The best braid: Understanding braid and polyethylene fishing line
MOST anglers will usually refer to the super lines they use as braided line or “braid” for short. Using braid is commonplace nowadays but the line you are using might not actually be braided at all. Whilst the use of super lines has now become mainstream, understanding the different characteristics of these lines and some of the terminology will help you be better informed the next time you go to buy some new line.
What are super lines?
The building block for most super lines is polyethylene, an extremely versatile and popular plastic material that is also used to make shopping bags. The difference between shopping bags and your fishing line however is that is that ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene is used in the making of super lines. This super polyethylene goes through a process called gel-spinning to create fibres that stretched and oriented in the direction of the fibre creating an exceptionally strong material. These high performance gel spun polyethylene fibres are the then used to create the various fishing lines that anglers use around the world.
True braided lines are made by taking high performance polyethylene fibres and weaving or braiding them together to create a single multi-strand fishing line. The process of weaving the lines is mechanically intensive so braided lines take relatively longer times to manufacture. Once made, the spools of bulk braided lines are put in a chamber filled with dye or are unwound with the line passing through a tray of dyed resin. This process allow transfers the dye solution onto the line creating the various coloured fishing lines you see on your tackle shop shelves.
Thermally fused line
The other type of super line you’ll find in the market is not braided at all but is created by taking the high performance polyethylene fibres and fusing them together. This is done by intertwining the fibred then heating the strand to a temperature which causes the fibres to melt and fuse to one another. This fusing process is much faster than braiding and creates a line that is typically stiffer than braid and more cost effective.
Carrier or strand count
Each individual strand of high performance polyethylene fibre is called a carrier. A four carrier braid is braided with four strands of polyethylene fibre whilst an 8 carrier braid used with strands. Generally speaking, using more strands creates a braid that is rounder and smoother, the end result is that it’s quieter when being wound through the guides and allows you to cast further. With that said, a four strand braid might feel courser than an 8 or 12 strand braids but that coarseness has advantages, especially if you’re fishing through heavy weed or kelp and need to braid to cut through it. The lower strand count braids are also easier to make and are will cost less to buy!
Where each of the individual carriers or strands intersects one another in a braided line is called a “PIC” which stands for Per Inch Crosses. A higher pic count means that the weave of the braided line is tighter resulting in a braided line that is more flexible and is less prone to retaining water. Higher pic count lines take longer to manufacture so will be more expensive.
The PE rating system can cause a little frustration as it is quite confusing and non-standardised. Some people will say you multiply by 10 to get the equivalent PE rating in pounds i.e. PE2 =20lb braid. Others will say it’s a measure of diameter i.e. PE2 = 0.24mm. Finally some say that it’s based on a Japanese thread weight measurements. I’ve just walked out of a tackle shop in Singapore whilst over here briefly and wanted to buy some 10lb braid. I looked at lines with and without PE ratings and found that there wasn’t any consistency in naming; the same PE number was found to have different thicknesses and characteristics. In the end I compared thicknesses, stiffness and price then settled on something that was a good trade-off of all three!
Pros and cons
There are many benefits to using either braided or thermally fused lines. Firstly, they’re very thin and very strong allowing you to get more line onto your reel, cast further or use heavier lines than you otherwise could. They have practically no stretch so transmit bites and vibrations exceptionally well. These lines are not without their downsides however. Good quality braid is usually quite expensive and if you get snagged it can be difficult to beak heavier lines. Also, their slick coatings and smooth surfaces make it more difficult to ties knots with braid. Finally, most braid lines are opaque making them quite visible under water.
Generally speaking for light casting on spin tackle you want a line that has a little more body and stiffness so a fused line or stiffer braided line would suit best. This results in a line slight amount of memory which helps the line to coil off the spool of a spin reel more consistently than limp braid lines. Braided lines come with different coatings and profiles making them suitable for all applications. Some are supple and soft, others are stiffer whilst some are round in profile and others are oval. For jigging you want a rounder profile and more supple line that doesn’t deform and maintains its integrity under load. If you are using a bait caster, a supple braid will flow off the reel freely but be warned that a backlash can be nasty! Higher carrier and PIC count braids are useful for jigging or similar activities that require thin line with exceptional strength and shock characteristics. Low carrier count lines are good when you’re fishing areas with plenty of weed and debris in the water where you want a more robust line that has more texture to cut through troublesome growth.