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Best Fishing Line

Updated October 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 49 Models Considered
  • 6 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 153 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best fishing line

    Last Updated October 2018

    It's pretty obvious that top-quality fishing line is an essential part of every angler's fishing arsenal. What's not so obvious is which line you should choose. Those fishing for marlin at sea have very different needs from those stalking trout along a quiet river, but is the actual line all that different?

    There's a vast amount of information available about fishing line, but it’s not all straightforward. BestReviews is here to help you wade through the murky waters and make the right choice. Our selection of fishing line choices above has something for everyone. To give you the background knowledge you need, we also put together the following fishing line buying guide.

    Sunlight, water, dirt, and grit all wear on your fishing line. It's a good idea to replace your line regularly. Switch out monofilament line annually and braided and fluorocarbon line every other year.

    Monofilament, braided, and fluorocarbon fishing line


    Fishing line is made of one of three materials: monofilament, braid, or fluorocarbon. Before you choose a fishing line material, it’s wise to investigate the strengths and weaknesses of each type.

    Monofilament fishing line

    Many of us grew up with monofilament line (mono), and it remains popular. It's a great all-rounder, and if you choose mono, you really can’t go wrong. Monofilament is basically a single strand of nylon, though actual composition varies.

    Pros:

    • Monofilament is easy to manufacture, so it's relatively cheap. It won't cost much to load several spools with different test. Thus, you get lots of versatility in your tackle box.

    • Standard monofilament is clear (and quite difficult to see in water), but it can also be dyed, which some anglers prefer for differing conditions.

    • It has a degree of elasticity, which can help when you get a bite. Stretch can absorb some of the initial strike.

    • It floats, which can be useful for some styles of fishing.

    • It has good resistance to abrasion. A thicker line can be more resilient if you fish amidst underwater obstacles – tree roots, rocks, under-sea wrecks.

    • It's easy to knot.

    • It's easy on your hands.
       

    Cons:

    • Monofilament is comparatively thick. You'll get less of it on your spool than other materials. That's not a problem if you're fishing with two-pound test, but it can make quite a difference with 50-pound test.

    • It's heavier than other lines, which may impact the distance you can cast.

    • Stretch isn't always an advantage. Some fish have hard mouths. You want a good, solid strike to embed the hook properly.

    • You don't always want your line to float.

    • Nylon polymers are water absorbent and prone to ultraviolet (UV) light degradation, so they need to be replaced more often than other materials.

    • Monofilament has “memory.” Because it spends a lot of its time on the spool, it wants to stay wound. This affects how easily it comes off the spool. It tends to drag, which again reduces casting distance.

    Braided fishing line

    Many anglers think braided fishing line is the most modern fishing line. In fact, it's the oldest of them all. Before man-made fishing lines, braided line was commonly made of cotton, linen, and even silk. Way back when, fishermen realized that multiple thin fibers were stronger than a single thick fiber. Hence, the braided line was born.

    Today's braided fishing line follows the same principle – numerous fibers woven together – but it's now composed of synthetic polyesters.

    Pros:

    • Braided fishing line has a much smaller diameter and is much lighter than monofilament. Fifty-pound braid can be as thin as ten-pound monofilament; it’s very castable.

    • Braided fishing line has more “feel,” which is important to anglers who hold the line while fishing.

    • Braided line doesn't stretch, so if there's a little tension in the line, the hook should set the moment you strike.

    • UV light has practically no effect, so braided line is bound to last longer than monofilament. Specifically, it lasts about four times longer than monofilament – though it’s also more expensive.

    • Unlike monofilament, braided fishing line has no “memory,” so you’re not contending with line that wants to resume the shape it took on the reel.


    Cons:

    • Braided line has low friction and can therefore spin around your spool so nothing happens when you try to reel a fish in. Some fishing reels are equipped to cope with this. Many experts use a mono backer in which a few yards of monofilament line are tied on to give the necessary grip. The braided line is tied to the backer line.

    • The low friction of braided line also affects knots, which can be less secure.

    • You need scissors to cut the line.

    • Though hard, braided fishing line can scuff easily. This could be a problem if there are obstacles in the water, but only with low-test lines. Some manufacturers claim that braided line has increased abrasion resistance, but many experienced anglers add a leader: a length of monofilament or fluorocarbon fishing line tied between the bait and the main braided line. This length covers the area where abrasion is likely.

    • Though uncolored, braided fishing line can easily be seen in water. Depending on water conditions, this may or may not have much impact on your fishing success. If it's a problem, a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader can be used.

    • Braided fishing line can be difficult on multiplier reels like those used for beach casting. It can tighten on itself, causing snags as you cast. Given the weights being thrown, this could be dangerous.

    • Braided fishing line can be rough on your hands.


    For most anglers, the benefits of braided fishing line far outweigh the negatives. As a result, it's popular with experienced anglers, both inshore and at sea.

    Fluorocarbon fishing line

    Fluorocarbon fishing line is made in much the same manner as monofilament, but instead of nylon, most use a polymer called polyvinylidene fluoride. This gives it numerous advantages.

    Pros:

    • Fluorocarbon line is stronger than monofilament, doesn't absorb water, and is unaffected by UV. And like braided fishing line, it last around four times as long as monofilament line.

    • Fluorocarbon reflects almost the same amount of light as water (technically, it has a similar refractive index). This makes it almost invisible below the surface. That’s a big advantage in regularly fished waters where fish may become line shy.

    • Fluorocarbon has great resistance to abrasion. It’s an excellent choice if you fish where there are obstacles in the water.

    • Fluorocarbon has less stretch than monofilament but more stretch than braided line. Sensitivity is a big issue for some anglers, so a middle-of-the-road solution like fluorocarbon can be ideal.

    • Fluorocarbon line has little memory, so it’s better for casting than monofilament.

    • A fluorocarbon line sinks, which is exactly what some anglers want.
       

    Cons:

    • Despite higher equivalent strength than monofilament, fluorocarbon remains a large-diameter line. It's stiff, which can impact your casting distance.

    • It's difficult to tie knots in fluorocarbon fishing line.

    • When using a spinning reel, fluorocarbon line can continue to run off the spool after the cast, giving you a complicated (and frustrating) tangle known as a bird's nest.

    • Not all anglers want a line that sinks.

    • Fluorocarbon fishing line is quite expensive.
       

    Although it has some advantages, fluorocarbon fishing line isn't the easiest to work with – which is the main reason why it's less popular than other types. However, it remains a favorite with those who fish in busy locations (because of its invisibility) and those who regularly fish around underwater obstacles that could wear on the line. It's also far and away the most popular line used for leaders.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Measured in pounds, fishing line strength is properly called "test," but it can also be called "poundage" or "breaking strain."

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Consider buying a second spool for your reel and loading it with different test. If you do so, you can change to a lighter or heavier rig in minutes.

    Which fishing line should you choose?

    If you're new to angling, it's understandable that you might want an easy answer to the dilemma between monofilament, braided, and fluorocarbon line. Keep these general points in mind when you choose.

    • Braided fishing line is considered by many to be the most versatile type of fishing line.

    • Monofilament is a good, cheap all-rounder, and it’s still arguably the most popular type of fishing line.

    • In tough situations, fluorocarbon fishing line offers some big advantages.
       

    The water you're fishing, the bait or lure you’re using, and your rig all have an impact on which line would be best. Choosing the right fishing line is a learning process, and many anglers get almost as much pleasure from trying different tackle combinations as they do from catching fish!

    If you buy a cheap all-in-one set of fishing tackle because you just want to get out with the kids occasionally, the spool will almost certainly be filled with monofilament. There’s nothing wrong with that. Absolute beginners would probably prefer the ease-of-use of monofilament. It's also popular with beach casters.

    Most fishing pros, if only allowed one type of fishing line, would probably choose braided line (but would try to sneak in a bit of fluorocarbon as a leader). It's often favored by saltwater anglers fishing from boats.

    For the best of all worlds, consider investing in a couple of extra spools for your reel. Load one up with each type of fishing line and get out on the water!

    EXPERT TIP

    Problems with fishing line, like backlash, can be greatly reduced by having the right tension setting on your reel. Be patient as you learn to understand it. Familiarity with your equipment always makes for better results.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Fishing line prices

    Normally in our reviews and buying guides, we like to give a representative selection of prices. That's just not practical with fishing line because of the huge variety of tests, spool lengths, materials, and manufacturers available. Check out some prices and you’ll see what we mean. Depending on the aforementioned variables, you could buy fishing line for as little as $10 or as much as $300.

    Monofilament is generally cheaper than similar braided fishing line, and fluorocarbon prices lie somewhere in the middle. However, the price differential isn't huge. We recommend choosing fishing line based on the type of fishing you do rather than the price.

    Don't be lured into buying cheap, no-name fishing line. Your line is an important a part of your tackle – too important for you to be cutting corners.

    CAUTION

    Never discard fishing line where you fish. It's lethal to birds, wildlife, and sea creatures. Wrap it up, take it home, and put it in the trash instead.

    Tips

    • When loading a spool, it's a good idea to keep a little tension in the line, particularly with braided fishing line. You can find lots of plans for cheap and easy homemade line spoolers online, or you can get a friend to help.

    • Experts generally recommend you use a line with a test poundage that roughly matches the weight of your target fish. Expert river and lake anglers sometimes prefer a lighter rig, especially in popular waters where fish are line shy. It is possible to catch a ten-pound bass on four-pound test – it just takes greater skill and patience.

    • Braided fishing line is thin, and sometimes there's not enough line on the spool you buy to fill your fishing reel properly. You could buy a second spool, of course, but you'd save money by buying cheaper monofilament as a backing. Load monofilament on the reel first. Then, tie the braided line to it and proceed to fill the reel.

    The most-used portion of your line is the part most prone to damage. If you notice wear, remove or replace it immediately. Otherwise, you're going to be very disappointed when that big one gets away.

    FAQ

    Q. Why does fishing line come in different colors?
    A.
    It’s all about visibility in the water. You might choose a line color that makes it easier for you to see. Or, you might choose a line color that makes it more difficult for the fish to see.

    Both monofilaments and braided lines can be colored. Some anglers use yellow for clarity, to see when they’ve got a bite. Others use red or green in the hope that it hides the line from the fish.

    Fluorocarbon line is often not colored because it has a refractive index almost the same as that of water. This makes it very difficult to see anyway. Whether the water is muddy or clear seems to make little difference. Pink fluorocarbon line is claimed to be even better than clear – and oddly, it becomes almost completely invisible at some depths.

    As with most things fishing-related, if you talk to two different anglers about the same issue, they’ll probably disagree. But one thing is certain: clear versions of all types of fishing line remain popular.

    Q. Can I use the same line for freshwater and sea fishing?
    A.
    Technically, there's nothing to stop you from doing so. You could certainly use the same material. But in practical terms, using the same test becomes problematic. It depends on what kind of fishing you're doing. You might do just fine fishing off a dock where the catches are usually small, but in general, sea angling rigs are considerably heavier than freshwater angling rigs. Fishing line needs to be stronger to account for things like beach casting leads, large lures, and, of course, bigger fish.

    Q. What is a wire trace?
    A.
    Most carnivorous fish, freshwater and saltwater, have teeth sharp enough to cut straight through even the strongest ordinary fishing line. The solution is to tie a length of fine steel cable – a wire trace – to the end. A wire trace can be anything from a couple feet to a few yards, depending on what you’re fishing for. It won’t guarantee you to catch that muskie – or shark – but it does help prevent the fish from biting through your line and swimming off with your bait.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Bob
      Bob
      Writer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Kailey
      Kailey
      Writer
    • Linsay
      Linsay
      Editor
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor

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