Fishing Line Buyer's Guide
By: Frank Ross
Back in the 60s Bob Dylan opined, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," but based on the current glut of fishing lines on the market today, you need a molecular chemist to know which line to put into that wind. Since I don't have access to a chemist, I opted for the next best choice - Cabela's fishing tackle expert Tom Rolls.
"Look," I began; "I can remember when there were only two choices for fishing line. The first was a primitive braid and the other was a stiff, unwieldy, newfangled invention called monofilament. Now, 45 years later, there are so many different types and styles of line that I need some help sorting out the facts from marketing hype. It's spring, and I need to re-spool my reels for some seasonal action."
"Like most things in life, positives can be negatives, and many technological breakthroughs come as a double-edged sword. The critical issue for anyone trying to find their way in the fog of confusion surrounding the wide array of specialty fishing lines is pretty straightforward. What do you intend to use it for? Species, depth of presentation, type of lure, size of lure all have a bearing on that question. For example, trolling lines should have a small diameter, and a little give to soften the impact and avoid jerking the hook out of the fish's mouth.
Monofilament stretches to absorb shock, but has some inherent properties that make it difficult to use in certain situations. Choosing the right line can be confusing, but let's break it down into manageable types that separate the specialties. There are three basic types of line, four if you throw in trolling specialty lines, and each has a definitive set of characteristics that set it apart from the others," Rolls said.
"Superline" is a term that is often used to describe a wide range of modern fishing lines, typically made from high-tech materials. The most distinguishing characteristic of the Superlines is strength and minimal stretch. Cabela's Ripcord is an excellent example of this type of line. It's made from a unique gel-spun polyethylene fiber known as Dyneema, and only stretches about 5%. That's an impressive number when compared to the average monofilament that stretches about 20%."
"The advantages of Superlines don't stop at limited stretch. When you combine increased knot strength and a decided lack of memory at a fraction of the diameter of monofilaments you get a lot of positives for a little more money."
"You'll find that the braided lines are excellent to cast, but watch out for air-knots and loops around the end of your rod. Braided lines are so limber that you can run into these issues sometimes. Ripcord Si Plus is our premium braid. It has a micro-filament polyester tracer, which adds body to the line to help remedy this problem. If you're aware of it, and pay close attention to what you're doing, it isn't a problem, especially when you balance that with the exceptional performance these lines provide."
"Ripcord Thermofusion is a fused line, not a braid. This line is made with a spectra fiber which is treated with a unique process, then fused with an outer core of thermoplastic for extreme resistance to mold, mildew and water absorption. It's similar in feel to Fireline.
"Trollers love braided lines because the smaller diameter helps them get down to deep fish. With Ripcord you can compare 10-pound strength to a 2-pound diameter, and it follows up the line proportionately. With 40-pound Ripcord the diameter compares to 10-pound mono, and 100-pound Ripcord is equivalent to 35-pound diameter line. Fireline compares at a 10-pound to 4-pound ratio."
"The one concern anglers should have when selecting braided line is its inherent abrasive characteristics. With braided lines you need to make sure your rod has quality guides such as the Fuji ceramic Alconite® guides we use on on our XML line of rods. Since Ripcord Thermofusion is a fused line, it doesn't have the abrasive characteristics and it's outer layer makes it very smooth."
"With any of the low-stretch lines you also need to compensate for the increased shock when setting the hook, or becoming snagged. When you get snagged the stump won't move, and if your drag is set too tightly it won't give. The only thing left is your rod tip. The best thing to do is adjust your drag to compensate for the non-stretch nature of these lines. You can always tighten it up without a problem," he said.
Superline options include:
Cabela's Ripcord, Ripcord Si, Ripcord Si Plus
Monofilament stretches to absorb shock, will not damage guides and spools, and is available for a variety of applications, in a wide variety of colors and sizes.
"Monofilament has been the stalwart workhorse of anglers for several decades, and the most often spooled line for every application. Despite the rise in popularity of the newer high-tech lines, mono remains the favorite of many anglers for its overall versatility. Although monofilament line has changed greatly over the years, basically it still retains many of the characteristics that made it so popular in the first place. These basic traits are its forgiving nature, and enough stretch to keep from pulling lures out of lips or damaging reels with drags set to tightly," Rolls explained.
"Monofilament is also easy to work with and soft enough to be cut easily when changing lures. One of the most advantageous properties of modern monofilament is that it is available in highly tuned versions and colored to match specific fishing conditions or techniques."
New Breed Monofilament
Ever since nylon polymers were first discovered back in the 1930s, polymer chemists have pondered ways to improve upon their product. Berkley chemists have come up with a new technical breakthrough when they discovered a way to reinforce the molecules of nylon. They refer to this chemistry as "Reinforced Polymer Matrix".
To describe this process Berkley uses the analogy of iron reinforcing rods used in concrete construction, hence the name IronSilk.
Unlike coatings applied during the production process, the Reinforced Polymer Matrix is created during the initial formulating process, which gives the line a built-in reinforcement through the entire cross-section and length of the line.
More than 20 different physical properties affect performance within a conventional monofilament line. Balancing those properties produces varying degrees of limpness, strength and abrasion resistance. IronSilk's diameter falls into the "castable" range but its toughness index is very high. Although IronSilk is a slightly stiffer when it first comes off the spool, once it hits the water, even under a slight load, a unique characteristic is realized. The stiffness drops dramatically and the line takes on a totally new low-memory characteristic which makes it much easier to cast and handle. If you see any coiling, simply give that section of line a good pull and the memory will melt away.
Cabela's extensive monofilament selection includes:
Silverthread AN40, Super, Excalibur
Cabela's Pro Line
Berkley IronSilk, Sensation, XL, XT
Stren Magnathin, Magnaflex
"Fluorocarbon is virtually invisible in water, has minimal stretch, a faster sink rate compared to traditional monofilament lines, abrasion resistance, and is highly resistant to UV rays. This resistance to UV rays makes it a great value, because it will be around long after the harsh environment has victimized standard monofilaments. The marketing effort for fluorocarbon focuses on its invisibility, but it's really a tough line that will stand up to a lot of abrasion and abuse."
"Fluorocarbon lines, like Cabela's No-Vis have revolutionized the fishing industry, but the question for most anglers is why and when would you want to use this type of line? When fishing in extremely clear water or in highly pressured areas, this line really performs well. Fluorocarbon lines are also ideal for ice fishing, where clear water can be a challenge.
The most touted advantage of fluorocarbon line is that its light-refractive index is nearly identical to that of water, but it is also a very tough line. When submerged, it almost completely disappears, and due to its higher density it sinks faster than monofilament of the same diameter. If exceptional lure control, sensitivity and no-visibility are called for, No-Vis is the line for you," he said.
Other Fluorocarbons offered by Cabela's includes:
Cabela's Pro-Line Fluorocarbon
Cabela's Fluorocarbon leader
Seuguar Freshwater leaders
When targeting species such as trout, salmon, steelhead and walleye that tend to hold in deep water during certain times of the year, you need to be confident that your lures are running true, and remaining in the proper depth or strike zone.
Specialty trolling requires lines are adaptable to greater depths, have a controlled sink rate and are often color coded to provide an instant visual reminder of the depth your lures are running.
"Weighted trolling lines like Cabela's Lead Core or environmentally friendly Non-Lead are ideal in this situation. These lines are typically made, as the name implies, with a core of lead or heavy metal that sinks at a controlled rate. Typically these lines are color coded, usually in 10-yard increments, so that you can tell at a glance just how deep your lure is running."
Beyond your lead core, you'll need a line that has enough stretch to minimize shock, and a small diameter to minimize drag. Depending on your particular fishing situation, standard monofilament may be the best choice; however, in very clear lakes a fluorocarbon would be a better selection.
Sometimes you want to see your line and other times it isn't that important, but you never want a fish to see it, until it's too late. The following color guidelines will help you make the decision on which color to use in a particular body of water, based on the techniques you are using.
Clear/blue fluorescent is readily illuminated by sunlight above the surface, making it easier to see when casting, retrieving or trolling. This color remains clear under the surface so it's nearly invisible to a fish. Low-visibility lines blend into most underwater environments and it's a good choice for situations where the bite is slower or fishing pressure has made them smarter.
Low-visibility Clear is great for clear streams or lakes where fish that seem unwilling to bite.
High-visibility Gold is a bright colored line that makes it easier to see detect strikes or to monitor your line position when you troll several lines or fish in a current. Many anglers prefer this color for low-light conditions such as dawn, dusk and night fishing. High-visibility Coffee is great for fishing in muddy, stained waters where you want your line to blend in with the mercy water conditions.
High-visibility Green works well in waters with heavy vegetation or algae. After talking with Tom, one thing became much clearer as fluorocarbon line. To me it's a lot like woodworking. When you need a coping saw for delicate work, a 7" reciprocating saw is a poor substitute. Conversely, when you want to rip a window out of its frame, a coping saw will be found wanting.
With so many different situations that an angler can be presented with during any day's fishing, the versatility of several different lines, on extra spools is a clear advantage. When you have several spools ready to go with different specialty lines, you can move from fishing in deep, clear water to a shallow, silt-filled river mouth and quickly adapt your presentation without losing valuable fishing time.
This summer I am going to "tool-up" for the ultimate in flexibility and versatility; I'm buying a selection of each specialty line. I don't really think of it as avoiding a decision, it's simply increasing my options.