What Kind of Fishing Line Should I Use? Issue #20 March 2016

Back in the day, things were much simpler. There was only one type  of fishing line commonly used in Hawaii: monofilament,  referred to as “suji” or “mono”. Now we have braided synthetic line (ex. PowerPro), and fluorocarbon leader and fluorocarbon main line. What’s the difference and what are the pros and cons?

  • Monofilament is relatively inexpensive. It stretches, which acts as a shock absorber when a fish jerks erratically, but also delays the hookset when a lot of line is out. Mono is translucent but not transparent so fish with good eyesight can see it.
  • Braided line is much thinner than the same strength mono line. 30 lb braid is the same diameter   as 8 lb mono and is treated with slick coating to cast even better than mono of the same diameter. Braid hardly stretches which is great for feeling the nibble but not so good if your  rod is really stiff and your drag is set too tight. Braid is resistant to sun light and heat but is not as abrasion resistant  as mono and fluorocarbon  when used on our jagged reefs.  It’s  costlier than mono but will  last  a long time.  Braided line consists of individual strands of man-made material “braided” into one line and dyed. Because it’s dyed and not translucent, fish see it very easily.
  • Fluorocarbon line has the same refractive index as water. So it’s virtually invisible underwater although you can easily see it out of the water. It’s also more abrasion resistant than mono and braid, however, it retains the shape it was wound in more than the other two line types. Fluorocarbon comes in leader material and main line, and is the costliest of the three lines. Fluorocarbon leader is stiffer and harder than Fluorocarbon main line because the main line is treated to be cast easily.


To give  you  a feel for relative costs, here’s the approximate average pricing per yard of line.

  • Maxima Ultragreen 15 lb mono – $0.06
  • PowerPro Green 15 lb braid – $0.09
  • Seaguar Blue Label 15 lb fluorocarbon leader – $0.40


Since braid doesn’t take up much space on the spool, casts well and lasts a long time, people use it both as main line and as “backing” to be kept as a reserve  in case a big fish hits. Fluorocarbon leaders can be attached to this braid backing so the fish don’t see the line the hook is connected to. You get the best of both worlds: nearly invisible line near the fish and strong, thin, castable line on the spool.

Fluorocarbon main line is used on bait casting reels and conventional reels but doesn’t lay tightly on spinning reels because of the line twist introduced by the 90 degree motion of the rotor.

If  you’re  on a budget  you could still use braid as your backing, for months at a time, and splice on a “top shot” of mono so you’ll be casting the mono. Splicing a short piece of fluorocarbon leader, when stealth is needed, shouldn’t break the bank. Then, when your inexpensive mono top shot gets nicked up or coiled you can replace just the mono, keeping the braid backing as is.


  • Mono – Sun, heat and chemical fumes age and weaken the line. Store in a cool, clean area.
  • Braid – Because  the line  is  strong and thin,  it  slices  through human skin very easily. Don’t wrap braid around your hand when tightening knots and breaking off snags. It’s prone to wind knots and backlashes if not packed tightly on reel.
  • Fluorocarbon – This line is weakened by friction so paying more attention to tie your knots is critical. Moisten the line and knot well before cinching down on knots. It also holds “memory” so avoid kinking or pinching line in tangles. Unlike mono or braid, “fluoro” main line sinks and may get caught up in the reef if you let your bait sit too long.


Always moisten the line first when tying knots regardless of type of line. Out of simplicity, I use the Uni knot with all types of line, and when  I need  to join two lines I use the Uni-to-Uni knot. There are a lot of knot tying resources  available in print and online that cover stronger knots than the Uni. http://www.netknots.com/fishing_knots/ is one of many good sites  with animated  drawings that make the instructions easy to follow.

  • Mono – Any high breaking strength knot will do.
  • Braid – The coating on this line makes it slippery. Make sure you cinch tight and leave a bit of tag end so the knot doesn’t undo itself. The Uni-to-Uni knot is a good one to use when joining braid to another line. The FG knot is a very popular knot to join braid to mono or fluorocarbon, but will require some practice to tie.
  • Fluorocarbon – This line is stiffer than mono and slippery. When you tie your knots, you’ll need to make sure you don’t have loops overlapping and cutting into each other more than necessary. Take your time, moisten well, and slowly cinch. A sloppily tied knot will cut into itself and snap off under pressure.