Different Types of Fishing Lines and Their Uses
An overview of the different types of fishing lines and how to select the right line for the right fish
At Van Isle Marina, we know using the right fishing line for specific fishing conditions is an essential part of catching fish! All anglers must learn this fact early on in order to be successful. In this post intended for beginner fishermen, we will go over the main types of fishing line available: monofilament, braid, and fluorocarbon, highlighting the pros and cons of each.
Need a fishing boat? Check out our best boats for fishing guide.
What is Fishing Line?
Fishing line is long threaded material (usually nylon, silk or wire,) used with a fishing rod to catch and reel in fish. It is what is cast from the rod, flies through the air, and ultimately lands down into the depths of the water. Fishing line comes in different materials and strengths – each offering pros and cons – and is the material that comes spooled on a reel (usually a spinning reel or a baitcaster reel).
Monofilament Fishing Line
Monofilament fishing line, or “mono” is the most basic and most common fishing line out there. Made out of nylon extruded in a single, continuous filament and left untwisted, monofilament fishing line is a good all-around line that is smooth and a bit stretchy. It also floats, which can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on your application. Pre-spooled reels are usually spooled with monofilament.
In addition to monofilament fishing line there is also thermal filament fishing line, which is a higher-performance line that is produced by thermal bonding of small fibers. This type of line has a smaller diameter per pound test than monofilament. It is also a bit more expensive and less readily available.
When to Use Monofilament Fishing Line
Monofilament fishing line can be used on a spinning reel or a baitcaster reel. It is best for fishing in freshwater, inshore, nearshore, or off a pier using either a spinning or baitcaster rod and reel. It’s also a great fishing line for small and large native fish species like trout and salmon, as well as flathead, small tuna, kingfish and snapper. Generally, when fishing on a lake, lighter and more sensitive line is ideal, as casting is a more active style of fishing and the targeted species are smaller.
Pros of Monofilament Fishing Line
- Affordable, readily available
- Less expensive than other lines
- Stretches can absorb shocks
- Uniformly round so it spools neatly
- Easy to tie knots with
- Available in special shades of colours such as clear, blue, white, green, red, and fluorescent so the angler can see its position in the water, but the fish cannot.
Cons of Monofilament Fishing Line
- Not as strong as other types of line, yet takes up more room on the spool
- Its nylon material breaks down over time in direct sunlight
- More visible in the water than other types, regardless of the chosen colour or shade
- The stretch makes it difficult to feel some fish strikes
- Susceptible to “line memory”, which is when the line “remembers” the shape of the reel it is stored on. Line memory can cause knotting in the reel and could negatively impact casting distance. In contrast, lines with no memory stay straight when they come off the spool, enabling longer, smoother casts.
Braided Fishing Line
Braided fishing line, also made of synthetic plastic fibers such as nylon or more specialty materials like Dacron, see below), is stronger than monofilament line and is therefore more common for fishing larger species. It also has no stretch, which allows anglers to feel every move the fish makes on the end of their line.
Braided lines entered the market in the early 1900s to replace horsehair lines. In earlier days, natural fibers such as cotton, linen, and silk were used for braided lines. These materials have now been largely replaced with synthetic plastic fibers.
When to Use Braided Fishing Line
Braided fishing line is best used during saltwater game fishing, such as offshore trolling of marlin, large tuna, sharks, and large kingfisher. Avoid braided line when some line stretch is actually preferred, such as when trolling for soft-mouthed fish like salmon. Some stretch can act like a shock absorber, making a big difference in successfully hooking a soft-mouthed fish.
Pros of Braided Fishing Line
- Very strong despite a smaller diameter, so you can pack more line on the spool
- Sinks faster and casts farther
- Doesn’t break down in sunlight
- Less visible to the fish than monofilament line
- No stretch allows you to feel when a fish bite
- No stretch allows for better lure movement
- No “line memory”, which can lead to greater casting distances
Cons of Braided Fishing Line
- Strong, so it’s more difficult to cut
- Slippery, so knots are trickier to master
- Less abrasion-resistant than monofilament
- Can weigh down your rod
- More expensive than mono line
Fluorocarbon Fishing Line
Like monofilament, fluorocarbon fishing line is also extruded in a single strand similar, but fluorocarbon molecules are more tightly packed, so the line is denser and noticeably heavier by size than nylon. Fluorocarbon refers to a broad family of compounds, including organics comprised of fluorine, chlorine and carbon, along with synthetics made from hydrocarbons. However, when it comes to fishing line, we’re looking at a material associated with polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF).
When to Use Fluorocarbon Fishing Line
Because it sinks easily, this type of fishing line is great for bottom fishing, such as jigging or bottom bouncing. Also, because it has a bit of stretch but not too much, it’s suitable for trolling.
By and far, fluorocarbon fishing line is most commonly used as leaders (a short length of heavier test fishing line that attaches to the main line at one end, and the hook or lure at the other). Leaders can be helpful in increasing your chances of hooking and keeping fish, while preventing you from having to cast a whole spool’s worth of heavier material.
Pros of Fluorocarbon Fishing Line
- Practically invisible to the fish
- Less stretchy than monofilament line
- Very abrasion-resistant, water-resistant, and dense
- Sinks extremely fast in the water, so there is less slack and it’s easier to get your lure at the depth you want.
- More sensitive, so you can easily feel the lightest bites and even your lure ticking bottom.
- When used as a leader, it can help reduce line fray from the fish’s mouth.
Cons of Fluorocarbon Fishing Line
- Stiffer, very prone to line memory
- Least manageable of the fishing lines
- More expensive than other types of lines
- Different brands offering a range of qualities
- Typing knots requires moistening the line first
Dacron, Spectra & Dyneema
In addition to the types of fishing line mentioned above, it’s important to note that there are more materials than ever before being used to create fishing lines. Nylon remains the most popular and cost-effective material for fishing line, but newer materials such as Dacron, Spectra, and Dyneema are available, particularly for braided lines.
- Dacron was created by DuPont (the same creators of nylon) in the late 1950s just 20 years after nylon was invented. It’s a long-chain polyester that is a slight improvement over nylon in terms of its strength, flexibility and low stretch.
- Spectra and Dyneema are modern brand names for ultra-strong polyethylene fiber used for high-tech fishing line. Spectra and Dyneema are stronger than steel and more durable than polyester but come with a higher price tag. These materials can be worth the extra price, though, as they reduce the weight of your tackle while increasing the amount of line that fits onto the spool. They offer more sensitivity, abrasion resistance and knot strength, with low stretch and almost no line memory.
Wire Fishing Line
Wire, either single strand or braided, can also be used as fishing line. Wire fishing line can be especially helpful in catching fish when used as a leader material for fishing toothy fish like mackerel and tuna. Wire is also used during trolling when reaching deeper depths is important. When fishing with wire, you’ll require specialized, hardened spools for your reels.
Whether it’s monofilament or braided, fishing line is sold in different strength ratings (referred to as “tests”, short for tensile strength or tensile testing). The strength of fishing line is measured in pounds and should match up with the weight of the species of fish you are going after. For example, a braided line with a 30-pound test or more would be ideal for large game fish, whereas a 5-pound test would be suitable for trout.
If your line is too light, it might be difficult to cast or it might break when you’re reeling in a heavy load. Worse yet, too heavy a line can break a lightweight rod.
General Fishing Line Tips & Tricks
- If you’re frequently fishing heavy cover, check your line regularly for nicks, creases and other imperfections that tend to lead to backlashing or less than perfect casts.
- Always buy and have on hand more line than you think you are going to need. You’ll probably find you go through a lot more than you think.
- When storing your fishing line, especially nylon line, protect it from harmful UV rays that can ultimately weaken its strength over time. If in doubt, start with a fresh spool every season.
- Use genuine perfected knots no matter what type of line you’re using to minimize the loss of line strength in the knot area.
- Try to match your type of line to your class of rod and reel (spinning vs. baitcaster).
- A fishing line is only as useful as the quality of the knots that are used to attach your lures and bait, so match sure there is enough strength at the knots.
- If you’ll be casting frequently, opt for smooth, light lines that come off the spool easier, which enables more accurate casts over longer distances.
Looking for a new boat or yacht to start casting lines from? Van Isle Marina has a wide range of yacht services and yachts for sale moored at our docks. Take a look at our selection online or come and see us in person. We are located at 2320 Harbour Road in Sidney, British Columbia near Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal.