If you haven’t incorporated braided line into your fishing techniques yet, you must have been living under a rock in a desert or a crater on the moon.
Soft-baiting, jigging, ‘puka fishing and stick-baiting are all forms of fishing where braid plays a vital role in achieving success. In fact, game fishing is probably the last form of fishing where punters still mostly use nylon, mainly due to IGFA rules regarding line class.
But from April 1, 2017, these rules are finally being amended to allow the use of backing line (in our case potentially being thinner but stronger braid), so long as there is a five-metre section of IGFA-rated nylon directly following the trace. This will revolutionise our game fishing in New Zealand, particularly trailer-boat fishing. The rest of the world has been chasing large gamefish on braid for decades – now it’s our turn!
First, we need to understand braid in general. Braid is a generic term used for gel-spun polyethylene multi-stranded line – it has little stretch, is nice and thin … you know the rest!
We started with four-strand braid. Cheap and nasty, rough as guts – enough said. Eight-strand braid is where the market quickly went to, the increased strands creating a smoother, more consistent line. Obviously, the quality of the initial polyethylene used, the tightness of the weave and the addition of colour all influence the final product. Consequently, the different braids tend to suit the widely varying applications to lesser or greater degrees, depending on their properties. (For example, polyethylene is naturally white in colour and casts better without the addition of dyes or paints.)
Enter 12 and 16-strand braided line. Thanks to advancements in technology, braid manufacturers have been able to increase the number of ‘heads’ on braiding machines and produce a product that becomes hollow. The advantages of this were probably not known at the time, but boy, they sure are now!
Why? Because there are several big advantages!
Increased capacity: Hollow braid packs flat onto a reel spool, so more can be squeezed onto a spool compared to round, regular braid. This property also helps to disperse any water trapped under the line, which can otherwise take a while to dry out – a problem with Dacron. Better still, the ‘flatness’ of the hollow braid means it’s less likely to dig into itself deeper down in the spool.
Inline rigging capabilities: By inserting monofilament inside the hollow braid, it’s possible to utilise the ‘Chinese finger trap’ nature of the braid. When the hollow braid and mono are pulled in opposite directions, the hollow braid pulls down tight on the mono. The more you pull, the tighter the ‘trap’ becomes. You obviously need a certain length to be inserted for the trap to work properly, and this varies according to the different braid and monofilament diameters.
It’s also a critical part of the joining process, so it pays to go for an overkill in this instance. The pressure is spread over the whole insertion length, so inserting around 1.5-2.5 metres of trace (5-8 feet) is about right. This creates a connection that’s as close to 100% strength as one can get.
The next step is to secure the end of the hollow braid to the mono so it’s held firmly, called ‘serving’. There are various ways to do this, but remember, if it slips, the whole connection lets go. As I said before, this is overkill time!
The connection is also very streamlined, because the mono is not twisted or doubled over, enabling it to flow through your rod guides better than other connections, and it will stay stronger for longer, too.
Improved castability: Because of the extra strands (12 is great, but 16 is even better), hollow braid casts exceptionally well and has fewer wind knot issues; no wonder it’s rapidly becoming the choice of top-water anglers. You can choose to inline rig, but the characteristics of hollow braid mean a connection like the FG will be more compact, as the flat line grips down tighter and is more streamlined.
Splicing braids together: Hollow braid grips onto hollow braid the same way it grips onto monofilament. By splicing two lengths of braid together using latch or loop needles, you get a connection that is streamlined and hardly detectable on your reel.
Say a section of braid gets damaged while fishing for kingfish. In the past, cutting the line and tying an ‘ugly’ back-to-back Uni knot in our braid got us back in action, but I bet very few anglers – if any – trusted that knot one bit! Now we don’t need to take that risk. Instead, we simply cut this damaged section out and splice the two ends back together. (You may not want to do this on the water, but it can be done.) This will see you only losing a few metres instead of potentially having to replace hundreds of metres of line. In fact, I know guys with 3-4 splices in their hollow-braid swordfish outfits!
The ability to make wind-on leaders: Using a few tools, you can make your own wind-on leaders at home for a fraction of the cost. And these are not just for game fishing, but jigging and casting as well. By preparing a few at home, in front of the fire, you can attach them to your mainline via a cat’s paw connection for future fishing sessions. This will see you back fishing much quicker than by tying a PR or FG knot (which are difficult to tie in rough seas). You can utilise fluorocarbon leaders, too – the beauty of hollow braid is you can do what you want!
Try making front sections: American tuna fishermen utilise a system they call a front section. Spool your reel up 80% with hollow braid and create a loop (these are 100% strong in hollow braid and very easy to make). Now make a wind-on leader, but instead of trace material use 50-100m of game line (the ‘front section’). This can be any weight – 15, 24, 37kg, whatever…
Tuna fisherman will connect their front section via a cat’s paw to the mainline loop. After catching a couple of cow-sized tuna, the front section is replaced (with one they’d made up at home). They can then chase more cow-sized tuna with fresh nylon.
Now picture this: We are out on the water in a game-fishing competition and want to change the line class being used. To this point it’s meant carrying a set of 80Ws, a set of 50Ws, and maybe a set of 30Ws with us. Now, we can take the 37kg front section off our braided-up 50-sized game reels and replace it with the 24kg front section prepared earlier. All this by using a cat’s paw connection, hollow braid and our imagination. One set of gear, potentially several different scenarios.
The advantages of braid over Dacron: Those who have used Dacron in the past will know the advantage of only having to replace the top section of nylon every year, and the Dacron itself every five years (maybe). The problems with Dacron include: having a similar diameter to nylon for the breaking strain; slowly deteriorating; and being notorious for corroding game-reel spools due to its tendency to hold water. On the plus side, it is possible to inline rig this line, too.
Enter hollow braid – it doesn’t break down or hold as much water, and is half the diameter of its nylon equivalent. Better still, you can inline rig this line, too, so after the initial purchase of the braid, you need only replace a 100m top section of nylon every year.
Due to the thinner diameter of braid, we can now downsize the reels we use for game fishing – US fishermen have been doing this for decades. While IGFA rules still hold dominance over our game fishing, these change on April 1 to allow braid backing.
Modern game reels such as the Shimano Talica, Okuma Makaira etc are designed with braid in mind. We now have 20 and 30-sized game reels that can output more drag power than 80-sized reels did previously.
A modern 30W game reel can hold approximately 800m of 37kg braid and still have room for 100 metres of 37kg nylon top shot. So, if it has the drag power and retrieve capabilities, you can virtually replace your nylon-spooled 80W outfits. (Anyone who has caught gamefish on 80, 50 and 30 size reels will tell you they enjoyed the lighter 30-sized set more.)
The thrill of getting your kids or grandkids onto their first marlin is a dream for many fishos. Do you think a 10-year-old would prefer to do it on an 80 Wide reel or a 30 Wide, bearing in mind an 80W combo weighs over 5kg and a 30 Wide less than 2.5kg?
Inline rigging is very simple, providing you have the correct tools for the job. The following will be needed for upcoming features...
• Hollow needles are available to accept even very thick diameters of monofilament, from 20lb to 400lb.
• Latch and loop needles also come in several sizes to match the hollow braid being used.
• Securing/serving the end of your braid onto the mono (after insertion) can be done using thin braid, waxed thread, the connected mainline braid, glue, or a combination of these. Remember to overkill it!
• You can make yourself up a ‘jig’ using soft jaw clamps, but with the braid and mono held by your feet, similar to how many fishos do a PR knot while sitting down.
• Sharp braid scissors are a must for crisp, clean cuts.
• An emery board (steal from the missus) for smoothing the end of your mono is handy to stop the mono poking through your braid’s weaves.
• A PR bobbin is my preferred method of serving, but again, there are many ways to do this. A nail knot tool can come in handy, too.
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