I have personally used each one of the types of fishing line discussed below. The notes I share regarding applications and advantages or disadvantages come from experience.
Many explanations of the types of fishing line online tend to gloss over the characteristics of the line. I have taken the time to ensure I speak about why the characteristics of the line are important to help improve your knowledge as an angler.
Monofilament is one of the most used types of fishing line in the world today. Chances are if you head in to your local sporting goods store, you will find monofilament stocked predominantly on the shelves. It offers fantastic versatility and is a great option for beginners looking to get out on the water. Monofilament is manufactured into a single strand of synthetic fiber (nylon). This occurs through an extrusion process. The diameter of the line determines the test of the line, meaning a smaller diameter equals less test. Monofilament lacks in its long term durability due to the fact that it will absorb water and is not UV resistant. Where it lacks in those categories however, it makes up in terms of affordability and castability. Monofilament comes in a variety of colors to fit your needs. If using topwater, it is an excellent choice due to its buoyancy. Monofilament does tend to retain memory, and can cause issues over time in that respect. But overall is a great choice for numerous applications .
- Knot strength
- Weaker than lines of similar diameter
- Buoyancy (if bottom fishing)
- Absorbs water
- Not UV resistant
- Retains memory
Copolymer is a newer twist on monofilament that has gained popularity in the past few years. It is manufactured in the same fashion as monofilament, but instead of one strand of fiber it is made of two different nylon polymers. This leads to copolymer exhibiting less stretch and memory than monofilament. It also touts increased strength. Copolymer does share characteristics with monofilament however, such as not being UV resistant. It is best practice to replace copolymer yearly to avoid issues with line breakage. Copolymer is less buoyant than monofilament. This makes it beneficial in various applications outside of topwater fishing. It excels when using suspending jerkbaits and crankbaits for example. Like monofilament, copolymer can be used any time. It is an acceptable option for multiple applications, unlike some of the other line types we will discuss. Copolymer is a more expensive alternative to monofilament. But It does provide improved features that help offset the difference in price. If you have always used monofilament, give copolymer a try. It will not disappoint!
- Lower stretch than monofilament
- Lower memory than monofilament
- Abrasion resistance
- Not UV resistant
- Less buoyant than monofilament (if topwater fishing)
- Should be replaced yearly
The types of line we have discussed so far have been pretty similar, right? Well braid is unlike any of the other types of line we will discuss. Braid is made from numerous fibers that have been braided together to form the line. The fibers are made of polyethylene. When braided together this gives unrivaled strength and abrasion resistance. When we say unrivaled strength, let me put it into perspective. Monofilament of the same test is up to 3x greater in diameter than braid. That means that you can fit a good bit more braid on your spool than monofilament, copolymer, or fluorocarbon. Braid is also very sensitive due to the fact that it has no stretch. With braid you can feel every nibble on the other end of the line, making it perfect for fishing around heavy cover. While there are many advantages of braid, there are also some disadvantages. Braid is much more visible underwater, which could cause a problem in clear water or around wary fish. It is also tough on your equipment. Braid can become embedded in the equipment over time and is a nightmare to deal with when it backlashes. My advice is to make sure you have a knife on hand at all times. If you get hung with braid you may have a better chance of pulling what you are hung on off the bottom rather than breaking the line. However, if you have a setup for fishing heavy cover or murky water and are looking for the perfect line, look no further than braid. It fits those applications perfectly .
- No memory
- No Stretch
- Visibility underwater
- Knot tying
- Stressful on equipment
- Backlash can cause headaches
Fluorocarbon is made of PVDF (polyvinylidene fluoride), a type of fluoropolymer, that is quite dense. The density of the line makes it much less buoyant than monofilament, while also improving the abrasion resistance. Fluorocarbon is also practically invisible underwater. This is due to its refractive index, which is close to that of water itself. It thrives in clear water and around wary fish, where other types of line may not be as successful. Initially fluorocarbon was used for leaders, meaning it was tied to different types of lines that acted as the backing. It has evolved however, and can now be straight spooled onto the reel. It excels in sensitivity and durability. Fluorocarbon is known to be stiff and does have a high amount of memory. Unlike monofilament and copolymers it is UV resistant and does not absorb water. These attributes insure that it does not need to be disposed of as regularly, which can ease the “sticker shock” with fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon should be a serious option if you are fishing at depth, or targeting sight based species .
- Virtually invisible underwater
- Abrasion resistant
- Long lasting
- UV resistant
- Does not absorb water
- High memory
Trolling wire is very application specific. It is mainly used in saltwater applications for toothy fish, such as mackerel, barracuda, and sharks. The weight of the trolling wire allows it to sink quickly and stay at depth, which can be important when trolling for various species. Trolling wire can be tough to work with at times due to the lack of flexibility, but strides have been made in terms of innovation. Trolling wire comes in different forms such as stainless steel and dacron with a lead core, with each having its benefits. It is best to always have a backing of some sort to soften the stress on the reel. A good rule of thumb is to have a backing that is around 50% heavier than the trolling wire. This ensures that you will not lose the wire if you hang up. When using trolling wire, make sure to keep an eye out for kinks as they can affect the wires strength tremendously.
- Abrasion resistance
- Difficult to work with
Fly line is different from the other types previously discussed, as it is made up of 4 parts. The 4 parts are the backing, fly line, leader, and tippet. Let’s take a look at each to help with any confusion for those of you new to fly fishing.
Backing: This is the line that attaches directly to the spool. In most cases it is made of dacron and will be around 20# test. The backing should total around 100 yards in length.
Fly line: This is the colorful line that floats and is most often associated with fly fishing line. The fly line attaches the backing to the leader. The diameter is large and probably the largest of any type of line we will discuss. The fly line is most often around 30-40 yards in length.
Leader: The leader is the link between the fly line and the tippet. The leader is tapered from where it attaches to the fly line down to the tippet. Monofilament is commonly used for the leader and is usually around 3 yards in length.
Tippet: The tippet is made of the same material as your leader. In most cases, the tippet is used to decrease the diameter of the leader. It is well known that trout have fantastic eyesight, so the smaller the diameter of the tippet the better in certain applications. The tippet can be used to lengthen the leader in the case that it gets too short .
What to do next?
Now that you have a better understanding of the types of fishing line available, shop around to find the type of line that fits your needs. If you would like to learn more about the different types of fishing reels, check out our article. Good luck out on the water!