What line to use and when?

When I was first approached to write an article about fishing lines it was not something I really wanted to get into. What line to use and when? Not an easy question to answer especially when remembering my own frustrations over the years with various types of fishing lines. However after taking some time to think about it, thought maybe some of the problems I have gone through would help others that may be experiencing some of the same things. I am not a scientist, engineer, do not have a degree in molecular science, and hope I never need any of that just to be able to go fishing. What I want is a line that does the job I want it to based on practical application, dependability, and durability.

Dave DeRemer

When watching TV commercials, fishing shows, reading magazine ads, and hearing the Pros talk about fishing line it all seems so complicated. Is there one line that will do it all or do you need to be line specific for each technique you are fishing? For me it has been a learning curve over several decades and seems to be never ending as new lines are introduced on a regular basis. Years ago it was a lot simpler, we had Stren and Trilene monofilament lines and the toughest part was picking which color did you want, clear blue florescent, clear, or moss green colored lines? Fifteen to twenty pound test Trilene Big Game monofilament became the standard for most applications like worm and jig fishing. Ten and twelve pound test for crank baits, top water baits and spinner baits. Six and eight pound test for spinning rod and reel setups. Over time innovations like limper monofilament lines for easier casting on spinning rods, tougher monofilament for flipping into heavy cover started showing up on the market, but it all was still basically monofilament line. Then came talk about co-poly lines, fusion lines, braided lines and fluorocarbon lines. Like any curious angler I had to find out what all the fuss was about.

I started with a fusion line that was available at my local sports store called Fireline made by Berkley. This “superline” does not stretch, was thinner than equal sized monofilament, and was supposed to last longer as well. It is my understanding that a fusion line was made up of many filaments all fused or bonded together. Decided to spool up an Abu Garcia XLT Plus bait casting reel with some thirty-pound Fireline, rigged it on a Fenwick HMG Flipping stick and headed to a local lake that I knew held good largemouth bass. Tied on a one half-ounce jig and pig and started flipping the tall late summer reeds and bulrushes. Did not take long before the first tap came on the jig. The increased sensitivity of the non-stretch line made me think I had a monster on the other end. Raring back I set the hook hard like I normally did and an eight ounce Rock Bass (pan fish) came flying out of the reeds, flew over my head, and landed in the water on the opposite side of the boat. I actually felt sorry for the poor thing as it lay there in the water wondering what in the world just happened? I got excited due to the increased sensitivity and started carefully working a deep-water edge. Saw the line jump and felt the tap of a Largemouth bass sucking the jig in. Set the hooks with all the force normally used and felt the hookup. There was a brief battle and then the line went slack. Puzzled I looked at the end of the Fireline and it showed no sign of wear or fraying. Over the course of the next hour this repeated itself a couple more times. Put down the rod with the Fireline and went to another flipping stick with my normal twenty-five pound test Berkley Big Game monofilament line. Using a similar jig and pig started sticking and landing Largemouths as I moved back through the same area. Right at the edge of the deep-water trough I set the hooks on a good bass around five pounds. After landing the fish, looked into its mouth and there was one of my jig and pigs I had lost earlier on the Fireline. After unhooking it saw there was no tag end of line on the bait. From this I assumed that Fireline was too slippery a line to hold a knot properly and set this superline aside.

Moved from Fireline and tried some of the co-polymer lines and found some success with lines that were the same pound test as my standby Berkley Big Game, but they were considerably thinner in diameter. Some were even coated with a thin coating of fluorocarbon like P-line. Over time I started using more and more of the thinner diameter co-polymer lines for fishing texas rigged worms, jig and pig, finesse fishing and fishing crank baits. These co-polymer lines are also considerably limper and on a spinning reel using six and eight pound test lines are much more user friendly.

My next experiment with line was to try the new Fluorocarbon lines. These lines were much more sensitive then monofilament due to the density of the fluorocarbon material. The line does sink and has good abrasion resistance. However it did not take long to find out fluorocarbon lines are not without their own set of problems. After setting the hook on a decent fish while fishing a jig and pig the line actually shattered. The broken end looked like it had exploded. Then the memory took over and I thought I was casting a lure with a Slinky toy spooled on my reel. Tying a knot in the original fluorocarbons was also a challenge, some knots would work and some would not depending on the line. For the most part a double Uni knot usually held well. When Berkley came out with Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon this line had a lot of promise. Easy to tie a knot in, much limper so it cast very well, and the abrasion resistance was amazing. I used it while in Florida and for part of a season in New York fishing jigs, worms, and even tried fishing crank baits with it. One thing I noticed with reels spooled with the fluorocarbon was after a couple weeks on the deck of the boat exposed to the sun this line became very brittle. Had to strip off several yards to get to line that would hold a knot. Talked with several people at Berkley and no one had an answer other then to change the line more often. Eventually found out it was UV damage and Berkley has not figured out how to stop it. Went on to find another problem with the amount of stretch in fluorocarbon line. There were a lot of early claims that fluorocarbon lines did not stretch or were low stretch lines. This has been proven to be totally inaccurate. After a lot of reading about the testing, it has been determined that fluorocarbon lines actually stretch more then some monofilament lines. In-Fisherman magazine for one source has done several in-depth articles about fluorocarbon lines that included talking about the stretch. This stretching would not have been that big of a deal until you understand that when monofilament stretches it returns back to its original shape some what like a rubber band. When fluorocarbon stretches it does not return completely back to its original shape. Thus after catching a heavy fish, pulling on a snagged lure, or anything else that causes fluorocarbon lines to be stretched out this stretching actually weakens the line.

While visiting Bass Pro Shops in Orlando, Florida last year I had the opportunity to talk with factory representatives from Berkley about their 100% Fluorocarbon lines. They were very proud of the line and said most of the touring pros use it regularly. When I asked about the UV damage and the problems with the line stretching they simply said the way the pros work around this is to change the line often and usually on a daily basis during tournaments. I asked how often should a regular angler change out their fluorocarbon lines? The factory representatives said every couple of weeks! For me this was just way to expensive and learned that on the rare occasions when I need to use a fluorocarbon line I simply attach it to my main line with a Uni to Uni knot and use fluorocarbon lines strictly for leaders. Since going this route I have yet to have a single problem with fluorocarbon lines. When fishing around sharp rocks, barnacles, zebra mussels, or any other areas where mono or braid would not hold up, a leader of fluorocarbon works quite well and is very cost effective.

After reading more and more about braided lines and hearing the sing of braid through the guides of the pro fishermen on TV like Roland Martin, Bill Dance and the professionals on Bassmaster TV. Hearing them praise how well the new braided lines work it was time to give braid a try. I read several articles in Bassmaster and In-Fisherman magazines and a very important clue was revealed. The correct knot to use! These articles and most of the ones written today say that a Palomar knot when tied correctly and adding a drop of super glue was an excellent knot for braided lines and would not slip. To this day I still use a Palomar knot, but stopped using the superglue. It is just too messy and really is not needed. All I do now is tie an over hand knot in the tag end before I trim it just in case the knot slips. After years of fishing many kinds of braided lines in all sizes and shapes I have yet to have a Palomar knot fail me or slip that I tied correctly. I mention this as the line cuts into itself and will break if you tie a Palomar knot incorrectly.

Armed with some 30-pound braided line and reading to use a lighter action rod I was amazed at the sensitivity. The hook sets were almost too easy and the percentage of landed fish was on the increase. Thought I found the perfect line until a problem developed very quickly with this thirty-pound test braid. The color first came off and then the line started to fray and break. If I got a bad backlash, yes I still get them every once in a while, found the line was weakened where it had been kinked and would break easily. Plus the braided line would dig into the spool on a hook set and would have to be cast out and then pulled out of the spool. Back to the drawing boards I went again.

While visiting a large fishing Expo in Florida, in a small booth tucked away in a corner I met a gentleman that would change my opinion on braided lines forever. While the man’s name escapes me today, he took the time to talk about the various kinds of braided lines and showed me a little experiment. He took some fresh line off a spool of one of his competitors braided line. Doubled the line over and then handed it to me and told me to roll the line back and forth between my fingers. Did not take long for the line to start to separate. Did this with his new line and it held together no matter how hard I worked the line back and forth in my fingers. He also explained about the proper knots for braided line and said the Palomar was what he recommended. Being a typical fisherman and at times gullible I bought a spool of 30, 50, and 65-pound test braided line from him. Spooled it up as he said using a little monofilament line as the backing on some bait-casting reels and headed for the lake. This new line felt a little stiff at first, but as the coating started to wear the line actually started to cast better and it felt softer and limper when tying knots, but did not show any sign of wear. It took a little getting used to but soon found even in crystal clear water Largemouth and Smallmouth bass would strike at tubes and jigs readily with the braided line tied directly to the baits. After several weeks I found myself using the three rods rigged with this braided line almost exclusively. Soon started finding more and more ways and techniques that worked as well and in most cases better then any other line I have used before or since. The line is call Power Pro and is the only braided line I use to this day.

While not perfect for everything Power Pro braided line does a great job on bait casting outfits. In my opinion Power Pro is too limp for spinning reels. Too many times it has unraveled off my spinning reels in a pile at my feet. Took a little experimenting but solved this problem by going back to some old spools of fusion line I had left over in the line box. Found that Berkley Fireline even after a lot of use still has a small amount of memory and it will stay on a spinning reel spool with ease. Today I use Power Pro braided lines on most of my bait casting tackle and Fireline fused line on all my spinning tackle.

Here is a partial list of what is rigged on the rods used in my boat and hopefully some answers to the question, “What line to use and when?”

65-pound Power Pro

This is the heaviest line that is spooled on my bait casting reels and is used for fishing Bass, Musky, Northern Pike, Salmon and Striped Bass. It has a diameter that is close to 17-pound test monofilament. As far as Bass fishing goes this heavy braid works well for Pitching and Flipping heavy cover with big jigs and heavy weights needed to get down through surface mats. Floating frogs can be cast a long distance with this line and some of the larger profile buzz frogs work well too. I do know that some of the Pro bass fisherman will go to even heavier Power Pro lines when they see the need. Like fishing heavy cover in lakes known to hold larger then average bass.

50-pound Power Pro

This is the most used line on my boat. With a 12-pound test monofilament diameter it works for most bass fishing applications. Jig and pig, tubes, creatures, beavers, and big worms all work well with this weight line. I also throw hard and soft swim baits in and around heavy cover with 50-pound Power Pro. For jig/blade baits like a Chatterbait it is hard to beat. When I first tried Carolina-rigging using 50-pound test as the main line I was amazed at the difference in feeling what my weights were doing and could feel the composition of the bottom much better. Detecting subtle strikes became a lot easier as well. One of the more fun uses of this very castable line has been for fishing buzz frogs like a Stanley Ribbit, Strike King Rage toad, or a Zoom Horny Toad. You can cast these lightweight plastic buzz frogs with ease and the hook sets are firm and sure with this no stretch line.

30-pound Power Pro

This is the lightest of the Power Pro lines that I have spooled on bait casting tackle. It works well with its 8-pound test diameter for texas-rigged worm fishing, Zoom Trick worms fished weightless, Senko style soft stick baits fished both wacky and texas rigged style. Small soft swim baits in the three to five inch range, crank baits from the smaller Bombers and Bandits all the way to the big deep divers like a Bill Norman DD22 or a full sized Fat Free Shad work well with this line especially when fishing around hydrilla and thick milfoil edges. If the fish seem finicky try using this thinner braided line for jigs, beavers, and creatures before adding a fluorocarbon leader. Sometimes going to a thinner diameter line is all it takes to get a fish to bite.

20-pound test Berkley Fireline

This fused line is the heaviest used on spinning tackle. It works well when fishing soft plastic baits like tubes and worms in or next to heavy cover, but also handles fishing lipless crank baits like a Rattletrap in thick weeds like hydrilla and milfoil. This line is flat not round like Power Pro braid and seems to cut through weeds easier. A little bit of memory keeps this fusion line on the spool of a spinning reel avoiding the typical unraveling that happens with limper braided lines and some of the fluorocarbon lines. My personal favorite for this line is fishing a Senko style soft stick bait wacky style in hydrilla beds on a seven-foot medium action-spinning rod that has a fast tip. Skipping a bait under a dock or boathouse with this set-up is quite easy and using this line usually helps get the fish out of cover better then mono or fluorocarbon of the same diameter.

14-pound Berkley Fireline

This is the main fusion line I use on spinning tackle. There is not much this thin line will not handle from jerk baits to shaky head fishing. The no-stretch feature makes even subtle pickups easier to detect with a spinning rod.

10-pound Berkley Fireline

This is the smallest diameter fusion line used for any fishing situation and it works best on a smaller sized spinning reel. A Bass Pro Shops wide spool Pro Qualifier spinning reel works well for me. This line is close to 4-pound test mono diameter and for its size is a very strong and durable line. Went to this as a main line for drop shotting and was amazed at how well it worked. On days when bass are really fussy I use this line for shaky head fishing and also wacky rigging in open water on a spinning reel. Have had equal success using this line for Largemouth and Smallmouth bass. The added sensitivity of the no-stretch feature has added to the number of fish caught from subtle bites on finesse baits.

10 & 12-pound Pline Fluoroclear

Crank bait fishing is what this co-polymer line gets used for most of the time. It is very strong and durable and has the smallest diameter for its pound test. This brand of Pline also has a thin coating of fluorocarbon on it. I throw all sizes of crank baits on this line from tiny shallow running baits all the way to deep divers. If fishing in snag filled cover like downed trees I will move up to 15, 17, or 20-pound test Fluoroclear depending on the cover and the size of the fish.

Berkley XT

XT line has been a favorite monofilament line for years and it still has its place today. For top water baits like Zara Spooks, Pop-Rs, buzz baits, and the dozens of other top water baits it is hard to beat fourteen or seventeen pound test XT. Spinner baits also work well with this strong and durable line. It has the right amount of stretch to allow the fish to get a good hold of the bait; strong enough for a good hook set, and durable enough when a big bass takes you into cover to get the fish back out. This line has also works well for hard swim baits like the Strike King, King Shad, Sebile Magic Swimmers, and many of the other jointed swim baits.

Fluorocarbon line

It is rare that I spool up a reel with fluorocarbon line but I do use it for several applications. When drop shotting I run Fireline ten-pound test as a main line to a small black swivel and then use six to ten pound test Berkley 100% fluorocarbon as the leader. If fishing a shaky head and the fish are really finicky I will tie on a leader of fluorocarbon line. Fishing around razor sharp zebra mussels that have covered rocks, piers, and docks, a three to five foot leader of seventeen or twenty-pound fluorocarbon line helps with abrasion fishing jigs or texas rigged baits. For crank bait fishing in heavy cover a ten-foot section of fluorocarbon helps with the abrasion as well as allowing the crank bait to dive a little deeper. When dragging a lizard or creature bait along the bottom with a Carolina rig fluorocarbon lines are my choice for the leader here as well.

What line to use and when? A weekend fisherman could spool up some twelve to fifteen-pound Berkley or Stren Monofilament line on his bait casting outfit or eight to ten-pound test line on his spinning rod and catch a bunch of fish on any given day. However with the line being the weakest link between your rod and the bait taking some time to learn how different lines work for your presentations with different lures might help put one or two more fish in the boat. Hopefully this will be of some help to fishermen that are still looking for that “miracle” line. There are lots of choices and lots of reasons to use many of the lines for fishing today. For me tinkering and trying new and different ideas, be they right or wrong, is all part of fishing and just another reason why I have enjoyed the sport of fishing for over four decades.

By, Dave DeRemer aka Baron

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