My early fishing years saw me buy all sorts of gear to try and get a feel for what suits my way of angling.
In fact, I first had to figure out which type of fishing appealed to me.
We did a lot of barbel fishing back in the day, but when I discovered lure fishing I got hooked.
So I went from slap chip river rods and chicken liver to stiffer baitcasting rods and lures and eventually settled on spinning equipment entirely.
I’ve had numerous fishing rods and reels throughout the years, some great, some not so hot.
Along with testing rods and reels, I also tried a variety of fishing lines.
In those days we fished exclusively with monofilament.
So the choice at hand was not between different types of line, but between different monofilament brands and thicknesses.
To this day I remember the hard green Maxima fishing line that I started out with.
I found this stuff in one of my dad’s old army bags (that he’d converted to a fishing sack), so naturally I tried it.
It was horrible.
For live bait fishing this type of line is fine, I’m sure, but for lure fishing this line was a nightmare.
It was like fishing with wire.
It tangled up and didn’t allow for properly seeing bites.
For bass fishing, often the only way to notice a bite is to watch the line. The spots I fished held bass that were sometimes so sly that you simply couldn’t feel a take.
You literally had to keep your eye on the line, and if you saw the line move ever so slightly, chances were it was a bass taking your bait.
With the hard green line, this proved to be a challenge of note.
Not to mention casting this stuff! It just didn’t want to go, especially if you tried casting lighter lures.
And controlling hard fishing line is not easy either. You cast where it thinks you should cast, not where you want to cast.
Then one day I came across the perfect monofilament.
Stren still makes fishing line today, and it’s probably one of the finest monofilament lines on the market.
What made it stand out for me was its limpness.
It’s like this line is on permanent holiday.
It just wants to lie down, which is perfect if you’re in need of some distance in your cast.
I found it much easier to pick up bites on Stren too.
It proved to be an exceptional line.
The next step in my fishing line evolution was when a friend of mine took me fishing one day.
He was a rich bloke, so he bought only top quality gear.
He had a number of casting rigs.
All his baitcasters were spooled with a strange fishing line that resembled the Maxima line I so despised, with the difference that this line disappeared under water.
This was my first introduction to fluorocarbon fishing line.
I hated fishing with it.
It was hard and unresponsive, but the idea that the fish couldn’t see it made it an attractive option.
And although his baitcasters were immensely expensive and had all sorts of doodads to combat line overrun, I’d regularly have to sort out crow’s nests.
This same friend had a single spinning outfit too (he preferred fishing baitcasters) which was fixed with a reel that contained a line even stranger than fluorocarbon.
It looked like his spinning reel was doubling as a fly tying bobbin.
This was the first time I ever saw braided fishing line.
Wonderful, beautiful braid, the saviour of fisherkind.
Here was a line that offered superb strength to diameter ratio and was as limp as a rubber chicken.
I was in love with braid from day one.
Just one problem.
This stuff was as visible as a neon glow stick on a moonless night.
But ingenuity prevails.
See, my friend, who’d obviously seen how the Americans do things, combined braid with fluorocarbon.
He simply used fluorocarbon as a leader.
That solved the problem!
Since then, the only line I fish with is braid and fluorocarbon.
I won’t easily go back to monofilament.
It needs to be stated here that it’s a personal preference.
I know for a fact that the famous Alcock brothers sometimes use monofilament exclusively.
However, I shall stick to using braid as the main line and fluorocarbon as a leader.
What breaking strain should you use?
Because braid offers a fantastic strength to diameter ratio, you could easily go for a 20 pound line without feeling like you’ve over compensated.
As mentioned in a previous article, I might move down to a 15 pound line soon, but for the purpose of fishing light tackle, including freshwater fishing, 20 pound line is a great happy medium.
What length should the leader be?
I’ve been using fluorocarbon leaders of 600mm in length for years now. There’s no need to go longer than that.
What type of knot should you use?
As far as knots go, braid is tricky. It needs a decent knot. The same knot that’ll ensure that your monofilament never comes loose—the clinch knot, or even the improved clinch knot—is not good enough for braid.
You’ll hear many different opinions on this, but for me, when I tie fluorocarbon to braid, I make use of one knot, and that’s the Palomar knot.
Take note that I make use of a barrel swivel to connect the leader to the main line. If you’re tying the leader directly to the main line, you wouldn’t be using a Palomar.
Common problems with braid
Although braid is something of a miracle line, it doesn’t come without hassle.
Line tangle is a common problem. So are wind knots. There are a number of ways to overcome these issues though.
Do three things if you want your braid to perform smoothly.
- Buy a decent quality braid.
- Add the braid to your reel as tightly as possible.
- don’t allow your fishing reel bail to snap back automatically after a cast.
Which type of braid should you buy?
The quality of your braid is important. You don’t want to buy the cheapest braid you can find. That’s because the cheaper the braid, the more likely you are to find weak points in it.
When you buy braid, check that the line has a uniform thickness. Even as it’s still lying on the rack you should be able to see what it looks like. If it’s packaged in a box, take it out and have a close look.
Braid comes in a number of colours. One colour does not out fish another. The colour you choose comes down to personal preference. If you want to use a pink fishing braid, go for it.
Spooling your reel with braid
Before you start spooling your spinning reel, cover the base of your spool with a layer of tape. This is to offer your braid some bite for the first few turns of spooling.
Standard sticky tape works fine, but insulation tape offers more grip.
Now comes the hard part.
Start spooling your reel in the standard way, but instead of just adding pressure to the spool from which the line is being extracted from, tangle the incoming braid between your fingers.
Do not do this with your bare hand!
Cover your fingers in tissue paper or wear an old glove, else you’ll burn your fingers.
If you get this stage right, your braid will be packed nice and tight.
(I know some fisherman recommend using monofilament backing when you spool a reel. I don’t. I put the braid on directly. No specific reason other than that adding another operation keeps me from fishing.)
Here’s a nice video showing how to spool a spinning reel with braid.
Don’t allow the bail to snap back automatically
If you don’t already do it, now’s the time to start learning it. Don’t just start reeling in your line after a cast. Don’t let the bail snap back automatically.
The guys who know will tell you that this causes the line to twist.
Always snap the bail back manually. This should ensure that your line doesn’t build up twist.
Wind knots happen from time to time. These can often be impossible to remove. If you get a wind knot and manage, by some miracle, to get it out of your line, tug the line a few times to make sure it didn’t create a weak spot. Wind knots usually have me cutting the line. Rather safe than sorry.
Invest in a pair of pliers
A last note. Get yourself a nice pair of pliers. I had a pair of Van Staal titanium pliers. They come with a set of replaceable carbide tips that easily cuts through braid.
You don’t need to get a Van Staal, but a similar pair of pliers should give you great joy.
So there you have it. If you’re looking for a decent fishing line for your light tackle lure fishing escapades, you can’t go wrong with a fluorocarbon leader attached to a braid main line.
As always, tight lines.
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