Obviously a good line is essential for bass fishing. “Fishing line” has become such a generic term, however, that some lines end up getting a bad rap and unfairly so. All lines are not created equal, which makes it absolutely imperative to understand the qualities of the different lines in order to match them up with the many different techniques employed by bassers.
On the subject of “bassers”- probably the first thing to do is to get your mindset right and think like a bass fisherman, not a saltwater or carp fisherman. The requirements for bassing lines have very little to do with those of the other facets. In other words, the line that stood up well to your friend’s Black Marlin is probably not the correct line for your bass rig, even in a lower test strength. For starters it will be too stretchy.
In order to better comprehend this, here follows an overview of bass fishing lines.The common thread (excuse the pun) running through this article will be one of compromise. As with anything in life, one can’t have it all.
The three categories of line are monofilament, fluorocarbon and superline (also known as braid). But no two types of mono are alike and the same goes for fluoro and braid, just like that there is not only one type of sedan when it comes to motorcars.
Monofilament is actually a misnomer, because those fishing lines most suitable for bass fishing are invariably of the co-polymer variety. A co-polymer is created when varying but compatable materials are blended in a myriad of ways. This is often done at a molecular level, at other times co-extrusion takes place, so too coating of the line with products such as fluorocarbon or silicon. These diverse processes are utilized in order to build certain characteristics into a product.
A certain manufacturer, for instance, may want to offer in its range a mono line that casts like a rocket. So they would probably make a soft line that is extremely limp, and also coat it with silicon, a slippery substance. But now they would also need an abrasion resistant line in their range. Here they would offer a hard, tough line. The drawback of this high-abrasion line is a lot of memory and it will also not cast as well. But at least it can take a beating where the other one will nick very easily and so lose a good proportion of its test strength.
Most of the big name manufacturers have many different types of monofilament lines under the same brand, each for a different bass fishing technique. Berkley Trilene, for instance, comes in seven varieties.
Monofilament is often regarded as the best all-round line, but with scores of dissimilar products available this becomes a rather simplistic view. It is better to state that there is ”a monofilament product made for every single bassing application.”
Mono is often the cheapest option, but it has some drawbacks, such as that it breaks down quickly with use and is also most likely to break while fishing. This is brought about by the fact that it absorbs up to 5% of its weight in water, so if you start the day with 20lb test, you could end up with 12lb test.
This is a line that will find most of its proponents within the bassing community. Its qualities make it especially popular for the bottom fishing techniques of soft plastics and jigs. This is because the line is dense, which equates to a fast sink-rate. It has the same refractive index as water which makes it near invisible underwater and it has a low stretch for increased sensitivity. It enjoys a low rate of absorption which means it retains it’s strength well (but not perfectly) while being soaked. IN addition it is UV-resistant which leads to longer use.
Here, too, the manufacturing processes vary. In fact I own five different types of fluoro and each one differs from the other, although it requires close scrutiny to detect the differences. But it’s the same story, albeit marginal - the fluoros that cast the best, are less resistant to abrasion, while those that hold a knot the best, are less sensitive. A case in point would be Gamma and Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon. These have a reputation for punching well above their weight when it comes to castability, strength and knots, but because they are softer and stretchier, they are slightly less sensitive and abrasion- resistant. This is of course measured against the lofty standards set by other fluoros - in other words they will still outperform mono when it comes on their reputed strengths.
Opponents to fluoro don’t like its low knot strength and shock resistance, so too the fact that it can be overstretched when breaking off , in so doing losing its original shape and properties. Neither is it recommended for topwater fishing as its sink rate pulls the nose of the lure under.
This is commonly referred to as “braid”, a term originating from its initial manufacturing methods. These days there are several methods used in production, all but one using multiple strands of mainly Spectra or sometimes Dyneema fibres. The one exception being Rapala’s product, which is a single fibre with a coat for colour and one on the outside for smoothness.
Braids are either flat, oval or round. Fusing makes them tougher but stiffer. The cheap and original products are not coated like the more advanced materials and lag behind them in performance.
There is a true love/hate relationship between anglers and braid. This, no doubt, because its strengths and weaknesses are so pronounced.
It stands out from other lines in the following areas, for which I would put my neck on a block to say they are at least three times better than mono or fluoro when it comes to these:
* Small diameter in relation to breaking strength, limpness, sensitivity, abrasion resistance, longevity and, being hydrophilic, it maintains its exact test regardless of how much it is soaked.
* So, too, does its weaknesses stand out: low knot strength, difficult to handle, zero shock resistance, high visibility, some bite into the spool or guides or bite into the braid on the spool, causing the lure to stop in mid air. It is nigh impossible to break at the knot, either by hand or with a rod, and it needs to be cut with either scissors or forceps.
Instances where you can mistakenly think that you have a bad line:
1.Incorrect line for the technique: Most serious bass fishermen own quite a number of rods, but even though it is the rods that stand out, much of it has to do with the line that has to match the technique, and the rod and reel have to match the line. Here are some examples:
- When fishing weightless soft plastics, much better feel and control over the lure is obtained by using a thin fluorocarbon line as opposed to a monofilament, particularly a thick one. Fluoro is denser and sinks quickly and also the thinner the line, the quicker it sinks. The more abrasion-resistant monos have a lot of memory and this affects lure control and feel, as the coils it produces are hard to straighten out in the water. Fluoro, on the other hand, is a low memory line. Braid, too, is a difficult line for this application because it floats.
When it comes to topwaters however, we needs to go the other way as here it is better to use monofilament lines for their flotation or at least their slow-sinking properties. Braid is also used by some for this reason.
2.Too long since replacement: Mono is particularly susceptible to the environment - UV damage sets in and the whole soaking/drying cycle also has an affect. The telltale signs that the line is getting on, are that it dries out and becomes stiffer and so loses some of it’s good casting and handling characteristics. The line also loses its lustre and breaks inexplicably. It would be unfair, though to criticise this line when it is replaced with fresh line of a different make and it subsequently delivers a better performance.
3.Casting overwinds also causes damage, as the friction at the “nests” can burn little white marks into the line, considerably weakening it. The kinks that are created affect casting.
4. Some other “line killers”are line twist, which is the bane of spinning reels, and incorrect spooling, which is a related topic.
5.Diameters vary in relation to test strength amongst the brands. Someone will be over the moon about how strong their 15lb line is, only to find it being way thicker than the norm, which will have a negative impact on its presentation, visibility and casting characteristics. I always choose line not on test, but rather on diameter( hoping of course that it is correctly stated). For instance, I prefer to pitch jigs and Texas rigs with line that is .40 or .41mm. If I spool up with Bass Pro Shop’s XPS Fluoro, it will be 20lb test, but if I go for Trilene 100% Fluoro, it will be 18lb. On my spinnerbait rod I prefer fluorocarbon to be .36 to .38mm. Here the XPS will be 17lb test while Gamma will be 14lb test. This is oversimplified as a little more thinking than that goes into it, but serves merely to offer examples of how I approach the line diameter issue.
6. Beware too, of manufacturer’s claims stated on the packaging. Many state quite boldly that their product is “low memory, high abrasion resistance” or “low memory” could be substituted with “limp”. In the case of monofilament, it has to be either one or the other. Co-polymer technology has definitely closed the gap considerably, but the fact remains: if a line is manufactured to have “high” qualities on the one front, it is poor on the other. I have bought a new co-polymer brand by one of the most reputed German line manufactures that stated those claims. I spooled my spinnerbait reel with it and had to cut off four feet of it every few hours as it abraded very quickly. They did get one part right though, as it cast well. I stripped it off and reverted to a soft fluorocarbon for that application as I needed more abrasion resistance.
Now don’t misunderstand me- I’m not accusing these corporations of misrepresentation. It’s more a case of there being no international standardisation of terms in order to give every line a rating on certain characteristics.
For instance, if they standardised a test for abrasion resistance the parameters could be something as follows: the line needs to be soaked for an hour, then it needs to be rubbed over an emory board of a set type, at a set pressure. Testers then rate the line, say, on a scale of one to ten. Other industries do this kind of thing- on electrical appliances for instance, the voltages and wattages are indicated, being standardised means of measurement.
With line choice often being an emotional issue, these recommendation can at least help with the more logical, possibly mundane, side of it.
Readers who are still in doubt, should arm themselves with information such as contained in this article. Then analyze every technique they use and what is required of the line they would use for that technique. Now buy a product for that specific technique that appears to have the required characteristics. It may be that several brands may have to be bought in succession in order to personally evaluate them by way of comparing the “feel” while fishing.
Keep in mind that any new types of line used for the first time will feel “weird”, for example when using fluorocarbon for the first time. One should probably use the same line for months in order to make a proper decision.
The questions that need to be answered are : “how should the line aid me in catching the bass when using this specific technique?” In other words: how far am I going to cast the lure, how thin should the line be (thinner means more bites while thicker is better insurance when hooking that “fish of a lifetime”). How important is sensitivity? Also whether the line is going to be rubbing against anything, so too whether the lure will be penetrating heavy cover as with flipping, or in relatively open water as in the case of weightless?
Then it makes a difference whether it is a moving lure like spinnerbaits or crankbaits or bottom dragging. Also where and through what it will be passing? Another factor is the weight of the lure itself- heavy line hampers presentation of very light lures. Example: A spinnerbait, being snagless, could be pulled through gnarly cover and that requires abrasion resistance. By contrast a hard jerkbait is highly allergic to heavy cover - abrasion resistance is therefore not required and a limper line will do.
Furthermore, it depends, rod by rod, whether you are dealing with one of your specialist applications that you keep a dedicated rod for. If not, you should find a nice “middle of the road” line for that rod, one that can accommodate all the lures you throw with it. For example I regard cranking as one of my specialities, so I have a dedicated rig just for that. But it is so specialized I can barely use it for anything else as the rod is too limber and the reel too slow.
There are other hard lures, though, that I enjoy using but will usually only throw for short sessions. They also require a specialized rod and line, but, fishing mostly from my inflatable bass boats, I can hardly have one rod each for poppers, spooks, lipless cranks and hard jerkbaits! Instead I only keep a 6’6” medium rod with a 6.3:1 reel loaded with .35 or .36 co-polymer line, usually with a speedclip to expedite lure changes (not for topwaters, though, as they weigh the nose down). The choice of line was honed through trial and error over the years.
There will be times when one will be forced to use a line that is not entirely suitable for a technique. In my case with the inflatables, this happens when I fish buzzbaits. Here I often fish them using my pitching rod spooled with fluorocarbon. By now it should be clear that fluoro is unsuitable for topwaters, so I try to compensate for the fast sink-rate of fluoro by mainly throwing the double-bladed variety of buzzbait that stays up better.
A further recommendation is to inspect a length of the line before buying it. You can feel the hardness or limpness. Stretch a piece with your hands. If you need a sensitive line it should not stretch easily. Do it by way of comparison, as all lines with the exception of braid do stretch.
Initially it might help to look to manufacturers who offer a wide range. They tend to have the ranges needed to cover the different requirements of fishermen and makes it easier to decide which line goes with which technique.