Different Types of Fishing Line Explained
Jul 17, 2020 | 7 minute read Comments
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Fishing line is one of the fundamental basics of any angler’s setup. It doesn’t matter if you’re trolling for Tuna offshore or flipping for Bass in your local pond, you need good line to bring it in. More importantly, you need the right kind of line. With that in mind, we’re here to break down the different types of fishing line out there.

Spools of different types of fishing line next to each other

You may not have put much thought into the wide variety of line on the market. Words like “fluorocarbon” and “monofilament” sure sound impressive, but it’s all more or less the same, right? Wrong. Each style has its pros, cons, and main uses. Picking the perfect one is as important as selecting your lure or rigging the right type of hook.

Fishing Line Characteristics

Before we jump into the different products out there, there are a few basic terms we need to cover. They describe the main qualities of every line type and help you understand why it might be better or worse in certain situations.

  • Memory: When you pull line off your spool, does it hang straight or curl up? That’s memory. Line with a lot of memory tends to kink or knot as you reel in. It also messes with your presentation and makes it harder to cast far.
  • Stretch: Stretchy line keeps tension better as you fight a fish. It also takes some of the punch out of big head shakes. However, stretch gives you less precision and feedback, and makes setting the hook tougher.
  • Shock Strength: Another advantage of having some stretch is that your line is less likely to snap under sudden pressure. This is shock or impact strength, and it stops hard-hitting fish from breaking you off.
  • Abrasion Resistance: Ever get cut off by rocks while fishing? You need gear with more abrasion resistance. All modern line is pretty abrasion resistant, but more high-end materials tend to handle scratches better.
  • Buoyancy: Some line floats in the water, some sinks. They’re both useful in different situations. Floating or buoyant line is great for topwater fishing. Sinking line stays taut in the water, giving you more precision at depth.
  • Visibility: If a fish sees your line, it can get spooked and put off biting. To avoid this, people usually use low-visibility line in clear water. You can also use colored line to match the depth and shade of water you’re fishing.

Monofilament: The Old Faithful

A close-up of a large spool of monofilament fishing line

“Monofilament” is a fancy way of saying “single thread.” That’s exactly what this is, a single piece of plastic, usually nylon, that’s stretched out and set into a thin tube. Mono has been around since the ’30s. It may not be high-tech, but it’s a reliable “jack of all trades” and is still the most popular line out there.

Pros and Cons of Monofilament Fishing Line

The main selling points of monofilament are that it’s cheap and easy to use. It casts smoothly and holds knots better than most lines. Mono also has relatively low memory and is easy to pick out if it backlashes or “bird’s nests.” If you do have to cut it out, it’s recyclable, which is always a bonus.

A fishing line recycling point on a beach. Two anglers are surf fishing in the background

Mono has a lot of stretch, meaning high shock strength but much less precision than its rivals. It’s very buoyant, which is great for surface lures but terrible for bottom baits. It comes in a range of colors to help with visibility. The main downsides of mono are that it doesn’t last very long and is much weaker than other lines of a similar diameter.

When to Use Mono

Monofilament is perfect for beginners. If you’re just getting into fishing, start with mono. It’s cheap, simple, and functions reasonably well on all reels. It also makes fighting fish less punishing by keeping tension on the line and smoothing out those heavy head shakes. Switch to something else when fishing at depth or targeting tough-mouthed species, though.

Copolymer: A Classic Improved

A spool of green copolymer fishing line and a hook on a mirrored surface

Copolymer fishing line is essentially an improved version of monofilament. It’s made in the same way, but with two or more materials instead of one (usually different forms of nylon). This lets manufacturers refine their recipe and tailor the line’s characteristics to certain uses.

Pros and Cons of Copolymer Fishing Line

Remember the song “Anything you can do, I can do better”? That’s copolymer singing. It has lower stretch than mono while maintaining shock strength. Tying knots and casting are still a breeze, and it has even lower memory. It’s also stronger than mono for its size and is more abrasion resistant.

Three heavy trolling reels rigged with copolymer line on the side of a boat

A noticeable difference with the new recipe is that copoly doesn’t normally float. That’s not necessarily good or bad – just different. The only real drawback with copolymer is that it’s more expensive. And because it’s still nylon-based, it can get damaged by sun and heat just as quickly.

When to Use Copoly

The short answer is, “Whenever you want.” It’s great on all reel types and perfect for deep-water tactics like jigging and suspension rigs. There are also some recipes out there that are suitable for surface fishing. As long as you don’t mind paying a little more, there’s no reason not to upgrade to copolymer.

Fluorocarbon: Fishing in Stealth Mode

A spool of fluorocarbon fishing line on a white background

Fluorocarbon line is made in the same way as mono, but from much denser material. Fun fact: It’s in the same family as the stuff that stops your pan sticking (teflon) and keeps your freezer cold (freon). Fluoro first appeared on the scene in the ’70s. Back then, it was so stiff and difficult to manage that it was only usable as a leader. Things have come a long way since then.

Pros and Cons of Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

Fluorocarbon’s main perk is that it’s practically invisible underwater. It isn’t much stronger than mono or copoly, but it’s super abrasion resistant, and lasts much longer than other lines. It can stretch, but only under a lot of pressure. This means high shock strength without any loss of precision. In fact, fluoro is extremely sensitive and gives feedback even when slack.

A heavy tackle trolling reel rigged with fluorocarbon line on a boat

It’s not all plain sailing with fluorocarbon, though. Knots tend to fail if they’re not tied right and the line’s high memory can make it tangle and kink at the drop of a worm. On top of that, it’s expensive. Think of it as the race car of fishing line – high end, high performance, but you need to know what you’re doing with it.

When to Use Fluoro

Fluorocarbon is a fast-sinking line, so you’ll mainly use it with jigs, dropshots, and other precise bottom tactics. You can use very light line on a spinning reel, but it’s better suited to baitcasters. As you may have guessed, its primary use is for fishing in very clear water. Many people also attach a few feet of fluoro as a leader to throw off sight-based predators like Pike.

Braid: High Price, Low Profile

Two spools of braided fishing line, one purple and one green

All the types of fishing line we’ve covered so far have been pretty similar. The material might change, but the production process is more or less the same. Braid is completely different. It’s made by weaving together several strands of polyethylenes like Dacron, Spectra, and Dyneema. This produces a super-thin line that could stop a Swordfish in its tracks.

Pros and Cons of Braided Fishing Line

Braided line is made with anywhere from four to 16 strands. Fewer strands mean more abrasion resistance, while higher-strand braid is thinner. Either way, it’s built to last and is the strongest line pound for pound by miles. Braid has no memory, letting it flow freely without kinking. It also has no stretch. This gives you complete precision with the trade-off of lower shock strength.

A spinning reel rigged with braid, with water in the background

The downsides? Braid stands out like a sore thumb underwater, is hard to tie knots with, and can get cut off by toothy fish. It’s so tough and thin that it can bury itself in the spool and damage cheaper equipment. When it backlashes, it creates such a mean mess that you often need to cut it out (and you can’t recycle it). Oh, and it’s the most expensive line of the bunch.

When to Use Braid

Braid is perfect if you’re fishing in low-visibility waters or need a lot of line on your spool. Deep dropping and precision jigging are common uses. It’s also great for working weeds and heavy vegetation, as it will slice right through rather than getting caught up. You’ll normally find braid on spinning reels, but you can use it on any type of reel, as long as it’s decent quality.

Types of Fishing Line: One for Every Occasion

Different types of fishing line on a glass shelf in a shop

There’s no definitive “best fishing line.” Every style has its advantages, drawbacks, and ideal scenarios. Popping in clear water? Stick with mono. Battling big game species? Beef up with fluorocarbon or keep things light with braid.

More than anything, choosing the right line is about personal preference. Everyone fishes differently, and half of us still use whatever we first learned on. Try a few out and see what you like most. That’s the real decider.

Which different types of fishing line do you use? What’s your overall favorite, and why? Drop us a line in the comments below! (Pun 100% intended)

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Comments (4)
  • Gary Campbell

    Sep 3, 2020

    Been fishing for over seventy years and am partial to pro line braid. It’s the line that works best for me. The adage that it’s visible to fish doesn’t bother me because if fish are feeding, it doesn’t seem to make a difference. My backup line is flurocarban for obvious reasons.

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      Sep 3, 2020

      Hi Gary,

      Thanks for the comment.

      I guess it all comes down to the situation and conditions on the day. As you say, even more visible lines don’t make much of a difference when the fish are actively feeding. Stealthier lines really come into play when you need to tempt wary fish onto your bait.

      All the best!

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  • Wendell

    Sep 21, 2020

    What types of line do I need to cast out a 2oz. weight from shore without snapping my line ?

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      Sep 21, 2020

      Hi Wendell,

      Mono and copoly are both good options. You’ll be able to put more line on your reel with copolymer if you’re planning to cast out far. However, monofilament will do just fine and is much cheaper. It comes down to budget at the end of the day.

      Tight lines!

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