Learn Your Lines
Understanding The Importance Of Great Fishing Line
Of all the ways to tip the odds of catching more fish in your favor, few are as easy, affordable and effective as spooling up with the best fishing line for the conditions at hand. Thankfully, there are plenty of great options, and choosing the right fishing line for any presentation is a simple and straightforward process.
It all starts by understanding the important role line plays in so many facets of fishing that affect our success. For example, no matter what kind of rod, reel and bait you're using, or whether you fish from a dock, a boat or the bank, your fishing line is a critical ally every step of the way—from presenting the bait to detecting bites, setting the hook and fighting the fish.
While early anglers plied their craft with crude strings spun from silk, cotton and other natural fibers, we now enjoy lines made from a variety of Space Age materials, each with special performance properties tailored to best fit specific species, situations and fishing techniques.
In recent years, fishing lines have evolved into three major categories: nylon monofilament, fluorocarbon and superline. Each offers benefits.
Monofilament fishing line, or "mono" for short, is an inexpensive, all-around performer that casts well, absorbs shock, is easy to handle and, thanks to its ample stretch, is very forgiving if you set the hook too hard or a big fish lunges at boatside. Fluorocarbon, meanwhile, is virtually invisible underwater. Plus, it's sensitive and abrasion resistant - perfect for leaders or mainline applications. Thin-diameter, high-strength superlines such as Berkley FireLine, NanoFil and Trilene Braid further lead the charge in brute strength, pulling power and sensitivity.
All of these options evolved because different techniques and conditions call for vastly different fishing lines. For example, when you're finessing finicky bluegills in gin-clear water with tiny jigs tipped with Berkley Gulp! Alive! Crickets, you need different line than someone soaking Berkley PowerBait Catfish Bait Chunks for channel catfish in a muddy river with tangled timber. And even for the same species, differing techniques and conditions dictate different lines.
Just ask Berkley bass pro Brandon Palaniuk. The hard-fishing young gun from Hayden, Idaho, credits choosing the right fishing line for his stellar string of top finishes at tour-level events across the country. "Every technique I fish is a system that includes the rod, reel and bait—but the only thing holding it all together is my line," he says. "In fact, matching the right line to the technique and the rest of your gear is one of the most important considerations."
For example, when Palaniuk wields a dropshot rig, he spools with 8-pound-test FireLine Crystal superline mainline. Thanks to its zero stretch at normal fishing loads, the line offers great power and sensitivity at a variety of depths. Then, to avoid spooking line-shy bass, he adds a 10-foot leader of 6-pound-test Berkley 100 Percent Fluorocarbon. "The long leader is key, because I want the knot on the spool when I'm fighting a big fish at boatside," he notes. "That way, there's no way the knot can catch a line guide or weaken the line if the fish makes a sudden run."
Conversely, Palaniuk prefers the brute force of 65-pound Berkley Trilene Braid when punching jigs through thick grass, or skittering soft-plastic frogs across heavy cover. And when working a topwater jerkbait or popper in more open water, he likes what mono such as Berkley Trilene XL brings to the table. "Monofilament is buoyant, so it won't drag the lure down," he explains. "Plus it's forgiving, long-casting and enhances bait action."
To choose the best fishing line for your favorite presentations, it's also helpful to factor in the seven core performance properties of fishing line, which can be broken into two groups: strength and control. Characteristics such as knot strength, tensile strength, abrasion resistance and shock strength fall into the strength category; limpness, visibility and stretch are considered elements of control.
In seasons past, anglers often faced serious tradeoffs when picking and choosing properties. For example, if you spooled up with extra-strong line to tackle big fish in nasty cover, you likely sacrificed easy handling. Fortunately, the tireless innovations of Berkley researchers both in the lab and on the water have led to a number of new lines offering amazing combinations of these high-performance qualities.
While the extreme tradeoffs are gone, it still pays to choose a line whose strong suits match your tackle, presentation and fishing conditions. If you're trolling or casting a Berkley Flicker Shad in deep water, for instance, choosing a thin-diameter superline will boost your bait's dive curve, while the sensitivity will relay critical information, such as when the bait ticks bottom or fouls with debris. If casting with the same bait or weightless offerings fluorocarbon's sinking attribute will get your baits deeper and faster.
In the end, only you can decide what is the best fishing line for each of your favorite styles of fishing. By experimenting with different types and tests, it's possible to find the perfect fit for any species or technique. Granted, it takes a little more effort than simply spooling up with one line for everything you do. But taking the time to learn your lines is a great way to tip your odds of success off the charts.