Understanding Braided Fishing Line
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 -- they either use braided line -- or they use special lines designed to cast weightless flies. We have individual articles about each of the three primary types of fishing line. This article is about braided fishing line.
Understanding Braided Fishing Line
A simple braid only requires three strands, and in fact braided lines started out as braided fibers from plant parts such as 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.
Base fiber: 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 monofilament with fluorocarbon mixed in.
The braiding: The braiding pattern definitely affects the strength-to-diameter ratio. Early braided lines were much flatter than they are today, and the shape of the line -- round, flat, or oval -- is determined by the braid. If you have ever seen a woman get her hair braided, they do one braid with three locks and another with four, where one braid rope is doubled. Asymmetrical weaves are oval or even triangular; symmetrical braids are more round but never perfectly round. The tighter lines also offer more braid crossings per centimeter.
There are three primary components to a braided fishing line.
The Coating: 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 dryer feel. The slickness or lack thereof of in the line might have some impact on the hated wind knot, caused by line over-wrapping itself during the cast. The knots you can form in braided line can be a nightmare.
The late Doug Hannon – a hero among angling friends and a scientific angler that studied the Largemouth bass his entire too-short life – invented a system called the MicroWave before he changed to bass. The guide system is used by many of the top custom rod builders.
Abrasion, Stretch and Diameter
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 do separate -- and they will whenever something hard scratches the surface in just the right way -- they allow water to enter what was a sealed surface. When they open up, 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 a hard surface.
Line stretches. Certain line stretches a lot more than other line. Manufacturer specifications say that monofilament lines stretches 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 on 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 his 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 12 inches of stretch, it could result in a fish getting behind a piling. Use braid and gain the advantage. But use 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 physical 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 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 never spent six times less time filling 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
Try to experience using both monofilament and braids yourself so you can 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 expensive and critical component.