Choosing the right fishing line for the situation

Posted on: May 10, 2018 | Bob Frye | Comments

When it comes to fishing line, the choices can be dizzying.

There are just so many options.

Can you spool all of your reels with one kind of line – say monofilament – and get away with that, no matter what you’re fishing for or when or where?

Yes, if you’re willing to live with the consequences.

I mean, I used to drive an old Mercury Cougar on hunting and fishing trips because that was the vehicle I had. But it got stuck in snowbanks and mudholes, too.

An off-road buggy it was not.

So it is with fishing line. Some performs better in certain situations than others.

Here, then, are some things to consider.


Fluorocarbon line is pricier than some other lines, but it has several things going for it.

One, it’s nearly invisible underwater. Our scientific friends tell us that’s because it doesn’t distort light passing through it, at least not to the degree other lines do.

Simply put, it’s hard for fish to spot.

It also sinks, which makes it great for fishing on the bottom fishing or using weightless presentations. It will carry a jig or a soft plastic rigged alone to the bottom, all while providing good sensitivity.

It’s pretty tough, too. Sunlight doesn’t break it down over time as it does with monofilament, and it can take being dragged across rocks and logs for a long time.


Ah, monofilament. Made from nylon most often, it’s been the fishing line standard for decades. It’s relatively inexpensive, flexible, comes in assorted colors and generally works.

It’s a good all-around line.

But it really shines in certain applications.

One is when fishing topwater baits. Monofilament sinks, but oh so slowly, so it’s perfect for things like poppers and stick baits for bass. Where fluorocarbon line would pull the noses on such baits down, hindering their action, mono lets then ride high.

It stretches, too. That makes it forgiving in terms of hook sets.

With monofilament, you’re less likely to tear a hole in a fish’s mouth and lose it on its way to the boat or shore.


Braided line, sometimes called superline, is the powerhouse line. Its diameter to strength ratio is unmatched.

What that means is, you can downsize – going to a lighter test line – without losing strength. And thinner line, of course, allows crankbaits to run deeper, makes lures operate more naturally in river current and makes casting long distances simpler.

Braid is super sensitive, too. With it, you’ll feel every bottom bump, strike and miss.

Braid is not as tough as some other lines – it will fray – and it is highly visible. Colored braid fades over time, too.

But it can cut through vegetation and it floats, so it’s a good choice when using things like topwater frogs.

Which fishing line to choose

If you have more than one fishing rod, or even just more than one reel, it makes sense to have them spooled with various kinds of line in various sizes. Then you can adapt based on the situation.

Don’t be afraid to use two kinds of line at once, though.

For example, crappies are not usually the most line sensitive or “spooky” of fish. One pro angler I know targets them with 15-pound-test, bright yellow braided line that with a 10-pound-test fluorocarbon leader.

The braid has little stretch. If his lure hangs up in the branches of a submerged brush pile – just the kind of place crappies hang out – he pulls until the hook on his jig straightens out and comes free. Then he just bends it back into shape and keeps fishing.

The fluorocarbon leader, meanwhile – which is stiffer than braid – is less likely to droop over branches and get hung up in the first place.

For him, it works.

So pick your line – or lines – and experiment. Either way, you’ll be fishing, and that’s a win.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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