This article will define the three main types of fishing lines, how they’re made, and list some recommendations on when to use them.
These three types of lines – monofilament (mono), fluorocarbon (fluoro), and braided – are all tools for specific jobs and situations. We’ll do a deep dive into the pros, cons, similarities/differences, and applications for each product line.
It’s tempting to assume these types of lines are interchangeable in nearly all situations. While that is true to a point, it’s better not to fall into that line of thinking, especially as you grow into an intermediate or advanced fisherman.
What Is Monofilament Fishing Line?
As the name implies, this type of line is made from one (mono) single-strand of synthetic fiber material, the most common being nylon. Initially created by Dupont in 1939, nylon mono-line was lauded for having excellent knot strength, and being hard for fish to spot.
Mono is created by heating polymers to molten form, then fusing them together in an extrusion process. This allows for the creation of desired thickness and strength ratings.
These ratings, commonly known as tensile strength (TS) or a line’s “pound-test”, give you a baseline tension-test rating so that you know how much of a load your line can withstand before it will stretch and ultimately fail, snapping apart and letting your prized catch swim away.
Monofilament now accounts for two-thirds of the fishing line sold in the United States. Low costs factor into this, but watch out for the extremely low priced monos on the market since quality controls may be lacking versus the products costing only a few dollars more.
Stick with the well-known brands and avoid generic or deep discount options unless you need just the most basic line that you can find. For example, a beginner or child angler with an entry-level rig fishing for sunfish doesn’t need a 130 pound-test rated line; they can get by with the cheapest mono line offered for a given test-rating
As you gain more experience and start fishing in more complex situations, looking for higher weight catches, logic dictates that you will probably be using a rod & reel for intermediate anglers; so you can then start running a better grade of monofilament as your situations dictate.
The beauty of mono is it offers so many options, so when you are ready to branch out and try a new fishing spot or go after different species, picking the correct line is easy.
As you shop for monofilament, pay attention to the pound-test ratings. Starting at about 8lbs, mono is offered with up to 80 or even 130 lbs test strengths for the big game fish.
Pros of Monofilament Fishing Line
- Buoyancy – Mono line will sink slowly, allowing for the presentation of lures or bait that you’d like to dangle below the surface, while not dropping too quickly. Topwater lures will also benefit from the low sink-rate of monofilament.
- Color/Translucency – Plastic derivatives can be easily shaded into any desired color or translucency by the manufacturer. Mono lines come in a myriad of color options for any application. High-visibility for yourself so that you can watch that line before sun-up or low-visibility to fish blue/green shades for murky water stealthy scenarios.
- Knot Strength – Tying off the line should not sacrifice integrity or strength. Mono allows you to run those expensive lures with confidence.
- Cost – Being the most economical line you can buy, combined with the myriad of tensile-strength choices, investing in several different types of monofilament will always keep you within your budget goals.
- Stretching – Monofilament provides a reasonable stretch rate of about 25 percent, should you run into a fish that goes down fighting hard, or hit a snag in murky waters.
- Beginner Friendly – Monofilament line is flexible, making it easy to work with, allowing beginners to get their rig set up quickly, knots tied off, and into the water with minimal hassle. It also works well with all types of reels.
Cons of Monofilament Fishing Line
- Sensitivity – The stretchability can be a trade-off. While we like the failsafe offered from stretching, sensitivity can suffer. We lose the feeling of being connected to those small feeler bites.
- Water Absorption – Over time, mono can weaken from absorption, possibly causing your knots to be a point of failure.
- UV Exposure – Prolonged sunlight exposure can also cause undesired stretch or failure. For this reason, and the weakening due to water absorption, replace the monofilament line on your rigs every year.
Common Uses for Monofilament Line
Because it’s economical, user-friendly, and available in many colors and strength ratings, monofilament is often the first and only choice for beginners and casual anglers.
The more serious but still recreational anglers look at factors such as location, water type, buoyancy, distance, stretch, bait, and rod selection. Tournament pros will take it even further and consider the abrasion resistance, tensile strength, and color.
A backing line is used to provide a buffer between the line you use to cast into the water for catching fish, and the physical connection to the reel itself. There is no sense in using a more expensive line for this, so monofilament is an obvious choice.
The stretchability of monofilament also makes it the smart choice since the knots you tie with it can be cinched down very tightly, paramount when using a braided line in front of the backing line.
Close quarters topwater bass scenarios with treble hooks is a good situation for monofilament with a 15 to a 20-pound rating in shallow water.
Other good choices include shakey heads, walleye jigs, topwater popping baits, also shallow water crankbaits for bass and walleye.
Use a mid-weight rating (between 8 to 40-pound test) mono for trophy-grade catfish, pike, muskies, and bass.
Monofilament offers the casual user an affordable price point to start fishing through a wide variety of colors, test-ratings, and coatings. It’s always a good starting point due to it being so easy to use.
Unless you need to sink your bait close to the bottom, look to buy a reasonably priced monofilament and see what kind of results you get.
And don’t forget to use it as the backing line for the next two types of lines!
What Is Fluorocarbon Fishing Line?
Fluorocarbon is a denser, non-toxic, single-strand alternative to monofilament, produced from a non-reactive specialty plastic used in many applications, including tubing, sheeting, films, wire insulation, and of course, fishing line.
Fluorocarbon, or polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF), fishing lines have an inherent resistance to oxidants, acids, oxidants, hydrocarbons, salt solutions, and is FDA-approved for use with food products. It has about one-quarter of the US market share but is consistently growing.
Pros of Fluorocarbon Fishing Line
- Density – Denser than water and monofilament, if you want to run lures and bait closer to the bottom of your fishing area, give PVDF line a try, as it will sink consistently.
- Abrasion Resistant – If your fishing grounds have debris, rocks, or other obstacles, the fluorocarbon line at a decent tensile strength will get you through those pitfalls with minimal breakage.
- Flexible – Even though it exudes a good deal of strength, it remains flexible enough to tie solid knots.
- Water/UV Resistance – Unlike mono, fluorocarbon does not begin to retain water over time and retains a higher resistance to ultraviolet rays.
- Low Visibility – Regardless of the strength, fluorocarbon visibility remains low underwater, keeping your fish from losing interest.
Cons of Fluorocarbon Fishing Line
- Stiffness – The strength and resilience of this line can also be a negative, depending upon your experience or rigs. Working with a higher tensile-rating line may be somewhat cumbersome.
- Cost – Fluorocarbon prices will tend to run higher than the monofilament line on average, but is comparable to braided line
- Density/Sink Rate – Like stiffness, the density of fluorocarbon lines, depending on your preferred areas for fishing, can be a drawback. To be prepared for any situation on your trip, be sure to have a few rigs loaded with both mono and fluorocarbon.
- Low Stretch – Depending on your outlook, this could be positive or not. Once you cast into the water, you will have a nice feel on the rod for what is going on down there. Just realize once you snag on debris, or a fish hits your line very hard, you need to go easy as it’s going to be less forgiving due to the lack of stretch.
Common Uses of Fluorocarbon Fishing Line
The versatility of fluorocarbon is driving this product’s popularity more than ever. If you need to cast a low to medium distance into deeper water, with some protection from debris, this scenario is an excellent one for fluorocarbon.
The flexibility makes fluorocarbon easy to work with, and the low stretch rate gives you a good feel for how the fish are hitting your bait presentation. To mitigate the stiffness of this line, try wetting the knot to prevent failures.
Deep Diving Crankbaits
For crankbait lures, also known as plugs, use ten to fifteen-pound test fluorocarbon line. Plugs are small, hard plastic lures with two dangling three-pronged hooks.
These lures will dive deeper with a smaller diameter line and can resemble small prey fish such as minnows or other baitfish. When using crankbaits around cover, consider using a fifteen to the seventeen-pound test-rated line.
Lipless crankbaits don’t aggressively dive. Instead, they will make side-to-side motions before sinking. Use a yo-yo motion at varying depths and see what happens.
Use 12- to 17-pound test fluorocarbon in open water depending on the size of fish desired. For heavy weeds though, moved to braided line.
Jerkbaits are another good option to pair with a 10 to 12-pound test fluorocarbon line. Jerkbait lures are offered with two or three treble hooks, and these soft or hard plastic lures resemble a dying baitfish if the angler uses a twitching motion with the rig.
Chatterbaits are bladed swim-jigs which vibrate and reflect light. With a long plastic tail fin and colored plastic tassels, you will attract some violent bass strikes using these lures — Use 15 to 17 pound-test fluorocarbon in clear water.
Spinnerbaits, Jigs, and Texas Rigs
Use medium to big, single-hooks with fluorocarbon. These options include Spinnerbaits, Jigs, and Texasrigs.
For baiting pike, perch, and cass, Spinnerbait lures resemble smaller fish as they twirl through the water with their colored-metal blades and artificial scales, reflecting sunlight and causing vibrations in the water. Your prey will find these distractions irresistible.
Lures made of soft plastic molds resembling worms or small prey are known as Texas rigs. Typically paired with a bullet-shaped weight and fluorocarbon line, look to cast and sink into grassy bottom areas.
Two more Jigs to consider would be the Finesse and Football jigs.
Try Finesse Jigs in cold water for smaller fish. These lures are paired with a lighter hook and a 1/4 ounce weight, so tend to use 12 to 17-pound test line.
Again, complementing the density of fluorocarbon, Football Jigs are a single large hook dressed up with silicone or plastic lures resembling fins, with an attached sinker weight. They work great at the bottom areas, including ledges, valleys, rocks, and anywhere Bass like to hang out.
Finally, the Jig pairs well with fluorocarbon fishing lines. Another lure using a sinker weight, round-headed Jigs off many variations on colors, shapes & size, designed to resemble local prey such as frogs, lizards, insects, or small fish.
Bass anglers needing a versatile, high-strength, low-visibility line will be served well by fluorocarbon’s abrasion-resistant, sinkable characteristics; and the extra cost compared to monofilament is negligible when you factor in fluoro’s UV and water-resistant properties.
Don’t Use it for Topwater
Topwater use is not recommended due to the sink rate. Instead, look to use fluorocarbon line in deep, clear water scenarios with a lot of bottom vegetation like grass or weeds.
What is Braided Fishing Line?
In contrast to monofilament line, braided or microfilament consists of synthetic materials woven together to form a line, which is about a quarter of the diameter of the other two forms of line.
This allows for more room on your spools, and thus a longer line available to you for the given strength rating.
Spectra, Micro-Dyneema, and Dacron are the most common raw materials sourced for the creation of braided polymer lines.
These polymers are used in a variety of other sporting applications such as climbing ropes, cut-resistant gloves, boat riggings, bowstrings, sails, and paraglider equipment, and are known for low weight, low elasticity, and comparably high strength.
Pros of Braided Fishing Lines
- Snag Resistance – Underwater debris will have a tough time cutting your braided lines due to the lubricity and abrasive resistant properties offered.
- Extremely Low Stretch – Provides good feedback to the user while offering tougher defense against snapping compared to fluorocarbon lines.
- No Water Absorption – Retains the same strength and performance, wet or dry.
- UV Resistance – Prolonged exposure to sunlight will not shorten the lifespan of these lines.
- No Memory – Easily straightens out after being on the spool with no kinks or folds, which prevents casting and reeling in issues.
Cons of Braided Fishing Lines
- Initial Expense – Cost of braided lines will run about 50 percent higher on average compared to monofilament. Though that is always a concern, keep in mind that with proper care, braided lines tend to outlast their monofilament counterparts.
- Visibility – Braided lines tend to be more visible to fish, causing anglers to attach less visible lines known as leaders, for underwater presentation.
- Tangle Issues – Tangling on lighter strength braided lines can be more challenging to deal with without proper use and storage.
- Tying Knots – Because of the lubricity, you may find braided lines difficult to tie off a good knot. It will come undone unless you do it correctly, so expect some learning curve here. It’s all part of the fun.
- Color Fading – Some lines may fade over time, causing potential visibility issues.
Common Uses for Braided Fishing Line (Microfilament)
For long-distance casting scenarios where you need to have a highly-sensitive feel for when the fish are hitting the bait, and you’d like to get those hooks to set deeply into the mouth, definitely choose a braided line.
Use a Texas Rig with a 30 to 40-pound test braided line in shallow watered heavy grass cover.
Lipless crankbaits are a good choice around vegetation. Look for about a 40 pound-test.
Jig Head Swimbaits
For Jig Head Swimbaits 12 feet or deeper, look at using 10 to 15-pound braided line with an 8 to 10-pound test fluoro leader, which gives you the ability to cast farther out when needed.
In murky water with heavy grass cover, use a 40 pound-test braided line with either Spinnerbaits or Swim Jigs.
Braided lines are the top choice when bass fishing using Frog bait lures. Use 65 pound-test braid in dense, murky water.
Drop down to 50 pound-test in medium cover. 40-pound test braided line in minimal-covered open water will suffice for Frog-baiting bass scenarios.
Florida bass fishing offers some great scenarios for a braided line to excel.
Hard Bottomed lakes
Hard-bottomed spots in Lake Okeechobee, for example, give anglers the challenge of pitching Jigs into 3 to 5 foot deep heavily grassed and wooded areas to find those Bass hoping to gain weight before spawning time. You’ll need up to 50-pound braided to avoid snapping off inside this growth.
The water leans toward the murkier side, with color tending to be tannish or brown. To provide a good contrast for the presentation, use black, or blue-colored lures cast off a rod about 7 and 1/2 foot in length with 65-pound braided line in and around the heaviest of reeds and thickest grass.
When using Treble hooks in long-distance casting scenarios close to the top, consider using a braided line. But, reduce the drag setting on your reel to ensure you don’t have a fish pull off the Treble hook due to the lack of stretch.
Use a 30 to 40-pound test braid when reaching out in topwater where you expect a good fight on the way back to the boat. Give that hook a chance to sink into the mouth with a reduced drag while you wait for them to tire out.
Dropshot fishing allows you to suspend free-floating worm or lure about a foot from the bottom, giving an enticing presentation to any fish who happen to pass by. The hook is knotted to the leader line above the final attachment, which typically is a 1/4 oz to 3/4 oz sinker weight.
The sinker rests on the bottom while the bait hovers in the line-of-sight to all fish who pass by. You then have the option of gently flipping the rod, pulling it left to right, or just hopping it along to entice strikes from hungry fish.
Dropshot fishing for medium-size Bass or similar, use braided line with fluorocarbon leaders. The braided section should be 10 to 15-pound test, with a 6 to 12-pound leader.
This combination also works with the following setup rigs: Neko, Shaky Heads, Ned Rigs, Wacky Rigs, and a Flick Shake.
A Quick Summary
You now have a better understanding of the three types of fishing lines offered to anglers shopping in retail and online stores.
We’ve defined the three main types available on the market: Monofilament (Single Strand), Fluorocarbon (PVDF), and Braided (Microfilament).
We discussed their origins, how they are constructed, the pros & cons of each line, market share, and some general guidelines on when to use each line combined with different types of lures.
Monofilament is the most common and least expensive, the starting point for beginning anglers to purchase and use, so they get to fishing quickly with the least amount of hassle. Monofilament is also commonly used for the backing line on your reel.
Fluorocarbon lines are the next step up from mono. Its density allows anglers to put bait presentations deeper into the water, all the way to the bottom if needed.
It is UV, acid, hydrocarbon, abrasion, and water-resistant, so it lasts longer than monofilament while still being flexible enough to make tying knots easy. It has low visibility, and the plastic derivative origins make it available in many colors.
Many anglers will use fluorocarbon as the leader line in front of braided lines, to provide the stretch needed for those long drawn out fights as you bring in Bass from long distance casts.
Fluorocarbon is slightly more expensive than monofilament, but the benefits it offers make the expense negligible once you factor in the longer lifespan and better strength over monofilament.
Braided (Microfilament) offers the highest strength of the three lines due to the multiple strands of small-diameter polymers woven together, giving you a stronger yet lengthier line on your reel.
This comes at a cost penalty of nearly 50 percent over monofilament, so braided lines are to be considered only in specific scenarios.
Look to braided lines for casting long distance with treble hooks, and into waters with debris or heavy vegetation that would cause breakage with other line types. Braided lines are also the preferred choice for using Frog bait lures.
Stay safe out on the water, and most importantly, have fun fishing.