Line, line, everywhere there’s line! — Wilderness North

Celebrating 30 Years of Wilderness North  –          

Line, line, everywhere there’s line!

So you want new fishing line for your spinning or bait casting reel and you’re in the store confronted with more choices and claims than your brain can process.

It can be complicated, says Ken Schultz, outdoor writer for and Field & Stream Magazine: At the very least you need a primer on the pros and cons of the different categories.

Well, line is primarily (1) monofilament, which is a single strand of nylon and often referred to simply as “mono;” (2) fluorocarbon, which is a single strand of polyvinylidene fluoride; and (3) microfilament, which is fused or braided strands of ultra-high-molecular weight polyethylene and commonly referred to as ”braid” or “braided” line.

Here is an overview of the pros and cons of the qualities that a good- to high-quality mono, fluoro, and braid product would have. Certainly there are differences within each category, as some brands are better than others, having more quality control in production and more attention to individual characteristics.


Pros: Good knot strength; suitable for a wide range of common fishing knots; smooth and easily castable; low visibility; good color retention; generally good abrasion resistance; floats; economical price.

Cons: Absorbs water so properties change from dry to wet; mid to high degree of stretch; retains memory; deteriorates from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.

Comment: Mono was by far the dominant line category several decades ago; it now  garners over a third of the market share. It’s easy to use for general purposes and with all reel types, and can be forgiving. Its low cost compared to the other lines, also makes it popular.


Pros: Extremely low visibility; more dense than water, so it sinks; low stretch; excellent abrasion resistance; more resistant to UV light deterioration; good knot strength; suitable for a wide range of knots; does not absorb water so properties are the same dry or wet.

Cons: Stiffer than mono, especially in higher strengths; sinking quality not helpful in all angling situations; cost is much more (roughly 50 percent) than mono.

Comments: Fluorocarbon makes up just over a quarter of the fishing line market. It excels in clear-water applications and its low stretch and greater durability make it popular for hard hooksets and fishing in cover.

It is highly favoured as a leader material, less so as full-spool material, although manufacturers are working on less wiry full-spool products.

Microfilament (Braid)

Pros: No, or extremely low, stretch; diameter that is much less than comparable strength mono; does not absorb water or change characteristics from dry to wet; floats; more supple than other lines and has no memory; resistant to UV deterioration.

Cons: Dubious abrasion resistance (some are coated); color fades over time; can only use certain knots (especially Uni and Palomar); highly visible in the water; harder to use with older reels; line tangles are difficult to deal with in lighter strengths; cost is much more (roughly 50 percent) than mono.

Comments: Microfilament fishing lines have been available since the early 1990s and have grown increasingly popular. They now command a third of the marketplace. Increased sensitivity for strike detection, solid hooksets, and distance casting (with high-strength products) are great benefits, and the line is more economical than it appears because it lasts much longer than comparable mono. Some products fade in color, making them more visible, and actual wet-breaking strength is hard to ascertain.


Important facts about pound-strength and line choices .

Breaking strength is the amount of pressure that must be applied to an unknotted line before the line breaks. Every spool of fishing line carries a number that asserts what that product’s breaking strength is.

Spools of fishing line sold in North America are labeled according to breaking strength, primarily via U. S. customary designation as pounds, and secondarily via metric designation as kilograms. For example, a 12-pound-test designation will be followed by a smaller-print designation of 5.4 kilograms, which equals 12 pounds.

Actual strength is determined by how much force it takes to break a line that is wet. This is the standard by which the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) tests every line submitted with record applications. It’s irrelevant how a line breaks in a dry state, since no one fishes a dry line. Most anglers, however, assume that the breaking-strength designation refers to line in its dry state.

Thus, the labeled breaking strength of a fishing line should indicate what happens when it’s wet, not dry. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case with test lines, and seldom explained in the packaging.

This information is essential to people who fish deliberately for world records in specific line categories. The average angler doesn’t know most of what is written here, but if you’re particular about your fishing – and it is often the little details that make for success – you should.

More information about Ken Schultz

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