For many years, the standard fishing line was nylon monofilament. Lots of fish were caught with mono, including lots of big fish. Then along came the synthetic “super braids.” The first to be successfully marketed was Spider Wire, but PowerPro became the industry standard. The market has now become flooded with many different types of braided lines, each with its own characteristics.
Braided lines have numerous advantages — a smaller diameter and greater casting distance than mono of the same strength, no water absorption and no memory (memory is what makes mono coil as it comes off the reel). Braid also doesn’t lose strength with age like mono does, although it will get a little “fuzzy” and the color fades.
There are disadvantages in using braid, too. One big one is sticker shock — the least expensive braid costs five times more than quality monofilament. Braid is more prone to wind knots. Despite claims to the contrary, no manufacturer has been successful at designing a rod or reel to eliminate these annoyances.
Fish seem to bite better on mono — maybe it’s because braid is more visible, or maybe the braid makes a different sound as it moves through the water. Because braid is so visible in the water, you’ll need to get in the habit of using a fluorocarbon or monofilament leader. Braid also does not hold some knots as well, because it’s slicker than mono (learn to tie a uni knot).
Further, braid has less abrasion resistance than monofilament. A lot of people buy it for toughness and are surprised to learn that, but if you rub taut braid with the edge of a knife, it parts very quickly — probably half the time it takes to abrade mono of the same strength. Try it for yourself, or come into the shop for an eye-opening demo.
One other thing: Braided lines have no stretch, which is both good and bad. Although it’s much more sensitive and a lot easier to set a hook, it’s also easier to break the line (or rip the fish’s lips off) by setting the hook too hard. Using braid means changling life-long habits, which is why some older anglers stick with mono.
At the shop, 90 percent or more of the new reels we sell are spooled with braid at the request of the buyer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there is definitely a learning curve for anglers who are used to using monofilament. One of the common things many anglers do is spool up with much stronger braid than the mono they were using before. It’s easy when 65-pound braid has the diameter of 16-pound mono — but that doesn’t mean it’s automatically the best decision to go with heavy line.
It may seem like a no-brainer to go with stronger line. You can still pack plenty on your spool, and the thicker line is more abrasion-resistant, so you’ll worry less about things like oysters and pilings. But using line that’s stronger than what your equipment is designed for can be a real problem.
Your rod and reel are designed to work with a certain range of line strengths. If you use heavier line, you’ll be putting strain on your rod or reel rather than your line. Which costs more to replace when it breaks? Some of you have probably seen the bass guys on TV using 65-pound braid on their baitcasting reels. Remember that they have their reasons — one of which is that they don’t worry about busting a reel or two, because they have sponsors that will give them more.
You, on the other hand, probably don’t. If you want to use stronger braid, use gear designed to handle it. This is where the guidance of a good tackle shop comes in handy, because some reels are stronger internally than others and will take the strain better. Of course, if you absolutely insist on spooling up with line that’s too heavy for your reel, your tackle dealer will oblige. After all, the customer is always right — even if he isn’t.
Heavy braid also tends to breed bad habits in anglers. Because it’s highly abrasion-resistant, it’s easier to pull a snook out from under a dock or a redfish from the mangroves using just brute force instead of angling skill. From a sporting perspective, waterskiing a fish to the boat is less fun than enjoying the fight of the fish. A lot of less experienced or lazy anglers like to just haul the fish in, and there’s nothing wrong or unethical about that. In fact, from the fish’s point of view, the shorter the fight the better.
But if you want to get the maximum game from your gamefish, lighter lines are more appropriate. For the same reason, many anglers move to lighter gear as they gain experience. It keeps the fishing fun, and that’s not a bad thing.
Robert Lugiewicz is the manager of Fishin’ Frank’s Bait & Tackle, located at 4425-D Tamiami Trail in Charlotte Harbor, and a co-host of Radio WaterLine every Saturday from 7 to 9 a.m. on KIX 92.9 FM. Call 941-625-3888 for more information about the shop or for local fishing tips, or visit them online at FishinFranks.com.