Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Fishing Part 3: Line

Fishing line is what connects the fish to you. It is also the most common failure point in a fishing rig by many orders of magnitude. This should lead to the conclusion that your line must be checked regularly and replaced whenever needed. You should also give some thought to the line you select.

Particular brands of line (and terminal tackle) are less important than actual characteristics, despite what brand adherents will tell you. Much like Ford/Chevy/Dodge arguments, fishing brand arguments are carried on with religious fervor, with zero real outcome. Instead, find a line weight and type that meets your liking.

Lines are rated by weight rating, stated as "pound test." As an example, a line rated at "6 pound test" is a very good choice for freshwater fishing in North America. The 6 pound rating means that, as it comes off the spool, it should break at no less than 6 pounds of strain, and often breaks far higher that that. Lines with lighter ratings have a smaller diameter and are more flexible, meaning you can feel fish bite better, as well as being less visible to wary fish. Heavier rated lines are obviously stronger, handling larger fish as well as heavy cover where large fish hide.

The other characteristic used to classify line is the material and construction method. The three most common types are monofilament, braid, and hybrid. Each has their own benefits and detriments, and they all fish a little differently.

Monofilament, or mono, is old-school line, and is the most popular line in the USA. Mono is also the most budget-friendly fishing line. Made from a single extrusion of soft plastic, it has great stretch properties and the ability to take a knot well. All-around, mono is a fine choice in line.

Braided lines are a fairly new technology. They offer zero stretch, and far greater strength, than monofilament of the same diameter. This translates to thinner lines with the same strength, longer casts and more sensitive feel. The trade-off is that braids are far harder to knot or cut, and the lack of stretch means they need to be fished with more finesse than mono. They also have a higher price point than monofilament.

Hybrid lines combine the best parts of monofilament with the advantages of a less-common type of line called fluorocarbon. By combining the two, you get an easy-tying line that has a bit more give than fluro and more strength and abrasion resistance than mono, but lacking the stretch and feel of mono. It is also more expensive than mono, priced on par with many braids.

Which One Do I Use?
As a practical example, the rods in my the house are strung in different ways. Most are strung with either 4 or 6 pound monofilament, which gives me the freedom to fish for anything from bluegill and crappie to large trout and bass.

I also have a couple heavier action rods that are strung with 12 pound hybrid line, which are used for catfish and for using heavy plugs and crankbaits, especially when fishing weed beds and cover that bass seek.

I don't have braids on anything, because it doesn't fill any holes in my gear.

Whichever line you choose needs to be checked for damage as you fish, and any damaged portions discarded. Damaged line breaks far more easily, costing you hooks, lures and fish. 

As the volume of line on your reel gets low, refill the reel spool with replacement line to keep fishing. I generally have to do this about once a year on my personal reels.


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