Fishing Line Types and their Purposes

Some types of fishing line that anglers use today have been around since the 1930s. Other types are much newer. There is no single best type.

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Some types of fishing line that anglers use today have been around since the 1930s. Other types are much newer. There is no single best type.

If you don't need your line to be anything special, you can go with a cheap monofilament line that is good enough for most situations. You can get a copolymer line or braided line if you need something stronger. There is also line that is hard for fish to see underwater.

Not every type of line is ok for every spool, so you can damage your equipment if you use the wrong kind. You can buy line that will stretch a little without breaking, which has advantages and disadvantages. You may also want line that floats rather than sinks or is resistant to cutting by sharp rocks, and you can find line with many other advantages.

Table of Contents

Fishing line should be resistant to cutting

Everyone will have their fishing line cut in half by sharp rocks at some point. Pretty much all of the fishing line you can buy today is reasonably strong stuff that will not cut very easily.

However, some lines are remarkably strong, even if the cheaper stuff is not very weak. Resistance to cutting is known as abrasion resistance.

Line should be a bit stretchy

If your fishing line can't stretch at all, it can snap when a large fish tries to pull away. Line that can stretch is less likely to snap in these situations.

When you are fighting a large fish, you can keep the line tighter if it has a bit of stretch. Stretchy line also has some disadvantages. Line with less stretch is more precise.

Line should be hard for a fish to see

Some fish will get spooked if they see the fishing line and not bite the hook. Some newer types of line have low visibility - this can make it noticeably easier to catch fish. Colored fishing line that matches the water's color at the depth you are fishing at can also work.

Fishing line should have as little memory as possible

If your line spends a lot of time curled up on the spool, it may want to stay curled up. If you stretch it out, it will curl up on its own because that is the shape it is used to having. This is known as memory.

Better line has less memory - your line should not curl up much if you pull it straight and let it go. Line that has too much memory can get tangled up much more easily. Braided fishing line, which is higher-priced stuff, has no memory.

Floating line is better in some situations

You can get either better or worse results if you use a fishing line that floats. It depends on how many fish are near the top of the water. More buoyancy is not always better.

Types of Fishing Line

Monofilament Line

This is the relatively cheap, old fashioned kind of fishing line that has been around since the 1930s. It still sells today because it is cheap, and it works well enough for most purposes.

This type of fishing line is not of poor quality. Rather it is the normal, standard kind of line. Monofilament line can hold a knot well, some newer and more expensive types of fishing line can not.

Monofilament fishing line is a single string of nylon - cheap to make and easy to use, but not as strong as more advanced materials. It has some stretch, which can partly make up for its relatively low strength. It does not snap so easily that anglers avoid it.

Mono floats well, which is great in the right situations. Some types of line do not work well on some reels, but mono works well on any reel.

Mono is the usual standard and is excellent if you are just starting fishing. In many situations, mono is not good enough - you might need a stronger or less visible line.

Copolymer line

If you cannot use mono because it is not strong enough or because it floats, copolymer might be the best choice. While mono is a single string of nylon, copolymer uses more than one type of nylon. Other materials may be used in copolymer line as well.

One disadvantage of both mono and copolymer fishing lines is that the sun and the heat can easily damage them. Nylon is vulnerable to the


While most copolymer line does not float, you can find varieties that float while still being stronger than mono. For this reason, you are better off with copolymer than with mono unless you are looking for an inexpensive line.

Fluorocarbon line

What makes a fluorocarbon line stand out is its low visibility. Fluorocarbon makes a very dense and thin line, hard for fish to see underwater.

While fluorocarbon fishing line used to be stiff and difficult to use, this is less true now. It is still harder to knot than other materials, but it is better than it was. Fluorocarbon is stronger than nylon.

Fluorocarbon also lasts a long time, much longer than lines made of nylon do. Fluorocarbon stretches, but not as easily as mono or copoly.

Being able to stretch but not stretching easily is one of the best things about this material. Since it does not stretch easily, it is precise and gives good feedback. However, it does stretch if it is pulled on hard enough, preventing the line from snapping.

Fluorocarbon fishing line also does not absorb water, which makes it last longer than mono. Fluorocarbon can also handle saltwater, which can damage mono line.

Despite its strength, fluorocarbon is not always better than mono or poly. Unless you know what you are doing, your knots may fail - mono is easier for beginners to use for this reason. Fluorocarbon fishing line sinks rather than floats.

Braided line

Braided line is made by winding several tiny strands of high tech materials together to create a very thin and solid line. It may be stronger for its size than any other type of fishing line. It is newer than other types of line and requires a high tech production process.

Braided fishing line is an excellent, relatively expensive choice, with no memory whatsoever. Since it is so thin and durable, it may cut through rather than get caught in plants.

You can also fit more line on the spool with braided line, because of how thin it is. This lets you cast your hook farther away. You will notice a small fish on your hook immediately because braided fishing line does not stretch.

Braided fishing line also floats rather than sinks, so you can use it as a stronger alternative to mono if you want a floating line. Like fluorocarbon, braided line is harder to knot than mono.

Braid is also the most expensive sort of line, and that is not it's only flaw. Braid does not work with all spools and can potentially damage the wrong spool. Despite its strength, it does not stretch and may snap, though the lack of stretch makes it precise.

Know your line's pound test

A 20-lb test line can hold 20 pounds without breaking. Both the type of material used and the thickness of the line determine it.

Sometimes, you can catch a slightly heavier fish than your line is supposed to be able to hold. The line will not immediately break on any fish that is a little heavier than the line is rated for.

Only a new line has its full strength; it will weaken each time you use it. Lines made out of cheaper materials weaken faster.

You will weaken your line when you tie a knot in it, especially if you do not tie a knot the right way. Even if you tie the knot properly, it will still weaken your line a little. Lines made out of stronger and more expensive materials lose their strength more slowly.

How to fish with a leader

If you use a leader, you can combine the advantages of two different types of fishing line. To make a leader, tie a second piece of fishing line onto the end of your main fishing line, and then tie the other end of that piece to the hook.

The leader you tie to your main fishing line and the hook can be of a different thickness or a different material. You can use a stronger and more expensive material as the leader and a cheaper material as the main fishing line.

The diameter of your line matters

A thicker line is often better because it is stronger. However, if two lines have the same pound test, the thinner line is better. Line with a smaller diameter is easier to knot, and you can fit more of it on your spool.

Take care of your line and replace it when you need to

You can miss out on catching an impressive fish if your line breaks. Store your line in the dark, don't leave it out in the sun. If you fish in saltwater, clean your line in freshwater after you use it.

More than anything else, check your line for damage. If your line appears damaged, clip the damaged part off or replace it. A big fish can break a damaged line.


Scott Kimball

Scott Kimball

From a young age I was introduced to fishing, hiking, camping, snowboarding and more through family, friends, and scouting. After 20 years of learning and participating in these outdoor activities, I share what i've learned (and continue learning) with you.

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