Using a quality line is critical when ice fishing. The last thing any angler wants is to miss the catch of a lifetime due to line failure. The primary type of ice-fishing line options is monofilament, fluorocarbon, superline, and tip-up. Below three ice pros share perspectives on various ice fishing line options.
1. Monofilament Fishing Line
Ice-fishing specific monofilament provides reliable cold-weather performance. Mono is the line of choice for Tony Boshold, a two-time North American Ice Fishing Champion and Chicago-based fishing guide http://www.tony-boshold.com/ice-guide.
Fishing Line With Stretch and Shock Strength
One reason Boshold likes Sufix Ice Magic Cold Water Monofilament Fishing Line is its stretchiness. In trophy walleye water, 8- to 12-pound mono will cushion against hard strikes and powerful head-shakes, keeping the hooks of a large Rapala Jigging Rap or heavy spoon locked in place. Otherwise, Boshold uses 6-pound mono for small to medium-sized walleye.
Tip: A monofilament’s give makes it more forgiving than no-stretch superline. As such, mono is an excellent option for beginners learning proper jigging, hook-setting, and fish-playing techniques.
A Fishing Line for Versatility
“The Monofilament Frost Ice Line from Clam Pro Tackle is subtle enough to handle frigid ice fishing conditions. The Frost Ice fishing line can hang any presentation when matched with the right pound test line. And it’s strong enough to withstand the abuse of a hard-fighting fish,” said Matt Johnson, Minnesota fishing guide www.mattjohnsonoutdoors.com and Ice Team Manager.
Tip: Tying knots is also not tricky with mono — another perk for beginners.
Keep a Good Variety of Mono Fishing Line on Hand
Monofilament is available in a range of strengths and, as such varying line diameters. Boshold experiments with diameter to change a bait’s action and trigger more bites. For instance, he’ll increase from 2- to 4-pound test for panfish to slow a bait’s sink-rate and soften its action.
Ice Fishing Specific Mono Fishing Line and Water Repellency
Boshold and Johnson like the ice-fishing specific mono fishing line because they wick moisture. Hydrophobic qualities reduce ice build-up on line, rod guides, and the reel, for better reliability and performance.
Affordable Ice Fishing Line
Mono is typically the least expensive ice line. Anglers can stretch their dollar by using the old fishing line as backing on a reel, says Boshold. Three reels can be filled with 30 yards (i.e., 90 feet) of the line from one 100-yard pony spool.
For Memory and Line Management
Mono’s memory is bitter-sweet. Memory helps it conform to a reel spool for an excellent performance.
Unfortunately, memory causes coils, which can hinder line performance and sensitivity. Stretching mono the night before or the morning of an outing to remove coils is a reliable workaround.
Extra tip: Copolymer is mono’s cousin. Copolymer fishing line like P-Line CXX X-tra Strong Copolmer is made with two polymers to achieve different features than a single polymer (i.e., mono) line. Copolymer ice lines are limited but are another versatile line choice for anglers.
2. Fluorocarbon Fishing Line
Fluoro offers unique advantages for ice fishing. Here are a few highlights.
Fluorocarbon is Nearly Invisible Underwater
Fluorocarbon’s refractive index is similar to water’s, making it hard for fish to detect. A line that is hard to identify is beneficial in clear water.
“I prefer to use a fluorocarbon option when targeting bluegills and crappies in shallow water, as it helps with line-shy fish. Plus, you’re also not dealing with deeper situations where the line takes on more stretch and abuse,” Johnson said. “Shallow water walleyes can prefer a fluorocarbon option as well.”
Ontario ice-fishing expert, John Whyte, uses 4-pound fluoro for panfish abiding in 15 feet or less. “In shallow water, stretch and diameter are not an issue,” Whyte said. “Plus I don’t have to keep tying leaders on.”
Fluoro Line is Durable With Stretch
“The fluorocarbon line also stretches and is generally more abrasion resistant than monofilament fishing line. The stretching and resistance help so that those hard-fighting shallow water fish can make explosive runs, and you’ll still have the confidence to land them,” Johnson said.
Fluorocarbon Has Memory Challenges
Johnson notes fluorocarbon’s memory also causes line twists and coils. Fishing fluoro on a spooler-style (i.e., inline) reel will drastically curtail these effects.
Using ice-fishing specific fluorocarbon is recommended for reliable cold-weather flexibility and performance. Examples include Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon Ice Fishing Line, Cabela’s Ice Fishing Fluorocarbon, or Clam Pro Tackle Frost Fluoro Ice Premium Fluorocarbon Fishing Line.
Extra tip: Carry tools for trimming line, like Bass Pro Shops 4” Braided Line Scissors ($3.49) and line clippers.
3. Superline Fishing Line
Superlines provide many distinct features compared to mono and fluoro. Here are a few.
A Good No-Stretch Fishing Line
Superlines don’t stretch. The non-stretching provides excellent sensitivity in tight-line scenarios.
“Braided line is a great option for situations where reaction time and the necessity for no stretch is important,” Johnson said. “Deep water applications and even situations where finicky fish require a quick hook-set…. A lot of walleye and lake trout anglers will use braided lines in deepwater applications, but frequently will add a fluorocarbon leader.”
Thin Diameter Fishing Line Has It's Advantages
Superlines have small diameters compared to mono and fluorocarbon of similar pound-test. Smaller diameters work to one’s advantage when a fast sink-rate is needed. For instance, while Johnson notes many winter panfish anglers avoid braid, it has its place, and he uses it for quickly getting a fishing bait deep.
Ice Build-Up Considerations
One gripe about superlines is they absorb water, which causes ice build-up on line, rod eyelets, and reel components. Ice accumulation varies based on conditions as well as the brand of line and its condition.
Whyte uses 10-pound, crystal colored FireLine Ultra 8 Braid or NanoFil with a fluorocarbon leader for whitefish and other species deeper than 15 feet.
“Neither of these super braids absorbs water, so they don’t tend to freeze,” Whyte said. “The Ultra 8 is the most abrasive resistant. I have been testing and using these lines for two years, and they have performed very well.”
Extra tip: A rod combo must compensate for the no-stretch superline. A proper drag setting is critical. Some anglers prefer fast or moderate rods to ensure sufficient cushioning during the hook-set and the battle.
4. Tip-Up Line Choices
Nylon or Dacron line are go-to choices for spooling tip-ups and hand-playing walleye, northern pike, and other species. Large diameter, 20- to 40-pound test tip-up line is easy to handle. The tip-up line is coated to prevent water saturation, delivers good knot strength, and performs well in the cold.
The tip-up line is frequently used in conjunction with a mono or fluoro leader, most easily connected by tying in a swivel. The added hardware also prevents line twist.
Extra tip: The Cabela’s Metered Braided Nylon Tip-Up Ice Fishing Line is color-coded every 3”. The color-coding makes it easy to set a bait at a precise depth.
The monofilament, fluorocarbon, superline, and tip-up line categories all have unique characteristics for ice fishing. Hopefully, the above details inform your decision when choosing the best line for ice fishing.