Fishing Line 101

Let’s talk about line. We start by defining exactly what fishing line is, and what kinds of fishing line might be best for you and the fish you intend to catch

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Different Kinds of Fishing Line

There are a few different kinds of traditional fishing lines, which are basically: Braided, Monofilament, Fluorocarbon and Wire.

Natural Fiber Fishing Lines

Before anybody fished for anything and shot a selfie for Facebook, ancient peoples fished – with hook, line, sinker, rods, and nets. Lines and nets were created from fiber strands woven and braided and glued together with a wide variety of local components, from pine tar to warm lava. We have actually given thought to primitive fishing techniques as a subject category for our readers, but it will be a while before we talk about rolling palm strings in your fur-covered palms while your friend carves coral sinkers and makes hooks from the toe bones of the Florida deer (no, we are not being gross and not making it up. Well, maybe we are being a little gross but we do own some deer toe-bone gorge hooks from archaic indigenous fishing sites).

Braided Fishing Line

Ask the average angler what braided line is, and almost universally they will name a modern fishing line consisting of lines like the outstanding stuff we use from Tuf-Line. But there are two distinct kinds of braided line.

Dacron has been around a long time. A very long time, in fact. It is a braided line that is made from polyester fiber. The exact weave varies, but it is considerably thicker and takes a lot more space on your reels then the other form of braided line – the one you likely think of when you are asked if you use braided fishing line. Dacron was what people used for trolling, bottom fishing, shark fishing, and most fishing in the old days. It is still used for trolling and shark fishing by many experienced anglers, and is often used as the “backer” underneath fly-line on Fly-fishing tackle.

Modern Braided Fishing Line is made exactly the same way as Dacron fishing line, but it is made out of polyethylene fibers rather than polyester. It is thinner, it is lighter, and it is more expensive than regular monofilament fishing line and will occupy far less space on your reels than Dacron. Dacron is, however, more likely to measure properly (break at the stated strength) by IGFA (International Game Fish Association. IGFA is the governing body for world-record catches, so if you intend to enter the record books with that pinfish eating your bait, braid could knock you out if 20-pound test does not break until it has 30 pounds of lead hanging on it for the testing. Like its Dacron relative, it does not stretch. This dramatically improves the sensitivity of your lures or baits, and often makes the hook set easier. On the other hand it frays much more easily than comparable (albeit thicker and stretchier) alternatives such as monofilament line.

Monofilament Line

Monofilament line is essentially various forms of ‘poly’ plastics that are pushed or poured through a mold to form the diameter necessary to achieve the desired strength. It is a plastic or carbon line that is not braided, tied, or otherwise formed into a shape.

There are two kinds of monofilament, Traditional and Fluorocarbon.

Traditional monofilament line

Traditional monofilament fishing line is a single material formed into a stretchable, abrasion-resistant, and long-lived fishing line. It is inexpensive and will function perfectly well for anglers on a tight budget. We have been there.


There are also advantages, including the abrasion-resistance we mentioned. Its “softness” – another word for its stretch – is not as sensitive under some conditions as braided fishing lines, but is far more effective for trolling.


fishing lines: Mostly used for leader materials (a length of line that connects the main fishing line to the hook or lure), this fishing line is expensive when compared to regular monofilament, but is so invisible, stiff, and effective for hiding the main fishing line that it has become very popular.


The cost factor minimizes its use as normal everyday fishing line, but in some conditions – dock fishing in the winter for example, where big fish sit around very abrasive barnacles, dock pilings, and other junk – it makes for a great main fishing line if you can afford it.

Wire Fishing Line

There are many fish – mostly open water predators whose mouths are full of razor-sharp teeth. For this fish regular line – whether the strong Dacron, the thinnest and lightest modern braided lines, and certainly leaders on fly tackle will simply not withstand those teeth. Wahoo, the king mackerels, barracuda, and a range of other fish all will easily and quickly cut through a regular leader.


That is where wire fishing line stands out. Wire line is most often used as leader material – to connect the regular fishing line (often monofilament or one of the braided alternatives) to the hook or lure. In northern waters where deep blue lakes hold huge (and delicious) Lake Trout, anglers routinely use wire as their primary line and fluorocarbon as their leaders. The heavy wire offers high strength and small diameters that troll deep and eliminate the need for downriggers, our standard method of getting lures and baits deep in the water column.

Fly Lines

Fly line comes in three different styles, and is much different than all the others. When you are fly-fishing you are casting the weight of the line, not the weight of the lure. The “lure” or fly is basically weightless, and the line and how it is shaped determine the casting distances.


There are level fly-lines, and fly-lines thinner at the lure end and thicker in the middle, designed to be turned around when they wear out and be very sensitive for light flies in tight conditions. The most popular, though, are so-called “weight-forward” or torpedo lines, whose weight is heavier on the business end (the lure and hopefully fish end) and are designed to cast far.

So Which Fishing Line is Best?

Each condition calls for a different line, and we cannot determine what to recommend until we know more about how you intend to use it, where, when and for what fish. We use different lines in October for the same fish we target in June, so the more we know about you, the more we can suggest something appropriate. For the most part we use fast-action light spinning tackle, equipped with 20-lb. Tuf-Line braid, and 30-40 pound fluorocarbon leaders. We find it highly effective, and its sensitivity means a lot to us. You can also peruse any of the linked articles for more in-depth discussions about specific line characteristics and effectiveness for different conditions and circumstances. And be sure to connect to our forums, where you will find immediate answers to questions along with friends you have not met (yet).

Tight lines – whichever one works best for you, may they remain tight.

The Online Fisherman

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