Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series about fishing line. You can read Part I here: Monofilament and fluorocarbon
Today’s braided fishing lines offer anglers more choice in line characteristics than ever. These options in line strength, stiffness, shape, and texture have given the modern angler tactical choices that have made traditional tools more versatile and more productive.
Modern braided lines have the potential to be game-changing innovations for fishermen, but it is necessary to have a little knowledge about the characteristics of the various braids before you walk into the sporting goods store; this basic knowledge will be the difference between a wonderful experience on the water and disappointment. Delving into the basics of braided lines, there is a lot to unpack, so hold on.
Braided fishing line is nothing new. The first fishing lines consisted of braided, organic fibers such as silk and cotton, and the first synthetic braided lines became available back in the 1950s — Dacron fishing lines that your parents or grandparents used. Then came the monofilaments, Nylon and fluorocarbon, which we covered in part I.
The watershed year for braided fishing line was 1987, with the development of ultra-high-molecular-weight-polyethylene (UHMWPE). Marketed as Dyneema and Spectra, multi-fibered polyethylene was used in several applications: body armor and vehicle armor for the military; orthopedic implants; high-tensile strength cordage for climbing and towing, but more important — at least where we’re concerned — UHMWPE was used as a fishing line, gaining popularity throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
Why choose a braided line?
Braided lines are more abrasion-resistant than mono and fluorocarbon lines, and because they are about one-quarter the diameter of monofilament lines at a given breaking strength, they allow anglers to spool more line onto a reel.
Braided lines have very little stretch; this allows for greater sensitivity and control of the lure, which can increase the percentage of successful hooksets. They also power — and even cut — through aquatic vegetation better than mono and fluorocarbon.
But braided lines can be unmanageable if used incorrectly. Due to their thinner diameter and shape, braided lines can bite into spooled line on the reel, and because of their composition, they can fray.
Braid and carrier
The structure of braided fishing line is analogous to the structure of braided hair. When a woman braids her hair, she gathers individual hairs into three clumps that she will weave together, over and under, into a long, single braid. Braided fishing line consists of polyethylene fibers that are clumped together into what scientists call carriers. These carriers are then woven into a single braid. The number of carriers used to form the braid determines the characteristics of the fishing line.
The most common types of braided line employ 4-carrier, 8-carrier, 5-carrier, and 9-carrier braids. On the fishing line’s packaging, the carrier-number will often be described as a strand-number, as in 4-strand, or a number suffix, such as X4 or X9.
A 20-pound, 4-carrier line is the same diameter as a 20-pound, 8-carrier line, which incidentally, is the same diameter as 8-pound mono. The cross-section of the 4-carrier line will show individual carriers that are twice as thick as those of the 8-carrier line. Both are 20-pound lines, and both contain the same number of fibers; they differ only in the size and the number of clumps that form each weave.
The higher the carrier number, the smoother and quieter the line will be, and the lower the carrier number, the rougher and more abrasion resistant it will be. Smoother line is less likely to bite into the spooled line on the reel than rough-textured line, and a lower-carrier line will cut through vegetation better than a smoother line.
Lines that are 5-carrier and 9-carrier include an extra strand in the center of the braid, allowing the line to have a cross-section that is rounder than that of 4-carrier and 8-carrier lines. The round shape makes the line more manageable than the other braids. It will bite into itself less on the reel. This is especially useful on casting reels, because when casting long distances, or when casting heavy baits, this bite can become a big problem.
Unlike Nylon monofilament and fluorocarbon fishing lines, braided line can be kept on a reel for a very long time. In fact, experts aren’t sure exactly how long it will last on a reel.
With use, anglers will see discoloration, but this is caused by the dye used to color the naturally-white filament rubbing off; it does not affect the strength of the line in any way.
Minor fraying is okay, too; what you are seeing are little filaments that have broken. Each carrier is made of many of these filaments, so a little fraying won’t hurt anything. That said, professional tournament fishermen usually start each tournament with fresh line.
Many fishermen say that the 4- and 5-carrier braids tie better knots than the 8- and 9-carrier lines. This is probably true, due to the rougher surface of the lower-strand braids. When using high-carrier braids, some fishermen leave a slightly longer tag at the end of the knot just in case it slips a little.
Manufacturers recommend tying double-Palomar knots, Berkley braid knots and Trilene knots when using braided line. Other knots can work, but be sure to test them before you have a monster fish on your hook.