The basics: How to upgrade to braided line
Are you considering the switch?
Like tying on your first soft plastic, switching to braided line can seem daunting and really weird in the beginning.
It seems like only yesterday that I made the switch. In reality it would have been about five or six years ago. I remember asking myself what line weight do I buy? What new knots do I need to learn? Why is braid so good? Why does this f*&^%n braid keep breaking!
This post explores everything you need to know about braided line and is a must-read if you are considering making the switch.
What is braid?
Braided lines are commonly made from two or more fibres of high tech stuff like Spectra or Dyneema which are then fused together to form a SUPER line. Despite the name, very few lines are truly ‘braided’ any more. The fibres tend to be made from a gel spun polyethylene (that’s plastic to the rest of us).
Why is braid so good?
There is a lot of hype about fishing gear these days. So are braided lines just another fad to lure hungry fisherman? Over time I have come round to the benefits of braid, it’s tops! The four main advantages are:
- Very thin diameter per weight class
- Low or no stretch
- It is clearly visible above the water
- It has no memory*
* either do fellow authors of this blog on regular occasion
These attributes mean you can cast further. A lot further. For lure fishing this means covering more water and catching more fish. In the case of land-based fishing this can be the difference between reaching the ‘bite zone’, whether it be a beach gutter, channel or further up a river, or just going through the motions.
The fact that braid doesn’t stretch means that everything that happens at the pointy end of your line is transmitted straight to your hands. Every bite, every rock, weed and snag. Because of this, braid is particularly popular for trolling and lure casting.
What’s bad about braid?
It’s not all beer and skittles. Because it is so thin, braid is very susceptible to abrasion from rocks, coral and reef. Rock fisherman still tend to use heavy nylon lines from 20-50lb for these reasons.
Because the line is made from a slick plastic, it is also hard to get enough friction to make your knots hold. Conventional knots will pull straight through – like most things in life, I’ve learned this the hard way too! See braid knots in a moment.
Braid comes in every colour of the rainbow. This is great when you are watching the line for a slight twitch or for when you’ve hit the bottom. It’s not so great when a fat bream is watching in confusion as a rubber lure with a lead head, attached to a bright pink line of woven plastic swims past! Because it is clearly visible above and below the water, it is standard practice to tie on a length of leader (a short section of clear mono filament or fluorocarbon) to the business end of your line.
After some trial and error, we agree that the improved Albright knot is the most reliable and easiest to tie of the braid knots for light to medium applications. You will need this knot every time you want to attach braid to mono, or vice-versa. I could try and describe in the next few pages how to tie this knot – or you could watch this all Aussie video from the boys at Fishing DVD. Note, it should be titled improved Albright knot (the regular knot is different)
The only advice I would add is to use your thumb and first finger to push the wrapped line (left of screen) up towards the eye of the loop (right of screen). With heavier lines this helps to bed the knot down snugly over the loop and the two braid tags. It can be difficult to pull hard enough on 30lb braid to properly cinch the knot without cutting your hand in half! And use plenty of saliva to facilitate all this slipping and sliding 🙂
Mish stumbled across this website a little while ago. It shows the advertised breaking strain of most brands of braid is consistently less, yes that’s right, than its actual breaking point. With this in mind, don’t be afraid of going light! Based on our experience, here is a guide to line classes for popular fishing options in South East Australia
Freshwater dams and rivers:
Redfin (English Perch) & Trout: 2-6lb
Yellowbelly (Golden Perch) 6-10lb
Murray Cod 8-30lb
Estuaries and coastal rivers:
Bream, Whiting, Tailor, Trevally 2-6lb
Flathead 6-15lb (this crocodile was landed on 6lb braid!)
Jewfish (Mulloway) 10-20lb
Salmon & Tailor 6-10lb
Bream & whiting 4-8lb
Salmon & Tailor 10-15lb
Kingfish & Tuna 10-30lb
My preference is 6lb for freshwater and estuaries, 8lb off the beach and 10lb for targeting slightly bigger fish or in tougher environments. With a bit of patience and experience you can land virtually any fish on light gear.
How much braid do I need to buy?
It might sound obvious, but it depends on what you are hoping to catch. As a general rule you won’t need hundreds of metres of braid when targeting smaller fish like bream, flathead, trout, salmon and so on. There are also very few freshwater fish capable of stripping more than a hundred metres of line off your reel. In this instance, save your hard earned cash and ‘top-shot’ your reel with braid. This means half or two-thirds filling your spool with much cheaper mono line, then tying on your braid (using the improved Albright knot) to fill the last bit. A lot of popular brands come in 125 yard or 100m packets for just this reason.
For chasing powerful fish like Kingfish & Tuna most people choose to fill the entire spool with braid. These fish can pull line off your reel like you wouldn’t believe and it’s not really desirable to have knots and joins half way out to sea.
Running braid right through is quite common for ‘bottom bashing’ and other deep water reef fishing environments too. As stated earlier, it can be hard to get braid to grip to anything, so lining the inside of your spool with one length of gaffa tape should help the braid to grip and not spin freely around the spool.
Like all things in fishing, there are many brands to choose from: Platypus, Fireline, Fins, Sufix, Rovex, Daiwa, Sunline etc. Then there are the brands that only seem to exist on Ebay: Pex, Fincrew, Kamikaze, Pelagic. I suspect most of these are made in China, even the ones that may first appear Japanese 😉
Now I love supporting the local bloke who runs the tackle shop, but when I see a packet of braid for as much as a reasonable rod or reel ($60-$100) I start looking elsewhere. At the budget end, I have found Fireline (available from many multi-national department stores) to be perfectly fine for my fishing needs. I’ve even been trying some Pex (Chinese ebay special) for the last few months without any problems at all … For bigger fish and running braid right through, Sufix seems to be a nice line without needing to forfeit on the mortgage. Make up your own mind!
Enough reading, grab some braid, practice your knots, chuck some lures around and catch some fish! Hopefully by summarizing our combined experience and putting all the info in one place, this will help you to make the switch! Once you get hooked on braid (bad pun intended!) it’s hard to go back 🙂
For the record we have no affiliations with any brand of line, reel, rod, or lures … but we’re still open to offers 🙂