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Fishing Line 101

Fishing Line 101

There are three types of fishing line [excluding fly line]:

  1. Monofilament
  2. Braided
  3. Fluorocarbon

Common to all Line

Fishing line is a cord used or made for catching fish. The line has a hook or lure attached to encourage a fish to bite. Pretty basic stuff.

According to Wikipedia - Fishing Line “Modern fishing lines intended for spinning, spin cast, or bait casting reels are almost entirely made from artificial substances, including nylon, polyvinylidene fluoride or fluoropolymer (PVDF, also called fluorocarbon), polyethylene, Dacron and Dyneema (UHMWPE). “ For the scientist is us all!

How Line is Measured

Fishing line is measured in Pound Test and in thickness or diameter. Pound test can be defined as the amount of stress that can be applied to the line before the line breaks. The second number is the diameter. Ken Schultz over at What Does “Pound-Test” Mean on a Fishing Line Label? provides an excellent in-depth description of pound test and how lines are measured. Ken’s post is a really interesting read.

Overall Factors in Line Selection

Things that can be factors in deciding what line to use include breaking strength (measured in pound test), knot strength, UV resistance, cast ability, limpness, stretch, abrasion resistance, visibility, and cost.

Lets get started with the most popular line, monofilament.


Monofilament or mono is the most popular type of fishing line. Mono is comprised of synthetic components combined in a gel that solidifies into a slick, string-like substance. Interestingly, they manufacture the line by extruding the gel through a series of gradually smaller openings, while cooling it. This process has remained essentially unchanged for about the last 50 years.

Mono is characterized as having the largest amount of “line stretch”. On the surface this may seem like a disadvantage but is some situations stretch can be an advantage. Stretch is not all bad for two main reasons:

  1. Some stretch provides shock absorption. This stretch can provide you with that extra moment to net a fish when the fish makes an unexpected run.
  1. Stretch can actually enhance the action of certain lures like crank baits. The stretch can allow the lure to look more lifelike, like it is swimming through the water rather than being dragged.

This stretch can be a detriment when fishing with soft-plastic lures or jigs as you may miss subtle fish bites. This is because the line is absorbing the some of the strike rather than transferring the strike to the rod.

Monofilament is translucent and not invisible in the water.   Something many people don’t realize is that mono is not waterproof and actually absorbs water.  When the line is water logged is most cases the breaking point will be lower than advertised. Also you need to check your knots, as a they tend to loosen, as the line gets wet.

Mono does have memory, which means when it comes off your reel you will tend to see curls in the line (which means it holds the shape of your reel's spool).

In summary, I would describe mono as an inexpensive, all around good line. It has been around for 50 years and still is the most popular. Mono is also the most common line that is included with pre-spooled reels.

Monofilament Strengths

  • Mono is the least expensive of the three lines.
  • Although not invisible in the water, Mono is translucent in the water.
  • Stretch can be both good and bad depending on the circumstances.


Monofilament Disadvantages

  • Stretch especially if you are fishing soft-plastic lures or jigs.
  • Not waterproof – Mono absorbs water which can lead to weakened knots and weakened line strength.
  • After waterlogged casting can be sluggish.
  • Breaks down quickly from ultraviolet sun rays
  • Mono has a high degree of memory which will not provide a straight direct line from fish to rod.


Braided fishing line is the oldest line. There are examples of prehistoric people using woven cotton and linen to catch fish. There are actually two types of braided line: one is Dacron, which is made from a polyester fiber. The second is made out of polyethylene fibers.

Braided line does not stretch at all which makes braided line extremely responsive to fish strikes. As described above with mono this can be a strength and a limitation.

Braided is much stronger than mono so the same test pound line is much thinner. It will take considerably more braided line to fill the same space on the spool as mono or fluorocarbon line.

Braided Strengths

  • Strong line – when you are fishing in brush and around a lot of cover this is the line for you. Braided line has the ability to pull a fish right through grasses and brush. You will loose fewer fish due to line breakage.
  • Smaller diameter line at the same test pound strength.
  • No stretch – depending on your fishing style and needs this can be a distinct advantage.

Braided Disadvantages

  • Braided line is essentially opaque so it can impact line sensitive fish.   One way to get around that is the use fluorocarbon as a leader and attached it to the braided line with a uni-knot or blood knot.
  • Braided line floats, which takes some getting used to.
  • These lines are abrasive and can wear out your rod guidelines and reel components. Better to have titanium components if you are spooling up with braided lines.
  • More expensive than mono which can be considerable as a lot more braided line is necessary to fill a reel spool than mono.
  • Can be tough to break the line when you have a snag.


Fluorocarbon is the newcomer to the fishing line market. Fluorocarbon fishing line is made of the fluoropolymer PVDF. Fluorocarbon is also a denser material, and therefore, is not nearly as buoyant as mono. Fluorocarbon is a great line when you are fishing closer to the bottom. This line will help you get down to the bottom without the need for heavy (or bulky) sinkers.

Being a denser material than mono, there is less slack in the line. Also, fluorocarbon has less memory than mono so it is generally straighter in the water. Fluorocarbon actually has the same stretch as mono it’s just that the stretch is right before it breaks.

Fluorocarbon Strengths

  • With less stretch there is better feel for fish strikes.
  • Fluorocarbon has the refractive index similar to water, which makes it almost invisible in the water.
  • Perfect line if you want to keep your lure deeper in the water and visibility is an issue.
  • Memory – there is less memory than mono but more than braided line.
  • Great for fishing with smaller lures.
  • Good choice in very abrasive situations (around docks, abrasive barnacles).

Fluorocarbon Disadvantages

  • Much more expensive than mono.
  • Memory - less memory can be an issue with spinning reels. This line can “shoot” of the spool during casting leading to the dreaded bird’s nest of tangle.
  • Stretch – With essentially the same stretch as mono the line can break expectantly because the stretch personality is different than mono as it holds its properties until the end and breaks quickly. You don’t get the give than you might be used to with mono.

Quick Tips and Maintenance Ideas

Line stored on a reel for a long time will develop memory. Memory will cause the line to develop stiff, weakening coils. You will see this when you cast the line as the line sits on the water.

A quick tip to eliminate these coils in mono fishing line is to soak the line in water for about an hour before you go fishing. Take your spool off your reel (with line attached) and put it into a bucket of fresh water. You can also stretch the line but tying it to a stationary object and gently stretch. If you are on a boat you can also let the line out and “troll” with the line extended off the back of the boat.

The sun’s ultraviolet rays are bad for fishing line. UV rays will deteriorate the line, especially if it is exposed to strong sunlight over a long period of time. Overexposure to heat can also cause serious line damage. Store your line in a cool location out of direct sunlight.

If you are getting line breaks and can’t pinpoint the culprit check your line guides and reel for any slight burrs or sharp spots that may be breaking your line.

Utilizing these tips should help your line last a long time and perform at its peak. There are many reasons to loose fish, don’t let line breakage be one of them.


As you can see there are advantages and disadvantages to all three fishing lines. Use this information, along with your individual fishing goals and needs to select the best line for the job.