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Fishing Line

Line Selection
Monofilament   Fluorocarbons   Braided line
Fly Line
Understanding what the terms mean
Test Strength or Pound Test   Diameter   Visibility   Size   Stretch   Abrasion Resistance   Knot Strength  
LINE CARE   Bird's Nest or Backlash

A Fishing Line is another essential piece of equipment that plays a big role in Fishing. It is the cord connecting the Fish Hook to the Fishing Rod and Fishing Reel.

As you stroll down the fishing aisles, there are many different types of line to choose from, and it can be very confusing to say the least. Hopefully after reading this, you'll have a good understanding of fishing line.

Choosing the right kind of Fishing Line is as important as buying the appropriate Fishing Rods and Fishing Reels. The type of water where you will be fishing and the species which are probably living there must also be taken into consideration.

Fishing Lines are commercially available in spools and vary in lengths, depending on how long you want your Fishing Line to be.

Fishing lines serve as the link between the angler's reel and the lure or bait. The most popular fishing line used for sport fishing is monofilament nylon line, which is strong and durable and has a certain amount of stretch, which helps when an angler sets the hook. The line comes in a variety of strengths, from 2-pound test to more than 100-pound test.

Line Selection

There are three main types of line used for main lines and leaders: 

Braided line

(Also called mono) 

Most fishing line is made of nylon and is called "monofilament," or mono for short. It comes on spools of various lengths that are called "tests."

Monofilament is the cheapest and most common. It is typically clear or green, and is a great all-purpose fishing line that can be used anywhere.

Monofilament fishing lines can be a great stopgap for almost any fishing situation. As long as cover isn't too abrasive or water clarity too extreme, simple mono-line is a great choice. Mono-lines also make up the bulk of fishing lines used for spin-fishing and ultra light fishing.

There are hundreds of brands on the market. They most commonly come on plastic spools with lengths from 100 meters up to 1000 meters, with 300 m being the most commonly sold, as it will fill most reels with a bit to spare.

Although it's the thickest line, it is also the least dense, meaning it floats.

Its elasticity allows it to act as a shock absorber and will help to prevent a fish from tearing itself free of the hook.

It's transparent and less visible in the water than all lines other than fluorocarbons, making it difficult for fish to see.

Knots and crimped connections hold well in nylon line.

Nylon is a low memory material, so it will soon forget about the coils it was restrained in on the spool.

Monofilament fishing line is also moderately abrasion resistant.

It's the most common type of line, and typically it comes in either clear or green. If you buy a pre-spooled reel, chances are it was spooled with this type of line. One thing to keep in mind is memory. When line is uncoiled (by casting) it tries to maintain the shape of the spool. This coiling after the cast is Memory. It will wreak havoc on you in the form of not being able to cast, tangles, pure frustration etc. To avoid this, be sure to re-spool your line at least once a year. Monofilament is a great all purpose fishing line that can be used anywhere.

Monofilament is listed on the package, by terms such as mono or monofilament.


Fluorocarbons are the most expensive fishing line, more than double the price of standard mono.

These lines look like monofilament but, are virtually invisible underwater. They have very little stretch which can lead to better hooksets. This type of line is best suited for the same conditions as monofilament.

Berkley's Vanish is an example of a Fluorocarbon line. 

Clear streams and open water can also be a difficult situation to choose fishing line for. In these settings fish are much more wary of highly visible lines such as braided and super lines. But where those lines fall short, fluorocarbon shines. With its relatively high strength, great sensitivity, and most importantly near invisibility, fluorocarbon is nearly a perfect choice.

They are also the most Dense, meaning it sinks, allowing trolling and spinning lures to run deeper.

Fluorocarbons have the most Memory and are the Most Abrasion Resistant.

It's slightly stiffer than mono, and less likely to tangle.

When it comes to comparing Monofilament to Fluorocarbon line:

Fluorocarbon has less stretch, a property that provides excellent bite detection at the rod tip.

Has increased abrasion resistance.

Sinks faster than monofilament.

It doesn't absorb water like mono does; therefore it retains 100% of its dry tensile strength and keeps its strength longer as a result.

Braided line

 Braided line has a smaller diameter compared to monofilament for the same line size and is typically limp. It is used for flipping and pitching in heavy cover where high strength and good abrasion resistance is needed.

 Braided line was one of the of earliest types of fishing line, and in its modern incarnations it is still very popular in some situations because of its high knot strength, lack of stretch, and great overall power in relation to its diameter. Braided fishing lines tend to have good resistance to abrasion. Their actual breaking strength will commonly well exceed their pound-test rating.

It's so thin and hard it can cut fingers to the bone. Be careful!

Heavy, weedy cover such as lily pad mats and hydrilla beds can play havoc with your fishing line. Strength and abrasion resistance are far more important than low visibility in these situations. Therefore a braided or super-line would be your best choice.

Braided fishing lines have become very popular during the past few years. They work well in certain fishing situations and are extremely strong. They do have some drawbacks that out weigh the benefits at times, though.

Braids are made by braiding or weaving fibers of a man-made material like Spectra or Micro-Dyneema into a strand of line. This makes a very strong, tough line that is very abrasion resistant. This line is so strong that you have trouble breaking it when you get hung up. A fish is very unlikely to break it although the teeth of some species, like pike and muskie, can cut it.

One drawback of braided lines is that they are generally opaque in the water, and thus visible to fish. Hence, it is common to attach a monofilament at the end of the braided fishing line to serve as a leader and to reduce the high visibility of the braided fishing line.

Braided lines, particularly the newer synthetics, can be successfully used on any type of fishing reel, but are perhaps most well known as excellent lines for bait casting reels, in particular for trolling where they remain especially popular among many fishermen.

Some folks say braids will cut into rod guides, especially the more inexpensive ones. If you use it you should make sure your rod can handle it. Braids will also bury into themselves on the reel spool. To avoid this, spool the line tightly and set the drag light enough so it slips on the hook set.

Cutting braids can be tough. Most fishermen that use them carry scissors to cut them since clippers don't work very well.

Braids have a small diameter, are very limp and don't have any memory. They float so they can be good for topwater baits, but they have very little stretch so it is possible to pull the bait away from a fish. And you must have drag set so a fish does not rip the hooks out of its mouth if it makes a strong run right at the boat. You can even break your rod because of the lack of stretch if you set the hook too hard.

Braids are good when fishing heavy water vegetation like lily pads, hydrilla, water hyciants and cat tails. The braid will cut through the stems of most of these plants, keeping the fish from tangling you up, so you will land fish that you would lose with other lines.

The lack of stretch in braids is good when fishing topwater baits on long casts. You can set the hook better with a lot of line out if it does not stretch. Using a monofilament leader removes the visible braid from the fish's vision. When fishing deep diving crankbaits the lack of stretch and small diameter helps get the plug down deeper. And when fishing a Carolina rig you can use a leader from the swivel to the bait and feel bottom cover and bites better while putting the braid out of sight of the fish.

Braids are good in many applications but not good for everything. Give them a try but be aware of their drawbacks.

Fly Line

Fly Line is a specialized line made of a plastic coating on a core, and often made tapered (changing diameter) to make fly casting easier.

 is a specialized line made of a plastic coating on a core, and often made tapered (changing diameter) to make fly casting easier.

Fly-fishing lines are woven synthetic strands coated with several thin layers of plastic. The weight and thickness of these coatings create three distinct types of lines: lines that float, lines that sink gradually, and lines that sink rapidly. The lines come in different shapes, for different types of casting situations. A double-taper fly line, for example, has a small diameter for its first and last 8 m (25 ft), with a larger diameter throughout the rest of the line. Using double tapers when casting small flies enables anglers to place the bait on the water without the line disturbing the surface of the water and spooking the game fish. Weight-forward tapers (preferred by most anglers) have a larger diameter in the front section than in the rest of its length. This enables anglers to make longer, more powerful casts because during the cast the heavy line in front pulls the lighter line that follows.

Because regular fly line is heavy and difficult to cast in a gentle manner, fly-fishers attach a short portion of monofilament line, called a leader, to the end of the fly line. The leader is much lighter and smaller in diameter than the fly line. This enables the angler to cast the fly onto the water without disturbing the surface. It also provides an almost invisible attachment to the fly, which makes the fly appear natural and more appealing to fish. Some other types of leaders used with monofilament lines are made of heavy monofilament or steel. These leaders prevent sharp-toothed fish from biting through the line and also protect the lure from being torn off by sharp underwater rocks and coral.

Now that you know a little about the different types of line, the fishing conditions and what you're after, it's time to tackle the label.
Listed below are several of the more common features that show up on the boxes of fishing line.

Understanding what the terms mean

Here are some of the terms you might come across when you're shopping for line. Your local fishing tackle store can help you choose the line that's best suited for your needs.

Test Strength or Pound Test

Line strength is expressed in terms of "pound test". This is the breaking strength of the line. Meaning, how much force does the fish fight with before the line breaks.

 The higher the number, or test strength, the stronger the fishing line. This number will be clearly labeled on any fishing line that you buy right on the front of the box. It is very important to use the "test" strength line that's appropriate for the species you're after, and local fishing conditions. If your rod and reel are labeled with a suitable line weight or test, it is best to follow these suggestions, as it will help your equipment function properly.

The larger the line size the stronger it is.

Usually, a four-pound test line will hold up a fish weighing four pounds without breaking. The larger the test of the line, the thicker the diameter it is and the more it will hold.

Match your fishing line to your rod and reel capability and the species of fish you want to catch. Using heavier line or higher pound test than needed may reduce the number of hits or strikes you get because heavier line is more visible to fish.

Your line should be as light and inconspicuous as possible so that it does not frighten fish from your bait.

However, it must be strong enough to hold the fish you want to catch!

Don't fall victim to the old wife's tale that you need a heavy line or a fish will cut it with its teeth. There are only two fresh water game fish that can cut your line with their teeth; the northern pike and musky. Both have flat teeth with sharp edges. All others have round teeth and although they're plenty sharp when they chomp down on a finger, they won't slice your line.

Start out with a 6-pound or 8-pound test monofilament line, which is a good compromise for most fish. Choose clear, light blue or green line for your starting outfit.

Check your reel or the instructions that came with it to determine how much 6-pound or 8-pound-test line it will hold. Usually a 100-yard spool is large enough to fill a medium-light reel.

Follow the instructions that come with your reel and line before filling. The reel is full when the wrapped line is about 1/16 of an inch from the outside edge of the spool. Don't allow knots in your line, except at the end. Knots both weaken line and make it difficult to cast.

Whether you spool your reel with monofilament or a super-thin, no stretch braided line, you should use the lightest line possible. Most anglers should be able to fish with six-pound-test line all day and never lose a fish. After all, how many six pound fish do we catch? If you're going to fish for panfish off a pier or from a small boat, four-pound-test is even better. You'll find, because it's softer, you can cast farther and with greater accuracy. And, imagine the fun of fighting a keeper bass on four-pound-test line. Always select a quality brand name fishing line.

Below is a ballpark of what pound test fishing line that is generally used based on species.


Bluegill : 2-4 lb. test fishing line
Perch : 4-8 lb. test fishing line
Crappie: 4-8 lb. test fishing line
Bass : 5-12 lb. test fishing line
Trout: 5-10 lb. test fishing line
Pike: 10-20 lb. test fishing line
Walley : 10-20 lb. test fishing line
Catfish : 8-15 lb. test fishing line


Scup : 4-8 lb. test fishing line
Flounder : 8-15 lb. test fishing line
Tautog : 10-20 lb. test fishing line
Bluefish : 15-25 lb. test fishing line
Striper : 15-30 lb. test fishing line
Tuna: 20-40 lb. test fishing line


This is the thickness of the line. It affects the running depth of your lure. Remember, as you work your lure, you're also moving water at the same time. The larger the diameter, the more water is being moved. A thicker line moves more water than a thinner line. This means that your bait will actually run deeper with thinner line!

Diameter also relates to how much of a particular line your reel can hold. 
To learn about reels, click here.


This refers to how visible the line is to the angler (not the fish). On the fishing line box it will generally be listed as high visibility, low visibility or invisible.


This is the diameter of the line. It will be labeled clearly on the box and is measured in either 100ths of an inch or 100ths of a millimeter.


Fishing lines, particularly monofilament and fluorocarbon, can stretch considerably. Line is usually labeled as no stretch, low stretch, moderate stretch or Minimal Stretch and high stretch on the box.

Stretch is primarily meant for monofilament. If the line doesn't stretch, it will break. Super lines have minimal or no stretch, but typically don't break when fighting fish. They're so strong fish will break before the line does

Abrasion Resistance

How tough is it? Can it withstand being dragged over rocks, stumps, bitten by fish and not break?

Words on the package might be "High Abrasion Resistance" "Extra Tough".

Unless you're going to be fishing heavy cover, such as rocks and submerged tree stumps, don't let abrasion resistance factor into your decision about what line to purchase.

Knot Strength

Knots weaken the line, because the line is wrapped back on itself and tightened down. Certain knots can decrease line strength.

To learn how to tie some of the more common knots, click here.

Advertising on the package will include terms such as "Superior Knot Strength"

Last but not least, stick to the major brands.

 Brands such as Berkley, Spiderwire, and Stren. 

You may pay more, but it's worth it. You've already spent hard earned money purchasing your reel, and possibly even your rod, why try to save money on the most important piece of equipment? The piece that connects you to the fish!

As you can see, there are many types of line on the market to choose from. Ultimately, you have to decide what is important for your type of fishing, is it test strength, stretch or another factor? We've said it before, and we'll say it again. When you're buying line or any equipment, match the gear to the conditions your fishing. No one line is the "right" line for all types of fishing. You may have to experiment with several lines to find the one you like best.


Change Your Fishing Line Often

I recommend each season! If you do not, you will see line twist, brittle line, and plenty of abrasion - all of which will result in lost fish. Changing your fishing line is one of the most important things you should be doing.

There are a number of reasons to do this, but these are the most important reasons:

The suns rays will quickly deteriorate your line. Just like any other type of plastic that sees a lot of sun, your fishing line is most likely made of a material that will begin to break down the more it is exposed to the sun. Some fishing lines, and most importantly Fluorocarbon, which is inert and relatively UV resistant, don't need to be changed quite as often based on exposure to the sun. Regular nylon mono filament fishing lines are the ones that need particular attention when it comes to UV deterioration.

Line twist is a big problem with most fishing lines. This is not directly because of the line, but instead, it is because of the lures we use and the techniques we employ in various fishing situations we find ourselves presented with. If you are casting spoons all day, and you forget to use a swivel, line twist is an even bigger problem. In fact, many anglers have no idea why their fishing line is turning into a birds nest with every cast. Using spoons and other similar lures without swivels are the number one cause of this.

It's been reported by a number of manufacturers, that many reel problems are caused by poor, old, or insufficient line on the reel. Twisted line can get caught around the rotor shaft of spinning and spin cast reels, or under the spools of some casting and offshore reels. That not only ruins the line, but can ruin reel parts. The original problem is not the reel, but the line.

Make it an annual thing. At the very least change your line once a year. That's probably the best advice I can give!

Begin by removing the old line. Make sure to dispose of it properly. Check your fishing rod for the appropriate "pound test" of line to attach. Follow the instructions with your new fishing line, and reel it on!

Line care is simple.

For monofilament lines, just keep them in a dark, dry, and cool place. If you buy filler spools and use them right away, all these precautions are unnecessary. Storage of bulk line spools, however, is important. Experts, from major fishing line manufacturers like Dupont™ and Berkley™, agree that most things that come in contact with monofilament will not harm it. Greases, oils, other lubes, sun-tan and aftershave lotions, perfume, deodorants, (WD-40, CRC), gasoline, and so on, will not damage monofilament, however, battery acid though, will ruin all lines.

Fly lines are different because most of them consist of a PVC coating over a braided core. In short, any strong organic solvent or chlorinated hydrocarbon can harm the PVC coating. Keep all such substances away from line where and when possible - even braided and mono - because they could be absorbed by the line and give off a smell that might repel fish.

Store fishing line in a dark place under moderate temperatures.

While fishing, check frequently for nicks and abrasion by running the last several feet of line between your thumb and fingers.

Clip off several inches of line and retie to the lure frequently, especially when fishing heavy cover or catching fish.

If a knot forms in the line, clip off the line above the knot and discard the line.

Replace the line on each reel when it shows signs of wear. (Buying line in bulk spools will avoid waste of excess line left on "filler" spools.)

When you go to purchase your fishing line, buy from a store that does high volume sales of fishing line. Line gets OLD quickly, and light and heat weaken the properties quickly, so you want Fresh line as fresh as you can get it. If you have noticed on any given line package it WILL NOT have a BORN ON DATE or an EXPERATION DATE! You need to go to a store that sells a lot of line, and this applies to Bulk spools as well.

If you by some fishing line and place it on the rear deck of your car or up on the dash of your truck where it will be in the sun for a long time, you are setting the stage for that line to fail when you take it out of the container to use it.

Fish don't break tackle, fishermen break tackle.

If you attach a heavy duty reel spooled with 20-pound-test line to a light action rod and the first time you set the hook the rod will break. Attach a light duty reel to a heavy duty rod and the first time you set the hook the drive gear on the reel will strip. This is not the fault of the equipment; this is the fault of the fisherman.

Let's say you've selected a medium light to medium rod and reel combo. Now you must turn your attention to line. Just as rods and reels must be matched, so must line and lures. Many anglers never consider this balance. If the line and lure are not balanced to the rod and reel even the most expensive outfit will not cast properly.

Bird's Nest or Backlash

You throw out a cast and "Woooof!" 

If you have ever heard this sound from your reel that means the line on the reel has turned into a bird's nest, a backlash or professional overrun.

The line clatters up the guides, sometimes even catching on a guide. Sometimes the twisted section of line picks up on some more line and in short order there is a nice tangle to pick out.

There are several things that can cause this to happen, even to an experienced angler. 

You can reduce these backlashes with a better match between the rod, reel, line and lure.

 Monofilament comes in basically two types a flexible, or limp, line that has some stretch, but is very forgiving when cast and has less memory. The other is a more abrasion resistant, less stretch and usually retains some memory and tends to hold a coil when it's been on the reel for a while adding to your chances for a backlash.

If the line has a tendency to twist and tangle during your type of fishing try using a swivel or a leader with a swivel, this should help.


Environmental Alert:
To protect wildlife and the environment, always take any discarded line with you when you leave. Discarded line can snag and harm wildlife and kill fish, turtles, frogs, birds and small mammals.

This includes all replaced line, old line retrieved while angling, and all snippets from knot tying. Discarded line is not only harmful to wildlife and fish, it can also wreck havoc on outboards motors.

This goes for hooks as well, PLEASE DO NOT DISCARD HOOKS in the woods, shoreline, etc. Not only are they dangerous to wildlife, they are also dangerous to you and I along with my 8 year daughter fishing with me.


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It is important that people who fish follow all fishing rules and regulations.
These rules help conserve fish populations and also help anglers be successful.
Regulations may limit the size of, number of, and season that a type of fish may be caught, and may require a license to fish. In some cases, only “catch and release” fishing is allowed, which means the fish must be let go. Some bait is illegal in certain areas.
Contact your state wildlife agency by visiting Our Rules and Regulations Page.

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