Monofilament vs. Fluorocarbon vs. Braided Line….. What’s the best?

When I first started fishing I remember going to a big box store that starts with a “W” and finding a Shakespeare combo that looked nice at a price I could afford.  I fished with that rig for about 6 months and I got really good at fishing. There was one thing that puzzled me during those first 6 months. I realized one day I often had no idea I had a fish on the line unless I saw my line wandering off away from where I had cast it.  This resulted in a lot of missed hook-ups or a gut hooked bass. I remember killing a nice 1.5lb largemouth trying to get the hook out of it’s gullet and getting incredibly frustrated. 

That night, I proceeded to consult with my online fishing professors (YouTube and Google) and I proceeded to figure out a solution.  Within 5 minutes, I found the solution was changing the type of line I was using. My Shakespeare rig came with 8lb mono; so did all of the other fishing rod/reel combos I had ever seen. My father had always fished with mono as well so I knew no different. However, with the solution found, I was completely confused by the numerous options available.  

For the sake of this article, I will focus on three main types of line used: monofilament, fluorocarbon and braided line.

Monofilament Line

What do I love about monofilament line? IT’S CHEAP!!!! Made from a single fiber of plastic material, monofilament line can take a lot of abuse from rocks, brush and underwater debris. It also has a lot of stretch in it. You can look at this stretch as a pro or a con. Because it stretches, you can set your drag down and have more room to play with when reeling in a bass. Ever seen someone lose their lure in a tree and they pull really hard but it seems like the limb will barely move? It’s probably because they are using mono and the force they are putting on the line is actually stretching it rather than pulling down on the limb.  On the downside, you have to set your hook with more pressure or risk the chance of not making a positive hook up. Monofilament line floats which is great if you want to fish high in the water column; otherwise you will have to add weights or use a heavier lure to fish deeper. For what it’s worth, mono is great for beginners. You can get stuck in trees, powerlines or bushes all you want because replacing an entire reel of line can be done under $7.

Fluorocarbon Line

The biggest advantage of fluorocarbon is that it is virtually invisible in water.  I am not quite sure of the exact scientific magic but I know it has something to do with light refraction. It’s abrasive resistant and gives you a lot more sensitivity than mono.  Fluorocarbon line is also more stiff than mono. Oddly enough, I used to think because it was stiff, it had low to no stretch but what I have found is that it just takes more force to stretch the fluorocarbon line than it does to stretch monofilament line.  Fluorocarbon line sinks which makes it great if you are fishing anything that is not top water or shallow water specific. The cons? Here’s the biggy!! It looks like mono but it costs two to three times more.  Cost aside, the stiffness of the line means the line forms memory easier. Have you ever cast and saw your line fly off your reel in spirals? This is line memory. You can spend time getting rid of it but wouldn’t you rather be fishing? 

Braid Line

If you are looking for sensitivity, meaning the ability to feel every nibble or tug on your bait, there is nothing that compares to braid line.  It is made of woven fibers and looks like sewing thread. Because the strands are woven, you actually get a better strength to diameter ratio.  The diameter of 20lbs test braid line is the equivalent of 6lb to 8lb test of mono or fluorocarbon line, which means you can put a lot more of it on a reel. Like monofilament line, braid line floats and because it has essentially no stretch, it is great for top water fishing.  Braided line has its share of negatives. For the price of super sensitivity you completely lose any chance of being “invisible” in the water. You can hide it a little by taking a sharpie and coloring in the first 2 feet to 6 feet of your line but it will still be visible.  In addition, because it is not made of a synthetic material, it has very little abrasion resistance. Get caught scraping your line through rocks and you can almost kiss your fish goodbye if it starts to shake it's head. Braid line is also expensive. Quality braided line will start over $20  per spool.

What Do I Use

So, that is the good, the bad and the ugly on fishing line. You might be wondering, “If everything has its ups and downs, what should I use?”  For me, on my Shimano Stradic 2500FK, I use a combination for 90% of my fishing. I guess you can call it cheating but I call it smart fishing.  I use the advantages of all three to my advantage. I use monofilament line as backing; braid line as my main line and fluorocarbon line as a leader. Braid line needs backing on a reel otherwise the line will actually spin on the spool so I use cheap 8lb monofilament for this.  There is nothing that beats the sensitivity of braided line. I can feel a dragonfly’s wing graze my line as it flies by. I can feel the nose of a bass as it comes over to nudge my bait. My braided line of choice is 30lb Cortland Master Braid. Cortland is an uncommon brand in the sport fishing world but it’s a major game player in the fly fishing world. I got a free sample of it once and loved it.  I have used it ever since. To add strength and invisibility, I add a 6 foot 12lb Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon leader. This gives me a level of protection from bass gums which can chew through my braid. 

I hope you have found this article to be helpful.  Feel free to make comments below. Everyone has their “perfect” set up and I would love to hear what yours is.

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