My first time walking into Bass Pro Shops when I was about 12 years old left me in a greater state of confusion about the fishing world than any other point in my life. When I looked at all of the shelves of fishing line available at the time I didn't have the faintest clue what to buy!
Word of mouth from a trusted source is usually the best starting point for most anglers when choosing gear, but in a tournament setting you must be able to use that advice and tweak it with your own preferences based upon the gear and lures you are fishing with.
Before we start, here are a few "fishing line rules of thumb" that I always follow whether I am fishing casually or in a tournament...
- Spinning reels should not be spooled with line that has a greater diameter than 10-12 lb monofilament (0.011" to 0.015" on average). **This value can be found in the lower left hand or right hand side of the line package where the lb test rating is located**
- Baitcasting reels should not be spooled with line that has a smaller diameter than 10-12 lb monofilament (0.011" to 0.015" on average)
So now that I know what minimum line diameter I need for each setup, where do I go from here???
Fishing line is broken down into four different types... 1) Monofilament 2) Fluorocarbon 3) Co-Polymer and 4) Braid/Superlines
Each of these lines have their own characteristics, but for my sake there are a select few that I am most concerned about...**each line type is ranked from low to high (left to right)**
- Density (Denser line sinks, Less dense line floats)
Braid/Superline < Monofilament < Co-Polymer < Fluorocarbon
- Durability (How easily is the line damaged due to cover or fish?)
Monofilament < Co-Polymer < Fluorocarbon < Braid/Superline
- Stretch (How much does the line stretch during a hookset or while retrieving a lure?)
Braid/Superline < Fluorocarbon < Monofilament < Co-Polymer
- Visibility (How easily can it be seen in water?)
Fluorocarbon < Monofilament < Co-Polymer < Braid/Superline
- Memory: If you hold the line tight between your two hands and let it go, does it coil up (high) or go limp (low)? (Higher memory causes more difficulty in casting and birds nests)
Braid/Superline < Fluorocarbon < Co-Polymer < Monofilament
So let's use a few examples from my gear list to decide which line I will be using...
1) Topwater Setup
Reel: Lew's Tournament Pro Speed Spool (7.1 Gear ratio)
Rod: Shimano Cumara Reaction Series 7' MH Moderate Fast Action
In any topwater situation I will be using lures with treble hooks. Treble hook lures should preferably be used with a moderate to moderate fast action rod to create a delayed "buffer" between you and the fish during a hookset. Since my rod has this characteristic already I will be less likely to choose a line that will have more stretch that would provide me the same "buffer" effect. Topwater lures also need to float above the surface of the water to remain effective, so a less dense line will enable the bait to remain above the surface. Visibility and durability are also important characteristics to note...but can change radically depending on the water clarity and structure I am fishing. In my case I always fish with Murphy's Law in my back pocket...so I tend to standardize my line with low visibility and high durability in mind.
So my choice for line will either be a braided line or a co-polymer. Both lines float easily, have higher durability, and have lower memory than monofilament. 12 lb test Co-polymer would most likely be used with smaller topwater lures, and 40 lb braided line most likely with larger topwater lures.
Sunline FX2 Braid and P-Line CXX Co-Polymer
2) Frog Setup
Reel: Lew's Tournament Pro Speed Spool (7.1 Gear ratio)
Rod: St. Croix Mojo Bass Rod 7' MH Fast Action
Again I want a line that floats since frogs are a surface lure. I want to have a very durable line since I will be fishing in heavier cover. A higher lb test will also allow me to horse fish out of cover quicker. Less stretch is also important since it allows me to give an immediate hookset on fast short strikes. Visibility will not be too big of an issue since I will be fishing in heavier cover, and a low memory will help with easier casting.
For this case my choice will be braided line. I would also use a heavier braid in the 40-50 lb test range due to the fact that I will be fishing in heavy cover. The same goes for flipping and pitching. In most cases where I use braid line I will not go below the 30 lb test range for baitcasting gear.
4) Shallow Cranks
Reel: Lew's Tournament Pro Speed Spool (6.4 Gear Ratio)
Rod: Shimano Crucial 6' 10" MH Xtra Fast Action
Again I am using a treble hook lure so I should be using a rod with a medium or medium fast action tip...but wait, no i'm not! I actually have an Extra Fast tip! The reason why is because of the extra sensitivity that I can feel using an extra fast tip instead of a medium or medium fast tip for running squarebill cranks. Don't be alarmed though, it is still OK to use my original guidelines for choosing a rod for treble hook lures! As you branch out and adapt to your equipment, you will begin to add your own flavor and notice the sensitivity gains when using other types of rod tips!
Now that I just completely threw you a curveball on this setup, what should I do now? I will now have to rely on my line to become that extra "buffer" that I need since the rod tip does not do that well enough. So I will need a line with more stretch, high durability, and lower density. So from those characteristics my best bet would have to be 12 lb co-polymer once again. Yes co-polymer is denser than monofilament, but I can combat this by choosing the smaller 12 lb test diameter.
6) Medium/Deep Cranks
Reel: Abu Garcia Revo Winch (5.4 Gear Ratio)
Rod: Shimano Compre Crankbait rod 7' 6" MH Mod-Fast
Since this again is a crankbait rod, the moderate fast tip will do most of the work for "buffering" a hookset on a fish so a less stretch line will be more applicable. And since these are sub surface lures a denser line would be preferable to get the lure to sink quicker in the water column. Throw in some durability and low visibility and what do you get??? Fluorocarbon!!! Flourocarbon is by far the best line for med/deep crankbaits among many other lures such as spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits, C-rigs, and swim baits that also require a quicker sinking effect. For most crankbait setups I would probably go with a 15 lb test Fluorocarbon.
Seaguar InvizX and Red Label Fluorocarbon
So with these examples I hope you start to gain a better understanding of what line should be chosen for each application. Not all of this will be clear at first and not every trick of the trade was discussed, but after some practice and experience with different lines you will start to piece this together little by little. But the most important thing to take away from all of this is to use what you are most comfortable with! It took me several years to start fine tuning my choices and I am still not completely done, but I now have laid the groundwork to make those choices easier for myself in the long run!
Tight Lines...and if you have any questions just email me at email@example.com