If you're a "monofilament" angler who continues to ignore today's superlines, you might want to examine what top pros were fishing last season.
Remarkably, only three anglers among those finishing first and second place during the 14 Elite and Major events used mono exclusively. Beyond that, line usage was fairly equal between fluorocarbon and braided superline.
Does that mean monofilament is dead? Not hardly, but it does indicate the pros are discovering applications in which modern-day lines perform better than traditional monofilament.
"Our line selection has become as specialized as our rods," notes Arkansas' Scott Rook, who pitched with 20-pound Vanish fluorocarbon to win the 2006 Bassmaster Legends on the Arkansas River. "We've been using specialty rods for years, so why shouldn't we apply specialty lines to specific techniques?"
It wasn't that long ago when pros pooh-poohed braids and fluorocarbon, insisting that monofilament was more reliable and fisherman-friendly. That's changing, thanks to product improvements.
"When braid first came out, I hated it," admits Alabama pro Randy Howell. "It was bad in the wind, wrapped around your guides and would break unexpectedly."
"The Stealth (SpiderWire) that I'm using has revolutionized my fishing," he says. "I use it on all of my single-hook lures and with both spinning and baitcast tackle. I haven't broken off a fish in two years."
That's not to say monofilament has fallen out of favor. It fills the gap between superstrong, no-stretch, yet highly visible braids and ultra-clear, low-stretch fluorocarbons that tend to be less manageable in heavier pound tests.
"Monofilament is still one of the most innovative products fishing has ever seen," insists four-time Bassmaster Classic champion Rick Clunn. "We take it for granted, but what we're using today is nothing like what we used 10 years ago."
KNOW THE DIFFERENCE
When choosing line, anglers must learn characteristics of each line and how they benefit or hinder each technique. Also, you should understand that one company's braid or fluorocarbon may perform differently than a competitor's, just as it does with different brands of mono.
Generally speaking, monofilament is clear, easier to manage, and fairly abrasion resistant. That makes it a good all-around choice.
Fluorocarbon line may look like monofilament but it's a different material and transmits vibrations much better. Most anglers believe it is more sensitive because it has less stretch than mono, but that isn't the case, according to Eric Naig of Berkley.
Naig says all nylon monofilament contains 18 to 35 percent stretch while most fluorocarbon has 28 to 38 percent. Stretch in braided lines is far more minimal — in the 2 to 7 percent range.
"The difference is that nylon has a stretch recovery, or a rubber-band effect," he explains. "Fluorocarbon may elongate, but differently. Actually the density of the line is what makes it more sensitive."
WHICH LINE FOR WHAT?
Nylon stretch is good for fast-moving treble hook lures (crankbaits, spinnerbaits, topwaters). With those presentations, the bass usually hook themselves and the stretch provides a better shock absorber while playing big fish that can shake free on trebles.
Some anglers say ultra-sensitive lines work for them when fishing crankbaits and spinnerbaits, but others argue the "feel" causes them to jerk too quickly and take the lure away from the fish.
However, fluorocarbon and braid are popular for fishing lipless crankbaits over deep grass in early spring. If bass are lethargic in cold water, you can purposely rip lures free of grass to trigger reactionary strikes. With mono, lures don't react as quickly.
To offset the danger of losing bass on the lipless crankbaits and low-stretch line, the pros fish them with softer rods to reduce the odds of the hooks tearing out.
An additional benefit of fluorocarbon is its refraction index. It's less visible than mono underwater, making it a popular choice for fishing finesse baits in clear, open water.
Yet another advantage is fluorocarbon sinks faster than either mono or braid, a benefit in some applications.
"It's tremendous for fishing weightless baits like the Senko," says 1974 Classic winner Tommy Martin.
On the other hand, fluorocarbon is a poor choice for fishing topwaters because the sinking line drags beneath the surface and inhibits the baits' alluring action.
Another drawback is castability. Fluorocarbon is stiffer than monofilament, especially in the heavier line sizes. Hence, you get more backlashes when trying to make long casts.
Even so, anglers who make short flips or pitches with soft baits and jigs in clear water are turning to big fluorocarbon because of its invisible and sensitive nature. Shorter pitches and casts reduce backlash probability.
"It tends to be more durable than most monofilaments, so you can fish it around heavy cover," offers Rook. "And you can jerk on a bass next to the boat and not break off."
Smaller sizes (4- to 10-pound) are more manageable and have become the preferred choice for drop shotting or finesse baits fished with spinning gear. The line is less likely to spook fish and subtle bites are transmitted much better.
Braided superlines have made a comeback with flippers and pitchers working vegetation. Modern versions are round shaped and more manageable (older versions were flat and would cut into themselves on a spool).
Even veteran Denny Brauer, a longtime proponent of mono, is a convert.
"I fought it because I really didn't like the earlier versions," he says. "I always felt I needed more cushion when setting the hook on big fish, but I've found it's not that much of an issue and braid offers so many advantages."
One of those is the strength-to-diameter ratio. Braid in 40-pound sizes has the diameter of 12-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon lines. By increasing strength and reducing diameter, anglers get baits into thick cover faster.
Durability is another issue. Although braids can fray after extended use around cover, there is less need to retie as often.
"I used to respool mono every night," explains Brauer. "With braid, I do it about every two weeks."
The minimal stretch in braid provides incredible sensitivity, but it also can cause hooks to tear from a fish's mouth if you exert too much pressure.
"You offset that by softening your flipping rod a little," says Brauer. "And frankly, I'm getting more penetrating hookups because of the line."
Brauer also notes that the braid handles better in cold weather where heavy monos become unmanageable.
Louisiana's Greg Hackney recommends anglers change braid sizes to control the fall of the lure. He uses 80-pound braid for flipping heavy grass mats when line visibility isn't an issue. Forty-pound is strong enough, but the bigger line slows the fall rate when heavy sinkers are required to penetrate thick mats.
"Slower fall is critical to getting bites when the water is cold," he says.
Braid is extremely effective in vegetation because it won't "wrap" on weeds and will slash through them when playing a fish.
"That makes it ideal for fishing frog baits in Florida," said Chris Lane, who won a Bassmaster Tour event on Lake Okeechobee, Fla., with 30-pound FireLine. "The smaller diameter/extra strength allows me to make long casts with my Cane Toad and horse fish to the boat."
But, he warns, you must diminish frog hook sets with braid and loosen the drag somewhat because of the low stretch.
"I use more of a 'pull' hook set — and hit the moment I feel the strike," he describes.
Braid handles fairly well, but backlashes can be difficult to pick out. That's why pros prefer it for heavy lures that cast well in the wind or opt to fish it on spinning rods.
"All of our lines today have great characteristics, but each has its drawbacks," says Rook. "By matching up your line to the technique and your tackle, you will become a much more efficient angler."
The Palomar Knot is arguably the best for tying lures with superlines. Both braid and fluorocarbon materials can be slippery and a properly tied Palomar will hold better.
A word of caution about fluorocarbon, however. It is highly susceptible to "burning" issues, so wetting the knot and snugging it slowly yet firmly is critical to reducing issues of the line breaking at the knot.
GET TO KNOW YOUR LINE
Choose a line you like and stick with it, advises veteran pro Rick Clunn.
"Don't be changing brands all the time," he insists. "Every time you switch, there is a learning curve and that's when most fishing mistakes occur."
Clunn says anglers are quick to blame line for failure, but more likely it was caused by unfamiliarity with its characteristics.
"Because of their attributes, lines perform differently," he explains. "It takes time to familiarize yourself with a new line's performance and how that matches your style of fishing. So, if you find one you like, stick with it."
The Line Up
Bass Pro Shops Excel
Eagle Claw Classic Premium
Mustad Ultra Line
Stren Super Knot
Triple Fish Chum Line
Gamma FC Ice
Mossy Oak Vicious Ultimate
Seaguar Grand Max FX
Rapala Titanium Stretch