Line & Leader
What is fishing testline?
The test line of fishing line is the tensile strength of the line. 20 lb test line means the line can take a static pressure of 20 lb. Some people think you need 20 lb line to catch a 20 lb fish or 10 pound line for a 10 pound fish. This is not true. Most freshwater fish produce far less tensile pressure than their body weight and a skilled fisherman can land enormous fish with very thin line.
What pound test line should I use?
Several factors determine the necessary strength of your fishing line. The size of fish you want to catch, the amount of room you have to fight the fish and the weight of your lures.
To prevent having your line break while casting long distance have 10 lbs of testline for each 1 ounce of lure weight. So if you are casting 3 ounces of weight and bait, you should be using 30 lb line. This formula only applies to the first 30 feet of line, consequently some long distance fisherman use a “shock leader”.
Unless you need extra strength for casting, there is no point in getting line that is stronger than your drag. A reel with 20 lb drag will only produce 20 lbs of tensile pressure and so there is no need to have more unless you are casting more than two ounces.
The more snaggy and hazardous a fishing location the more aggressively you have to control the fish you have hooked. Being aggressive in preventing a fish from swimming under a log or through a patch of weeds requires stronger line, so make sure you have enough testline to prevent a fish from wrapping itself around a log.
Monofilament is the cheapest type of line. Gets its name from the fact that it is made from a single fiber, not weaved. Monofilament is more stretchy than braid. This make it better at absorbing the shock of casting and the shock of the fight but this deadens your ability to feel what is going on with your hook by muffling vibrations.
Monofilament tends to be slightly translucent but nowhere near as translucent as florocarbon. Monofilament is also slightly water absorbant.
Some monofilaments readily sink, which is helpful when fishing under boat traffic, when trying to prevent fish from swimming into your line and for making your rig hide on the bottom.
One down side of monofilament is that it breaks rather easily if it ever gets nicked or scratched. You should regularly inspect your monofilament lines during use to detect and replace line that has nicks in it.
Monofilament is stiffer and has greater memory than some other lines. Memory means that it holds it shape. So monofilament line becomes curly after being stored on a spool for a while and will get kinks in it if bent or tied. Being stiff and having memory can be great when making choddy rigs, tangle resistant rigs and stiff hook links. However, memory can be a problem if you want to tie a rig that will lay tight to the bottom or fly up into the fishes mouth with minimum when inhaled
Braided line has much greater strength per diameter. You can get braided lines that is a fraction of the diameter of monofilament of the same strength. This makes braid much more aerodynamic which is a big advantage when casting far distances, especially in windy conditions.
Braided line is incredibly abrasion resistant. Its very tough when rubbed against rocks and logs and fish spines.
Braided line tends to float so if you need to have your braided line sit on the bottom (to prevent fishing hitting the line or because of boat traffic) then you have to use a back lead. Braided line has no stretch or give so every sensation is transmitted back to your rob. Smaller bites are detectible and braid is ideal for using a marker float. Braid costs more than monofilament and is not at all translucent so buy a braid color that will blend into the bottom.
Braid is extremely supple. It has very little memory and so it comes off your reel limp and straight. Braid is a great choice for rigs that require flexibility and suppleness. I like to use braid for hair rigs with small baits and small hooks. When fish eat small baits they often suck them up into their mouth rather than actually biting them. The limp braid allows the fish to suck up the hook and bait with less resistance than stiffer lines.
The is a lot of difference in quality of various flurocarbon lines. Flurocarbon is tougher than monofilament, its nearly invisible in the water, it sinks more aggressively than monofilament and it stretches less than monofilament but more than braid.
The down side to flurocarbon is that is it is still thicker than braid and its expensive.
Hybrid lines are basically fancy monofilament strands that are woven and then fused together. Berkley Fireline uses heat to fuse the strands back into more or less a single strand. Berkley Nanofil uses a special process to fuses the strands together on a molecular level.
Hybrid lines have many of the same strengths and weaknesses of braided line but perform better at the smaller testlines. If you are going to use 1o lb braid or smaller then consider a hybrid line instead.
Monofilament vs. Fluorocarbon vs. Hybrid vs. Braided Line (Testline/Diameter)
|Brand||Model||Type of Line||D (in)||D (mm)||lb’s|
|Berkley||Trilene 100% Flurocarbon Pro||Fluorocarbon||0.012||0.30||10|
|Cajun Line||Cajun Red Line||Monofilament||0.012||0.3||10|
|Spiderwire||Super Mono EZ||Monofilament||0.012||0.31||10|
|Berkley||Trilene 100% Flurocarbon Pro||Fluorocarbon||0.017||0.43||20|
|Cajun Line||Cajun Red Line||Monofilament||0.018||0.46||20|
Braided line (as well as some fluorocarbon and hybrid lines) requires a backing on most reels. Backing is a 50 feet or more of monofilament that connects to the reel. It is the first line to go on the reel. The purpose of backing is to prevent the non-stretchy and slippery main line from slipping around on the spool.
If you put 300 yards of 30 lb braid on a big pit reel without backing it may work fine for a little while, but when the weather turns cold or when you hook into your first big fish you’ll notice that you are reeling in and the drag is holding and yet no line is coming in. The whole spool of line, en mass, is just rotating around around the spool with out the spool moving.
The stretch monofilament backing grips the metal spool better and prevents the line from slipping so don’t don’t forget to put some mono on your spool first and then tie your high-end braid ect. to the monofilament with a uni knot or blood knot or something designed for that purpose.
A leader is the bit of line that connects your hook or leader (or both) to your mainline. While often the leader is nothing more than a section of line cut from your mainline there are often situations when you choose to use a type of line totally different from your mainline.
For instance, you may want your leader to be of a slightly weaker test strength than your mainline. That way if your line breaks it is more likely to break at the end and you lose less line or tackle.
Or you may choose a braided mainline for its narrow diameter and castability but then use a stiff fluorocarbon leader for its invisibility and anti tangle properties.
There are a number specialty leaders on the market that serve a variety of purposes.
A shock leader it an approximately 30 foot leader that is designed to allow you to cast weights that are too heavy for your mainline. For example, if you want to cast 3 ounces of lead long distances you need at least 30 lb testline on the last 30 feet of your line. You can either put 30 lb line on as you mainline or you can use lighter, smaller line as your mainline and then install a shock leader.
Shock leaders are for distance junkies. If you are squeezing every foot you can out of your long distance casting rods then a shock leader makes a lot of sense. If you are not trying to fish beyond 100 yards you probably wont need a shock leader, instead just use a mainline that is strong enough for your needs.
There are straight shock leaders and tapered shock leaders. A straight shock leader is basically a shock leader of uniform strength and thickness. A tapered shock leader is an expensive and high tech length of leader that starts off one test strength and gradually tapers down to an appropriate mainline strength. Tapered shock leaders are generally much longer than 30 feet. The benefit of a tapered shock leader is not having a knot in your line where the two leaders meet (or at least not as big of a knot and not at the beginning of your cast).
Some high leaders are designed as mainlines. They start thick and strong then taper down to a light mainline without any knots and then tapper back up to thick and strong. The whole leader is longer than a person can cast. The idea is that you use this special leader and when wear and tear makes one end no longer any good, you can unspool the line, turn it around and use the other end thereby getting twice the use out of it. The tapered leaders are super high performance for distance casting and are not available in braided line.
Because of the tremendous diameter casting distance advantage of braid over mono and fluorocarbon I only ever consider using a tapered leader when the situations demands a non-braid mainline and maximum casting distance is required.
Coated Braid Hook Link
If you want a braided leader that is stiff so that the hook will present well and avoid tangles then coated braid is a decent option. A rubberized coating on the outside of the braid makes it stiff so that the leader is pushing the hook away from the weight.
As I mentioned above, the down side of using stiff leaders with small baits is that the fish has a harder time sucking them off the bottom because it is fighting the stiffness of the leader.
A solution to that problem is to strip a section of the coating away from a coated leader. Without the coating the leader is soft and strong like normal braid. By stripping away a small section near the hook and on the hair the leader is given joints that help the bait fly up into the fishes mouth while most of the leader is still preventing tangles.
You can buy specialized coating stripping tools that will let you strip away the coating without damaging the tensile strength of the coated leader.
Lead Core Leader
Lead core leader is a subtle but heavy leader designed to help you rig hug the bottom. This is useful for rigs that have the hook in between the fisherman and the weight such as the choddy rig or the helicopter rig. In these types of rigs the line wants to pop slightly off the bottom due to the angle created between the rod tip and the weight.
Having the line pop off the bottom can be bad because fish can not only see the leader more easily and may get spoke, but they may run into the line while approaching your hook bait and that contact with your line will either spoke them or mess up your presentation.
A substitution for using lead core leader is using rig putty or a small split shot above your hook, using a sinking leader like fluorocarbon and/or making sure your main line has plenty of slack in it while your rod is sitting int he rod holder.
Leader Straightening Tool
When your line gets kinky on your its a really pain. The way you get kinks and curls out of your monofilament and flurocarbon leaders is with a straightening tool. Straightening tools are super easy to make or can be bought in most fly fishing tackle shops. All they are is two flat pieces of tool leather. You pinch the leader hard between the leather and pull it hard between the leather. Repeat until the line is limp and straight, just don’t do it so hard and often that the line gets nicks or wrinkles in it.