Fishing Line Guide
Buying the right fishing line for the job is just as important as picking the right rod and reel. Similar to choosing rod weight, you’ll need to choose the correct line weight (i.e. pound test rating) according to the type of fish you plan on targeting. The reel you select will also limit the pound test rating options, so you’ll want to make sure the reel you buy has an adequate line capacity. Before you start shopping for line, it’s also important to understand the differences between line materials. The three most common types of fishing line materials include monofilament, fluorocarbon and braided line. Keep reading to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of each. Later on in this guide, we’ll also discuss how to choose fishing line pound test.
  • Types of Fishing Line

    Monofilament Fishing Line

    Monofilament line has been around for decades and is usually the most affordable choice. One primary advantage to this type of line is its slow sink rate, which makes monofilament a good choice for fishing topwater lures. If you don’t want your line to sink too rapidly, choose monofilament over fluorocarbon. One drawback is that monofilament line tends to be less abrasion resistant than fluorocarbon. Because mono line stretches more than fluoro and braided lines, some anglers feel that it’s harder to set hooks as effectively. On the other hand, the built-in stretch may actually help less experienced anglers avoid setting hooks too hard, which can cause a fish to come off the hook. Stretch makes monofilament line absorb shock better than other lines, but also reduces sensitivity.

    • Monofilament Pros: Affordable, slow sink rate, good shock absorption
    • Monofilament Cons: Less abrasion resistant, less sensitive, higher visibility compared to fluorocarbon

    Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

    Fluorocarbon line tends to be more abrasion resistant than comparable monofilament, which makes it a better choice for fishing in cover. Fluorocarbon line also has very little stretch, which translates to powerful hook setting. This type of line is also less visible in the water compared to mono, making it less likely to spook fish. One potential drawback is that fluorocarbon sinks faster than mono, so it’s not ideal for fishing topwater lures. However, in cases when sinking line works to your advantage, fluoro is a great choice. Fluorocarbon line is a popular material for creating fishing leaders.

    • Fluorocarbon Pros: More abrasion resistant, less visible to fish, good sensitivity, powerful hook setting
    • Fluorocarbon Cons: More expensive than most monofilament, fast sink rate

    Braided Fishing Line

    Braided line has become very popular amongst many anglers due to its outstanding durability and high strength-to-weight ratio. Modern braided fishing line, sometimes called “superline,” is typically much thinner in diameter compared to mono and fluoro lines of the same pound-test rating. This means that braid takes up less reel capacity. For example, a reel that has enough capacity to spool up 150 yards of eight-pound monofilament may be able to spool up 250 yards of braid. Another advantage is that braided fishing line has almost no stretch, which translates to enhanced sensitivity and powerful hook sets. In angling situations when strength is a top priority, superline is hard to beat. However, braided line is much more visible to fish compared to fluorocarbon. It can also be more challenging to knot securely.

    • Braided Line Pros: High strength, smaller diameter, powerful hook sets, excellent sensitivity
    • Braided Line Cons: More visible than fluorocarbon, expensive, more challenging to knot securely

    For more detailed info on fishing line materials, check out Berkley’s Angler Education articles on monofilament, fluorocarbon and braid.

  • How to Choose Fishing Line Pound Test

    Once you’ve chosen a fishing line material, the next consideration is what pound test to buy. This choice will largely depend on the type of fish you’re trying to catch. First, you’ll need to research the location you plan to fish, find out what species you’ll be targeting and determine how large those fish typically grow. Knowing this information will help determine what line poundage to spool up.

    Keep in mind that many fish species vary in size and weight depending on age. For example, according to the National Wildlife Federation, adult rainbow trout can potentially grow up to 45 inches in length and weigh as much as 50 pounds, but most are considerably smaller. The average size of an adult rainbow trout is around eight pounds. Steelhead, which spend about two to three years in freshwater followed by several years in the ocean, tend to grow slightly larger than rainbow trout, even though the two species are genetically identical.

    If you’re angling for rainbow trout, you don’t necessarily have to use eight-pound test line. In fact, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recommends using six-pound test monofilament line in cloudy water and four-pound test mono in clear water. Use anything larger and you’ll risk spooking the trout, which tend to be finicky. It’s also a good idea to avoid braided line, which is more visible in the water compared to mono and fluoro lines.

    If an angler is patient and careful, it’s certainly possible to land an eight-pound trout using a six-pound line or even a four-pound line. This will likely require manipulating the drag settings and allowing the fish to periodically run with the line. This tires the fish and puts less strain on the fishing line. If you attempt to reel in a larger fish that still has a lot of fight left, there is a higher risk of breaking the line.

    Fish tend to be smaller in areas that are fished more heavily. Conversely, fish often grow larger in areas that are fished infrequently. For this reason, some anglers keep a few different lines on hand, just in case they need to re-spool a heavier or lighter line. Another good approach is to use a higher-poundage fishing line as backing and have several different poundage options to use as leaders. (We’ll discuss using leaders in the next section).

    The capacity of your reel is another very important factor to keep in mind when choosing fishing line. Most reels are equipped to handle a range of lines. For example, the Penn Fierce 2000 spinning reel is designed to take 260 yards of four-pound mono, 210 yards of six-pound mono or 140 yards of eight-pound mono. It can also handle up to 170 yards of 15-pound braided line. This gives an angler a fairly broad range of possibilities. However, if you’re planning to target alligator gar using 30-pound test braid, a larger reel will most likely be more suitable.

  • Fishing Leader

    A fishing leader is simply a length of line that is attached to the end of your main line. A hook or lure is then attached to the end of the leader. Although anglers can attach bait and lures directly to the end of their main fishing line, using a leader is beneficial for several reasons. For instance, if you’re fishing with braided line, which tends to be more visible in the water compared to other lines, you may opt to use a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader to avoid spooking fish. Some fish species spook more easily than others.

    Another reason for using a leader is versatility. By choosing a moderately strong line to use as backing, you can choose to have several different leaders on hand. This will allow you to quickly adapt if you discover that fish are easily breaking your leader (i.e. your leader poundage is too low) or if the fish are spotting your line too easily (i.e. your leader poundage may be too high). Swapping out leaders is faster than re-spooling your entire reel with new line.

    For the best advice on leaders and rigging, consider picking up a fishing guidebook for the region you’ll be fishing the most or talk with a knowledgeable angler who has experience in your area. Local tackle shops are also good resources for info on what lines, leaders and rigging combinations to try.