Unless you are a “noodler” – a person who fishes by sticking their hand in a fish’s mouth to yank it from the water – you’re going to use fishing line. We want to talk about one specific type of fishing line called fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon is often used as leader material only. Do not confuse line vs. leader, as fluorocarbon leader is made specifically to be a leader and packaged as such, and lines are made only to be used as lines.
Fluorocarbon is a specially manufactured fishing line that is made of polyvinylidene fluoride – (PVBF). It is relatively new in the fishing world, but has dominated the market – particularly the market for leader material – ever since.
Top 5 Advantages of Fluorocarbon Line
It is Nearly Invisible - The main advantage of fluorocarbon, whether you are using it as leader material, fishing line, or both – is its near-invisibility in water – a huge advantage for certain types of fishing. Fluorocarbon is nearly invisible because its optical density is lower in water, which makes the line less easily discernable. It does not appreciably distort light passing through the line.
In shallow water, fish do not see fluorocarbon nearly as well as they see conventional monofilament. That does not mean you cannot catch fish using monofilament as either line or leader – because you can -- and many people do every day. Not everyone can afford the few extra dollars the transparent leader material costs them. But it is so invisible that under many conditions – such as clear water or heavily fished waters – it can make the difference between a skunk day and a great day.
Resistance to Abrasion - If you compare braided fishing line to fluorocarbon, you will immediately see that braided line can fray in a heartbeat if it touches harsh surfaces such as barnacles, sea walls, boat hulls, clamshells, etc. Fluorocarbon does not suffer from shredding the way that braided line does, and is also more abrasion-resistant than traditional monofilament. Braided line is also more visible and looks like rope in the water. Also, the sun’s UV rays will weaken mono, but not fluoro, which is extremely UV resistant. The higher cost of fluorocarbon will be mitigated by its long life, if properly cared for.
The term, “abrasion resistance” does not mean that fluorocarbon will not shred and break because it will. Many of the conditions we fish in hold structure. Sunken ships, bridge rubble, docks, barnacles, rocks, and a vast array of structure in flowing water produce the fish we target, and can also cut even the best fluorocarbon leader. Fluorocarbon does not weaken easily though, so to make it last longer, be sure you constantly check the tips of the leaders and take a few inches off when it’s abraded.
Fluorocarbon is Sensitive - Some of the best anglers tell us that fluorocarbon lets them feel “touchy” baits much better than monofilament does because it does not stretch the same as mono. Some of the best anglers we have ever met feel that fluorocarbon leaders are the only way to go. Minimize stretch, they say, and they can feel the fish better, react more quickly, and fight the fish more effectively.
Fluorocarbon Sinks Faster - The rate at which fluorocarbon line sinks – much faster than conventional monofilament – is very important. Talk to expert anglers who feel a subtle difference in sink-rates of particular lines and you will find that this factor is why so many pros use fluorocarbon line as well as leader. Both are manufactured to do what they do best, and the combination is a critical tackle choice for many freshwater, saltwater, and fly anglers.
Fluorocarbon is Stiffer than Braid - When used as your main line and leader, the extra-stiffness in fluorocarbon compared to monofilament will keep your bait from fouling on casts. This is especially important when casting in the wind or when using baits that tumble in the air. The stiffness also helps you ‘feel’ the bites better, and also aids your hook-sets, whether the fish is 10 or 100 feet away, you can feel it with more sensitivity. Stiffness also helps keep your leader straight. If the fluorocarbon you buy is too stiff and you are losing fish due to a broken line during a hookset or tearing the hook from the fish’s mouth, adjust the drag on your reel to a lighter setting. If the leader is too stiff, try a lighter pound test.
Top 5 Disadvantages of Fluorocarbon
Publisher’s Comment: What? Tell me it isn’t so! To be honest, what we are going to say here are not really disadvantages. They are ‘myth-busters.’ Believe it or not, not everything you think about fluorocarbon line and leaders is true. Call them disadvantages or not -- they should be considered before you spend three times more money for 100 feet of fluorocarbon when you could have bought 300 hundred feet of something else that is just as effective under many of the same conditions.
Cost - Compare the cost per foot of fluorocarbon line vs. traditional monofilament and you will find that fluorocarbon is far more expensive. For example, 20-pound test fluorocarbon costs about .10-16 cents per yard, while comparable 20-pound test monofilament costs about .03 cents per yard. Those are retail prices as of today.
The main ingredient for fluorocarbon - PVDF resin - costs about five times as much to manufacture as nylon, which is the primary ingredient for monofilament. The manufacturing process is more costly for fluorocarbon also, resulting in a retail market price that causes most anglers to use it for leaders only.
Visibility - Or invisibility - is not a bad thing, but while fluorocarbon is as clear as glass, it has higher density than regular mono. Above 20-pound test, the density of the line distorts the “pass-through light,” and distorted light can be seen by sharp-eyed fish.
If you can go underwater look at 20-lb. mono vs. fluorocarbon. The mono is as visible as rope but you cannot see the fluorocarbon. You can test this by cutting a few inches of each and dropping them in a big glass of water.
Stretch - Fluorocarbon does not stretch as much as mono. However, under testing, if you put a steamroller on the end of a fluorocarbon line, it will stretch eventually, but under normal fishing conditions, it will not stretch much at all. Fluorocarbon increases your feel and hook-setting ability compared to monofilament. The reaction of your lures is much more sensitive also.
Waterproof - Unlike mono, fluorocarbon does not absorb water. What that means is that while mono will change characteristics when in the water, fluoro will not. When mono gets wet, its sensitivity is reduced, while fluorocarbon stays sensitive.
Sensitivity - Since fluorocarbon is denser than mono, it amplifies the feel on the line. Because fluorocarbon is denser and sinks faster than mono, it removes the slack in the line, which provides more response in the line.
Monofilament or Fluorocarbon?
Some fishing situations call for a fluorocarbon leader, and in other limited cases, a reel spun with very expensive but almost invisible fluorocarbon line. As leader material, it’s tough to beat the see-through clarity and abrasion-resistance of fluorocarbon. Like when you’re fly-fishing for line-shy bonefish in the gin clear saltwater of the Florida Keys.
In other situations as described in this article, monofilament line will work perfectly. You can always tack on a fluorocarbon leader if you’re going to be in-and-out of clear water, changing water depths or around sharp-edged structure. Numerous factors will affect the choices that a fisherman makes regarding line and leader materials, and as Captain David Rieumont says, “Good anglers are always trying new things until they find what works for a particular situation. Then they write it down in their journal.”
As a final thought, line or leader made of fluorocarbon makes a big difference if you want to be a complete angler. There is a place in your arsenal for fluorocarbon. You don’t have to use it all the time, but at certain times, it is unbeatable.