Last month we talked a little about line choices. This month we'll go into more detail on the subject. Line selection is one of the most important decisions we make as anglers. It's the only direct link between us and the fish. If you make a bad line choice, you've made a bad fishing choice. It's that simple.
Let me say right up front that I no longer flip or pitch with mono. There are better choices, and I use them. Still, it's not like I haven't caught my share of bass with it. In fact, it's all I used for many years.
The first problem with monofilament fishing line is that its abrasion resistance isn't all that great. Almost by definition when you're flipping or pitching you're in heavy cover. That'll eat your line up in no time.
The second big problem with mono is stretch. It can be very difficult to get a good hook set with it if you have a bad angle to the fish or too much line out. You can reduce the stretch factor by upsizing your line. The difference between 20-pound test and 25-pound test is huge.
If you're on a very tight budget, monofilament is still the cheapest way to go. So, if you have to use it make sure you check it every few casts and retie frequently — at least after every fish — and never use less than 25-pound test (30 is even better).
I probably use fluorocarbon line 80 percent of the time. It has reasonably good abrasion resistance, almost no stretch and is nearly invisible.
The lightest weight I use is 20-pound test, and I only fish with that under very controlled circumstances. If I'm flipping or pitching to isolated cover in very clear water I'll go with it, but it scares me even then. The risk of a break-off is just too great. I'm willing to take that risk, however, if I think it'll get me more quality bites.
Most days I'm going to spool 25-pound test. It isn't that much harder to handle, and it gives me an extra margin of error. It removes the fear factor when I'm competing.
For most of the waters we fish in the Bassmaster Elite Series, fluorocarbon is the best line choice. That's because most of the lakes on our schedule have clear water and because I'm targeting isolated pieces of cover in them. If we fished a different type of water — heavy cover or stained water — I would go with braid 100 percent of the time. I can assure you of that.
Braid is really the best line for flipping and pitching. It doesn't break and it has no stretch. Unfortunately, it's highly visible, and that can be a big drawback in clear water. I always use it when conditions permit, however. Mostly that's when I'm penetrating heavy mats or fishing stained water.
Fishing heavy mats is tough on your line. First, there's the abrasion factor. The heavy, snarled vegetation — some of it years old with a surface like sandpaper — can cut line in an instant. Braid will fray or cut; it's not perfect. But it won't do so nearly as quickly as monofilament or fluorocarbon.
Next is the hook set factor. When you flip or pitch into a heavy mat you're dropping your bait down through it towards the bottom of the lake. If you look at what's happening, you'll note that the line runs from your rod tip straight to the mat and then goes straight down. It makes a 90-degree angle at the mat.
That's a tough hook set with line that stretches, even a little bit. Since braid doesn't stretch, it'll do you a much more efficient job setting the hook with it. The visibility is a non-issue here. Most of your bites are reaction bites, so the fish doesn't have the time to check anything out.
Anytime I'm flipping or pitching muddy water, I go with braid no matter the cover or the size of the fish. Since they can't see the line, why take chances? Go with the best.
After some experimenting, I've settled on 60-pound test. That's what I use 100 percent of the time now. Heavier line — 80-pound test — doesn't handle as well as I'd like. Lighter line — 40-pound test — will break when it gets a nick or fray in it.
That's all I have to say at this point about line. In the next chapter (December 8), we'll talk about how to get all your tackle ready for January when we're going to go out and catch some good ones.