FISHING TIP OF THE WEEK: Monofilament vs. Braid
Photo: Nylon monofilament still comes in handy for casting tackle and in trolling situations.
Braided fishing line has revolutionized the fishing world, without question, but it may not be the best choice in all circumstances. So how do you decide what line to go with in a specific situation? Here are my thoughts on the subject, with the caveat that no one right or wrong answer exists. It all comes down to personal preference.
Nylon monofilament fishing line came into widespread use shortly after World War II and enjoyed a run as the preferred line for almost 50 years. Mono replaced old linen lines which had many drawbacks, including having to be washed and dried after each saltwater use. Mono offered good cast-ability and abrasion resistance, excellent knot strength, and impact absorption since it stretches quite a bit under a load. But the best part may have been that it was inexpensive. Mono served its purpose well, especially on spinning reels, the other major post-war fishing tackle innovation. Drawbacks to monofilament include its tendency to develop “memory” when spooled onto a reel, the retention of the curve of the spool even when the line comes off the reel. Mono also breaks down under sunlight exposure.
In my view, monofilament still works best in conventional trolling situations, as some stretch can be a good thing in that instance. Plus, the thicker diameter of mono helps create drag as the belly of the line gets pulled through the water, putting extra pressure on a hooked fish. Mono still makes sense in close quarters, light-tackle casting scenarios too, another place where the forgiveness of stretch can help prevent pulled hooks or broken lines.
Photo: Braided line is a must when deep-dropping for daytime swordfish. (Photo credit to Richard Gibson).
Braided lines made from natural fibers have been around a long time, but in the 1990s synthetic braids made from gel-spun polyethylene, typically Spectra or Dyneema, burst onto the scene. These new lines were much smaller in diameter than mono of the same breaking strength, so you could either pack a lot more line onto any given reel, or increase the pound-test you were using without sacrificing capacity. They also offered zero stretch and a slick coating that allowed them to be cast much farther than equivalent monofilament lines. They also last almost indefinitely and have zero memory. The main downside with braid is you have to be quite careful when tying knots, as those slick finishes can allow knots to slip.
Braid shines most in bottom fishing situations, where you want zero stretch and need to feel a bite far below the boat. Nowhere is this more evident than in swordfishing, especially daytime swordfishing, which typically occurs in water 1,500-plus feet deep. The low water resistance of braid and the no-stretch hook setting power makes total sense. Braid also works well for casting, especially where the need for distance comes into play.
Experiment with both and see which works best for you!
John Brownlee is the host of Anglers Journal Television, and the former editor-in-chief of Marlin and Salt Water Sportsman magazines.