Don’t get tangled up with the wrong fishing line

The most important piece of anglers’ equipment unfortunately is something they all too often overlook.

Fishing line is not the most exciting stuff that anglers use, so it is easy to shrug it off. That’s a shame because neglect and indifference can lead to a great deal of disappointment out on the lake.

Line comes in many sizes, compounds, weaves and colors, each serving certain needs for those of us who spool them into our reels. Many who fish, however, are only vaguely aware of how the line they wind can work for or against them.

Fishing presents baits and lures to the fish we hope to catch and serves as the tether to retrieve our hooked quarry. But each variety has characteristics that make them better than others for specific situations.

Nylon monofilament is the basic choice for most fishing newbies. It is relatively invisible in the water and possesses little memory, so it is relatively easy to manage on the reel.

Mono is an excellent choice for basic live bait fishing and for children’s fishing reels. Because mono floats, it also is a great choice for anglers who are fishing topwater lures.

Fluorocarbon compounds also are extruded in single strands like nylon mono. Fluoro is dense enough to sink. It also is stiffer than mono, which means it is sensitive and readily transmits bites and bottom contact. Fluoro’s stiffness makes it better than nylon for fishing in situations where “feel” is essential, but it also is more difficult to manage, especially on spinning reels.

Mono and fluorocarbon are available in a wide range of diameters, which are generally categorized as “test” strengths. Ultralight lines are four- to six-pound test, while light line is eight- to 10-pound test. The test strengths range up to 50 pounds and more, but for most freshwater applications, anglers’ heaviest line is 20-pound test.

If you are considering line for springtime crappie fishing at Mosquito Lake, for example, you would do well to spool up with 6- or 8-pound test nylon mono. If you are jig fishing for walleyes, consider the same 6- to 8-pound test, but in fluorocarbon.

Mid-range sizes of nylon mono are great for crankbait fishing, while fluorocarbon works better for those who want their lures to dig deep.

Line choice would be pretty simple if it were just a matter of selecting from two categories. But there are other options, including the increasingly popular superlines made by braiding high-strength materials.

Superlines float and have almost zero stretch. These attributes make them great for working topwater baits, ripping lures through aquatic vegetation and winching bass, pike and muskies out of heavy cover. They also transmit vibrations extremely well so they are used as the main line tied to fluorocarbon leaders by anglers fishing vertically with drop-shot rigs and other finesse presentations.

Selecting the right line is important for those who want to maximize their success on the water. Equally as critical, however, is making sure the line is in good shape. Anglers should change their line at least once a year and start each season with new stuff.

Professional anglers wisely counsel anglers to change their line when they can hear their mono or fluoro as it passes through the guides on their rod. Good line should make almost no sound, while line that is worn makes a noticeable swishing sound.

Anglers cannot control the mood of the fish or accurately predict the lures that will trick them, but they can make good choices regarding their fishing lines. The right line will make the best presentations and hold up to the strain of day spent battling big fish.

Jack Wollitz is a writer and angler who enjoys fishing the lakes and rivers of northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. He also likes emails from readers. Send a note to Jack at jackbbaass@gmail.com.


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