The Ultimate Fishing Line Guide – Monofilament vs. Braided vs. Fluorocarbon

Fishing lines have come a long way from the early fishing days where anglers did not have a lot many options that are available today. Line selection is often overlooked when setting up a rod. However, if you end up using a wrong line for a fishing situation then it will be difficult to get a good catch.

Many recreational anglers are confused as to which fishing line they should go for out of the three namely monofilament, braided, and fluorocarbon. Although a number of baits can be used on all the different lines, if you want to make a good presentation it all boils down to choosing the right line and accordingly going for the reel, lure, hook and other elements.

All three types of lines have their unique advantages as well as some downsides. To help you choose the best line according to your requirements we will cover these lines in detail and also suggest which line is good for a given fishing situation and which one will not serve the purpose.

Ultimately, the best way to choose the right type of fishing line is to experiment and see what works best for you. Different types of line can also be used together to create a hybrid setup that offers the best of both worlds. For example, many anglers use braided line as their main line, with a fluorocarbon leader. This gives them the strength and sensitivity of braided line, with the invisibility and abrasion resistance of fluorocarbon.

So, continue reading the ultimate fishing line guide to know more details about the three types of fishing lines.

The Different Types of Fishing Lines

When it comes to ease of use, monofilament is the perhaps the best out of the three lines. It is very stretchable and has a larger thickness. It is great for making presentations for panfish or bass. Also, if you want to decrease the fall of your jog set up then monofilament lines are a good choice.

Fluorocarbon lines are thin and have less visibility but they are very sensitive. In terms of flexibility, they are somewhat stretchable when the hook is set. These lines are also resistant to abrasions and are good when you are jigging for crappies or casting worms and crankbaits.

On the other hand, braider lines float and perform well for spinning reels or professional grade for baitcasters. Thanks to their real thin diameter, they cut through the water column and run deeper, so you’ll find braids on my trolling and long-lining setups. However, braids do not stretch and so cannot be tied directly to jigs. As they do not have enough stretch many anglers have seen fish managing to escape from the hook. But if you add a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader then this problem can be solved.

Monofilament vs. Braided vs. Fluorocarbon

Monofilament lines are easy to use for all general purposes. Moreover, they are less costly, reliable, and provide good shock absorption when used carefully. On the other hand, fluorocarbon fishing lines are great for all clear water applications. They have a greater density than monoline, sink a lot faster, and offer a better feel of your bait and deliver high abrasion resistance.

Lastly, braided lines are more supple and have little to no stretch. They are the most sensitive lines for strike detection and hard hook sets. Moreover, they are the go-to lines for long distance casting, e.g. for walleye.

Now let us look at the different factors that are worth considering before you make an investment in a fishing line:

Monofilament Fishing Line

Monofilament lines are perhaps the oldest fishing lines and work best when the water is exceptionally clear.

What is monofilament fishing line?

Monofilament fishing lines comprise a single strand of nylon as compared to other lines that contain many filaments. It is for this reason that they are often referred to as just ‘mono’. These lines can be made of different materials but nylon is the most common.

Mono was one of the most widely used fishing lines some time ago and is still used commonly. It occupies more than a third share of the market. Because of its low cost it is used by many recreational and amateur anglers.

Why and when you should choose mono line

You can use monofilament line for a number of fishing applications. For instance, if you are planning on trolling you should go for mono as it does not break that easily when a fish strikes.

I also recommend mono to children and novice anglers as it is a good line to practice tying knots. Also, no matter what technique you are following, if the water is remarkably clear then opt for mono as it will increase the chances of getting a great catch. However, this line is not suitable for bottom fishing as it absorbs water and this results in loosening of knots. As this line absorbs water it becomes less sensitive when used at greater depths. Also, it does retain memory, which can be alleviated with some methods though.

The best monofilament line options

Mono Line Pros

  • Decent knot strength
  • Smooth and easy to cast
  • Low visibility
  • Good color retention
  • Great abrasion resistance
  • Low cost

Mono Line Cons

  • Absorbs water so its properties vary from dry to wet
  • Good stretch
  • Retains memory
  • Weakens when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light

Braided Fishing Line

Braided fishing lines are relatively new and are becoming more popular because of their high sensitivity and long distance castability.

What is braided fishing line?

Braided lines have acquired this name because they are made by braiding synthetic materials such as Micro Dyneema or Spectra. It is due to these materials that this line is extremely strong and resistant to abrasion.

Why and when you should choose braid line

If you are fishing in a heavy cover or close to a structure then braided line is a good choice as it provides you the necessary power to fight with the fish. Moreover, if you want to cast over long distances then this should be your go-to line.

Braided lines are also a good choice when you are working with lures because they are more responsive and sensitive plugs, spinners and a variety of other lures.

As mentioned before, braided lines do not stretch a lot and this makes it easier for you to detect when the fish has bitten your bait. Braids are also the best lines for bottom fishing or when you are going after fish that bite softly. However, because of their limited stretch braided lines can be broken by strong fish such as bonefish or redfish.

The best braided line options

Braid Line Pros

  • Low stretch
  • Thin diameter (much less than mono and fluoro of comparable strength)
  • Does not absorb much water
  • No variation in characteristics from dry to wet
  • Good buoyancy
  • Has no memory and so more supple in comparison to other lines
  • Does not weaken with UV radiations

Braid Line Cons

  • Least abrasion resistance as compared to its counterparts
  • Compatible only with specific knots such as Palomar and Uni
  • High visibility in water
  • Difficult to use with older reels
  • Costlier than mono

Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

Fluorocarbon fishing lines are a great choice when you have hard hook sets or when you are fishing in the cover. These lines work well in clear water and are extremely durable.

What is fluorocarbon fishing line?

Fluorocarbon are made up of polyvinylidene fluoride, which is basically a form of hard plastic. It is made in a single strand just like the nylon monofilament. However, in a fluorocarbon line the molecules have a higher density and so these lines are relatively denser and heavier. As the molecules are densely packed, these lines are virtually invisible in water because the light travels through them with a faster speed.

Why and when you should choose fluorocarbon line

Fluorocarbon is considered to be a suitable choice for jig and worm anglers as it is highly sensitive and invisible in water. Because of its invisibility it is the best line for fishing a variety of crankbaits and for several types of fish like trout.

As fluoro is highly resistant to abrasion and has super clarity it is also used as a leader material. The fluorocarbon leader is harder, thicker, and even more durable than the fluoro line. A fluoro leader is the preferred choice when you are using a braided line as these lines are highly visible to the fish.

The best fluorocrabon line options

Fluoro Line Pros

  • Very low visibility
  • High sink rate as it is denser than water
  • Has a low stretch
  • Exceptional abrasion resistance
  • Is not weakened with UV light
  • Decent knot strength
  • Appropriate for a wide range of knots
  • Does not absorb water so its properties remain the same when dry or wet

Fluoro Line Cons

  • Harder than mono especially when it comes to higher line strengths
  • High sink rate is not beneficial in all fishing situations
  • Costlier than mono

Three types of fishing line

Factors to Consider when Buying Fishing Line

1. Line Strength

The strength of a fishing line is referred to as the test and it is calculated in pounds. Ideally the strength of the line should be equal to the weight of the fish that you are willing to catch. For example, if you are catching tuna in the 30-pound range you will require a 30-pound test line.

On the other hand, if you are looking forward to catch trout then a typical line would be around 4-pound test. For larger game fish you should opt for a line not less than 30-pound test.

2. Stretch

Out of all the three lines, monofilament lines are the most stretchable. Stretch helps in enhancing the action to lures such as crankbaits. Also, the increased stretch will ensure that this line will absorb the shock when a fish makes a surprise surge so you will not lose it. But it makes it harder for you to feel the tap when a fish strikes your bait.

Fluorocarbon lines do not stretch that much but they are resistant to water and so last longer as compared to their counterparts. Moreover, they have UV resistance and that combined with water resistance makes these lines very strong.
Alternatively, braided lines have the least stretch and are very sensitive. Although it is difficult to tie the knot with these lines, they are good for situations where you want the line to pass through the weeds easily. Braided lines are also difficult
to cut
so you should use braided scissors that ensure cleaner cuts.

3. Visibility

Monofilament lines are available in a number of colors and so the visibility may vary. You can choose one according to the type of water where you fish, which may vary from fresh to murky. As obvious, it is more visible when the water is fresh and fish can sometimes spot it and steer clear.

Braided lines are more visible as compared to mono and generally used along with a leader. On the other hand, fluorocarbon lines are better suited for fish that are sensitive as they are almost invisible underwater.

4. Sink Rate

Sink rate is referred to as the speed with which a particular section of fishing line sinks in water. Monofilament lines are buoyant and sink slowly. It is because of their neutral buoyancy that these lines are used when fishing with topwater lures and suspended presentations below the surface. Using monofilament lines helps in reducing the downward movement of the bait in the water. Like mono lines braided line also do not sink fast and work well with spinning reels and professional baitcasters.

Fluorocarbon lines sinks faster as compared to mono and braided lines so you shouldn’t use it for smaller baits and topwater lures. Fluorocarbons are commonly employed to pin the bait to the bottom of the waterbody. Also, when you are trolling or casting fluoro it is great in providing more depth for crankbaits.

5. Diameter

Another important consideration when choosing a line is the diameter as it influences the stretch, castability, visibility as well as the running depth of your lures. Generally, the smaller diameter lines are not much visible in water and so they give more action to lures such as crankbaits and grubs.

Monofilament lines have comparatively larger diameters as compared to fluorocarbon and braided lines. Although the larger circumference may limit the ability of the lures to dive deeper, the added breadth is an advantage. For instance, when you want to decrease the speed at which a soft bait falls in water then mono is the line to go for. These thicker lines also have higher abrasion resistance.

The diameter of a fluorocarbon is almost similar to that of a nylon monofilament line that has the same tensile strength. However, as fluoro is almost invisible to the fish you can increase the line strength without frightening the fish.

At the similar test breaking strength, the diameter of a braided line is approximately one third of a mono or a fluoro. So, it becomes easier to accommodate more braided line on a spool as compared to fluorocarbon or monofilament line.

6. Abrasion Resistance

Very often the fishing lines are exposed to harsh weather conditions and rough terrain so they are resistant to wear and tear. Thicker lines are tougher and better when it comes to abrasion resistance as compared to their thinner counterparts. However, thicker lines are more visible to the fish and they make it difficult to get a good catch.

Because of their large diameter monofilament lines have the highest abrasion resistance. But when you are dragging your baits to the bottom of the lake or fishing through a thick cover, fluoro is a good choice as it is difficult for the fish to spot and also has good abrasion resistance. On the other hand, braided lines are more prone to wear and tear because of their thin diameters. However, an increasing number of manufacturers are coming up with braided lines that are tougher.

7. Ease of Use

If you have just started fishing and are looking for a line that is comparatively easier to use then you should opt for monofilament line. Mono has a good stretch, is easy when it comes to knot-tying, and also very manageable. Also, if you are a seasoned angler who wants to make a great presentation then mono is a good choice as it has a plethora of characteristics that can be used for your specific fishing techniques.

Alternatively, if your presentations need both sensitivity and strength then braided line is a viable option. These lines are excellent for spinning reels but they are not great when it comes to stretch or when you want to tie the knot haphazardly. However, braided lines can be made easy to use by making a few adjustments such as altering the hooksets, loosening the drag, and carefully tying your knots.

Fluorocarbon lines have more memory as compared to the other lines and this makes them difficult to manage. So, if you are just starting out as an angler then we don’t recommend this line as it takes a certain level of expertise to use it.

8. Cost

When it comes to cost, mono lines do not burn a hole in your pocket and are a good choice for amateur or recreational anglers. Moreover, they can be used more than once and are commonly used by anglers as a backing line.

Braided lines are more expensive as it takes a lot of time to make them. They last longer and are good for professional anglers.

Fluorocarbon lines are the most expensive out of all these three lines but they are more useful when it comes to lure presentations and have several applications. Fluro lines are widely used by professional anglers as they have a number of benefits.

A rod with spiralling fishing line lying on the wooden ground

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Fishing lines are made up of different materials such as nylon, Dyneema, polyethylene and Dacron. These materials are heated so that they become liquified. They are then made into tiny strands by passing them through small holes. Liquified plastic is also added to these materials to make them harder and more resistant to abrasion. The diameter of these fishing lines depends upon the diameter of the hole through which the material is being transferred.

As a recreational angler you can go to your local store for suggestions on which fishing line to buy. The staff there is quite knowledgeable and can give you good advice based on your fishing experience and technique. However, if you have sufficient knowledge and know which fishing line to buy then there are ample of options available online and you can choose one according to your requirements.

Braided line is generally considered to be the best line for superior casting. These lines are made up of polyethylene strands that have a comparatively high molecular weight. It is because of this that braided lines have a great strength and are a suitable choice for long distance casting.

The choice of color depends mainly on the line that you are using and your fishing environment.

Monofilament lines come in a variety of colors such as red, green, blue, and yellow. As most water bodies have a green shade to them, green lines work as camouflages and merge easily with the surroundings. Fluorocarbon lines are invisible in water. For braided lines, no matter what color you choose these lines will be visible to the fish so attaching a fluoro leader is beneficial.

If you are looking forward to vertical jigging then braid is a great option. However, you should ensure that the line is spooled tightly on the reel so that you can catch the larger fish easily. Generally, a 50-80Lb braid line works well for vertical jigging.

We wrote a separate article on the best fishing line for ice fishing, which you can also use if you plan on using tip-ups.

Check out the best fishing line spoolers to make this job incredibly easy!

There are special line counter reels for this exact purpose!

The Ultimate Fishing Line Guide Conclusion

By now it should be obvious that there is no clear winner among these three fishing lines. The choice of a line depends upon the type of fish you want to catch, your fishing technique, and also on how much you are willing to spend. We are confident that we have provided you with all the necessary information to make the right choice and hope you enjoyed reading this ultimate fishing line guide.

Obviously, for commercial fishing operations such as longlining, other factors need to be considered. Check out these expert opinions over on sportfishingmag or bassmaster, if you need even more input. So, if you are looking forward to a rewarding fishing adventure then go for a line that best suits your requirements.