Choosing the Right Line: Mono Vs. Braid
December 10, 2010
When it comes to fishing line—that critical link between angler and fish—there 2 main choices: nylon monofilament and braided Spectra (we’ll leave wire and leadcore out of this). Nylon monofilament, known simply as “mono”, has been around since the 1950s, when it largely replaced Dacron line, and is now regarded as the “traditional” line. Braided line, or “braid”, is the relative newcomer, making its appearance on the fishing scene in the late ‘80s.
Today both line types are widely used in fresh and salt water, and both have their advantages and disadvantages. While your choice will ultimately depend on the type of fishing you do and what type of line you feel most comfortable with, here’s a basic guide to the pros and cons of mono and braid.
More line: Since braided line is thinner than monofilament of the same breaking strength, you can fit more of it on your reel. This can be critical when pursuing big, powerful fish like bluefin tuna on relatively light spin or casting gear, where the extra line might just prevent you from being spooled.
Better in current/deep water: Braid’s small diameter also makes it less vulnerable to the affects of current, especially in deep water. This can be important when targeting for bottom fish like cod, fluke or sea bass, where a “belly” in the line caused by the push of current can make it difficult to hold bottom, feel strikes and set the hook.
Casts Farther: The smaller diameter of braid and its lack of “memory” means less resistance when casting lures of baits. This can be very important when long casts with small, light lures are needed to reach the fish. The coils formed by mono when stored on a reel create distance-robbing resistance.
More sensitive: The smaller diameter and no-stretch qualities of braid make it ideal for detecting subtle bites in deep water and for maintaining contact with the bait or bottom. Braid is great for fishing live baits and chunks for striped bass, as it lets you feel when the bait is getting nervous because of an approaching predator or when a striper has gently picked up the bait off the bottom. Braid is also superior to mono when working jigs and bait rigs over the bottom, as it lets you “feel” changes in the bottom structure.
More supple: Braid’s suppleness and reduced resistance in the water (when compared to mono of the same strength) allow live baits and lures to swim and perform more naturally, which could make a big difference with fussy fish.
Better hooksets: Braid’s lack of stretch can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to setting the hook, depending on your style of fishing. No stretch means you can set the hook firmly over long distances or in deep water. This can be critical when trying to bury the hook in the tough mouth of a tautog or tuna. On the other hand, you need to be wary tearing the hook out the fish’s mouth, especially soft-mouthed species such as flounder and seabass, if your drag is set too tight or you tend to set the hook violently.
Stronger knots: With early versions of braided line, knots were a problem due to the slickness of the line coating. While modern braids are easier to tie knots with, you still need to make sure the knots are seated securely. If properly tied and fully seated, the knots will be incredibly strong, as braid will not stretch, distort and slip under pressure.
Longer lasting: Braid is much less vulnerable to the effects of sunlight, salt and chemicals than mono. This means you don’t have to change it as often and worry about it weakening over time.
More expensive: Because braided line is more difficult to manufacture than mono, it costs 2 to 3 times more. Filling a big tuna reel with braid can be very expensive indeed. However, the fact that you don’t have to replace it as often tends to offset this drawback.
Less abrasion-resistant: Despite its strength, braid is more vulnerable to chafing than mono. That can be a problem when fishing for big stripers that can drag the line over and around rough boulders and pilings during the fight. It can also be an issue when fishing for tuna, as the fish’s tail fin can cut through the line unless a long mono or fluorocarbon leader is used.
Greater visibility: Braid is more visible than mono, which can make a difference with keen-eyed fish such as tuna. Using a long fluorocarbon leader usually solves this problem, however.
Less forgiving: Braid’s lack of stretch makes it easier to pull the hook loose when setting up, trying to muscle a fish away from structure or when a fish makes a sudden, powerful run or dive. However, you can counter this problem by using a more limber rod or reducing the drag.
More dangerous: Braided line can be dangerous, especially if you get it wrapped around your finger when a fish takes off. Many anglers have had it slice through their skin when simply trying to tighten a knot. The thinner the braid, the more damage it can cause. Consider gloves.
Harmful to tackle: Some rod guides and reel rollers can be damaged by braided line over time. Check to see that your rod and reel are “braid-rated” before using braided line with them.
They float: Most braids float. This may not seem like a big deal, unless you are finesse-fishing for suspended fish. (Note: Spiderwire has recently unveiled a new braided line that sinks.)
Horrific tangles: If you think monofilament is difficult to untangle, try it with braid. In fact, braid tangles are such a problem that the line is banned on some partyboats.
More forgiving: Mono’s inherent stretch or “shock-absorbing” qualities make it more forgiving when setting the hook on soft-mouthed species or when a fish takes off on a sudden run or makes a violent head-shake that could pull the hook loose.
Less visible: Mono’s ability to blend with the water makes it less noticeable to line-shy species such as tuna. However, line visibility probably doesn’t make as much difference with other Northeast species than line manufacturers would lead us to believe.
Less expensive: Mono is 2 to 3 times less expensive than braid, although this can be offset by the fact that you need to change it more often.
More abrasion-resistant: Mono withstands contact with rough surfaces better than braid. That’s why many anglers still prefer it for fishing around barnacle-covered pilings and rocks.
Easy to cut: This may not seem like a big deal—unless you’ve cursed a blue streak while trying to cut a piece of braid with dull pliers while the fish are busting all around you. If you use braid, get a pair of dedicated braid cutters or some very sharp scissors.
Less dangerous: While monofilament can still cut your skin, it’s far less dangerous than braid.
Easier on tackle: Mono is less likely to damage the guides and rollers of rods and reels.
Less durable: Mono is more vulnerable to oil, gas, sunscreen, bug spray, salt and sunlight. It also stretches and weakens after long or repeated bouts with fish. All of which means you need to change it more often.
Too stretchy: Mono’s stretch can be both a blessing and curse. On the negative side, it can prevent you from setting the hook firmly over long distances or in deep water.
More vulnerable to current: Since mono is thicker than braid of the same breaking strength, it offers more resistance to current. This can create a large belly in the line that hinders your ability to keep your bait or lure on the bottom and makes it harder to detect subtle bites and set the hook, especially in deep water.
Larger diameter: Since mono is thicker than braid of the same breaking strength, you can’t put as much of it on your reel. This leaves you more vulnerable to being spooled by a big fish and forces you to respool more often.
More memory: Mono forms coils when stored on a reel, which creates more resistance when passing through the rod guides and limits casting distance. The coils can also create excess slack in the line, making it difficult to control a surface lure or set the hook.
Which line type do you prefer, and why?
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