Choosing the right fishing line
Few aspects of bass fishing have changed more rapidly, or more dramatically, in recent years than the development of new fishing lines. Now, anglers are faced not only with choosing which strength of line the need but also which type of line.
“Each type of line we use today, braid, fluorocarbon or monofilament, has both advantages and disadvantages,” explained veteran tournament pro Terry Scroggins, who’s been climbing the line-learning curve since he began fishing braids more than a decade ago. “For example, fluorocarbon is nearly invisible underwater and has less stretch than monofilament, and braid has a very thin diameter and extra strength, but virtually no stretch.
“I believe every bass fisherman has to look at his own style of fishing and the conditions he’s actually facing, and then choose a line that best meets those conditions. The chances are, if you fish very often with several different techniques, you’re going to use all three types of lines.”
Scroggins uses all three, on occasion he combines braid with either a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader to suit the technique he’s using. Here’s how he rigs his rods for a variety of different lures and presentations:
Topwaters – “Being from Florida, I have always fished a lot of prop baits like a Devils Horse and Boy Howdy, and for these types of lures I prefer 40 pound braid with a four to five foot leader of 15 pound monofilament.
“Monofilament floats, and with prop baits we often use a very slow presentation during which the lure may sit motionless on the surface for 15 or 20 seconds, so a floating line gives the lures better action. The stretch in the mono also acts as a type of shock absorber for the non-stretching braid.”
Lipless Crankbaits – “I prefer 40 pound braid with a four- to five-foot leader of 15 to 17-pound fluorocarbon. “That’s because I frequently use these lures over hydrilla or milfoil, and many strikes come when you rip the bait out of that vegetation. The fluorocarbon has very little stretch and recovers quickly, while the braid helps cut through the grass.
“I use the same combination when I’m yo-yoing these lures. Strikes come as the bait is falling, and the braid gives you instant hook-setting; you almost never lose a bass this way.”
Deep Crankbaiting – “Here I use 10-pound monofilament. It’s strong enough to handle big bass, and the small line diameter allows the lure to reach maximum depth. It has just enough stretch to let the fish engulf the lure for a good hook-set, too.
“Remember, we used monofilament for years before braids and fluorocarbons were developed, and we caught a lot of bass with it. There are still applications where I think mono out-performs these other lines. Some pros will use fluorocarbon line for deep cranking, but I like mono.”
Flipping – “When I’m flipping, I use the ‘¾-ounce rule’. If I’m using a ¾-ounce or lighter sinker, it generally means the cover I’m fishing is not very thick nor is it very deep, so I’ll normally use 20-pound or heavier fluorocarbon for its strength and lack of stretch.
“If I’m fishing slightly deeper and heavier cover, I’ll use 40-pound braid without a leader. Even in the clear water of a lake like Amistad, I’ll use braid because the fish are deeper in submerged timber and I need the strength of braid to get them out.”
Spinnerbaits – “Depending on the type of cover, I’ll use 14- to 20-pound fluorocarbon. Because I’m in tight contact with the lure, I don’t think there’s a need for braid, although a number of pros do choose it when spinnerbaiting over vegetation. I prefer fluorocarbon because it’s more sensitive and I can feel the blades better.
“We used to think monofilament was perfect for spinnerbaits, but once you get accustomed to fluorocarbon, using these lures with mono feels like fishing with a big rubber band.”
Shaky Head – “I use six-pound fluorocarbon exclusively with this technique, because I’m not trying for a big bass, but rather, for numbers of fish that are usually in deeper water. I don’t like mono because it has too much stretch.”
Shallow Crankbaits – “When I’m target fishing crankbaits in water six feet or less, I prefer 12- to 15-pound monofilament. It has better castability because it is usually more limp than fluorocarbon, and the visibility of monofilament is not really an issue because I’m usually fishing stained water.”
Spoons – “My normal choice here is 40-pound braid with a four- to six-foot leader of 14- to 16-pound fluorocarbon. This allows me to make long casts, and because bass nearly always hit this lure while it falls, the braid/fluorocarbon combination gives good hook-sets because of the lack of stretch.”
Casting Jigs – “With a football-style jig I work on the bottom, I prefer 12- or 14-pound fluorocarbon because of the lack of stretch and visibility, and if I’m working particularly heavy cover, I’ll use 20-pound fluorocarbon. If I’m swimming a jig, however, I’ll use braid without a leader because I’m usually working the lure shallower and want direct contact with it.”
Carolina Rigs – “I nearly always choose 40-pound braid with a 14- to 17-pound monofilament leader. Mono floats better than fluorocarbon, and in this presentation, it should help my lure as it swims near the bottom.
“You don’t really lose any sensitivity with mono here, because all your feel comes from your sinker. Most bites on a Carolina rig are nothing more than a ‘heavy’ feeling, and when you learn that bite, it doesn’t mater whether you’re using a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader.
“The only real advantage I see with a fluorocarbon leader in this case is that it’s invisible. You need a shock absorber in your line system, and because fluorocarbon has such little stretch, you may realize you have to change to a lighter rod for Carolina rigging. To me, that’s a disadvantage, so my choice is monofilament.”
“When I’m fishing my 10-inch Big Show worms, I use 16-pound fluorocarbon. Again, the advantages are low stretch and near invisibility underwater.”
While most pros have chosen 65-pound braid as their standard, Scroggins feels 40 pound braid is more suitable for his fishing style. The advantage of the smaller size is that it casts easier since he can spool more of it on his reels. Even with 50-pound braid, Scroggins can practically empty a spool on a long cast, which translates into far less cranking power when a bass hits far away
“I believe the real keys to choosing lines are analyzing both the situations you’re fishing, and then trying different lines and line sizes. Eventually, you’ll settle on some that work best for you, and they may not necessarily be the same choices I use. Each line has distinct characteristics that may or may not be an advantage in your own personal fishing style
“The best part is that today we all have far more options to choose from than we did just a few years ago.”