Fishing lines - Pros and cons of braided lines

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To braid or not to braid???

The decision of whether or not to gear up with superbraid lines is a hard one. There are advantages and disadvantages, a few myths seem to have developed, and then there’s the cost to consider. There are a heap of different brands available, different line-weights and spool sizes. For the purpose of this article I'll just lump them all together, call them ‘braid’ and give my opinion on the pros and cons of using braided lines over good old monofilament. Lets have a look at the pro's and con's of using braid.

Braid has little or no stretch.

This is the biggest advantage of braid and makes it brilliant for deep water fishing in particular. As most readers will know, monofilament has mountains of stretch — up to 30%, I believe. With braid you can and will feel bites in very deep water. I have fished in 350m and not only felt bites; I could feel the sinker dragging along the bottom and my live mackerel swimming along. I could feel the little fish, scarpies and the like, nibbling at my cut bait. The ‘feel’ was simply incredible. When a hapuka was hooked it actually fought all the way to the top. Of course, hapuka always have fought all the way to the top we just couldn't feel it before! I never really liked deep water fishing mainly because I could not feel what was going on. Now, using braid, it’s just as much fun as any other fishing, just a little further to wind up.

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The same property, no stretch, that makes braid so brilliant for deep-water makes it a real hand full in certain situations. I tried live-baiting kingies in shallow water with braid. Such was the severity of the fight that I almost had the rod and reel ripped from my hands and pulled overboard. Braid is just so positive that every move the kingfish made was transmitted to me, the jerk on the other end of the line — ‘jerk’ being the operative word. I got jerked all over the place and I felt like one at the end of the fight. The kingfish had me on the back foot from the start and won the day. Good old stretchy mono sure is a great shock absorber.

The no stretch property of braid catches out a lot of first time anglers. As a charter boat deckhand I see this all the time. Charter trips to places like White Island and the Ranfurly Bank are great testing grounds for new gear and many of the crews I assist have new rods and reels loaded with braid, which they have never used before. On the first drop of the trip everyone is filled with excitement and anticipation. This excitement can turn into overzealous use of the rod when playing that first big fish.

I see many fish lost by first time braid users because they go to hard out and either bust the line or rip the hooks out. Mono is like a rubber band compared to braid. Example: If you are fishing in, say, eighty metres of water with mono and you lift your rod tip up two metres, the sinker may move just a small fraction of that. If you’re using braid and do the same, the sinker will lift two metres off the bottom. When you’re playing fish with mono, the stretch of the line gives you a lot of room for error. Braid gives you very little or none. Experienced anglers will adapt to this quickly while less experienced angler should take a softly, softly approach until they become accustomed to the properties of the new line. You need to be smooth and not too aggressive when playing fish on braid. Drags need to be smooth — jerky drags will cost you fish. It may be best to set the drag a little lighter than you would for mono.

Braid is more abrasion resistant than mono. 

This is great, but believe me you can still get smashed off on the rocks by big kingies just as easily on braid. I have not heard of anyone wearing it out to a point where it needs replacing. Exactly how long it lasts is unclear, but my guess is you will lose it through snags and tangles before it wears out. Another plus for braid is that it does not break down under UV light. This means it should out-last mono on the shelf and on your reel. Mono deteriorates on your reel whether you use it or not and may only last for a season. Braid should be as strong as the day it was manufactured until you lose it.

Braid is a lot thinner than mono. 

The 65lb braid I use presently is as thin as 16lb mono. This leads to more complications than one might first realise. It makes it impractical (and costly) to fill most reels with braid. For example, you may have heard how great braid is for tarakihi fishing. You have a reel that holds 300 metres of 10-kilo mono ($15-20 worth) and you decide to put braid on it, you may find it will hold 500 metres-plus of 10-kilo braid (approx. $100 worth). There’s no point in having 500 metres of line for tarakihi which you fish for in 30-100 metres of water. The most common solution is to simply pack the reel out with mono first and top-shot with braid. The other solution is to use a much heavier braid (say 37kg). Using heavier braid is a good option but you should remember not to expect a reel designed for 10-kilo mono to handle the stresses of, say, 37kg braid. It could also be hazardous to the health of your lovely, sensitive tarakihi rod to fish 37kg braid (the rod will break first).

The braids I have used float. 

I'm not sure if this is good, bad or neither yet, and I'm not sure whether all brands do this so I won't comment. But I have an interesting story. I was fishing aboard the ‘Ohorere’ from Tauranga for hapuka. During the course of the day I managed to get my braid tangled around the props or rudder. Difficult tide and wind conditions drifted the boat over my line. I couldn’t free the line and it had to be cut. I was a little distressed at losing 300 meters of expensive braid. We motored around for another drift and everyone dropped, except for me — I was recovering. As the first fish started coming aboard I noticed a big tangle of braid coming up on another angler’s line, it was mine (cool!). I cut the worst of the tangle out and joined it onto my reel. I got just about all my braid back, albeit with a few joining knots in it. This was good, but I had joined the braid in a hurry so, as we steamed to the next spot, I decided to let my line out the back and re-tie the knots properly. I got another guy to hold the trailing line while I did the knots. While we were doing this, the skipper started turning to find fish on the sounder. He ran over my braid! Luckily, it was floating, and the bow just pushed it along. I was able to wind my way up to the bow and down the other side back to the stern and continue the job! The skipper wondered what an earth I was doing walking around on the bow winding in line while he was steaming around!

When braid tangles it can be hard to untangle 

This is not really such a big problem and it stems from the fact that it is so much thinner than mono. It does tend to ‘ball-up’ and it won’t untwist easily. You shouldn't get any more tangles than you do with mono. It just might take a bit longer to sort out when you do.

Braid iscurrently much more expensive than mono. 

The reason it costs more is that it’s more expensive to manufacture, simple as that. The price should fall as the market becomes bigger with more volume produced and stiffer competition amongst suppliers. I think the extra cost is worth it and braid will pay for itself by way of more fish on the deck.

Several myths seem to have arisen regarding braid. 

It cuts through guides

This is simply not true, as long as you have half-decent guides.

Some charter boats won’t let you fish with braid? 

This stems from another myth that braid will cut off everyone else’s lines if they cross. Neither myth is true. Braid will sometimes cut other lines if they become crossed, but so will mono. Mono will sometimes cut braid. Rumour has it a well-known Whakatane charter boat had its ten-millimetre anchor warp cut by eight-kilo mono. With a yellowfin making a sizzling run and the eight-kilo mono moving at high speed, it sawed through the rope like a knife through butter. It can happen. Nevertheless, if a charter boat said I couldn’t use braid I would just tell them to get stuffed and go on a different boat (some charter vessels now have rods loaded with braid available for hire).

You need special knots to tie braid

Yes and no. The knot I use for tying braid to a swivel is a double uni-knot (a normal uni tied with the line doubled). What’s so special about that? A back to back uni (also known as double grinner) is good for joining braid to braid and braid to mono. Many braids don’t behave themselves while tying knots and a little practice is needed. The thinking fisho will do the practice at home where there isn’t the distraction of a hot bite going on. Knot strength is not as good as mono and this is the main reason I would suggest going up a line weight or two when you change over from mono. It might be appropriate to use a fifty-pound braid where you used to use a thirty-pound mono.

So, is braid for you? 

If you do a lot of deep water fishing, braid is definitely for you. I would not go back to mono now and I'm a definite braid convert. The ‘feel’ is amazing and it makes deep drifting not only more fun but also more productive. Having a large reel top-shotted with braid means that, even with several hundred metres of line out, you still have a fairly full spool and therefore a faster retrieve speed. Alternatively, you can use smaller (lighter!) rod and reel sets, which are easier on the arms. You can use lighter sinkers and fish deeper. You will get to the bottom faster and therefore get a longer drift. It does pay to have at least 500m on your reel for hapuka, as the weak link in the system is the joining knot between braid and mono. You don’t want this knot in the water, should you snag up with this knot down there it could be ‘bye-bye’ to all your braid and lots of dollars. Don’t short change yourself when you set up. You can use standard hooks for hapuka fishing and strike the fish just like you might a snapper — some anglers do with good success. I have stuck to the standard tuna circle hooks so far and done well. The trick with circle hooks is not to strike; I tried striking and dropped heaps of fish by pulling the hooks from their mouths.

When you get a bite, drop the rod and pause to let the huge hapuka get the bait down before raising the rod smoothly to hook-up. Braid is deadly on tarakihi. As most will know, bite detection is paramount for success with tarakihi. When using braid, a fish only has to as think about touching your tuatua, and you will feel it. Braid is of use for gamefishing, but several factors need to be pointed out. As far as I know there is not an I.G.F.A-class braid available. If you want to use braid in tournaments, for records, pins etc., get it tested first, or be prepared for it to over-test. You could use braid for trolling, but remember: it has NO STRETCH! Run lighter drag settings, use softer rods and don’t jerk on the rod a lot while playing soft-mouthed fish like tuna and you might be all right. Personally, I’ll be sticking to mono for my trolling.

The main use for braid in gamefishing is to fit more line on fixed spool (egg-beater/spinning) reels. Because it’s so thin you could fit twice as much on your spinning reel and then go and take on tuna with your snapper gear. Just make sure it’s a good-quality spinning reel with a smooth drag and your rod is nice and soft in the tip. Braid also makes great backing for saltwater fly reels — I got an incredible 700m on mine. I refuse to be spooled! I may never need it, but it sure feels good. Getting used to fishing with braid may take a little while, but most people I see who use it for the first time come away as converts. If you only have one rod and reel combination for all your fishing, I would stick to mono. If you have a few different sets for different kinds of fishing, change one to braid and ‘feel’ the benefits for yourself.

To braid or not to braid? 

To braid or not to braid is not the question. It’s what reel to fill with braid, what brand, what line-weight to choose and when not to use braid?


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