As anglers we spend the majority of our time discussing baits and techniques to catch fish, but there is so much more to it than that. Having the right equipment is just as important. One key component of catching and landing any fish is fishing line. Deciding which line to use is something that professional anglers take into consideration on every trip out. The weekend and fun fisherman might have a tendency to overlook the importance of their line choice.
The line we choose to use can dramatically effect the action of the bait. For rip baits, the difference between braid, fluorocarbon, and monofilament will vary the movement of the bait vastly. The same can be said for top-water baits. At the same time, using the wrong line while drop shooting or flipping can come at the cost of bites or the loss of a fish.
Almost every technique has a correct line to use and from there the only variable is line strength, which is mostly based on conditions, water color, and fishing pressure. There are three rules of thumb for line size: the dirtier the water the heavier the line, the more fishing pressure the lighter the line, and finally, the heavier the cover the heavier the line should be.
It’s been a few years since fluorocarbon line and braided line really took over the fishing industry, a little longer for professionals. Now, however, anglers at every level are using these relatively new line types to improve the number of bites and the landing percentage of bass. Here’s some general ideas on what line I use and why.
There are several factors that make braid the right selection for certain techniques and conditions. The first is that braid has no stretch, which is important for fishing top-water with less effort and better hook sets. It’s also very strong and durable which makes it the right choice when fishing in thick cover or around hazardous structures (to fishing line) like docks, trees, and submerged trash.
One of the times that many non-professional anglers aren’t using braid, but should be, is with spinning reels. Braid is limp and coil-resistant, which makes it a great option for this generally light line setup. Every spinning reel I have has braid for the main line. However, in most cases, I do add a leader, usually fluorocarbon, of three to six feet. To connect the two lines I use a uni-to-uni knot. This line configuration allows me to fish with less line issues, make longer casts, and again get better hook sets.
For braid I use Western Filament’s Tuf-Line XP line. For open water applications I use 20- to 30-pound line and for flipping and fishing around structure I will use 50- to 65-pound line. For the spinning setup I will go with a smaller diameter, 15- to 20-pound test with a six to 10-pound Gamma fluorocarbon leader.
The properties of fluorocarbon make it stretch less than mono, but slightly more than braided lines. It also has nearly the same light refraction properties of water making it tougher for the fish to see. The combination of these two properties make it the perfect line for anything that is fished on the bottom like a jig, shaky head, or Texas rig. I’ll also use it for cranking in clearer water situations and for almost all of my Megabass Vision jerk bait fishing.
I will also use heavy fluorocarbon, in the 30-pound range, for heavy flipping around soft wood–especially when the braid has a tendency to saw itself into the wood and become wedged. Fluorocarbon line won’t do that. The one time I will never use fluorocarbon is for top-water because it sinks, changing the action of the bait. I use Gamma Edge fluorocarbon for all my fluorocarbon setups. It’s a high-quality, strong, and sensitive line and in my opinion the best on the market.
Monofilament, or copolymer, is the line I grew up fishing with. It works for almost all techniques, but I use it less and less each year as I find the properties of braid and fluorocarbon to be more beneficial with most techniques. I do still use monofilament line when I am fishing top-water in super-clear water or if the fish are easily spooked. I will use monofilament when I am fishing shallow crankbaits around rock and other hard structure, as well. Monofilament is the lowest cost of the three kinds of line, but the cost savings is not worth the loss in performance. When I do decide to use a monofilament line, I use Gamma copolymer monofilament.
Choosing the right kind of line is important, just as important is choosing the right brand of line. Not all lines are made the same with the same quality of production. Choose your line wisely, because a single bad piece of line could cost you the fish or a lifetime. For me it’s Western Filaments Tuf-Line XL and Gamma Edge fluorocarbon or Gamma copolymer because when there’s $500,000 on the line next week in Shreveport, I need to trust in what I’m using!
Image courtesy Luke Clausen