Whether you prefer chasing trophy stripers on a kayak or sinking baits to the bottom for tidal blue catfish behemoths, choosing the best fishing line can be a tough call. Those of you who fish regularly probably already know that there isn’t one simple answer to this question. No, finding the answer in any particular scenario includes a lot of caveats, conditions, and conundrums. Braid is best for this, but mono will be best for that – and both can be used for the other thing. So, how do we anglers know which to choose, and when? Fortunately, there are a few rules of thumb which can be applied.
Braid fishing line maximizes sensitivity and minimizes stretch
These are great traits when jigging or casting and retrieving lures, since its sensitivity clues you in to a bite asap and the no-stretch properties lead to faster hook-sets (a characteristic many trollers appreciate, as well). There is, however, at least one glaring exception: topwater plugging. In this scenario, the no-stretch braid can cause the plug to come cart-wheeling out of the water all too often. On the flip side, there’s also an added bonus to braid: line twist isn’t nearly as big an issue as it is with mono, so life is a lot easier when you’re casting spoons or other lures that may spin.
Wait a sec – that enhanced sensitivity can be problematic, when you’re live-lining or fishing bait. The fish get just as enhanced a feel as you do, and since predators often nibble and taste before they commit to taking a bait, they may notice an unnatural resistance right off the bat. In fact, I put this theory to the test for an entire season by using braid on one half the boat and mono on the other while chumming. The net result? Monofilament caught twice as many fish overall and baits fished on braid got smacked once and then abandoned, time and time again.
The stretch of mono can be advantageous in certain situations, too. When fighting fish with delicate mouths like sea trout, for example, it can reduce how often the hook rips free. And in the case of large offshore pelagic fish, a sudden surge with no stretching involved can shatter rods and bend hooks. That’s one reason why most savvy offshore anglers add at least 25 feet of monofilament leader (usually fluorocarbon for minimal visibility) to braid rigs.
Monofilament wins for abrasion resistance
Monofilament has better abrasion-resistance, and will handle being dragged across oyster bars, wrecks and reefs, or rocky structure much better than braid. Again, this points to the importance of using a mono leader even when the mainline is braid. And in situations where your line is likely to get chaffed at multiple distances or depths, mono is the way to go.
This is another theory we put to the test, by taking three different brands of braid and three different brands of monofilament in three different sizes, and scraping them against a rusty old wreck anchor made from bent rebar. Each section of line was stroked against the rebar five times with the same amount of pressure (measured on a scale) then was scale-tested for breaking strength. Across the board monofilament won for abrasion-resistance, but interestingly, the thinner the diameter of the braid, the less significant the difference was. For 20 pound test braid breaking strength dropped to 17.4 pounds on average, while mono maintained 19 pounds on average. But with 50 pound test the braid was actually cut through on the fifth stroke, while the mono broke at 50 pounds of pressure. (Note: virtually all monofilaments are under-rated, and the three 50 pound tests we used had actual breaking strengths of 60 to 70 pounds).
Braid has significantly thinner diameter
This means you can pack a whole heck of a lot more line onto a reel. In the case of a Penn Battle II 3000, for example, mono line capacity is 120 yards of 12 pound test. But the same reel holds 250 yards of 15 pound braid. If you’re looking at a bigger reel like a 30 International VI, it can hold 1030 yards of 30 pound mono but 1220 yards of 100 pound braid. So whenever line capacity becomes an issue, braid is a hands-down winner.
Monofilament line costs way less than braid line
The up-front cost for spooling a reel with fresh braid can be downright painful. Let’s compare 12 pound test: A 400 yard of spool of Berkley Triline XL 20 pound test mono will run you around $10, while a 300 yard spool of 20 pound Power Pro braid costs three times as much. Loosing a spool of mono is no big deal, but if you get spooled with braid – ouch. Before you make any price-based decisions, however, remember that monofilament is really only good for two or three seasons. It degrades with UV exposure, and after a few seasons of use that 20 pound test is really more like 15 pound test. Braid, on the other hand, maintains its strength indefinitely.
Fishing line memory
Anyone who’s ever fished with monofilament has learned to hate line memory, and anyone who’s ever fished with braid loves the fact that there is none. Memory reduces casting distance, and increases the likelihood of tangles while casting. It may not be such a big deal when you’re lowering a bottom rig or setting a weighted chunk bait, but it’s a serious PITA when casting and retrieving.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, there is one commonality that becomes clear: as a general rule of thumb, braid is the better pick for fishing artificials, and monofilament is the better bet for fishing natural baits. Again, there will be exceptions. Deep-dropping, for example, requires both braid (or you’ll never even feel the hits) and bait. But in the majority of the situations you’re likely to encounter, the braid/lures, mono/bait combinations are usually most effective.
So, which should you choose to spool up your fishing rods? Well, obviously we’d say both. This is what we call really good news, fellow anglers. Thanks to the braid-vs-mono debate, you have a perfectly valid reason to own twice as much fishing gear. In fact, we suggest you show this article to your spouse. Explain your dilemma, and hopefully this information will help them understand why you obviously need two sets of gear for each and every one of the (dozens of) different fishing situations you face – one spooled up with braid, and the other with monofilament.