Fishing line is quite possibly the most overlooked piece of fishing gear that people purchase. Most folks have no idea just how many fishing line characteristics play a role in their fishing success. Most just grab some 8 lb test from the local bait shop and head out to their local fishing hole.
As you’ll soon learn, however, there are a lot of factors and characteristics to consider regarding fishing line. Once you understand the options available, then you can find the line that is perfect for your fishing goals.
Let’s start by understanding a few characteristics that affect the line’s usefulness in the water. These are the criteria by which fishermen judge the quality and useful of fishing line.
We all fish in different ways depending on our personal preferences, the fishing environment, or the kind of fish we are pursuing. Think about some of the ways that you fish. Then, as you read through these fishing line characteristics, you can see how these could affect your specific fishing methods.
Fishing Line Strength
Fishing line strength is the measure of how much weight a line can lift before snapping. Fishermen measure strength in pounds and call it test. So, for example, if you see fishing line at the tackle shop that says 8 lb test, it means that it would take 8 lbs of pull against that line in order to snap it.
This is perhaps the most common, and often only, factor that most people consider when purchasing line. A common mistake is to purchase an incredibly strong fishing line under the assumption that it can just handle anything.
When I was young, I once bought a spool of 40 lb test. My assumption was that if it could handle 40 lbs, then it could also handle a half pound Crappie.
The general rule is that you want to use fishing line that is as close as possible to the weight of the fish you are going after. If the line is too large the fish can actually see it or brush up against it and get spooked.
Fishing Line Toughness
Fishing line toughness refers to a lines ability to hold up against abrasions as it is dragged against rocks, logs and other obstacles in the water. As the line gets used, it’s gets beaten up. Over time, this creates weak spots in the fishing line, and weak spots means break points.
A 6 lb test fishing line should be able to handle 6 lbs of pull in ideal conditions. If it has a weak spot from wear and tear, it may only take a couple of pounds to snap the line. This is because when the pressure or pull is applied, the line is going to snap at its weakest points.
Fishing Line Limpness
Fishing line limpness refers to how soft and flexible a line is versus how stiff and rigid it is. Line that is softer tends to be much better for casting and it makes it much easier to tie your fishing knots.
Fishing Line Stretch
Fishing Line Stretch is the measure of, well, how much the line will stretch when it is pulled. While the explanation is quite simple, the ramifications of the amount of stretch a line has is quite profound.
The amount of stretch a line has can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how your are fishing and what’s going on.
If you are fighting to wear down a fish, a line with more stretch will absorb more impact from the strike and from the fish’s jerking while fighting.
However, a line with less stretch can make it easier to detect softer strikes. It can also make it much easier to set the hook because there is little or no delay from the time you yank the rod to the time the hook pulls. In fact, low or no-stretch line can drastically improve your hook-set success rate.
Fun Fact: Fishing line stretch can also work in tandem with how flexible your rod is. A flexible rod with a high stretch line means super stretch. A rigid rod with a low stretch line means super stiff. Find the sweet spot in your combination of line and rod, and you’ll be the master of the water.
Fishing Line Diameter
Fishing line diameter is the measure of a line’s thickness. Fishermen measure thickness as either a fraction of an inch or in milliliters. For example, KastKing’s 8lb test monofilament fishing line is 0.01 inches or 0.25 mm in diameter.
A fishing line with a smaller diameter is usually, but not necessarily always, a good thing. Here’s a list of ways in which the thickness of your line can affect your fishing.
Drag or Water Displacement: The larger the diameter of the line, the more it will face resistance when being dragged through the water. This means that if you are reeling in a jig, it will pull more towards the surface of the water. A thinner line will allow your bait to run deeper.
Wind & Current: Winds, currents, and even the tip of your rod are much more likely to affect thinner lines.
Abrasion Resistance: As we mentioned above in the paragraphs about toughness, a line gets scratched and beaten up as it gets dragged across rocks, logs, and other obstacles. A thinner line has more material and can handle deeper abrasions before creating serious breakpoints.
Reel Capacity: Since diameter is the measure of the size of the line, it directly impacts how much of that line you can spool onto your reel. You pack a lot more thin line onto a reel than thick line.
Even though there are both pros and cons in the section, the positives of thinner line generally outweigh the positives of thicker line.
Fishing Line Memory
Fishing line memory refers to the line’s tendency to maintain its shape. When you pull your line from the spool, you’ll notice that it comes off in coils. The line has learned the shape of the spool.
This memory can cause a lot of hassles when fishing. When you cast, for example, those loops can slow the cast or catch on the guides.
Fishing line memory can also lead to backlash, the phenomenon of the fishing line coiling into a tangled mess on the reel during a cast. This tangled mess is also known as a bird’s nest or an over-run.
While some of the fishing line characteristics that we’ve explored have both pros and cons, this one doesn’t. It’s only bad.
Always go for a fishing line with the lowest memory possible or you’ll be busy de-tangling a bird’s nest while your buddies are landing fish after fish.
Fishing Line Knot Strength
The fishing line knot is generally the single greatest point of weakness on the line. The knot’s breaking point is far below that of the actual line itself. This is because the line has been wrapped around itself and tightened down.
Some fishing lines have a knot strength as low as 60% of that of the line strength itself. That means that you could break a 10 lb test line with only 6 lbs of pressure applied…like that catfish I lost earlier this week just as I was pulling it out of the water.
Flourocarbin lines tend to break at the knots at about 80% of the line strength, but can go as low as 60%. Monocarbin lines tend to break at the 80% – 90% range.
Many line manufacturers will actually factor in the average knot strength and list that as the test strength instead of the line strength itself.
Fishing Line Color
The color of the fishing line can actually determine two important things: the line’s visibility to the fish and the line’s visibility to the fisherman.
Each of the major fishing line types come in a variety of color options. In fact, the options are so numerous that I’ll be putting together an article dedicated to the subject in the near future.
Let’s simplify for the sake of time. Keep your line hidden from the fish by choosing a color that matches the environment in which you are fishing. If you’re fishing in a pond with lots of moss and algae, you’ll want to use a green fishing line.
Fun Fact: Bright Pink Fluorocarbon is incredibly useful in both hiding from the fish and being visible to fisherman. The pink material displaces light underwater in such a way that it becomes virtually invisible. Above water, it remains very easy to see.
For more information, there’s a great article on Fix.com called Can Fish See Color?
Conclusions & Final Thoughts
As you can see, there is far more to fishing line than you may have once thought. Each aspect can play a role in amping up your fishing success.
In an upcoming article, we’ll be deep diving into all the science behind the various colors of fishing line. And in another, we’ll be looking into all the types of fishing lines available and how they rate according to all the factors and characteristics we’ve explored in this article.
What fishing line characteristics do you look for when purchasing fishing line? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.