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‘Keep A Tight Line’

Many years ago, outdoor writers would finish their columns with the same words of wisdom, kind of like a signature. Some would have catchy little phrases of wisdom, such as, “shoot long and straight;” “leave with what ya’ brought in;” “remember safety first;” “always take a child hunting;” my personal favorite, “take a child hunting and fishing because they are the future of the great outdoors;” and the one that I would see more than anything else, “always keep a tight line.”

Keeping a tight line can be taken and used in many ways, but for today we are going to take it in the literal sense. Fishing line is an important link between the angler and the fish. This week let us go over a fishing basic — the fishin’ line.

There are three common types of line monofilament, fluorocarbon and braid. A few companies produce hybrids of these, but for this discussion let’s stick to the fundamental types. Additionally, note that chemical makeups, additives and production techniques can, to a degree, alter the characteristics of each line type. So, for example, one brand of monofilament may stretch more than another.

Here are a few properties I consider when choosing between the three basic types. They are stretch — or lack thereof — underwater visibility, above-water visibility, diameter, longevity and floatability.

To keep things simple, let us look at each of these properties. Line stretch can be the ability to give under tension and how it reacts. Underwater visibility is the ease of which it can be seen by a fish below water. Above-water visibility basically is just that, the ease of which it can be seen by an angler above water. All three types of line commonly available can be dyed from the manufacturer to be easily seen above water. Diameter is the thickness of the line.

I personally don’t like stretch, while others do, mainly because it robs an angler of sensitivity. With any technique requiring high sensitivity, which most do, I avoid monofilament. Also note that the farther a lure is cast, the more line and stretch that comes into play. For an experiment, try longline trolling a crankbait. Eventually enough line can be let off the reel that the feel of a crank’s wobble will be completely deadened. You won’t feel the wobble even though the crank is still doing such. Regarding stretch and hooksets, stretch will rob an angler of a strong hookset on a long cast. An angler will also yield a bit of control to the fish on monofilament, especially with long casts. Therefore, when I’m fishing in lily pads, around matted vegetation and such with frogs and toads, I always opt for braid. Braid gives me the pop on a hookset I am looking for and the best control of a hooked bass.

Pressured fish, especially bass in clear water, can be line wary. While this is hard to prove, it sure sounds good. Therefore, when using any slow-moving technique where a bass has the time to scrutinize my offering, try using fluoro.

Line watching while drift fishing is an important element towards detecting bites when jigging, dragging, pitchin’ and flippin.’ If an angler has a hard time seeing the line, braid or a dyed monofilament may be best, because typically fluorocarbon lines come only in low-visibility clear.

The size of line or diameter is basically the strength of said line, with the 4-pound test being easier to break than a 20-pound test. I usually don’t pick a line type based on diameter first. I consider the other properties initially, and then after picking the type of line, I then choose an appropriate pound-test for the situation.

There are a few different tricks an angler can do when spooling their line. With “memory” such as mono and fluoro, I learned long ago that it’s best to let your line soak in hot water for several minutes. What this does is releases the memory of lines that have been stored on the larger spool. Reel spools are much smaller than spools that line is sold on, therefore, the line will align to the reels’ spool better.

Also, the way the line comes off the manufacturer’s spool makes a major difference. Some folks just lay the spool on the ground and take line off that way — label up or label down. If you ever get line twist, this is why. Line is put on the spool at the manufacturer in a particular way and needs to be taken off the same. Over the years I have found the best way to do this, once your line has soaked, hold the spool vertical with the line coming off the top, take a few feet and see if there is a twist in it. If there is, turn the spool the other direction, where the line comes off the bottom, peel off a few feet, and it should come off straight. Whichever way, when the line comes off, not twisting is the way you want to start spooling your reel. Place a pencil or piece of doll rod in the hole on the spool and start putting a line on your reel.

As you are putting line on, keep the line as tight as possible, this will help keep the line tight on your spool and also make sure you get as much line as you are supposed to on the reel spool.

Some folks will put mono backing on their reels when they are running braid or fluoro. When flippin’ and pitchin’ one can see the braid above water, while below water the fluorocarbon has low visibility. This trick is also useful for spinning applications. Remember, spinning and fluorocarbon do not perform the best together. However, by spooling first with braid and then splicing on a fluorocarbon leader, an angler can have the benefits of easy castability, low stretch, and low-visibility underwater.

Personal preference is involved when picking out a line, but by fully understanding the properties of each line, an angler can make the best, informed decision as to what is “right” for them. Today’s anglers are very educated on different techniques in their style of fishing and this leads us to do a little experimenting with different lines in different situations. Part of the joy of being on the water is figuring things out and oftentimes that means changing your presentation up a little will often bring strikes.

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