Where would soft-plastic fishers be without braided and/or fused gel-spun polyethylene (GSP) lines? For a start, they wouldn’t be catching half as many fish!
In fact, I believe GSP lines (generically known as ‘superlines’) are largely responsible for kick-starting soft-plastic fishing in New Zealand, their fine diameter and low-stretch qualities making all the difference.
The thin diameter enabled much lighter and more compact tackle to be developed specifically for this type of fishing, making it more enjoyable and successful, whilst negligible stretch meant we could feel all the bumps and chomps of interested fish and enjoy an increased ability to set the hook, even from a fair distance away or when fishing deep down.
As a tackle item, superbraid line might seem pretty straight forward. After all, it’s just a single, long, thin strand. Why then, can choosing the right one be such a difficult task?
Much of the confusion stems from the mind-boggling selection of superlines now on offer. Varying thicknesses and diverse characteristics are the result of myriad manufacturing processes that incorporate all sorts of materials and mixes. And while such variation is basically a good thing, enabling the lines to offer special or unique qualities (such as being the thinnest, toughest, best handling, furthest casting, strongest, roundest, cheapest and so on) so they are more or less suitable than the others for particular purposes and needs, this same diversity can create potential problems. Why? Well in order to successfully catch fish, these GSP lines need to be knotted to 2-4 metres of either nylon or fluorocarbon trace material. These, like the superlines, are made using different processes to provide specific properties and come in all sorts of breaking strains and diameters, too. The net result of so much diversity amongst these various lines is that not all trace material can be tied to all superbraids using exactly the same knots – and even those knots that work with one line weight might not with a heavier or lighter breaking strain.
This subject is an important one and is dealt with more fully next month, but if you find brands of superline and trace that produce strong connections when knotted together, it makes sense to keep on using them!
The fact that the poundage/kilo ratings on most superline labels are an absolute joke doesn’t help, with most superlines breaking well over their stated breaking strains. For example, one of my favourite brands of fused lines says ‘3kg’ on the label, yet it breaks reasonably consistently just under 10kg – to the point it’s actually treated as 10kg line class in some club contests!
I have been told that the reasons for the manufacturers (and some distributors) overrating their lines is to allow for the relatively poor knot-tying qualities of superlines (in comparison to nylon), as well as for the probable knot-tying limitations of the average fisherman. This may be the case, but their estimations vary immensely – and three times the actual breaking strain!? C’mon!
It reminds me of a similar situation 20 years ago, when some nylon manufacturers claimed to have the strongest lines for their respective poundages – and they were too, deliberately being made to break well above the breaking strain printed on the label. As time went on, a few companies kept making their lines stronger and stronger to beat the others, and it all got a bit silly.
Fortunately, this was largely sorted out when most of the major nylon manufacturers began producing lines that conformed to IGFA (International Game Fishing Association) line classes, which essentially meant their lines needed to break under the breaking-strain stated for potential record-claim catches to be approved. Possibly the manufacturers of superbraid lines should adopt a similar policy, or at least come up with a consistent system of measurement so we can compare ‘apples with apples’ in the future. Besides, the thinnest and strongest line isn’t necessarily the best...
For the poor old soft-bait fisher just starting out, all this can seem rather daunting. I therefore suggest sticking to well-known brands such as Berkley, Stren, Platypus and TUF in breaking strains labelled as 4-8kg. (Black Magic is also worth considering, but keep in mind it’s an exception here, as the rating given is reasonably close to the actual breaking strain.)
If using a small spin reel, you can fill it with either a fused (‘fusion’) or a braided superline, but make sure the spool will take at least 200 metres of it.
Fused lines are slightly stiffer than braided lines, come in very useful line weights for snapper anglers (i.e. are available in very light breaking strains), are reasonably priced, and as they normally over-test by plenty, one can feel pretty confident about placing extra pressure on running fish if necessary. I mostly fish fused lines, such as Berkley Fireline, on my small spinning reels.
However, there’s nothing wrong with braided lines either, especially when loaded on small freespool and baitcasting reels. I find those lines that are not overly limp perform best, as they are less likely to catch up on themselves during the cast cast, resulting in far fewer backlashes.
The colour of the line chosen is very important – even though you’ll find it soon fades, as superlines are notoriously difficult to impregnate with colour long-term.
I recommend a poncy, girly, bike-rider’s colours like fluoro pink or chartreuse. Yes, this is very visible and your friends may rag you unmercifully, but the ability to see exactly what it’s doing will result in more fish hooked.
Much as the better nymph-fishing flyfishers watch their line for suspicious bumps, speed-ups and hesitations to alert them to potential customers before feeling a tug, competent soft-plastic fishers can detect fishy interest by paying close attention to their superline during the lure’s descent. Very often the loose line will jerk, go prematurely slack or tear away, and if the angler doesn’t see this in time – or at all – it’s a wasted opportunity.
Spooling up tips
I tie my line onto the spool with a Uni-knot, as this knot can be snugged right down against the spool with your fingernails, making it less likely to spin around the spool (with freespool or baitcasting reels, just tie it onto the spool-lug provided). Having a firm anchorage point is important, because otherwise the whole slippery line load can spin around the spool when placed under pressure, especially if insufficient pressure is applied while initially spooling the reel.
To help insure against this unpleasant possibility, attach the reel to a rod and get a second person to hold the line spool. Get them to shove a screwdriver or similar through the spool’s middle and exert moderate pressure on the side of the spool with a rag while you wind the line onto the reel. If by yourself, you’ll need to run the line through a cloth held in your rod hand, perhaps tilting your hand hard backwards or threading it in between your cloth-covered fingers at the same time in order to apply the necessary pressure to the slippery line. It’s a bit of a mission.
However you do it, it pays to push down on the reel’s stored line with your fingertip every now and then. If there is any give at all, it’s not wound on tight enough and you risk disaster in future fishing expeditions.
Most superlines are extremely slippery and under pressure can slide down through the layers of line underneath, potentially leading to snapped off fish and a line buried so deeply it cannot be recovered!
I usually load my spools to within 1.5-2mm of the spool lip, but other, less well-designed models may require 2.5-3mm to be safe; you don’t want a heap of coils slipping off at once, especially as snarl-ups in thin, limp superlines are very hard to untangle. Keep in mind, too, that you need to accommodate several turns of trace material on top of your line load.
Be all you can be…
Before tying on the trace, I strongly recommend tying a double in your mainline. This recommendation has resulted in many anxious faces in the past – especially after seeing diagrams showing the knot-tying process. However, much of this fear is due the numbers of line-twists involved, making the procedure look more complex than it really is.
Realistically it may take an hour to learn (including the repeated tyings needed to embed the process), but this is a worthwhile investment: a well-tied Bimini Twist double knot means minimal loss of strength in the mainline, and when the resulting double of mainline is knotted to a length of leader material, the extra strand adds bulk, distributing the pressure better and helping to create a much stronger join.
However, those who already know how to tie a Bimini may need to ‘unlearn’ a couple of aspects. For example, conventional wisdom decreed that the more turns incorporated in the knot, the stronger it would be; at least 20 turns was the consensus, while 30 or 40 was better. But this turned out to be wrong – for both nylon and braid – with just 10 turns apparently retaining nearly 100% strength in the mainline according to tests done by Sam Mossman. However, I have also discovered that unless perfect pressure is maintained throughout the knot-tying process every time, 10-turn knots can slip under pressure, causing one of the double’s strands to becomes uneven, defeating the double line’s purpose. Consequently, I use 14 to 16 turns as a compromise and have been very happy with my knot’s overall performance, despite theoretically losing some breaking strain (after all, as already mentioned, these lines do break well above their stated strain).
The Bimini is also made stronger when given the traditional side-by-side, close-spiral covering of the initial twists, rather than allowing the tag-end to corkscrew back down along the line-twist gullies (a worthwhile adaptation that creates a ‘bungy’ effect in nylon). Don’t have the faintest idea what I’m talking about? No worries, just look at the diagram sequence on the next page for clarification.
And for those who cannot handle the ‘Bimini hassle,’ it is still possible to do a modest job of attaching the trace by simply doubling over the mainline and tying one of the suggested connecting knots.
i) Sit down and place the mainline behind both knees, ensuring at least one metre of mainline tag-end is in your right hand.
ii) Rotate the tag-end around the mainline 10-16 times.
i) Open your knees so that the line twists tighten up, aided by slow, even pressure exerted by your hands moving further apart at the other end.
ii) However, your hands need to stay near the top of the twists and at similar angles to one another, so if not, inch them back along the line towards the twist junction, keeping pressure on throughout. Stop applying pressure when the twists are as tight as they can be without deforming.
iii) Start to increase pressure again by slowly and steadily drawing your knees apart, but this time bring the tag-end down deliberately and smoothly as you do so, so the tag-end spirals tightly downwards around the twists as you continue to open your knees.
Work your left hand down until it can be placed over the lower juncture of the three pieces of nylon. Hold firmly in place.
Using your right hand, half-hitch the tag-end around one leg of the mainline loop only. Pull up firmly.
i) Close your legs.
ii) Half-hitch twice (only shown once in the diagram) around both mainline loop legs.
i) Three- to five-turn finish. Start as if you are about to half-hitch around both mainline legs, then proceed with three or four more internal spirals heading up towards the half-hitches.
ii) Pull the tag-end up slowly with the left hand, while at the same time stroking downwards over the turns with your left-hand thumb and forefinger in the opposite direction. This helps keep them in order as the knot tightens up.
The finished product
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