Choosing the Right Line for You

Bucks Falcon Mercury

story and photos by Dan O’Sullivan

Like lures, there are so many types of fishing line on the market today, that many anglers don’t know what type to select for what type of fishing they are doing. Braided line, fluorocarbon, monofilament, co-polymer and now even a new uni-filament line.

What is an angler to do?

When talking to professional anglers, a consumer will get varied opinions, and they basically revolve around the particular brand of fishing line that the individual angler has signed on to promote. For the record, there are many good line manufacturers on the market today.

Berkley, Spiderwire and Stren are all manufactured by Pure Fishing. Sunline has several different products that American Anglers have become aware of; the most popular are, FC Sniper Fluorocarbon, Shooter Fluorocarbon and FX2 Flippin’ and Froggin’ Braid. There are other great brands too, Maxima, Blackwater Toray, McCoy, Seaguar, Power Pro, Gamma and the list goes on.

Like most of you, I love to fish. Although I do not fish tournaments for a living, I love to fish in tournaments because I enjoy the competition aspect of it because it really adds to the thrill of fishing. Competing in a tournament helps me push myself and allows me to challenge myself further.

With that said, I want to use the best tool for the job. So, in every aspect of fishing, I tend to analyze my results and come to conclusions that help me land fish when they strike. I have every desire to try and maximize my performance as the next angler, and I don’t want to have to find out that I was using the wrong tool for the job, especially after the fact.

So, while I have my personal favorites when it comes to brands; I will leave my brand preferences out of it, and share with you the type of line I have decided to use for given techniques or lures. I will focus on the characteristics I like in a line and give you some brands that match those characteristics; regardless of my personal brand preferences.

I will do it by technique.

Flipping and Pitching
Because I fish on the California Delta and Clear Lake quite frequently, I end up having to flip tules (pencil reeds or bulrushes) and floating hyacinth much of the time. When braided line first came out, it was a coarsely woven material; which was noisy and rough in the guides of a rod. As braided line became smoother, and smoother, it became less noisy against the cover and in the guides.

However, the smoother the braid became, the more I noticed that when I set the hook, the reeds would fold over the line, but not break free from them. I started experimenting with different types of braided lines, and as a result I gravitated back to lines that have more of a coarse weave. Now, instead of the reeds folding over the line on a hookset, the coarse weave acts as a serrated edge and cuts them down, making it easier to land fish in cover. I use mainly
65-pound-test in this application

If I am Flipping outside grass edges or sparse cover, I tend to use 20 to 30-pound-test fluorocarbon in this instance. But, I also tend to use a heavier action rod as well.

The type of braid I choose here depends upon the way in which I am applying the frog. We tend to use frogs in a lot of open water situations, around cover. This is a great technique for bass in all phases of the spawn, or around cover breaks in current on the Delta and around wood cover at Clear Lake. In this case, I tend to use the smoother braided lines because they cast and pitch better; which makes the frog easier to skip as well. Because I am fishing more open water, I don’t get tangled in the reeds or matted grass, and the smoother weave is more of an asset to me. I use 50-pound-test mainly here for more action of the lure.

When I am Frogging deep in the reeds, or around heavy matted cover; I use the coarse braid again for the same reasons as above. Again, 65-pound-test is the primary choice.

There are many different types of topwater baits, but let’s categorize them into walking baits, popping baits and buzzbaits for simplicity. I use braided line 90-percent of the time, and monofilament the other 10 percent because they are floating lines. I do not use fluorocarbon because its density causes it to sink.

For walking baits, I use a medium-heavy action glass rod with 30-pound-test smooth weave braided line, and I often use an Albright Special knot to join a 17 to 20-pound-test monofilament leader to the line for less visibility. The braid allows me to make longer casts and still set the hook effectively. It also allows me to work the bait better.

I use the same smooth weave braid on poppers but will use 15 or 30-pound-test with a 15-pound-test monofilamentleader. For the rare occasion that I am making short casts in fairly clear water, I use 15-pound-test monofilament on smaller poppers.

For buzzbaits, I like the smooth weave braid, but I increase it to 50-pound-test because the line rides above the water and it allows for maximizing the effect of a hookset.

Deep Structure Fishing
We do a fair amount of deep structure fishing her on our reservoirs. In these occasions I prefer a small diameter fluorocarbon line. I tend to use 6-pound-test on darter heads, Shaky Heads and tubes on jigheads, and use 8 to 10-pound-test for shaking worms. If I am throwing a football jig on offshore structure; I’ll usually start with a 12-pound-test size, and go as high as 17-pound-test if the water has some stain to it.

I prefer a fairly stiff, low stretch line in my offshore fishing because I believe it transmits the right amount of feel; especially when fishing deeper than 20 feet; which we do on a regular basis out here.

I will add one caveat to this category. I have been playing with Berkley’s new Uni-filament (Nanofil) lately for the finesse category, and it allows for extended casting. I do however believe that it needs a leader becasue the line is so visible in the water. I’ve been using the 8-pound-test version with a 6 to 8-pound-test leader tied with a double Albright Special on spinning gear.

Crankbaits and Jerkbaits
I tend to use fluorocarbon here with the exception of a shallow squarebill crankbait around wood and rocks in shallow cover; then I tend to use 14 to 17-pound-test copolymer. Fluorocarbon helps me to feel what the bait is doing and the low stretch helps snap the bait free from grass when it bogs down in it.

For jerkbaits, I use 8 to 12-pound-test to try and achieve maximum running depth. In medium running cranks I use 10 to 12-pound-test and the same in deep diving plugs. I use the same small diameter lines in this category to help it achieve depths.

For lipless crankbaits I tend to use 15 to 17-pound test fluorocarbon, but in instances with significant grass, I have used 15 to 30-pound-test smooth braided line, but tended to have more problem with lost fish.

I prefer copolymer lines in this case because I am usually setting the hook fairly hard on a spinnerbait, and I want the added abrasion resistance of the copolymer line. I start with 15 pound-test in a spinnerbait and will go as high as 25 pound-test in shallow, cover laden water.
I will choose 15 pound-test fluorocarbon in clear water situations, or if I am fishing around grass because I want to be able to snap the bait free if it bogs down.

I hope this helps you make some decisions about the lines you choose for you different fishing applications. The best thing to do is to experiment with the line types, and brands to see what best fits your needs and budget. Whatever you do, store your line in a cool, climate controlled environment to ensure a long, useful life.