Fishing Line Confusion

By RIVER RAT - August 1, 2002
Fishing Lines The other day I was at my local Wal-Mart stores sporting goods department and a gentleman was standing by the fishing line rack and he had this confused look on his face. He looked my way and read the logo on my hat and said, are you a guide? I said yes. Would you mind me asking you what line you use. I said to him, sure but before you buy any line, there are some questions I'd like to ask you. I ask my clients this as well just to see how they choose the line they are using. He looked even more puzzled now. Well, tell me what kind of rod and reel do you use, and what species of fish do you generally fish for. You mean I need different line for different species he said. I said not necessarily. He said he fishes for Bass and Walleye and Pan fish, and he has StCroix rods and Shimano spinning reels. I said, good choice of rods and reels as you will not have problems with your choice, brand name equipment normally lasts a long time, and if you have the right line, you'll be satisfied with that as well.

I said, did you know that fishing line in the early 1900's was made from linen, silk and cotton. These lines had to be carefully cared for by un-spooling the line, washing it, and spreading the line out, and drying it thoroughly to prevent dry rot. I could see by the look on his face that I should just get to the point and not give a history lesson on fishing line. I proceeded to tell this gentleman what line I would recommend for his type of fishing. For fishing heavy cover and rough conditions like rocks, pick a monofilament designed for it, usually designated tough, extreme or extra tough. Also try braids and fusion line. For fishing clear water, choose a thin, clear line. Fluorocarbon lines disappear underwater. Others are usually called extra limp, extra thin and other names that designate it as small diameter. For fishing vegetation like lily pads, moss and grass, try a thin, tough line. It can be a braid or a fused line. Names like Fireline, Spiderwire and Power Pro are all good. For spinning and spin cast reels, choose a thin, limp line for better casting. It can be mono, fusion or braid. Bait casting reels handle most any kind of line, but stiffer line works well on them, much better than on a spinning reel. So I said, decide what kind of line you need. Change it often, learn to tie good knots, then you won't be able to blame your line if you lose the "Big One". He thanked me and was gone. As I walked to the checkout with my items I thought, this would make an interesting article for my readers. So, here I am doing just that. So where do I start. Well, I guess I'll start by talking about each type of line, and how the manufactures test it.

Difference in Lines...
Lets start with "Monofilament". Mono is a word that means single. In fishing line that means a single strand of line, but in sport fishing it has become know as nylon fishing line. Nylon Monofilament is a single-component product, that is formed through an extrusion process in which molten plastic is formed into a strand through a die. Nylon Monofilament line is a polymetric by-product of crude oil processing. Premium grade Nylon Monofilament line receives more quality-control attention, more additives, and more attention in the finishing process than normal line to make it abrasion resistant, that is why the cost is more.

Then we have the "Co-filament line" which adds more resistance to the line and yet keeps the line sensitivity, and strength. This design uses an inner and an outer wrap of nylon to help insure the lines ability to resist wear and tear.

Next would be " Fused Lines ", which are many layers of microfilaments of gel spun polyethylene fibers fused together to produce a single strand of line that is ultra thin, superior strength, and sensitivity, good abrasion resistance, and yet remain easy to cast. Great hook sets with this line. Spiderwire is the leader in fused line.

Fishing Lines Next, "Braided lines" consist of inter-wined strands of nylon material, making them a multifilament line called Dacron. Dacron was once the primary line for fishing before the discovery of Nylon. Nylon proved to be so superior to braided Dacron which had poor knot strength, low abrasion resistance, and little stretch, that Dacron almost disappeared from the market. Today it is used primarily as a backing material on fly fishing reels. The synthetic fiber that is added is 10 times stronger than steel, and has been used in industrial, aerospace, and military applications, and is very strong yet very thin. Due to its non-stretch properties it is a super sensitive line. For example, a 15# test braid line has the diameter of a 6# test monofilament line. There are some draw backs to this line however. You must use the knot the manufacture tells you to use or the line will come untied. Some you need to use a super-glue on the knot to prevent it from coming untied as some of the braided lines have a coating applied to the line that makes it extremely slippery and the glue assures you the knot will stay tied. This line does nick, and you will need to watch for broken, or frayed strands often. I don't recommend you use this line on a spinning reel as it is so limp it is tough to cast.

Next is "Fluorocarbons". This line is made from polymer of fluorine bonded to carbon. This super line has several advantages over the others. This line comes the closest to the refractive index of water so it is virtually invisible under water. The invisibility is needed in clear waters. One thing I have found is that the suns ultraviolet rays do not affect this line, and it will last longer, saving you money. This line has ultra low stretch and your hook sets are positive. This line doesn't float and allows your lures or bait to fall faster and deeper quicker. This line doesn't absorb water like monofilaments and this makes it much stronger.

If you are fishing in dark, or muddy, or stained waters a Brown colored line is best. Moss Green, is best suited for waters with heavy weeds and other vegetation. Clear Blue Florescent, is great when the sun is out and you need to see your line above the surface, whether it is trolling, casting, or just retrieving. It is almost invisible under water. High Visibility Gold, this color is easier to see and when a fish strikes is easier to tell, it is also best if you are trolling several lines at once as it is much easier to see. Low Visibility, this line tends to blend into most waters. It is great for fishing in areas that receive heavy pressure or areas whether fish spook easily. Low Visibility Clear, This is best suited for clear water, whether it is a stream or a lake. This line works great in ultra clear water situations. I know I have not told you what type of line or brand I use as I do not want to try to tell you that what I use will be the right line for you. I do not want to try to sell a particular brand or type to you. You have to decide using the information I provided to you. You will be able to do this easily. One last thing while I'm on this subject. When you buy your 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. Now I believe you have enough information to select the right line for what ever type of fishing you plan to do.

Testing Lines...
One last thing I want to tell you folks about is how they test these lines. I think you'll be surprised how we rely on the manufactures integrity when it comes to testing these products. One thing I have found is that EVERY line manufacture is supposed to use the same method of testing set up by the International Game Fish Association or IGFA. There is no guarantee this is done, as each line manufacture boasts there own findings compared to other manufactures lines. Here is how it is done. They check Breaking Strength. They do this by using a machine that Berkley developed to measure line breakage. To test a line sample you must first wind one end around a small disc on the measuring end of the machine, and clip it in place, "there are no knots used to secure the lines to get a more accurate reading". You then connect the other end of the line in the same manner to a larger disc at the other end of the machine. When each test begins, the larger wheel rotates at a constant speed until the line snaps. The final poundage is displayed on the measuring device. Each spool of line is supposed to be tested three times to get an average.

Next they are supposed to do an Abrasion Test, To get the abrasion ratio, each line's average cycles was then divided by its diameter. You take three 12-inch lengths of line and attach each one to one of the three arms on the machine. To the ends of each sample you attach a 550-grams or "about 1lb 4oz" weight. This allows the middle section of each line to rest over three separate drums of fine grade sandpaper at 45-degrees. When the machine is activated, the arms move up and down "this counts as one cycle" until all three lines have snapped. Each cycle is recorded on a separate clicker above the respective arm. It's a very simple operation, but very effective and accurate. Each line is tested simultaneously, just in case there were any irregularities with any of the control arms. Diameter is measured in the thousandth's of an inch, with a micrometer for uniform diameter over the entire length. I feel that a lot more testing should be done on all lines manufactured as only a few companies manufacture line here in the USA, and is sold to other line companies to market as their brand of line. So now you know how line is tested. If you stay with a Name Brand Line Manufacture, you will get quality line, some of the lesser known line companies get the inferior line other manufactures get rid of because it did not meet some requirement, rather than toss it, it is sold to other companies, who market it under their name brand. There you have it, you know as much as I know about fishing line, and how it is tested. The reason I did not go into various knots and applications is because we all have our own way of tying knots that we are accustomed too. I hope this has been interesting for you.

If you have any questions on anything in this article you can e-mail me at either or I'd like also to thank my friends at Crestliner Boats, Bombardier Motor Corp. Magic products,,,, Hummingbird locators, St.Croix Rods, Harriet's Kitchen Nook, Heckels marine, Amherst Marine. Comprop Prop, ISG Jigs, Reeds Sporting Goods, Big Fish Tackle Co.,,, Pepsi of Americas, Beckman nets, Trojan Batteries, Black-Widow Fishing Line, Shimano American, and others who have helped me along the way. This article may not be reproduced, or used in any way without my written permission.

River Rat has been fishing the Petenwell Flowage for over 40 years and owns Gone Fishing Guide Service and enjoys primarily fishing for walleyes but is well educated on many other species. He is also a Field Editor for as well as other sites and is very knowledgeable on the history and fishing tactics of the Petenwell Flowage and Wisconsin River.