Reel Time: Line and leaders

Reel Time: Line and leaders
Your fishing day will be more productive when you have confidence in your line and leader. - Rusty Chinnis | Sun

When anglers talk tackle, the conversation is usually centered on rods and reels, lures and accessories. While these make up the largest part of the fisherman’s arsenal, lines and leaders are a critical component of the equation. The major choices of line fall into three categories: braid, monofilament, and fluorocarbon.

While fluorocarbon, monofilament and braided lines were created to spool reels, fluorocarbon is most often used as a leader material. Each has its advantages and disadvantages and anglers should choose them based on their fishing style and use.

Monofilament has been around for decades and is probably the most commonly used line. It has many advantages and a few disadvantages that will affect the anglers’ choice. Chief among its advantages are affordability and the fact that it sinks slowly and is more forgiving (stretches), making it less likely to break when shocked. Its disadvantages include the fact that it is less durable, has a larger diameter and can’t be cast as far.

Braided lines have made significant inroads since their introduction in the early 90s. They are constructed of a special blend of polyethylene fibers. Some brands are wound loosely while others are fused. Braided lines are extremely durable with no stretch. The unfused lines are generally suppler, while the fused ones are stiffer but less likely to wrap around guides and form knots during casting, one of the disadvantages of braided lines.

When using braided line it’s important to be aware that no loops form on your reel, a sure sign of trouble to come. It’s also wise to raise the rod tip to tighten (and take the slack out) the line after a cast and before retrieving.

Braided lines are much stronger than mono lines and pound for pound they have a much smaller diameter. Most anglers choose to go with a matching line test (i.e. smaller diameter line) and add a base of mono on the spool. That way you don’t have to use extra braid that will never see the light of day.

The fact that braided lines don’t stretch makes them more sensitive for anglers when fishing. This makes it easier to feel a bite and to set the hook on a fish. This is a big advantage when bottom fishing and targeting fish with subtle bites. It’s important when tying knots like wraps that you take additional wraps with the smaller diameter, slicker braids.

Fluorocarbon lines are more expensive, and while it was intended as a filler line, most anglers use it primarily for a leader. It has a number of advantages over monofilament line, the most important being that it is less visible in the water. In addition, it is denser which makes it sink faster and is more abrasion-resistant. The abrasion resistance is important for fish like tarpon and snook.

There are so many lines and variations on the market that it would take a book to cover them all. Whatever line you choose, carefully seat all knots. This is especially true with braids. Whatever line is used, wet knots and seat them firmly with pliers. Monofilament and fluorocarbon lines also come in colors. Red is popular because it’s the first color to disappear at depth in the water column.

There is a lot of information on the internet, but probably the best advice would be to seek out local knowledge from anglers and tackle shops and try the different lines to see which suits your fishing style.

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