Types of Fishing Line

Fishing line provides the connection between you and the fish, making it your most vital piece of fishing gear after the rod itself. There are different fishing line types you can use.

Most Popular Types of Fishing Line

There are several types of fishing line, but the two most commonly used are monofilament and braid. Monofilament is made from nylon and is one long continuous filament, whereas braided fishing line is made up of several super-strong, very thin fibers made from material similar to Kevlar braided together to form a line that is basically round in cross section.

1. Monofilament Line

Advantages - Monofilament is the most popular type of fishing line and comes in a great variety of strengths and colors. Mono is less expensive than other lines, stretches to absorb shocks, is abrasion resistant, and uniformly round in cross section, which helps keep it neat on the spool. Monofilament is easy to tie knots in, but can suffer from “memory” where it loops in the shape of the spool. Mono comes in several shades, but clear and blue are popular because they disappear underwater and are very difficult for a fish to see. Of the various suitable types of fishing line for saltwater, monofilament is one of the most popular. 

Disadvantages - Monofilament is not as strong as braid for a given diameter, so higher pound test mono takes up more space on a spool. It’s also nylon, which means it breaks down over time when exposed to sunlight, so it’s important to respool with fresh line every year.

2. Braid Fishing Line

Advantages - Braid is very strong for a given diameter, often twice as strong as mono, so you can pack more line on a spool at a given pound test. That also means it sinks faster, casts farther, and trolls deeper than mono. Braid has no memory so loops and twists aren’t a problem, making braid one of the best fishing line for spinning reels. Braid doesn’t break down in sunlight, so you can keep it on the spool year after year. And it doesn’t stretch at all, so you can feel every bump of the bottom and nudge from a fish.

Disadvantages - Braid is very slippery so you have to use knots that can hold despite the low friction. Braid is so strong it’s difficult to cut — you have to carry nail clippers or very sharp scissors. And though it comes in several colors, it’s not see-through like mono. Most anglers have in a leader in their fishing gear & tackle and use it when fishing with braid to help hide the line from the fish. It’s also less abrasion resistant than mono. And finally, braid has no stretch, which means there’s no give when a fish strikes, so using less drag is a good idea, and a bit more finesse when setting the hook helps as well.

3. Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

These are other types of fishing line you can use when freshwater fishing, saltwawer fishing or fly fishing. 

Fluorocarbon is often used as leader material. It’s completely invisible underwater and very abrasion resistant, making it the perfect complement to braid. There are now a few brands of fluorocarbon being sold as a main line.

4. Wire Fishing Line

Wire is another leader material that is used when fishing for toothy fish like mackerel and tuna. Wire comes in single strand and braided varieties. Wire also is popular for some types of trolling where reaching deep depths is important. This requires special hardened spools for the reels.

5. Fly Fishing Line

Fly line comes in particular weights. These don’t reference the breaking strength, but instead the heaviness of the line, which needs to match up with the fly rod. Fly line attaches to a leader called a tippet which comes in different breaking strengths.

Fishing With Leaders

One of the best fishing line set-ups is using a leader - a short length of fishing line that attaches to the main line at one end, and the hook or lure at the other. Leaders can be made of a different material than the main line, or simply be a thicker, heavier version of the main line if, for example, increased abrasion resistance is required. Leaders allow you to improve your success hooking and keeping fish, without having to cast and retrieve an entire line made of the bigger, heavier material. This is especially important when using a wire leader.

  • The most important characteristic of all fishing line types is not the various fishing line sizes. It’s the line’s breaking strength: the amount of force the line can hold before it parts. This is expressed as pound-test. So 10-lb test fishing line should hold 10 pounds before it breaks and 30-lb test holds 30 and so on.

  • Many things can weaken a line, including the knots you tie in it. It’s important to choose a line that is strong enough for your needs within a working margin. You should assume that even brand new line will provide less than 80% of its rated strength once you’ve tied a hook or lure to it.

  • Early fishing lines were braided natural materials like silk and therefore quite expensive, modern lines are made from synthetic materials like nylon, dacron, dyneema, and fluorocarbon.

Learn more about the different fishing gear and tackle you need to catch more fish.