What braided fishing line should I buy? (Part 1 of 2).
It is not an exaggeration or overstatement to say that braided fishing line has revolutionised modern day sea angling. This is certainly true for many branches of boat / kayak angling, and increasingly so, for spinning and other shore casting techniques. Braid first came on to my radar, whilst boat fishing in the early 1990’s the product that I noted being used then was the white coloured Dynon 3000.
Dynon 3000 – One of the earliest braids on the market and still available today.
So just what is so special about this wonder line – “braid?
Kevlar and Spectra braid’s unique properties are (a) that diameter for diameter, it is significantly stronger than either nylon monofilament, or braided Dacron, which some boat anglers were still using then. (b) It has virtually zero stretch, as opposed to mono which can stretch by up to a quarter of its length. (c) It is not affected by ultra violet light to the same degree as mono, which gets weaker and more elastic with continued exposure. It therefore has a far longer working lifespan. (d) it does not absorb water.
At a stroke, because braid was so much thinner and cut through the water better than mono, it didn’t get influenced by tide as much, so the requirement for 50lb and 80lb class gear that was so widely used, was no more. The heavy leads and pirks, heavy rods to work those heavy leads and pirks and heavy reels to hold all the heavy (and thick) monofilament line became redundant! Those that made the switch from mono to braid, found weights of leads and pirks could be instantly halved.
The virtually zero stretch properties of braid were another eye opener for me. Sometimes when I was working a pirk or bait, in 70+ metres with mono, I couldn’t always be certain that I was fishing hard on the bottom. Now, using braid, I could feel every single bump as my weight or lure came in contact with the seabed.
For the first time ever, I could actually feel the difference between my end tackle hitting soft and hard ground, or even coming into contact with the structure of the wreck! Bites at these depths, felt far more positive and the whole fishing experience suddenly became far more involving at my end of the rod.
In the early 1990’s, anglers simply loaded braid onto their existing old gear, just to try it out.
To begin with, I don’t think many of us could get our heads round the lines thin diameter and as result, we purchased braid that was unduly heavy.
Slowly however, as braids popularity increased and our confidence in the new material grew, lighter boat tackle evolved, to the extent that today, a heavy downtide cod boat rod would be 30lb class, with many boat anglers now using 20lb or even 12lb class inshore.
I know some of the kayak lads, fishing close to the coastline, go lighter still.
So is all modern braided line the same?The quick answer, in my experience is No! There are many different braids on the market already and new products being introduced each season, so it is all but impossible for us to keep up with every latest make and brand.
What I can do though, is tell you a little more about the small selection of braids I have experience of using, the ones I liked and disliked, and why that was so.
I don’t propose to go into all the science behind modern braid, such as to how and what it’s made of, as I’m not sure how this will help the average angler. In any event, I don’t profess to know myself and quite frankly, I don’t really care!
Instead, the things I do care about when buying braid are it’s strength, it’s diameter, the length of braid on the spool, it’s texture i.e. is it coated/fused, it’s profile, it’s colour, its density (does it float or sink) and it’s price!
Let’s just look a bit more at each of those properties in turn.
Strength Not all braids are equal! Some measure their strength in lb. breaking strain, others in kg.
I am told that some braids break at, or below their stated breaking strain (for I.G.F.A. record purposes) others break above their stated breaking strain (b.s.), so they appear to outclass other brands. As with mono, just something to be aware of between brands.
For sea angling, braids from 20lb. b.s. to 50lb. b.s. will cover the majority of applications.
Diameter Again, not all braids are equal! One brand may measure their diameters in metric, others in thousands of an inch. Why, as a modern age material, they can’t all be uniform is beyond me. I’m certainly not a metric martyr and I don’t care whether the diameter is stated one way or the other, or even both ways, but making direct comparisons, as things stand, is not always straightforward!
I’m not in a position to check these stated diameters with a micrometer, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was also an inconsistency between stated and actual diameters on some brands, as there can be with mono too, apparently.
This is borne out by a table I found on the web, part of which I’ve copied, courtesy of http://www.tacklebox.co.uk/line_tests.htm
|BRAID Make of Line||Stated Strain||Average Strain||Stated Diameter||Measured Diameter|
|Berkley Fireline Braid||10lb||17.75lb||Unstated||0.22mm|
|Whiplash Pro Braid||20lb||15.75lb||0.20mm||0.18mm|
Diameter is an important factor to consider when choosing braid. As with any line, there is a compromise to be made between diameter and breaking strain, but in the case of braid, the greater the diameter, generally speaking, the longer it lasts.
I’ve got some 65lb Power Pro braid on an Abu 5001 casting multiplier, which I use for lure fishing for pike, that’s over 10 years old and still going strong.
For those moving from mono to braid, these inconsistencies in stated diameters mean that it’s not always easy estimating the equivalent amount of braid to use on a reel, even if it gives mono capacities or stated line diameters on the reel.
Also, I’ve found some braids bed on a spool better than others. I’ll cover this further, when I come onto how to load braid onto your reelâ€ later.
It’s easy to overload a reel with braid.
The diameter of braid can influence how it sits on the spool and casts from the reel. When casting heavy weights or lures, thin diameter braid can bed into the remaining braid on the spool, causing snatched casts. With a fixed spool reel, this is not always fatal, but with a multiplier it frequently is, and one of the reasons why some anglers give up on braid prematurely. Thicker braid casts far more easily off a reel than thinner, particularly with multipliers.
A table showing Power Pro Braid v Mono diameter
If you’re boat or kayak fishing and not casting, none of this will really worry you. You will be interested though in the stated diameter of the braid, as it is this factor that will influence by how much the tide affects your line, and therefore the weight of end tackle required.
Length Guess what no, don’t worry, I won’t mention equality again! Needless to say some are measured in metres, some in yards! It might not sound much of a difference, but bear in mind, one yard is over 8.5% shorter than one metre. Pro-rata, the price you pay between different brands with different units of measurement, should really reflect this.
Braid usually comes in the equivalent of 150 metres/yards, 200 metres/yards or 300 metres/yards. Limited brands are also available in much longer lengths on bigger bulk spools, but the price per unit of measurement doesn’t drop massively.
For inshore boat /kayak fishing, spinning etc. 150 metres/yards should be ample. I’d go for 300metres/yards for beach casting and offshore boat work. Think in terms of a worst case disaster, where the braid broke near the reel, would you have enough left to carry on fishing? Once the braid has been on your reel for a season or two, you can extend its use by reversing it all on the reel, end to end.
Texture Certain braids such as Berkley Fireline and Fireline XDS have a fused or coated exterior. This makes them more rigid than uncoated braids and therefore slightly more friendly to cast in that they are more tangle resistant.
Their diameter is usually greater than uncoated and again helps resist bedding into the spool.
Positive results from XDS, not quite so with Fireline original.
The one gripe I have with this line is that I have found under extreme heavy pressure, i.e. skate fishing in Scotland, that original Fireline will distort and the round profile gets flattened as it goes over the tip ring. I’ve tried using roller rings and the same thing happens. Whether this weakens the line, I just don’t know. I did contact Berkley about this and sent a sample of damaged line, but they never bothered to get back to me!
This is my mate, John Hudson using one of my 80lb class set ups on Skate in the Firth of Lorne, Scotland.
The braid line being used is 100lb Fireline XDS. The drag is set to slip at around 40lbs.
When you are fishing in depths of 400′ – 600′ braid’s properties are a real advance over mono.
One of several skate we caught that day. John’s biggest went 197lb. We will back for that 200 lb’er!
The texture can even affect how the line sounds when winding in under pressure! Some uncoated braid grates on the retrieve and sounds like a cheese wire going through the rod rings. This probably got a number of people worried as to whether special rod rings for braid were necessary? I think unlined rings do become grooved over time, but I’ve found all the modern lined rings I’ve got on my rods, work just fine with braid.
The coated braids Iâ€™ve used, such as Berkley Fireline and more recently Fireline XDS do seem to be more abrasive resistant to underwater snags than other uncoated braids.
Profile â€“ Some of the early braided lines were weaved in a flat profile.Â The original Penn Tidecutter used to be one of these.Â It came off the reel leaving small spirals running down the line and I always thought this flat profile braid would be more susceptible to catching the tide.Â Personally, I always look for a round profile when buying braid. Look closely, as itâ€™s not always easy to spot.Â If in doubt, roll the braid to test, between finger and thumb.
Colour Braid comes in a variety of colours, from clear/opaque, to black, white and a myriad of colours in between. The Daiwa Accudepth braid even comes in different colours every 10 metres to let you know how deep youre fishing!
Braid is not always colour fast that is, some of the colour can wash out of it. I know the Power Pro braids can loose their colour, thought this doesn’t affect their strength in any way. You can currently purchase Power Pro in Hi viz yellow, red, moss green, white and black. Some braids, like the early Gorilla Braid, has a pattern weaved into it, as different coloured fibres are used in its construction.
For much of my boat fishing I use yellow braid. The reason being is that I can see where it is in the water, which can be really helpful at times. Also, if I tangle with someone else, or should I say, someone else tangles with me (when in doubt, always best to pass the blame here!) different coloured lines do make it slightly easier to do the Clive Anderson (Whose line is it anyway?)
I’ve read all sorts of theories about one coloured braid being more visible underwater than another even that red being the first colour of the spectrum, makes that colour line the least visible at the shallowest depth, orange the next and so forth. Given that I never fish braid straight to a lure, though I’m aware a number of people successfully do, Ive never worried that my brightly coloured braid might deter fish though I have heard people saying categorically, that yellow braid can and does!
Density - The vast majority of braid sold today floats, though be aware that a small number of brands sink (but these are usually aimed specifically at the coarse fishing market). Floating braids make lures fish slightly higher in the water when trolling or casting, compared to comparable diameter mono lines. Floating braid is great for float fishing, as you don’t need to grease the line anymore.
Shimano sinking braid
Price this can be quite a variable and as with so much in life, you generally get what you pay for. Brace yourself for a price in the order of £0.80 to £1.00/yard.
As a rule of thumb, good braid is approximately 3 to 4 times the price of good mono, but provided you keep it away from abrasion, it can also have 5 or 6 times the lifespan of mono.
So that brings me to the end of Part 1 of my article on braid. I do hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and not found it too technical! For those that haven’t used braid before, this should have given you something to think about, before spending your hard earned?
For those that have used braid, but haven’t got on with it yet, hopefully some answers. Finally, for those who already use it and love it â€“ my apologies for teaching you all how to suck eggs!
In Part 2, in next month’s article, I’ll be covering;
How to load braid onto a spool.
- How much to load.
- Breaking out when snagged with braid.
- Abrasion resistance, or lack of.
- Problems with lack of stretch.
- Weakening coated braid by continual casting.
- Knots for braid.
- Mono / Fluorocarbon leaders.
- Brands I’ve used and tried.
Tight lines, (whether braid or otherwise).