, equating to increased sensitivity and the ability to detect hits. No-stretch line also means solid hook-setting power and maximum force transfer when playing a fish.
For the most part, superlines also offer excellent knot strength, but make sure you follow the knots recommended on the line packaging as it can slip out of certain knots. Minimal spool memory is another great feature of superlines.
Superlines are available in a few colors with green, white, yellow and fluorescent green being the most common. Some prime superline examples include:
When to use Superlines
Superlines excel in heavy cover situations. If you're tossing a topwater frog in lily pads or slop with a baitcaster, superline is an excellent choice. Superlines also shine when fishing around wood cover.
No-stretch means sensitivity, so when I'm vertical jigging light-biting panfish like crappie or bluegills in deeper water, superline gets the nod as the mainline, with a 4- to 6-pound test fluorocarbon leader added for stealth.
Superlines are also a good choice for working baits that require twitching, such as jerkbaits. Whether a soft-plastic jerk shad for largemouth bass or a big, wooden stickbait for muskies and pike. In fact, the no-stretch feature of superline helps you get solid hooks sets into toothy fish with bony mouths.
You might encounter trouble when trolling with braid if you don't compensate your rod and reel set up appropriately. As braid doesn't stretch, trolling with too stiff of a rod or too tight a drag may pull a bait away from a fish's mouth in some instances. To compensate, keep the drag setting loose. It's also a good idea to use a rod with a light action tip that bends easily. This forgivingness will ensure fish get the bait when they hit it and the hooks stick. Hand-holding a rod when trolling with braid will sever a similar cushioning function at the the strike.
Fluorocarbon is a lot tougher than monofilament, has minimal spool memory, and has great abrasion resistance.
Fluorocarbon is extremely popular. The benefit to fluorocarbon is that its refractive index is similar to water. This makes it almost invisible underwater, a significant benefit in clear water and fussy fish. Fluorocarbon is stiffer than nylon-based lines, so it transmits vibrations well. It's also extremely abrasion resistant, making it a worthy choice for certain cover and structure fishing scenarios.
Minimal line stretch is another impressive fluorocarbon feature. Still not on par with most superlines, fluorocarbon beats nylon line when it comes to the "stretch factor."
Yet there are other popular features for fluorocarbon. The line has a quick sink rate; it is also has minimal spool memory. This line will resist UV rays, too. This means it won't breakdown as quickly as nylon-based line, letting you store it for longer periods.
Fluorocarbon line is available in a variety of colors from clear, high-visibility fluorescents, green, blue and grey. Some examples include:
When to Use Fluorocarbon
The minimal stretch quality and its low visibility makes fluorocarbon a favorite among bass anglers for a variety of techniques from finesse shakey head presentations to clear-water flipping and pitching. The fast sink rate teamed with excellent sensitivity is beneficial too for finesse presentations, such as Senkos or soft-plastic jerkbaits.
Fluorocarbon can also be used for trolling. Many anglers prefer fluorocarbon as it rests in between the no-stretch features of braid and the significant stretch of nylon lines. Fluorocarbon provides good sensitivity to hits, but will also offer some give when a fish hits to make sure the hooks stick. It's thicker diameter also makes it a more user-friendly option than superline for snap-weights and inline planer boards.
Nylon-Based Lines (Monofilament and Copolymer)
Monofilament is a very forgiving line. It's easy to learn to tie knots with and casts well.
Lines made of nylon have been in the angling industry for decades. You'll see the terms "monofilament" and "copolymer" used to described nylon-based fishing line. The advantages of these lines are that they're inexpensive, handle well, and can be used for a variety of fishing applications, covering the gamut for all sport fish.
Nylon lines remain a mainstay for many anglers. Individuals who have been using the line for years are simply in tune with its strengths and weaknesses and know how to fish it properly.
Nylon does have some drawbacks. The line will stretch under strain more than braid or fluorocarbon. This stretch means the line will dampen or absorb light hits, and you might not always feel them. But, this same feature is a benefit in some scenarios, such as fishing a topwater or a crankbait. In these instances the sponginess of nylon can help a fish get a full mouthful on the strike and boost your chances for a hook set that sticks.
A great feature of this type of line is it's easy to cut. This might not seem significant but forget your scissors or a knife when fishing with a superline and retying can get tricky. Unfortunately, the downside to this trait is that monofilament is more abrasion prone than superline or fluorocarbon, so you will need to be diligent to look for line wear and retie often when fishing around rocks, wood, zebra muscles and other hazards.
A fresh spool of nylon line casts extremely well. Although, it has a tendency for spool memory over time. Refilling spools should be a regular occurrence. A good way to extend its lifespan is using line conditioner, such as ReelMagic. It's also good practice to apply this product to fluorocarbon as well.
Monofilament makers are still giving the other two line types a run for their money. Coatings and other adjustments to the manufacturing process are creating new lines that are more abrasion resistant, sensitive, thin and inexpensive.
These lines come in an array of colors, which is where it has an advantage over braid. There seems to be an endless array of colors available in mono. Some examples of monofilament include:
When to Use Nylon-Based Lines
This style of line is perfect for anglers starting out. That's not to say superlines or fluorocarbon won't do, but these two types of lines require a certain amount of fishing line know-how.
Lead-core line is weighted and allows you to present baits at specific depths.
Nylon line is forgiving. It's easy to learn to tie knots with and casts well. It also has some give to it that will dampen over-exuberant beginner hook sets. Generally, it's also the most affordable option of all lines available.
Trolling line is the last category of fishing line worth noting and is specifically designed for this presentation style. Trolling line features colored sections that help you gauge the amount of line you've let out (color changes every 10 yards). This way, you always know exactly how much line you have in the water at any given time.
Trolling line may also feature a lead core center to sink baits to a specific depth in the water column. The uniformity of the weight also gives a smooth presentation with baits. It also tracks the movements of the boat extremely well.
Use large capacity reels with a line counter when using trolling lines for a precise presentation. Bass Pro Shops Magibraid Lead Core Trolling Line and Sufix Performance Lead Core Fishing Line are examples of trolling lines.
If you're serious about angling, invest the time to learn the virtues of the different lines available. Each has pros and cons, but not one is perfect for all fishing conditions. Instead, match a line trait's to the most appropriate technique. Do this and you'll find a lot more fish at the end of your string this season.