Anderson - There's a stretch to picking the right fishing line

April 20, 2008|By BiLL ANDERSON

One of the few downsides of the modern technology we enjoy is that certain amount of confusion when weighing the pros and cons of various materials.

Take fishing lines, for example. For decades, we have used plain old monofilament line and it has served well. Now with all of the braids and polymer lines, just choosing a fishing line can get pretty complicated.

I get a few e-mails each season asking about the various line choices and the answer is always the same: For just about every fishing application, it is still hard to beat plain mono.

Monofilament lines have a lot of excellent properties, including low cost. It can be found in all strengths, ranging from tiny fly-fishing tippets to big-game fishing. Maybe the most important reason of all for mono lines is the property called knot strength.


Knot strength is the measured strength of the connection of the line to the hook or lure. In most cases, the weak link will be the knot connection. But with a premium monofilament line - and the right knots - you can get a connection that will test at 100 percent of the line breaking strength. This is obviously important when taking big fish on light tackle.

Another property of monofilament fishing line is stretch. Stretch in a fishing line is both good and bad. Stretch can be very good in that it creates a safety factor that becomes a kind of shock absorber. The bad side of this property is that line stretch reduces your ability to feel strikes and can also reduce your ability to get a firm and positive hook set when fishing a long line - particularly in deep water fishing.

The stretch factor is the main reason that many deepwater anglers are now using lines made from materials other than monofilament. The hottest lines made of Spectra braids. The Spectra lines are incredibly strong, small in diameter and the low stretch characteristics make them ideal for certain fishing applications.

With all of the good things just mentioned the obvious question is why use monofilament at all. Actually there are still a number of reasons:

· Cost: The braids and other materials cost more to manufacture and the result is significantly higher retail cost. If you are talking spooling a number of rigs the cost difference can be substantial.

· Knots and knot strength: Many of the braids require special knots if you are going to get the kind of excellent knot strength that we get with monofilament. You really must pay special attention to this issue. If not, and any gains from the new line properties will be lost when fighting big fish.

· Line stretch factor: Anglers tend to under appreciate how the stretch in your monofilament line helps us keep from losing big fish. In fact, big game fly fishermen take advantage of the property and rig a long section monofilament to act as a kind of shock absorber between the backing and the main fly line.

There are many good points about each of the many modern line choices, and everyone should give them a try and see how they fit into your fishing situations.

But if anyone tells you that monofilament fishing line in on the way out, don't believe it. Mono is still hard to beat for most fishing situations.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail. He can be contacted by e-mail at

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