Complete fishing line guide
There's a vast range of fishing lines on the market, and Mark Williams details the differences with this handy guide.
FISHOS have never had it so good when it comes to the variety of specialist fishing lines available. However, with such a large selection, choosing the right line for a particular style of fishing can be difficult and can make the difference between success and failure on the water.
Until about 20 years ago, selecting lines was a relatively simple task as monofilament dominated the tackle shop shelves. Since then the advent of gel spun polyethylene lines during the mid 1990s was a massive game changer and the ongoing development continues to this day.
Having worked in the tackle trade I understand how the vast array of brands and types of fishing lines can bewilder newcomers to fishing. There are a couple of ways to simplify the selection process. Firstly, don’t go near the cheap and nasty stuff. It doesn’t matter what line type it is, there’s always rubbish out there for sale, mostly online.
Secondly, get as much advice as possible from experienced anglers and reliable sources before you make a purchase. Ask the guys behind the counter at your local specialist tackle shop what they use to spool their reels. Finally, go online and research your potential purchase on a reputable website such as the Fisho website.
The reality is that no one type of fishing line will do it all. All lines have characteristics that lend themselves to particular styles of fishing. In this piece we’ll look at each of the popular line types available and examine their strengths and weaknesses. We’ll also look at the newest lines on the market and what their potential impact may be in the future.
Monofilament or nylon fishing lines didn’t become widely available in Australia until after the Second World War. These lines were, and still are, relatively cheap to produce and have remained popular for a range of fishing styles including rock & beach, game fishing and various bait fishing scenarios. One of the greatest attributes of mono is its excellent abrasion resistance. Consequently it’s ideally suited to use in harsh environments such as coastal rock ledges, estuarine oyster leases and freshwater granite gorge areas.
ther key characteristics include high knot strength and built-in stretch. This is a real positive in certain fishing scenarios such as keeping hooks in jumping fish like marlin and sailfish. Game and sportfishing competition rules usually require the use of fishing lines which have a pre-tested breaking strain of which there are many monofilament lines available.
Traditionally countries such as Germany, Japan, France and the USA have been widely recognised as producers of the highest quality monofilament lines. However, there is an exception in Australian Monofil which produces some of the best fishing lines in the world such as the famous Platypus brand produced in Brisbane. Actually, these days Platypus Lo-Stretch is my personal favourite monofilament fishing line for both rock fishing and game fishing. It’s tough, has excellent knot strength, casts well and has a reduced stretch that sits between that of traditional monofilaments and braided lines.
There are various types of monofilament lines produced. Co-polymer lines have a hard outer sheath to combat abrasion, but a softer inner core which results in excellent handling properties. The monofilament lines most sought after these days by hardcore anglers are the tough, abrasion resistant lines such as Schneider, Tortue, Maxima and Rovex 10X for rock fishing scenarios where high abrasion resistance is required.
Monofilament leader material is also available in hard or supple versions. It’s a tough, relatively cheap alternative to the newer fluorocarbon leader material that’s become so popular for fishing in clear water situations. If you’re fishing dirty water and going through a lot of leader material then hard monofilament leader could be the way to go.
Monofilament lines do have a number of undesirable or negative traits. These include damage or deterioration by UV rays and developing memory problems. The best way to combat these issues is to change or replace your monofilament lines at regular intervals. These lines are still relatively cheap when compared to GSP lines.
The impact of gel spun polyethylene, or GSP lines, on recreational fishing worldwide cannot be overstated. These so called wonder lines were the catalyst for a revolution in tackle design that’s culminated in the superb fishing gear we use today. Originally developed by the Dutch, the technology was quickly acquired by companies in Japan and the USA. GSP products from Japan were named Dyneema and in the United States were called Spectra.
The key attributes of GSP lines are that they’re around a third of the diameter of monofilament lines in the given breaking strain and they provide unsurpassed situation awareness courtesy of virtually zero stretch. Other positive traits include a lack of memory and not being damaged by UV rays.
Recreational anglers were quick to realise these fine diameter, near zero stretch GSP lines, were going to be superb for most forms of lure fishing, deep water bottom fishing, and as fly reel backing. Fishing styles that have boomed through the development of GSP lines include ultra-light tackle lure fishing for bream, whiting, bass and flathead, soft plastic fishing for snapper, deep water jigging for yellowtail kingfish and heavy tackle surface luring for giant trevally and all manner of big blue water sport & game fish.
Braiding of lines is a time consuming production process, and in business, time is money, so it wasn’t long before US companies had developed a means of manufacturing GSP lines through a fusion process that didn’t require braiding machinery. Spiderwire Fusion and Berkeley Fireline proved to be immensely popular and I personally find the fused GSP lines to be ideally suited to ultra-light lure fishing applications such as whiting poppering and chasing bream on soft plastics. For breaking strains of 10kg and over I prefer to use braided GSP lines as I find the fused lines in heavier line classes to feel a bit wiry.
Once again you really get what you pay for with GSP lines. The cheaper stuff can be prone to wind knots, handling issues and poor knot strength. I use a lot of mid-range GSP lines for my estuarine and freshwater lure fishing and find they perform well. Generally the best handling GSP braided lines feature a tight weave that ensures the line maintains a consistent round profile. Some of the quality mid-range brands that I’ve enjoyed using include Samaki Xtreme PE, Shimano Power Pro, Rovex Viros, Bionic Braid and Sufix 832.
I’ve only really needed to use the expensive high end GSP braided lines for blue water sportfishing applications where your gear is really pushed to its limits. Top shelf GSP lines are usually constructed using 8 carrier braiding technology and have superb handling qualities; some of these high performance braided lines include Shimano Ocea, Daiwa TD Sensor, Sunline Cast Away and Jigman. GSP braided lines that have been specifically designed for deep water jigging for yellowtail kingfish and other pelagic species are incrementally depth marked so you can easily drop your jig down to the specific level that fish are shown to be holding on your fish finder.
A lot has been said about the need for specialised knots when using GSP lines and a range of superb new connections have been developed in recent years specifically for use with these wonder lines. If you had to learn just one of these new GSP connections I would recommend you learn the FG knot as it really is the best braid to leader connection ever developed, in my opinion. Other connections that I regularly use with GSP lines include the Bimini twist, cats-paw knot, uni-knot, duck-nose knot and the double surgeons knot.
So what negative aspects are there to these new generation wonder lines? Firstly, the lines are visible so it’s recommended to always use a fluorocarbon or monofilament leader when fishing with outfits spooled up with GSP. Also it’s vitally important when spooling reels up with GSP lines that it’s done under considerable tension. Failure to do this can result in bust offs occurring through the line burying into the line load when a fish is screaming off under drag. I’ve seen this happen on hot running Spanish mackerel up in the Top End and the broken end of the line was buried so deep in the spool we couldn’t find it. Finally, GSP lines are extremely long lasting, but they still wear over time so they do need to be replaced after extended use.
This new age leader material has become extremely popular with recreational anglers fishing in clear water situations due to its refractive index similar to water. In layman’s terms, this means the material should be close to invisible when immersed in water. Other positive attributes of fluorocarbon leader material is that it’s extremely abrasion resistant and naturally sinks, which is a distinct advantage when fishing sub-surface lures or baits. I use fluorocarbon leader for all lure and fly fishing scenarios these days except when fishing surface lures or flies.
Fluorocarbon main line has also been gaining popularity for ultra-light lure casting in clear water situations. Ideally suited for fishing diving crank baits on clear sand flats or over weed beds, in my experience it works best in ultra-light line classes of 3lb or less. The only negative issue I’ve encountered with fluorocarbon leader or main lines is some knot slippage with cheaper products. These probably weren’t 100 per cent fluorocarbon.
The future of lines
Gliss is the latest wonder line to hit the Australian market and is produced by German manufacturer, WFT. Made from Japanese materials, Gliss uses an extrusion production process which results in a line with a thin and even diameter compared to current braided or fused GSP lines. It also has very low stretch. It’s too early to pass judgement on Gliss, but from the samples I’ve seen while working in the tackle trade, I’d say if you’re into ultra-light lure casting then you probably need to check it out. It’ll be interesting to see how this new product stacks up over time against braided GSP lines in terms of durability, abrasion resistance and knot strength.
In closing, the best advice I can give anglers is to get into the habit of continually checking the condition of the line on your reels, and at the first signs of wear or damage, replace them. These days I mostly choose to top-shot my reels with high performance GSP or monofilament lines rather than totally fill them with a lesser product that might let me down on the fish of a lifetime. Buying the best quality lines that you can afford will guarantee better catches in the long run.