The Different Types of Fishing Line Explained
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So, you’ve just bought yourself a shiny new fishing reel and you want to get it spooled up with some fishing line.
But then you’re met with a myriad of options. It can be confusing!
So here I’m going to go through each type of fishing line, explain what they are, what they are best used for, and the pros and cons of each.
Different types of fishing line, the big three
The three most common types of fishing line that anglers use these days are monofilament, braid and fluorocarbon lines. Each type of line has its place and best-use practices, and all have their qualities and downsides too. These are the ones we’ll take a look at first.
Monofilament line (often abbreviated to “Mono”) is the most common type of fishing line you will find.
The main reason for this is the cost. It is the cheapest out of all of the fishing lines, and you can get a spool of Mono for about a third of the cost of braid or high-end fluorocarbon line.
Monofilament line is made from a single plastic fiber (hence the word “mono”) and is cheaper to produce than other types of line because of this.
One of the main benefits of monofilament fishing line is that it is very abrasion-resistant when compared to other types of line. This is great if you are fishing in areas with a lot of rocks or structure around, as mono line is much more likely to survive a few scrapes compared to other types of line.
Mono line will float initially but it absorbs water, so it will start to slowly sink after a while, so it is hard to get any consistency in this area. But this does mean that it is great for using with surface lures, and you can also use it for deep diving rigs.
It also has a lot of stretch to it, more so that all of the other types of line. This has some advantages and disadvantages.
The advantage of having a stretchy line is that it acts as a shock absorber and you have more give in the line once a fish is hooked, so there is less chance they can throw the hook. It is also good for things like crank baiting.
The disadvantage of having a fishing line that stretches so much is that it will affect your hook up rate. If you imagine a fish takes your lure or bait, you strike, and then that stretchy component of the line will delay the hook set very slightly which can give the fish that extra split second to throw the hook. But once you DO manage to set the hook with mono line, the stretchy element turns into a benefit, as mentioned above.
Monofilament line is prone to UV damage, so it will need replacing more often than the other types of fishing line as the overall integrity of the line will diminish over time.
Mono line is also very thick in diameter, especially when compared to braided line. This means that you won’t be able to fit as much line onto your spool, and it also affects casting ability.
It also has what is called ‘memory’. This is when the line is wrapped around the spool, and it remembers this shape. So when you cast it will come off the spool in big loops. This can lead to line twists and tangles.
Mono line comes in a few different colors. The most common are a clear line, a blue transparent color, and a bright green color. You will also see it in orange and red colors.
The brighter colors are more useful if you are fishing with multiple rods and you want to be able to see where your different lines are more clearly. But if you are fishing in clearer water and you want to make it harder for the fish to see the line then it’s best to use a clear or blue color mono line.
Pros and cons of monofilament line
- Low cost compared to other types of line
- Abrasion resistance
- Has a lot of stretch (can be a negative in some situations too)
- Softer, so easy to tie knots with
- Easier to untangle
- Carries memory
- Prone to line twist
- Suffers from UV damage so will need replacing once a year
- Has a lot of stretch (also a positive in some situations)
- Thicker diameter so can’t fit as much on the spool or cast as well
Braided fishing line
Braided fishing line is fairly expensive to buy, but it does have its unique advantages over other types of line.
Modern-day braided line is made with man-made materials such as Dacron, Spectra, or micro-dyneema, and the fibers are woven together into a single strand of line.
One of the main benefits of braided line is its incredible strength. The way the line is designed, with all of the fibers woven together, gives it incredible pulling power.
The design factors of braided line also mean that it is very thin in diameter. This means you can fit a lot more line on your spool than you could with the thicker mono line, and it also gives you much better casting ability with greater distances achievable because it is so thin and peels off the spool easily.
Braided line also has no stretch factor to it. This means that it is ultra-sensitive to bites, you can feel the smallest knocks on your bait. This is ideal if you are deep water fishing, as it means that any bites will be transmitted up the line to you, so you won’t miss anything.
It also means that you can really set that hook hard into the fish’s mouth when you strike, as there is no give in the line like you get with the stretchy mono line.
Braid is ideal for pulling surface lures through heavy weed growth. The fact that it doesn’t stretch, along with its strength, means that you can pull it hard through and surface vegetation.
You also don’t get any line memory with braid, unlike mono and fluoro. This means that it maintains its true form always.
There are a few downsides to braided fishing line as well.
First off, braid is not translucent like mono or fluoro fishing line, so it can be seen more easily by fish under the water. You can get a variety of colors of braided line, and certain colors are more visible than others underwater.
So to combat this issue, most anglers will use a line leader. This is when you attach a length of either mono or fluoro line to the end of your braid and then attach the hook or lure to the more translucent mono or fluoro leader.
Braid is not soft like mono or fluoro line, so when you get tangles in your line which can happen quite a bit, especially if you are using a baitcaster reel, then it is an absolute nightmare to try and untangle, and often results in you having to cut the line below the tangle and re-tying your rig.
Braid has a low resistance to abrasion. This means if you are fishing in an area with a lot of structure and a fish pulls your line over the structure, it will very quickly fray and snap.
The texture of braided line is quite course. This means that it will cause a lot more wear and tear on certain parts of your other fishing gear. The rough nature of braid will cut through the guide on your rod like a saw if the guides are not made from a tough material, so this is something to bear in mind if you do want to fish with braid.
Pros and cons of braided fishing line
- Very strong
- Thin in diameter so you can fit a lot more line on your spool
- Casts a mile
- No stretch so it’s ultra-sensitive to any bites
- Ideal for deep water fishing due to its sensitivity
- Improves hook up rates as you can set the hook more decisively
- Great for pulling lures through heavy weed
- Doesn’t carry any memory
- Very expensive compared to other types of fishing line
- Low resistance to abrasion
- Not translucent, so more visible underwater
- Prone to tangles
- Course texture means it wears through other parts of fishing gear such as the rod guides
Fluorocarbon fishing line
Fluorocarbon is a modern type of fishing line, made from Fluoropolymer, which has multiple carbon-fluorine bonds.
One of the main benefits of fluorocarbon (aka “fluoro”) line is that it has a high refractive index, meaning it is less visible to fish underwater. It is ideal for using in clear water circumstances, where fish could potentially see other types of fishing line more clearly. It is also good for using as a line leader if you are using braid as your main line.
As it is so hard for fish to see fluoro line, you can go with a slightly heavier line on your reel than if you were using mono.
Fluoro line looks very similar to monofilament line, but the molecules in fluoro are packed a lot tighter, so it is a lot more dense and heavier than mono.
Being a very dense line, fluoro sinks a lot quicker than mono line. This is useful if you want to get your baits down quickly and also want to keep your line sunk and not floating on the water surface. This is useful if there tends to be a lot of boat traffic close to where you fish, as your line will remain under the water out of the way of the boat’s propellers.
Fluorocarbon line is less stretchy than mono line. This means you can get more solid hook-ups when the fish takes the bait or lure and is especially useful when trying to set the hook at long distances, as you don’t lose any of that strike momentum like you do with mono.
Also, with fluoro line being more densely packed, it makes it more sensitive to bites. You will be able to feel any slight knocks on your bait and lures, having a similar quality to braid in this situation.
Fluoro line is tough and very resistant to abrasion. This makes it ideal if you intend to drag lures through areas where there’s a lot of structure, or if you’re bouncing your bait along the bottom.
There are a few downsides to fluorocarbon line. The first one being that it is quite expensive, it can be twice as expensive as some mono lines (depending on what brands you look at).
It is also not as supple as mono line, due to it being denser in its design. So this makes it harder to tie some knots, and also some knots don’t hold as well as when you use mono.
*Note – there are some very strong holding knots you can use with fluoro line still, such as the Trilene knot, the Palomar knot, and the Eugene slip knot for starters.
Fluorocarbon line also carries a lot of memory, so it will come off the reel in big loops and can sometimes tangle. If you spend a bit more money on a good quality fluorocarbon line, you can reduce some of this memory compared to some of the cheaper options, but not completely.
Pros and cons of fluorocarbon fishing line
- Nearly invisible for fish to see
- Ideal for using in clear water
- Sinks quickly
- Very strong and abrasion-resistant
- Strong hook-ups due to lack of stretch
- Great for using as a main line or as a leader line
- Prone to memory
- Not very supple
- Some knots don’t hold well
Other types of fishing line
Now we have covered the three main types of fishing line in detail, we will have a look at some of the other types available. These include fly fishing line, leader line, and wire trace.
Fly fishing line
Fly line is unique in its design and had to be designed differently to other lines to enable the angler to cast very light flies.
There is a vast range of fly lines that vary significantly; they pretty much warrant their own article to cover them all. But it is important that you understand the differences, so you are using the right type of line depending on how you want the fly to behave.
The first thing I want to touch on with fly line is the ‘Taper’.
The Taper on a fly line describes the change in cross-sectional diameter from one end to another. The Taper is the main component in determining the casting performance of an individual fly line particularly the ability to present different types of artificial flies from the very delicate to the heavy. It is also a factor for wind resistance in differing on-water conditions.
These are the different types of taper to consider in a fly line:
Weight forward taper – the most common type of taper you will fine on fly line. The cross-sectional diameter changes from smaller to larger too small within the front 30 feet (9.1 m) of the fly line. Because of its design, weight-forward taper lines can only have one end to which you can attach the leader line.
Double taper - the cross-sectional diameter changes from smaller to larger to smaller symmetrically along the entire length of the fly line. This means that you can attach the leader to either end of a double taper fly line.
Level – As the name suggests, the cross-sectional diameter is consistent down the entire length of the fly line.
Shooting heads –Shooting heads and tips are level or tapered sections of the fly line, that has been designed for exceptionally long-distance casting.
The next important factor when looking at fly line is buoyancy.
There are different ways to present flies to the fish. Some require a top-water presentation, so for this, you would need a floating fly line.
Other flies can be submerged, so for this, you would either use a sink tip fly line or a sinking fly line.
A sink tip fly line is designed so that the tip end of the line will slowly sink while the main portion of the line floats. This allows the fly to be presented in a slightly deeper water column.
A sinking fly line will have no floating capability and will sink along the entire length of the line. This is best used in deeper waters or where the fly needs to be presented on the bottom rather than the top of the water.
Leader line is a shorter length of line that is attached to your main line. You can either attach a leader line to the main line by using a knot such as the FG, Uni, or Albright knots. Or you can use a swivel.
There are a few different purposes for using a leader line.
Sometimes people will use a stronger leader line than their main line. For example, the main line on the reel maybe 15 lbs, and this will allow you to get a lot more line onto the spool than if you were using 30 lb line on the same reel. But then you could use a 30 lb leader line, so you still get that strength close to the hook.
There are occasions where you may want to use a weaker leader then the main line. This is usually when you are fishing on areas where there are a lot of snags, and if you got snagged up and had to pull the line, then the weaker leader should break first, which should leave to with the rest of the rig still intact, so you only lose a hook and not your complete rig.
People also use mono or fluoro leader lines to attach onto braid or fly line. This is because braid and fly line is usually a lot more visible to fish than mono or fluoro, so by using a length of mono or fluoro leader you remove that risk.
The last type of line we are going to talk about is a wire trace.
A wire trace is a kind on leader line, as it is a shorter length of line that is attached to the main line.
As the name suggests, the trace is made from wire and should be used when you are fishing for species that have very sharp teeth and could easily cut through a mono or fluoro leader line if they bit down on it with their sharp chompers!
Wire trace leaders can be picked up fairly cheaply, and it’s worth keeping a few in your tackle box for those days when there are some sharp-toothed fish around.
Hopefully, this has given you a good overview of the different types of fishing line available, and what each type is best used for