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At a Glance: Fishing Line
Line is the general term for fishing line, which can come in many variations, all similarly designed to connect an angler to terminal tackle or lures and ultimately (hopefully), fish. Fishing lines were originally held by hand and thrown into the water. Eventually, we invented fishing tools to help cast, control and retrieve our lines. Most sportfishing lines are wound onto fishing reels attached to fishing rods which cast the line out and guide the line back onto the reel. The end of the line cast or released into the water can have lures and baits attached to attract and hook fish. Early lines were made of natural materials such as catgut and silk. Modern fishing lines are made from synthetic materials like nylon, Dacron, polyethylene and fluoropolymer PVDF, and have become highly specialized for use with modern fishing tackle.
Line can serve many purposes for an angler. Some lines are simply used as filler or backing on larger reels to fill up a spool to aid with casting distance and retrieval speed, or to provide additional length behind specialized lines such as fly lines. Backing can be relatively inexpensive and made of materials that are completely different than the mainline used for the actual cast and retrieve. Mainline is the fishing line typically found as the largest amount on a reel, which may or may not attach directly to the reel and lure, but is always deployed and retrieved. Lines can be colored to aid in better visibility for the angler to manage the line, while other lines are clear or colored in a way to make them invisible to fish. The strength of a line, or test, is measured at the breaking point of the line when pulled in opposing directions. The weight of a fish will not necessarily determine the test strength of line needed, as the line transfers energy to the rod and the drag of the reel will allow line to pull off as the pull from the fish increases. These factors allow an angler to use relatively light line for heavy fish. With all lines, the thickness will increase as the test strength increases. Lines available at FishUSA include monofilament, copolymer, braided & super, fluorocarbon, wire & lead core, fly leaders and leaders & tippet. Line can be purchased in various spool lengths, ranging from 25 yard tippet spools up to 7,400-yard bulk spools and in test strengths of 1lb to 200lb tests.
Monofilament line is the oldest of the modern fishing lines. It is made of a single strand of nylon and is the most popular of mainlines due to it being the least expensive and most versatile. Copolymer lines are relatively newer and are made of two different types of nylon line combined, which stretches less than monofilament line and has even greater abrasion resistance than fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon can be used as a mainline also, but due to cost, it is very often used as a leader or tippet material for its abrasion resistance and near invisibility in water. Braided and super lines are made of multiple strands of a certain material that have been braided, or fused, together to form thin, low-stretching lines of superior strength compared to all other castable fishing lines. Wire lines are single-strand or braided lines of copper or stainless steel designed for both strength and weight for deep water trolling. Leadcore lines are also weighted lines, but have a braided Dacron outer covering with a single strand of lead inside. These are much more manageable than wire lines but do not sink as fast. Ice lines can be monofilament, fluorocarbon, copolymer or braided lines designed to stay supple yet strong in cold water. Fly lines are designed to cast relatively light flies out to great distances with a precise location yet soft landing.
Some fishing tactics call for leaders or tippets, which are shorter pieces of line typically of much different strengths and material than the mainline. This is most widely associated with fly fishing, but applies to many other tactics. Monofilament mainline can gain invisibility and abrasion resistance with a short piece of fluorocarbon tied on as a leader. It is entirely possible to catch large fish with sharp teeth while using a light mainline if a wire leader is used. Many anglers use a heavier mainline and much lighter leader material for fish which are considered “line shy,” meaning they tend to not bite lures tied to heavy, visible lines. Wire and lead core lines need to have softer, less visible leaders tied on to allow lures to behave as designed and to entice fish to bite. Fly fishing uses tapered leaders to allow for the line to turn over and make a soft landing with the fly. The very end section of tapered leaders can easily be replaced with tippet material to extend the life and effectiveness of the leader. Both leaders and tippet can be made of monofilament, fluorocarbon and even wire.