Dear Captain " What's the rule of thumb for when to replace braided line? "
There really is no rule of thumb as to when you should change your braided line. Braided line lasts for years. I have had line companies give me their original prototype braided line to test 8 years ago and I am still using it today. Braided line may lose its color but that is not because it is getting weak. It's because the dye they try to shoot into the gel spun fiber does not penetrate the fiber.
Today they changed the process some, so now the braid does not lose its color as much. Braided lines do not deteriorate like monofilament lines. I have used almost every brand name of braided line out there and I have had good results with all. I now use Ohero braided line, its diameter which is very thin has the smallest braid to monofilament equivalent ratio. Meaning most companies 15lb braid has a monofilament equivalent of 4lb test. Ohero's 15lb braid has a monofilament equivalent of 2lb test. Much thinner. What that means to you is stronger line with a thinner diameter, equaling longer casts and increased yard capacity on your spool. So now you can use a smaller reel. Which makes the tackle you're using lighter, more comfortable and it gives you a much more enhanced fishing experience while fighting fish. You will hear so many things about braided line 4 strands, 6 strands, 8 strands, round, flat, coated, slick etc. It is all personal preference. If you asked 5 guides/pro anglers/experienced fisherman. You would get 5 different answers.
After using my braided line for a few years I just reverse it on the spool, so the braided line that never gets used as much is now on top and the older used line is now on the bottom. 90% of the time if your braided line is breaking its because there is a chip in one of your rods guides or there is a space in your bail roller bearing and the line is getting caught up along its edge. Lastly, it could be a scratch or chip on the spools edge or if you use the spools line clip. The spools line clip is notorious for nicking braided line.
The 2 reasons I would change my braided line:
- If it was chipped or scratched up for the above reasons (running through chipped guides etc...) or it had been dragged across oysters, rocks and some type of structure.
- If it did not fill my spool up to at least 1/8th to the lip. Because a full spool will give you casting distance.
Otherwise, you don't have to change it for years!
Something to consider is that you do not need to replace your line. You can double its lifespan simply by turning it around. Talk to a local tackle shop about them unspooling your line and respooling it - so the used end is underneath the untouched line that's been there for all those years.
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