I reluctantly admit that, having fished for over 40 years, I qualify as "old school." So it took me a while to warm up to the new generation of braided fishing lines. Little by little I did, though, and today braided lines like PowerPro and Berkley FireLine are heavily used, both in personal fishing and in my guiding business.
Without delving into all the technicalities of braided fishing line— materials and construction — allow me to share some of my thoughts on factors that really matters: how braid differs from the monofilament fishing line you've been using, and how you can use this product to better your fishing experience.
Braided Fishing Line Has Physical Differences
Braided line has obvious differences from nylon mono. It's much thinner (comparing similar break strengths); it has little to no stretch; it is comparatively "soft" in feel; and it is more visible. Each of these factors is not necessarily good or bad. Understanding the distinctions, though, allows the angler to put certain characteristics to his or her advantage and also avoid potential problems. Let's look at each of them.
The Thin Diameter Fishing Line
The 20-pound test braided line (I'm using PowerPro in this example) has roughly the same diameter of 6-pound test mono. So you're getting a lot more strength from line that's the same basic thickness.
When making the switch to braid, it might seem logical to drop down in size, so the line strength is closer to what you used in mono. For instance, a 10-pound test braid (which has a diameter of 2 pound test mono). While the lessened water resistance of the ultra-thin line has its advantage — like feeling a subtle walleye bite on a jig in 40 feet of water — it comes at a price. Its super thin diameter can be just plain hard to work with.
Knots are harder to tie. In situations where sudden slack is formed, such was when missing the strike of a fish, it can find its way back into tiny voids of the fishing reel, and also wrap tightly around the rod's blank and guides. As such, I rarely fish lighter than 20 pound test on spinning gear, and 30 on casting gear.
The Lack of Stretch With Braided Fishing Line
It's this trait that requires the most adjustment by the angler accustomed to fishing nylon mono, which in comparison to braid is quite stretchy.
The no-stretch trait of braid allows you to feel hits better, as they are transmitted more efficiently. This is a twin-edged sword, though, as the fish will feel the resistance from your end better as well, and is more likely to drop the bait. Thus, when fishing with braid it's wise to use lighter powered fishing rods with somewhat softer tips, so there's a bit more give. Also, once hooked up, you don't have the forgiveness of mono when fighting the fish. Hooks can quickly work larger holes in the fish's mouth, potentially resulting in lost fish should slack develop. A looser drag setting will help counter this.
This isn't meant to imply braid's lack of stretch is a bad thing — just that you have to make modifications, such as those just suggested, for its use. No-stretch advantages are many, and include solid hooksets at the end of a long cast; the ability to aggressively work a lure, the action not being dampened by a stretchy line; being capable of wrestling a big fish out of heavy cover.
Braided fishing line requires some special attention in spooling. It won't pack tightly — due to the lack of give — without laying on some nylon backing. On small capacity spools, simply wind on a layer or two. On large capacity reels you can eat up a more significant portion of the spool with nylon, leaving space for 100 to 125 yards of braid. Braided line is more expensive than nylon, so why use an extra hundred yards or more simply to take up space on the spool?
I find that freshly spooled braided line requires a breaking in period, during which the working portion of the line tends to get properly packed on the reel. First time out be alert for any loops/knots that may develop from looseness during the initial spooling. After an hour or so of work the line should fish hassle free.
Tip: The PowerPro Spectra braid is a microfilament fishing line handles like monofilament line and has one of the highest strength-to-diameter ratios available. This line has no spool memory with minimal stretch for ultra-sensitivity and increased strike detection. Plus, there is a new EZ Spool box design allowing anglers to spool line directly from the box!
Visibility and Handling of Braided Fishing Line
Though manufacturers are turning out braided lines that are less detectable, all-in-all braided line is more visible than nylon mono. For that reason it's common to incorporate a short leader. Typically I tie on about 2-3 feet of monofilament, either nylon or fluorocarbon. I find a triple surgeon's knot best (i.e. easiest to tie, yet strong), though back-to-back uni-knots are also commonly used. If you choose to tie directly to a lure or hook — such as in dirty water situations or when fishing heavy cover — a Palomar knot is tops. Braided line, particularly when new, has a slick finish. Common knots such as the improved clinch tend to slip. The Palomar will not
Don't expect to cut braided line with the common clippers that are so effective on nylon. If you manage to saw through the material it'll be a feathery mess, not a neat cut. Scissors like Bass Pro Shops 4-inch Braid Line Scissors are value priced, and do the job cleanly.
In general, braided line "absorbs" twisting to a certain degree — an important trait when fishing with baits that that can develop some twist, like soft jerkbaits worked in current situations. In my guiding business, which focuses on river smallmouth bass, I've had far fewer line twist issues since switching over to braid.
A couple tips for reducing snarls: often, when one begins to develop it will be in the form of a small loop; one you'll hear passing through the guides on the cast. If you catch it quickly, often you can pick it out before it tightens up into a knot/snarl that requires the scissors.
Also, if you see a loop of slack line down inside the spool of your spinning reel, don't try to clear it by pulling off loops, which usually results in a big ball of line and a cut job. Instead, back off the drag and strip the line off as the spool rotates, just like stripping line off a fly reel. Just remember to re-tighten the drag after clearing the loop (this works on all line, not just braid).
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As tough as braid is to cut, it's not as abrasive resistant as one might think. If you tie directly to the fishing lure, the action of casting will eventually weaken the knot. You might end up breaking off on a hookset, or simply launching the lure into the lake during a cast. So be sure to retie the terminal knot a time or two during the day.
Braid will last a long time, providing you don't have to cut out snarls, shortening it beyond its effective length. The slick coating will eventually wear down. Cast length will suffer, and the line will be noisy as it passes through the guides. Once a day give the spool a shot of Blakemore's Real Magic Lubricant and you will restore its casting qualities.
If past experiences with braid were on the negative side, hopefully these tips will motivate you to give this line a second shot, this time with better results.