Stroll through the fishing line aisle at big sporting goods stores and it’s overwhelming. Monofilament, co-polymer, braid, fluorocarbon, tough, limp, clear, blue, green, red, yellow, 1-pound test, 75-pound, and every poundage in between! Plus so many brand names and models, it would make the heads of most union sportsmen spin.
I think one of the reasons the fishing industry struggles with participation is that the tackle companies have simply created too many choices. It intimidates newcomers to the sport. Heck, it intimidates me and I’ve been fishing for a while now.
So today I want to talk to those anglers out there, novice and accomplished alike, who are confused or undecided about the best line for their type of fishing. Chances are you’re a person who has between one and five fishing rod/reel combinations. They’re probably spinning or spincast models. And you fish predominantly for species weighing under 10 pounds – namely bass, crappies, sunfish, walleyes, catfish and bullheads, etc. Sound about right?
For the purposes of simplicity, let’s take an average and say you have three rod/reel combos. Ideally, they are in the following actions: light, medium and heavy. The line you use on each rod will vary based on the rod’s action and the type of fish you’re looking to catch.
Let’s start with that light rod. You’ll use that mostly for panfish where 1-pounders are big. Therefore, you won’t need to put 12-pound test line on it. As a rule of thumb, I like to use the lightest line possible to get the job done without breaking. The reason is because the lighter the line, the smaller the diameter. And the smaller the diameter, the more natural the bait presentation. This equates to getting more bites and catching more fish.
On that light rod, spool up the reel with 4-pound monofilament. A 4-pound test combines a great diameter with plenty of strength for fighting panfish. Why monofilament? For three main reasons: First, it’s very supple – for long, easy casts and few tangles. Second, mono has good stretch characteristics. The stretch acts like a shock absorber to resist breakage during a fight. After stretching, mono recovers well. That means it returns to its pre-stretched condition. It’s like pulling back and forth on a rubber band. Finally, monofilament has good buoyancy, which is desirable when fishing with bobbers.
Your medium rod is just that… medium. It’s in the middle, meaning you can use it to catch sunfish or switch baits and use the same rod to catch 5-pound bass or walleyes. The line I recommend for medium rod/reel combos is again monofilament for the same reasons discussed earlier.
On this outfit, 8-pound line is the all-around favorite. Does this mean that if a fish is heavier than eight pounds he’ll break the line? Not at all. People catch 30+ pounders on 8-pound line all the time. It’s all in the way that the fish is played. Also, keep in mind that if a package of line is marked 8-pound, its breaking point is actually higher than that. The line manufacturers are very conservative about the marked test on the package. Eight-pound line might actually break at nine or even 10 pounds.
Okay, now we come to the third rod… the heavy stick. This is a tougher decision. You can certainly stay with monofilament or a co-polymer in the 15-20 pound range. It’s ideal for bass fishing in heavy cover or tackling big pike or lake trout over 20 pounds. Or, you can spool up with a braided “superline.” It never hurts to have as much versatility as possible in one piece of equipment, so with that in mind I would recommend spooling up with braid. You’ll get higher pound test ratings from much smaller diameters. For example, the 20-pound braid I recommend for your heavy rod might have the diameter of 6-pound monofilament.
In addition to maximizing spool capacity, skinny braid is also easier to cast and handle. For versatility, this rod/reel/line combination will be excellent for casting spoons and spinnerbaits, jigging, and trolling crankbaits. Once you’ve trolled with braid, you’ll never want to troll with mono again. That’s because braided line has virtually zero stretch and is incredibly sensitive. You’ll feel the vibration of your bait, every contact with the bottom and every bite. You’ll even feel it if you pick up a little piece of weed (since it affects the vibration coming through the line and rod).
So there you have it: line selection made easy for the average angler. Now let’s move over to the soft plastics aisle and discuss the million and a half worms you have to choose from… Just kidding.
Good Fishing Fellow Sportsmen!
Babe Winkelman is a nationally-known outdoorsman who has taught fishing and hunting to people for more than 25 years. Watch the award-winning “Good Fishing” and “Outdoor Secrets” television shows on Versus (formerly OLN), Fox Sports Net, Comcast Southeast, WILD TV and many local networks. Visit www.winkelman.com for air times where you live.