Understanding the Different Types of Fishing Line: Monofilament, Fluorocarbon and Braided Lines
By: Shaye Baker
Today we’ll break down the main differences between the three primary types of line used for bass fishing: monofilament, fluorocarbon and braid. Whether you’re an advanced angler who has been fishing for years or you’re brand new to the sport, there are some glaring differences between these three types of line and some subtle ones as well that you might not know about. Our goal today is to shed light on a little something for everyone, so this one is packed slam full of info. Let’s get started.
Monofilament is the most common line used in bass fishing by the masses, though it is not actually the oldest. Large diameter braided line in fact predates monofilament, but it was closer to small rope than the highly sophisticated braided line we use today. Monofilament, or mono for short, came onto the scene in the 1950s and took over as the primary fishing line used by anglers for decades.
Some of the key characteristics worth mentioning, monofilament is somewhat transparent, it floats, it has a lot of stretch and a lot of memory. We’ll get to how these traits compare to those of braided and fluorocarbon, but the main thing you need to know about monofilament is that it is typically a very affordable line that you can do a whole lot with. So that’s why there so many anglers fish with it.
Braided line is highly visible, has little to no stretch, it floats and has the highest pound test for its diameter. The smaller diameter of braided line makes it a great main line for spinning reels, as it has the least memory of all three lines. Memory, when it comes to fishing line, refers to the line’s tendency to hold its shape when it comes off the spool. A line with a lot of memory causes line twists—a common nuisance on spinning reels spooled with monofilament and fluorocarbon. Still, many techniques require at least a fluorocarbon or mono leader when using braid on a spinning reel.
The strength and low stretch of braided line makes it extremely effective for use in flipping and pitching, especially in low visibility and heavy cover. Braid is extremely abrasion resistant and has a cutting power that helps tear through thick vegetation on the fight to free fish from matted grasses. It’s floating characteristic also makes it a great choice for topwaters, especially ones like hollow body frogs that are typically fished around heavy cover.
This type of line is a staple for, particularly advanced anglers. You’ll see most of the professional bass fishermen use fluorocarbon, or fluoro, a lot. That’s because this line is very versatile. It combines a lot of the advantageous characteristics of braid and mono into a super line that eliminates some of the drawbacks of each. Fluoro has far less stretch than mono, similar to braid. Unlike braid though, fluoro is transparent, even more so than mono. It’s also more abrasion resistant than mono, though not as much so as braid. And more sensitive than mono, but not as sensitive as braid.
Fluorocarbon sinks, so in that way it is different from both mono and braid. It’s also the least visible of the three. These two characteristics make it a great line for subsurface baits, especially in high visibility, clear water situations. That’s why you’ll want to almost always fish jerkbaits, lipless crankbaits, and crankbaits on fluoro. But you’ll never fish a topwater on fluorocarbon because your line sinking will make it almost impossible to keep your bait on top of the water and working correctly.
The Finer Differences: Topwaters
With topwater baits, fluorocarbon is out. But when should you use braid and when should you use mono? Though monofilament could be used a good bit of the time with topwaters, is best to limit it to close quarters in open water using thin wired treble hooks. For instance, fishing a finesse popper on mono is a good idea, especially if you’re getting bites close to the boat. If you were to fish this way with braid, the low stretch runs the risk of warping the thin-wired treble hooks on the hookset or the fight. The stretch of mono does a better job of absorbing a lot of that tension, making it a better choice.
But when throwing topwaters in almost all other situations, braid is likely the way to go. It works great with hollow body baits like frogs, especially around heavy cover. Or reeling toads and topwater paddle tail swimbaits around and over thick cover as well. Then too with walking style topwaters that you want to throw far, braid is the ticket. The thinner diameter braid allows you to pack more line on your reel for longer casts, and the low stretch ensures a better hookup in the event you get a bite early in the retrieve.
The Finer Differences: Subsurface
Monofilament can be really effective with jerkbaits, wakebaits and shallow running crankbaits, especially when wanting to keep these baits close to the surface. For wakebaits, that’s always the case so mono and braid are the way to go. But the buoyancy of monofilament sometimes makes it a better choice than fluoro for jerkbaits and crankbaits when you’re wanting to fish them in, particularly shallow water. If you’re fishing a jerkbait that runs 7 to 8 feet on fluoro, swapping to mono will probably keep it up around 4 to 5 feet below the surface.
Lipless crankbaits work better in some situations on fluoro, where others require braid. Most of the time, fluorocarbon is the way to go. But when yo-yoing a lipless crankbait in submerged vegetation, swapping to braid makes it easier to rip the bait free from the grass. Braid also tears through the vegetation better when a bass eats a lipless bait and then tries to bury up in the grass.
Spinnerbaits and vibrating jigs can be fished on both fluorocarbon and braid as well, with the determining factor typically being the thickness of the cover or the water clarity. Around wood and thick grass in stained water, it’s a good idea to go with braid. But in open, clear water and around sparse cover, fluorocarbon is the better selection.
The Finer Differences: Bottom Baits
For baits along the bottom like jigs, Texas rigs and shaky heads, several factors come into play. Water clarity, cover and depth being three big ones. If you’re flipping a jig around stumps in two feet of muddy water, go with braid. It’s more abrasion resistant and the visibility of it doesn’t matter as much then. But if you’re dragging a football jig in 20 feet of water, fluorocarbon is the right selection, regardless of the water clarity. The buoyancy of the braid would cause your line to float and create a large bow, making it hard to fish the jig effectively and get a good hookset.
There are also several situations with bottom baits where using a combination of a braided mainline and fluorocarbon leader is best, especially with finesse techniques and spinning gear. Baits like dropshots, light shaky heads, Ned rigs and Neko rigs work best with a braid to fluoro combination. You get the low memory, high sensitivity, low stretch and better ratio of diameter to strength benefits of braid. And then combine that with the low visibility of fluorocarbon within the last 5 or 6 feet of line closest to the bait.
There’s a lot to think about when selecting the best line for each bait and technique, but it’s not super complicated. One of the main differences to keep in mind is that braid and mono float and fluoro sinks. Knowing this and looking at the obvious characteristics of the lines alongside the water clarity and cover, you’ll be able to take a pretty good stab at which line is best for that set of conditions.
And remember, if you don’t want to sweat all this, monofilament will do a decent job in a lot of different situations. But the more you really dial things in and start to incorporate braid and fluoro into the mix, you’ll see massive increases in the number of bites you get and your hookup ratio with certain techniques.