Line ’em up: Lots of line talk but where to stop!

Posted: February 14, 2013 by Hellcat in Fish Reports, Gear Fishing, Salmon, Trout & Steelhead, Tutorials
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In additional to the plethora of AAA TV I’ve been shoving down your throats…..I thought I’d try to free up some of my own brain space by unloading a bit of information you may or may not be interested in. Fishing line. How about ‘all there is to know about fishing lines?’ I’ll give it a shot…..and I’ll blend the information necessary regarding both mono, copolymer, spectra (braided and fused), dacron, micron….and more?. This piece will be anecdotal to the exploits commonly crossed in this chrome chasing river game of ours.

Mono-filament. This is most likely what you use for your leaders. Often referred to as ‘regular’ line….most of us grew up using mono-filament lines for everything we did. Smaller fish smaller line. Bigger fish bigger line. There wasn’t much discussion about the other properties of any given line beyond how strong it was supposed to be. There might have been a little talk about how the line cast but very little prodding into why the answer was yes or no. Although the landscape has changed dramatically since I was a youngster coming up in this game…I certainly don’t believe it’s changed for the bad. There’s a reason so many successful anglers use some form of braided line on at least 50% of their reels…if not more. Yes….the landscape has changed the line up, pun intended, of regular players in the favor of braid (I use the term ‘braid’ at this point in very general terms but we’ll get more granular with the differentiation among different braids as the article progresses). At least in the circle of anglers I cross paths with most of them now use braid over mono. Probably 3 to 1 if I had to guess. A little more or a little less depending on the methods more frequently being used. A predominant float angler will have far more braided up reels than a traditional drift fishermen. Or maybe not. That’s the beauty of the world we are in technology-wise at this point in time. If you do choose to stay with a mono as your main line there are plentiful offerings of quality lines for just about anything you’re looking to do. I suppose we should offer you, the reader, a few possibly new tid bits of information including how a new line you haven’t tried yet may just take your game to the next level.

You might be wondering…other than colors and brands…..what is the difference between mono filament, co polymer and fluorocarbon fishing lines? If you’re confused by all these lines you’re not alone. And you’re right. All these lines look the same. It is true however that much like a trout that goes to the sea is a steelhead making the family the same….so too is co polymer and fluorocarbon to mono filament. But there are significant differences between those three types of lines. The best way to describe the differences in a practical manner are to do so using a description of the line itself with respect to an application of fishing…versus just peppering you with facts about how lines are made and what they’re made up of. This isn’t a science paper. I’ll keep it light.


Mono-Filament is used as a leader or main line material on rivers and streams for salmon and steelhead most commonly between 8# and 40#. While it was once the only fare offered for a choice of main line it must now compete with braided lines in many fresh water river, stream and even lake markets where the biggest differentiator continues to be line diameter and stretch reduction. Mono stretches from 33 to 40% and will almost always break above the pound test it’s predicted to break at…otherwise known as tensile strength.

Braid, conventional or performance only stretches 1-2%. That’s the same as stainless steel wire. Spectra, the main fiber in braided lines, will never exceed it’s strength rating and will always break at the knot unless abraded. Some mono is very hard and stretches less than other mono that is soft and very stretchy. Many mono-family lines will have tremendous abrasion resistance against rocks and other underwater objects while some have barely any. Nearly every mono though it seems has a perfect application according to someone.

I use mono for leaders, of course, and the occasional spinning reel or small casting reel as a main line host. For the most part I’m nearly exclusively fused braid. Hold that thought. When I first began my fishing career as far back as I can actually remember the brands of the stuff we were buying I remember buying Stren line for everything. We mostly used it to cast and retrieve spinners. It stretches far too much for just about anything other than that or side drifting which is a popular method these days for steelhead.

Even still the twisting that accompanies Stren and other similar lines is significant. On the plus side Stren line will always give you excellent knot strength. The only thing that can hurt a line like that terminally would be abrasion resistance coming up short. Which certainly Stren isn’t designed to withstand abrasion. It’s designed for simple spinning reel applications OR for a saltwater application I may be unaware of. Again I’m describing lines from our fisheries here in the PacNW and exclusively rivers and streams.

Another line like Stren would be Berkley Trilene XL. The ‘XL’ stands for Xtra Limp. It’s a smaller diameter line than Stren and won’t hold the same tensile strength but it will cast better and sits on the spool nicer as it’s not as oversized as Stren rendering the performance less than adequate. Another line we all hear about if not use ourselves is Maxima. I’ve chosen to highlight Stren and Maxima because of their polar opposite nature. While Stren is extremely soft and limp allowing it to easily twist off of a spinning spool Maxima is very hard which of course creates memory within the line.

Memory is what creates that part of the line that won’t cooperate with you. Memorized line can be some of the most frustrating stuff you ever have to deal with. Typically a line like Maxima is only going to be used on casting reels due to the nature of memory with this line. Maxima now offers a variety of lines within their family of products but the two most popular lines they’ll ever have are Chameleon (brown) or Ultra Green. Of the two…Ultra Green ‘UG’ is the limper of the duo and is the line recommended often for steelhead finesse tactics on a spinning reel from a drift boat or the bank that include efforts of up to about 12lb test. Any more than twelve and you’re going to run into memory problems from the spinning side of things. You should be alright with casting. Maxima UG is perhaps the best most relied upon mono leader material of any other. Maxima’s hard line nature doesn’t require excessive line wraps when tying your terminal knots and is the most dependable line on the market when exposed to sharp rocks and bottom structure rendering many other lines useless.

And I’m reminded of something that a face from the past suggested to me on FB as I announced this article was coming…and that is to remember that not all lines will maintain their integrity at all tensile strengths the same. It’s a great point to remember. While you may use Maxima Chameleon line for trolling spring chinook in the big rivers you’d never use it in 8# leader for shy steelhead. Lines change purpose as tensile strenth ratings change.

What are some of the main differences between fluorocarbon lines and mono filament lines? (Forgetting for a moment about co polymer lines which is simply and line inside a line and are, for the most part, obsolete by now)

Fluorocarbon line looks just like mono. To a line junkie like me they may feel very different but even to me they do indeed look the same. So what is the difference besides a hefty chunk of change? Fluorocarbon is designed differently than mono. Molecularly it’s built to allow light to pass through it’s mass without distorting the light. Light distortion will alert the fish of the presence of the line as it precedes the lure. One of the way I describe the different reaction to light between mono and fluoro is as follows: Imagine traditional mono filament as it would mimic a stained glass window with light trying to pass through. It get’s deflected in every direction. Fluorocarbon allows the light to pass straight through. More like a regular see through house window.

What do these and other differences mean to you as you prepare to angle?

Are you supposed to use fluoro as a main line?

First, I almost always recommend fluorocarbon as a leader line only. The low light refraction when used as a leader material means an angler can up size his leader strength without compromising the low visibility aspect. Which we all know for steelhead is very important. They are a visual striker nine times out of ten. Unlike a salmon where those numbers are easily switched in the favor of smell on the side of the salmon. Hence fluorocarbon lines are virtually unnecessary for salmon applications. So the need for fluorocarbon quite simple increases as the water levels drop and clear.

Fluorocarbon lines are structurally different than mono as I mentioned. This means there are some downfalls, with respect to knot strength mainly, and must be handled a little different than mono. The main two things I’ve noticed are highlighted below.

*Use less wraps with fluoro when tying a terminal knot. Too many wraps can create a propensity for that line to cut itself.

*Make sure your line is wetted prior to tightening the knot. A little saliva on the loose knot ought to do it.

As I explain to you some of the advantages and disadvantages of fluorocarbon over mono and vice versa it’s important to remember that a line being advertised as a ‘Coated’ fluorocarbon line are NOT THE SAME as pure fluorocarbon. IF the line you’re looking at is a whole lot cheaper than the other fluoros on the shelf….then it’s probably not a fluorocarbon line. A 27 yard spool of mono Maxima UG is around four bucks these days. The same spool of Maxima Fluoro? About eleven bucks.

Here is a list of the fluoros I recommend you try out if you’re so inclined: (There are FAR MORE on the market these are just a few I can count on)

*P-Line Standard Fluorocarbon (Not Fluoroclear….that’s a coated line = no bueno)

*P-Line Halo




I won’t go so far as to recap the entire history of braided lines because I’ve got articles here on AAA that already do that for you. I’m happy to provide the link to anyone who needs it. What I will do though is explain the difference between common braided lines and how they differ in use and technique. This is a commonly misunderstood topic I am constantly addressing for anglers.

What is a performance braid? Performance braids are multiple strands of spectra fiber lines that have been fused together to form a line that is one piece. To call them ‘Performance’ is a title I gave to these non typical braided lines when they started coming out. Essentially single-strand braided lines. We could go back as far as the original Spiderwire to find the first ‘FUSED’ braided line. That would take us back to roughly ’96 or so. Keep in mind at this point the only anglers using Spiderwire were bass anglers. It had yet to take hold in our river fisheries. Only standard braid had made a showing by then and the uses were limited mostly to boat anglers who needed to cut down the amount of lead they were using while increasing the amount of line the reel could hold. (You can imagine the litany of problems that came from fishing undersized reels for oversized fish…but that’s a whole separate article) No at this point performance braid was touted to warm water anglers only. But us river junkies weren’t far behind….we just had a lot to learn first. Things I’m still teaching anglers today. How about a quick pros and cons list for both types of braided lines in order to shed some light on what belongs where? Sound good?

Performance braid uses & popular sizes (fused Spectra fibers ex Fireline) Standard braid uses & popular sizes (woven Spectra fibers ex Power Pro)

Finesse Float fixed or sliding i.e. steelhead #14-#20 Heavy Float i.e. chinook 50#-65#

Smaller hardware casting up to 1/2oz #14-20# Medium hardware casting 5/8oz to 3oz #50-#65

Finesse drift fishing #14 Heavy boat vertical jigging-Salt-80#

Again these are just suggestions according to my own experience. I know plenty of anglers who use light standard braid options for drift and float. Kevin Gray uses all Power Pro for his float needs. Standard braid. I think 15#.

FUN FACT TO REMEMBER: Performance or fused braids are fantastic in the lighter tensile strengths. They’re perfect where you can use them to complete your desired finesse tactic most likely ‘float’. Once you get into anything north of twenty pound tensile strength you’re automatically now using a standard braid no matter what.

IMPORTANT: Always remember to tie the biggest, bulkiest knot possible when tying your terminal knots with either kind of braid. Readers of this website know I prefer the Double Quick Knot and some variation of the Quick knot with just about any line.

Okay you guys tell me…..did this article work? What questions didn’t I answer? Let’s keep it going right here on the AAA Thread!

To read my BRAID CRAZY SOCIETY article just click anywhere here (This article was ran nationally on

  1. Chromehammer says:

    Chris you nailed this article! Clear and concise, very informative, and not too long. I have taken away some seriously useful info from this as I am not much of a line guru like you my man. Very nice article!!

  2. Hellcat says:

    Thanks a ton, Kevin!!!

  3. BHoov says:

    You are a wealth of knowledge being somebody who always used mono I was apprehensive about braid after one trip and using your setup you turned me into a believer I’m able to do what I intended “almost” every time great informative read brother

  4. Nic says:

    Great write up! Very thorough. I had definitely been playing trial and error for some time with my lines. Which I didn’t mind so much because I want to know the good, the bad and all the in between. After multiple messages with you it helped narrow things down for me for sure! This articles covers it all!!

  5. Sal says:

    An amazing amount of information. Easy to see how the average Joe may end up just grabbing the cheapest thing on the shelf. Thanks for making it very clear what the choices are and what their strengths and weaknesses tend to be. Sal

  6. Good article Chris. Made me think about a few things that might be worth discussing. Ever see a flourocarbon that says, “black light visible”? Why would this be advertised? Flouro/mono sink vs float rate. What is the difference between p-line’s flourocarbon vs. CFX flourocarbon besides price(ie. are 100% flourocarbon lines created equal)? As far as line performance and maintence there is a product called blakemore reel magic that helps reduce line memory. For optimum presentation float fishing creating a hydrophobic line is key. A lot of guys see their braided line floating and think it’s working properly, but when mending there line it’s still pulling on there float. Try dressing your line with a floatant product and it’s amazing the difference it makes. It also keeps line lubricated and protected from things like sliding your bobber stop up and down the line and keeps your braided line from becoming “fuzzy”.

  7. Heli mike says:

    I have used pline halo before with sucess only as leader meterial. I believe halo is designed for main line. Just pick up pline 100% fc cfx. Have you had any experience with this leader line chris? I’ve also be running gamma polyflex (copolymer) as main line for about a year on my dirft rod. I love the cast ability of the line. But been a little disappointed in its knot strength. I’ve been tying the fishing fool knot latey. Maybe this knot better for braid. Might just go back to the improved clinch knot. Any ideas? Thanks for your time. 🙂
    Heli mike..

  8. richard stafford says:

    thats a good article hellcat hoho very helppful tips

  9. Mr. Sockeye says:

    This was a very good read, H3L. Like I mentioned on Facebook, I was running exclusively braid, but one of my fishing buddy’s runs exlcuisvely mono, and he loses less fish than anybody I know. The stretch factor of mono is a great thing once you have the fish hooked. Braid is super unforgiving when you get those fast and furious headshakes or a death roll from a hot fish. Mono stretches like a rubber band, and that helps you keep them tight at all times. I noticed a huge increase in fish landed out in the ocean while trolling for salmon by switching from braid to mono. As you’ve mentioned, I run braid when I use floats. If I am drift fishing for steelhead, I am probably going to run mono. I don’t feel the bite quite as readily as I would with braid, and I think that’s a good thing. I think it makes me give the fish a second to get the bait in its mouth. If I am fishing for Chinooks in a big river and making long casts then it’s braid all the way. I need the strength and the line capacity. If it’s trolling spinners on the Sac, you’ve got to have braid to see what your spinner is doing.

  10. Hellcat says:

    As always, Mike, I agree with everything you say. Thank you for your time on AAA and your participation. You’re a part of this whole thing too.

  11. BHoov says:

    Once again the A3 archives help out an angler im putting braid on my new float setup and wanted to brush up on an expert opinion man I love these archives

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