Some fishermen seem to believe that everyone has joined the superbraid revolution and left monofilament line for dead, a relic of the unenlightened past. But it’s not so, and a big part of the reason is that Southwest Florida still draws new residents daily from all over the U.S. — and in many of those places, braided line is as rare as butterfly teeth.
Since many visitors and newer residents have never used braid, and since a lot of fishermen who have don’t really seem to understand it, let’s go over the basics of what braid is, how to use it and when you might want to stick with old-school mono.
With a twist
Braided fishing lines actually pre-date nylon monofilament by thousands of years. Our earliest fishing lines were just ropes made from various natural plant fibers — reeds, palms and grasses at first, later jute and hemp. Horsehair came into vogue a few hundred years ago due to its relatively fine diameter.
Today’s braids are made from high-tech synthetic (plastic) fibers such as Dyneema and Kevlar. These materials are extremely strong for their weight.
What’s a carrier?
The reason these lines are made into braid is basic: Flexibility. It’s the same reason you might choose to use steel cable instead of a single steel wire. The solid filament might be stronger on a straight pull, but when you try to bend it you’ve got a new set of problems.
Braided lines are commonly available in four-carrier or eight-carrier versions. It’s a reference to how many fibers are twisted into one line. Compared side by side, four-carrier lines are obviously rougher. Four-carrier is easier and cheaper to manufacture, but eight-carrier is limper, smoother and has a rounder profile. However, since the individual fibers are thinner, eight-carrier braids are more easily abraded.
One of the most durable myths about braided line centers on its durability. While it’s made of tough materials, abrasion resistance is definitely not a feature of braid. This is easy to demonstrate. Have a friend hold a length of braided line horizontally, stretched taut between both hands. Now take a sharp knife with the blade facing down and rub it from side to side across the line. Don’t put a lot of downward pressure on it. You’re trying to abrade it, not cut it.
Generally, it takes about half a dozen strokes for the braid to part. Surprised? Now try it with monofilament. I like doing this demonstration with 40-pound braid and 20-pound mono. It takes about three or four times longer to chafe the mono in half. Now you understand why a mono or fluorocarbon leader is not optional when fishing around sharp objects such as pilings and oysters.
Like a cheese knife
On the other hand, because it’s thin and strong, braided line can cut you easily. It’s not as dangerous as I’ve read (for example, the story of a man beheaded when he ran into the line while his buddy had a big shark on), but if your hands are wet it can slice into you. This happens most often while pulling knots tight. If your hands are soft, you can wear gloves for this task, or try wrapping your fingers in your shirt.
Salt and sun
While braid’s abrasion resistance is modest, its ability to resist UV, heat and the damaging effects of salt are phenomenal. One of the selling points of braided line is that it lasts far longer than mono. While mono gets brittle and chalky over time, braided superlines do not. I have a reel that still has the 8-pound PowerPro I put on it 12 years ago.
However, it’s not the same color it used to be. When I spooled that reel, the line was yellow. Now it’s white. Doesn’t matter — the color was just a dye on the outside. Most braids are made the same way. Discoloration is not a problem, and doesn’t indicate the line needs replacement.
Stretch it out
Monofilament stretches. A lot. Grab a piece and pull it between your hands, and you’ll feel it give a bit. Factor that in over the length of a cast or deep-drop, and it’s clear that line stretch is a genuine concern.
Superbraids don’t stretch. This can be pro or a con, depending on the situation. Pros: Much better bite detection, more control over the action of artificial lures, easier to set a hook. Cons: Easier to pull a hook from a fish, lack of a shock absorber transmits more strain to tackle and angler, requires developing a new feel for long-term mono anglers.
Because they’re thin and slick, braided lines are incompatible with many of the knots fishermen use. If you’ve been tying a blood knot or surgeon’s knot to connect lines together, you’ll find they’re poor choices for connecting braid. Better choices: The FG and double uni knots do the job nicely. To add strength to your uni, double the last 8 inches of the braid before tying.
While many knots hold poorly with braid, those unintended wind knots have an annoying way of lasting forever. While some fishermen fuss about how to get them out, you’re much better off avoiding them altogether.
Wind knots are caused by one thing: Loose line. Here are some simple tips to keep them away. Instead of using the reel handle to flip your bail closed, do it manually. This one little maneuver causes the majority of the loose loops that later become wind knots. If a cast gets away from you and you have slack line to reel in, hold it between your fingertips near the rod’s biggest guide to keep tension on the line. Avoid twisted line. Twist alone won’t cause wind knots, but it will make them more likely.
But it fits on my reel
Research braid online and it won’t be long before you find a chart showing a comparison of braid versus mono diameters and strengths. In this chart, you will see that 50-pound braid has the diameter of 12-pound monofilament. You may think to yourself that if you had such strong line, you could catch much bigger fish using your existing tackle.
Many people have thought that — and you are just as wrong as all of them were.
First, the line doesn’t catch the fish, the rod does. The rod is the lever that you use to apply force to the fish. All the line does is keep the fish connected to the lever. To catch bigger fish, you need a stronger rod.
Second, by using line of the same diameter, you are taking away one of the biggest advantages of braid: Its thinness. Thinner line has less resistance to both air and water. With less air resistance, you can cast farther with better accuracy, and wind won’t affect your casts as much. With less water resistance, you can troll deeper and bottom fish with reduced current drift.
Third, if something breaks, you want it to be your line. But if your line is the strongest link instead of the weakest, put enough strain on the system and something else will give — your reel, perhaps, or maybe your rod. It’s way cheaper to replace a broken line than a broken rod or reel.
When mono is better
As mentioned above, monofilament stretches and offers shock absorption. This can be highly advantageous in some fishing situations. For example, trolling for kingfish. When a king hits a fast-moving bait, something has to give. If you’re fishing with 30- or 40-pound mono, it stretches, preventing the hooks from pulling out of the fish. Since braid doesn’t, you must set the drag a lot lighter so the drag can act as the shock absorber. But then you have to monkey around with the drag, sometimes multiple times during the fight — one more way to lose a fish.
When you’re bottom fishing, mono often catches more fish. One explanation: The “delayed reaction” of setting the hook caused by mono stretch gives the fish more time to fully engulf the bait. Another possibility is that current flowing past braided line causes an audible vibration (you can sometimes hear this as wind blows against taut braid). To counteract this effect, a long mono or fluoro leader (30 to 50 feet) can be used.
To be totally clear here, there’s nothing wrong with using monofilament line of that’s what you prefer. It’s like the choice between spinning gear or baitcasting. Superbraids just give us another option. Pick what you like, but always make an educated decision.
As the Fish Coach, Capt. Josh Olive offers personalized instruction on how and where to fish in Southwest Florida. Whether you’re a complete beginner or just looking to refine your techniques, he can help you get past the frustration and start catching more fish. Lessons can be held on your boat, on local piers or even in your backyard. To book your session or for more information, go to FishCoach.net, email Josh@FishCoach.net or call 941-276-9657.