Fishing Line Simplified

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There have been a lot of advancements in the fishing tackle industry. These advancements are making us significantly better anglers, but making tackle shopping much more stressful. This article is going to detail the most over-looked aspect of fishing presentation. That is line selection.

The majority of anglers don’t think about their line until something goes wrong at a critical moment. The goal of this article is to break down the pros and cons to each type of line and the correct application. If you take care of your line it will take care of you! This will result in smiling fish pictures and not heartbreak at the end of a broken line.


Monofilament, or mono, is one of the best known types of fishing line. It has been a staple of the fishing tackle industry and for good reason. Mono is generally cheaper, there are more options and it is extremely versatile.

The biggest advantage to mono is it is cost efficient. A spool doesn’t blow the budget and it can be used a variety of ways. Mono makes a terrific main line or can also be used as leader line. It casts well, strength is good and it doesn’t get torn up too horribly.

The biggest disadvantage to mono is the stretch. Mono can stretch up to 25% of its length. This means that hook sets, especially in deep water, need to be extremely exaggerated or else the hook might not penetrate like it should.


Fluorocarbon is one of the great advancements in fishing line. This is all but invisible in the water and also is exceptionally abrasion resistant. I really like using fluoro for leader line. There have been a lot of advancements and fluoro has become much more castable: however, this is still not a popular main line.

The biggest difference is fluoro sinks, while mono and braid floats. This is a significant factor when determining if this is the correct line for a certain situation. This line is also slightly more expensive than mono, but still not as much as braid/super lines.

Braid/Super Lines

These are the hot new topic on the fishing market. This is for good reason. Braided lines or similar “super lines” cast extremely well, are the strongest line on the market and also have no stretch qualities. This makes them extremely desirable.

The disadvantages to braid is the price. This is when spools of line start to get expensive. A second issue is that the line is very susceptible to abrasion. Ticking rocks or direct contact with pike or muskie can result in frayed and often broken lines. This makes it a fantastic option for a mainline, but a leader is generally required.


This table is meant to outline the top seven characteristics of each type of line. The traits of each type of line should be outlined in this table. This allows for easy comparison and a quick decisions when selecting the right line for the job.

These are the top three types of line. Specialty lines, such as lead core, are not listed on this chart. This is because lead core has its own certain qualities and that will be outlined further below. Monofilament, fluorocarbon and braid are the most versatile lines on the market and this is why they deserve the special focus.

Now let’s talk about the different presentation situations and how I go about selecting the right line for the job.

Casting Crankbaits/Hardbaits

Main Line: 8-12lb braid/super line

Leader: 10-17lb (preferably 12lb) fluorocarbon connected with a Spro barrel swivel

I like going with the braid/super lines here for a variety of reasons. The first reason is the castability. These generally will have the better casting distance, especially with light balsa baits. The second reason is the no stretch properties. This is allows me to feel every weed stalk, rock, stick or fish that the bait ticks. This also gives me a good hookset especially if I get caught off guard. The third reason is strength. The line holds up well and even a surprise pike or muskie I’ll be able to bring in.

I tie a Palomar knot to attach the braid to the barrel swivel and then a Uni knot to attach the leader line to the swivel. I prefer to use a 2ft leader of 12lb fluorocarbon for the business end of the line. If there is really a lot of pike I might bump up to a 15-17lb leader. This is abrasion resistant when ticking rocks or if a pike or muskie tries to interrupt my walleye fishing. This also reduces my visibility with the crank. This isn’t super important but if I’m fishing clear water and incorporating some pauses it’s not a bad idea.

Casting Jigs

Main Line: 6-8lb braid/super line

Leader: 8lb fluorocarbon connected with a Spro barrel swivel

This is another situation that braid or super lines are really critical. Once again I’m looking to improve the casting distance, especially with the light jigs. The biggest factor though is that I really need to feel every rock I tick the jig across. Another key is the super light bites by cold water walleye. Sensitivity is critical and that is why I need the no stretch line.

For the leader I lighten up to about 8lb fluoro. This is because I feel that the bait is going so slow and the fish can be so picky I want to cover all my bases. Finesse is the name of the game so lightening up just gives me a little more confidence. Also, if I do hook a big pike I’ll deal with losing a $.75 jig as opposed to a $7 crankbait.


Main Line: 8-10lb braid OR 8-10lb mono

Leader: 6-8lb fluorocarbon, drop to 4lb only if they are EXTREMELY picky

Slipbobbering there are different things to be considered. The most essential part of the main line is that it floats. There is going to be slack line and you do not want it to be fluorocarbon because it would sink. It is critical that the slack line floats on top. This makes picking that slack line up easier and doesn’t let the fish feel it happening. Once the slack is picked up that is when a good hookset is needed. If fishing with braid just give a steady sweep for a hookset. If using mono I like to go with a more aggressive hookset as the line stretch is a bit more of a factor.

While fluoro is bad for a main line, it is CRITICAL for a leader line. The first reason is we are probably just using a plain hook and a minnow or leech under our float. The lack of weight at this end makes a sinking line much friendlier. The second reason is the invisibility factor. Slipbobbering is a stationary presentation. This means the fish has plenty of time to investigate what is going on. An invisible presentation increases the odds that the fish likes what it sees and takes the bait. Generally for walleye 6-8lb test is fine. For panfish 4-6lb line is often the best option. If fish are absolutely not cooperating don’t be afraid to drop to 2-4lb line for either of these species. I can name only one really terrible weather pattern that this was necessary though.

Bottom Bouncing

Main Line: 10-14lb braid/super line

Leader: 10-14lb mono, although fluoro can work as well

Bottom bouncing is another situation that mono or braid would work as a main line. I prefer braid because of again those no stretch properties. This allows me to have a better feel as to what the weight is contacting and also detect when a fish just barely latches on. If you are using mono keep in mind that you’re going to need a firmer hookset to account for the stretch.

As far as a leader situation this has a few options. I like mono because it helps float the bait above the bottom. The big advantage of fluoro is that it’s more abrasion resistant. Both are excellent options and really personal preference. The important thing is don’t reel in too fast when trolling because the spinner can really twist the line. This hurts how it runs and also makes it weaker. Both of those are issues. Different anglers like different leaders so do what works best for you.

Vertical Jigging

Main Line: 8-10lb braid

Leader: 6-8lb fluoro connected with a Spro barrel swivel

Braid is a good option for a main line when jigging because, you guessed it: the no stretch properties. This gets a firm hookset in deeper water and also gives a greater sense of feel for ticking bottom.

Vertical jigging is a slower presentation so this is another situation I favor the lighter fluorocarbon. This also allows me to really bounce it off rocks and worry less about it getting torn up. It’s important to note that this is for more 1/16-1/4oz jigs and more open water situations.

Vertical Jigging/Spoons/Swimming Lures IN TREES/COVER

Main Line: 20-30lb braid

Leader: 25-40lb mono connected with a Spro barrel swivel

This is when things start to get interesting. In this situation the fish are sitting in deeper submerged trees. Often the jigs/lures we are using are going to be heavier and we’re going to be bouncing around branches looking for big walleye. There are two key elements here. The first is we need to get a strong hookset. In deeper water braid is essential for getting a firm hookset especially with larger jigs/lures. The other element is once that hook up happens it is VITAL that you can winch the fish up out of the timber before it can wrap you up. The heavier line also allows us to get angry with the bait once we’re snagged and the odds of pulling it out are better.

As for the leader I like heavier mono just because it’s cheaper and that stretch actually acts as a shock absorber. A really aggressive hookset and winch this mono allows a little bit of play to prevent the hook from popping straight out of the fish’s mouth. This is also cheap. This is a situation we accept some losses. There is no need for finesse as the cover makes for a crowded water column and the fish are generally aggressive.

Trolling Crankbaits

Let’s break down the different elements to trolling crankbaits here. Here is a bit of a check list to help narrow down the selection:

1. Are you trolling small baits at slow speeds that you’re going to need help getting into the strike zone?

No: go to 2

Yes: lead core

In this situation we want to use lead core line. Lead core is exactly what it sounds like. It is line with a thin strand of lead in the center of it. This is a weighted line that helps gets baits down. Think of it as fluorocarbon on steroids. It also is a heavy duty line so the breaking strength is quite high.

The majority of lead core lines you find are going to be “colored”. This means they change color after a set distance to give an indication as to how much line is out. The nature of the line makes it critical that you use a leader. A 17-20lb fluorocarbon leader is generally a good ideal. A double uni knot is a good option as this allows you to reel it in through the guides if you’re looking for a longer leader or a heavy duty barrel swivel is a great option too.

2. Are you trolling larger baits at good speeds but fishing water deeper than their running depth?

No: go to 3

Yes: lead core

This is another situation that lead core is critical. Generally larger reservoirs or deeper lakes you may need an extra edge to get your baits down to where the fish are. This situation is another terrific time to use lead core.

3. Are you trolling with baits that reach your target depth zone?

No: please go back to 1

Yes: braid

I like to use braid in this situation because the braid has a thinner diameter. This “cuts” through the water more efficiently than the wider mono or fluorocarbon. I do like a fluorocarbon leader in this situation once again probably 15-20lb line. This is for dealing with the pesky pike and muskie that may attack your bait as well. The braid gets a strong hookset and is a tough line as well.


There of course are exceptions to the rule. One is that when I am casting crankbaits or jigs in HEAVY timber I favor monofilament. Generally with wood braid acts as a saw and cuts into it. This often cuts the line or creates a snag that is impossible to get out. Mono brushes along the wood better and does not dig in on a snag, increasing the likelihood it comes out. By contrast this slicing makes braid excellent in weeds.

Other anglers may have other line applications they prefer. This again is purely personal preference. I want to reiterate that confidence is key. If any angler has something they feel good with and have had success with then they NEED TO DO IT! There is no substitute for confidence and I am never going to tell an angler they are wrong. If it works for you, do it! This is simply how I approach situations. I hope this has made line buying and on the water application decisions easier. Good fishing!

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