Braided Line 101
There are three primary fishing lines you are going to find yourself using. For the majority of applications, anglers use two varieties of monofilament line (one being fluorocarbon), they use braided line, or they use special lines designed to cast weightless flies. We have articles about each of these three primary fishing line types, and this is the article about braided fishing line.
There is a more general article on the site about fishing lines in general. In that article you will read that there are two kinds of braided fishing line. One – called Dacron – is an older version of the modern braided lines you find on many modern rods and reels. Both are braided, but Dacron is largely used for trolling (when it is) and is still popular for “backing” underneath fly lines. If a large fish runs with all the flyline, the Dacron acts as a secondary fishing line and is very effective.
Understanding Braided Fishing Line
A simple braid only requires three strands, and in fact braided lines started out as braided fibers from plants line palm leaves. Today's modern braided lines can contain anywhere from eight to sixteen individual fibers. The fibers are largely synthetics, but you can find braids that combine multiple materials for strands, including wire.
There are three primary components to a braided fishing line.
Base Fiber of Braided Fishing Lines
The base fiber is the primary material. Even in the case of braids with different materials, the primary base fiber is normally monofilament. Regular monofilament and fluorocarbon can both be extruded to very fine diameters, and the braided line you use instead of regular monofilament is simply eight, ten, twelve, or more regular mono lines braided together. So-called hybrids contain some strands of regular mono with fluorocarbon mixes in others braided strands.
Braid Patterns on Braided Fishing Line
The braiding pattern definitely affects the strength-to-diameter ratio. Early braided lines were much flatter than they are today, and the braid pattern determines the shape of the line. That is why some lines are round, some flat, and some are even oval. If you have ever braided your friend's hair and did one braid with three locks and another with four, where one braid rope is doubled, you know what we mean. Asymmetrical weaves are oval or even triangular; symmetrical braids more round but never perfectly round. The tighter lines also offer more braid crossings per centimeter.
Finishing on Braided Fishing Lines
The finishing of braided fishing lines is another factor. Chemical treatments in baths can result in softer lines, stiffer lines, and lines more likely to hold a knot. Something we definitely notice about braided lines is their actual touch and feel. Some lines feel almost greasy, while others feel shiny and slick. Some of us like the oily feel, which is not actually greasy, but feels like it. Some of us like the drier feel. The slickness or lack thereof of line might have some impact on the hated 'wind knot,' caused by line over-wrapping itself during the cast.
Why Is Braided Fishing Line So Popular?
Braided fishing line on modern spinning and conventional (also called Baitcasting) tackle has become the norm, not the exception. Once upon a time when braided Dacron line was the only alternative to stretching and thick monofilament, grouper people used it almost exclusively. Now, you do not find it very much, since the majority of anglers us the modern version of Dacron – braided monofilament. Dacron rot; modern braids do not. Besides that, however, there are other reasons to consider braided fishing line.
Abrasion and Braided Fishing Line
Braided line is braided. While that might seem an oxymoron, it isn't. The fact that braided line is manufactured by wrapping multiple strands over top of each other means that those strands can separate.
When they separate - and they will whenever something hard scratches the surface in just the right way - the allow water to enter what was a sealed surface. When they open the water that gets in wears them, and that wear can result in breaks. Trust us when we say that those stresses will result in big fish getting away.
The only way to avoid the lost fish is to keep your eye on that braid. Run it through your fingers and feel for frays. Frays are where something scraped that surface and the water but in.
The Stretch Factor and Braided Fishing Line
Line stretches. Some line stretches a lot more than other line. Manufacturer specifications say that monofilament lines stretch as much as 30 percent. We could make an argument that a big bull redfish can pull a hook from its bony mouth quicker if the line offered no stretch. A sudden snap of the head of a 30-pound fish in 18 inches of water with absolutely no give in 80' of run line could pull a hook, while the same 80' of softer mono would stretch when the fish shook its big head. Snook half-jumping is the same situation. Tarpon too. But that said, the stretch in braided line runs between 1% and 8% - less than the stiffest fluorocarbon in the world by a measurable percentage. It is why many serious anglers use nothing but braid.
But we suggest you keep the two spools that come with many top-end reels loaded with both. In tighter skinny water situations where there is a lot of structure and twelve inches of stretch could result in a fish getting behind a piling use braid and gain the advantage.
But try using monofilament in open water situations where you are fighting things like big jacks or bluefish or kingfish. In fact you will lose a lot less fish striking spoons on monofilament than you will dragging spoons on braid. Fish pull more hooks on the non-stretch braids by far.
The lack of stretch in braided line is easily overcome if you use a light drag setting. The drag will somewhat override the lack of stretch and keep some - but not all - fish from pulling hooks. Your control over the rod will too, and if you fight a fish with the rod normally at 10:00 lowering it to 7:00 will give a couple of feet to a jumping fish. In practice we do this to avoid tarpon pulling the hook when they jump by "bowing to the king."
Diameter of Braided Line
“Twenty pound test with the diameter of 3-lb. test monofilament.” Have you heard that bit of nonsense? Nonsense you ask? I can see the experienced guides who swear by this fallacy crying out and calling us all kinds of names as we type this sentence. But stop gnashing your teeth already and let us explain.
It is impossible to truly measure the diameter of something that is not round. And even round braids are not round. We can challenge you to a simple test of what we are saying. Find a micrometer and use its very tiny and very accurate little wrench-like feet to squeeze a piece of 20-lb. Ohero braid. The squeezing will change the slightly oval shape and you will not be able to read it. The measurement itself changes what is being measured. What does this mean? What it means is that braided line is thinner than monofilament, but thin means nothing. It casts further? Maybe. Does it tangle more often? Is it harder to knot? Yup.
Worry about the breaking strength and match your line to the fish you are seeking to catch. And before you swear by braided line, but you have never spent six times less to fill a spool on your reel much less tried catching fish with regular mono, we suggest you learn more, fish more, and spend less. That is a general rule of thumb that will not result in anything bad happening to you.
A General Comment About Braided Fishing Lines
Use both monofilament and braided lines and come to your own conclusions. If we never found braided line or $18 shiny deep water jigs, we would still know where, when, and how to catch fat grouper, and we would still catch more snook than most people without $22 realistic scaled sardine lures. We would (and still do) just catch all the live ones we could use in five days of fishing.
Fish where the fish are, fish with the right bait and the right people, and fish when the fish are most likely to bite and you will catch fish regularly. Braid is great and will get you the most bang for your fishing buck, but it has its place in your tackle collection. One place, not all.
The higher the price, the softer, the more abrasion it can handle, and the longer it will last you. Wash your lines with fresh water and without a lot of pressure, and leave them in an airy place where they can dry properly to get as much lifespan as you can out of this relatively inexpensive and critical fishing component.