Boat fishers with aspirations of dropping baits over the side into water of any depth or current will default to braid (braided polyethylene or PE) as their ‘go to’ fishing line. On many Kiwi fishing boats these days it can be hard to even find a reel spooled with monofilament nylon (mono).
But braid’s credentials when fishing from the shore are less well established, and in most scenarios – fishing from the beach, wharf or the rocks – mono still rules the roost.
I’ve personally been a slow adopter of braid, tending to use it in a couple of scenarios where its drawbacks don’t come into play – namely fishing off rocks and from wharves over clean ground. But in doing so, I haven’t made the most of its qualities. More recently, I’ve started using it a lot more off the rocks and doing so has really improved my results. But before I get into that, let me start by listing its basic pros and cons of braided PE lines for shore fishing:
For a long time, the cons listed had me sticking to the tried and true mono, but watching one or two of my mates sticking with braid and out-fishing me on days with strong winds and shy-biting fish (when the low drag qualities of braid really come into their own), I decided it was time to push the envelope.
The first thing I did was invest in a new rod and reel set. I’d previously used braid on a very stiff, nine-foot spinning rod – ideal for mono with its stretch qualities but very uncomfortable paired with braid.
Hooking large fish on braid with this rod had proven very disconcerting. Because of the need to quickly ‘stop’ fish in most rock fishing scenarios, I was also applying a heavy drag, and this resulted in me getting dragged around the rocks and some very jerky movements as the fish changed direction or suddenly took off. Playing big fish off the rocks is an inescapably physical experience but I simply didn’t feel in control nor did I enjoy the experience.
But my new set deals with most of these problems. The rod, rated for 10-24kg, has plenty of power down low, but a nice soft tip section that absorbs lunges and makes for an altogether more comfortable experience. It is coupled with a compact eggbeater putting out up to 10kg of drag. It is at its best when the drag is set to accommodate the conditions and the fish I encounter so that I can make the most of the rod’s qualities.
• Because of the nuisance factor of a serious braid snag, there is a tendency to fish stray-lined baits a little higher in the water column than when using mono (even my braid-disciple mates admit to this), so results tend to be best on kingfish and trevally rather than snapper, which sit down deeper. But having said that, we catch our fair share of those too.
• To state the obvious, the low stretch qualities allow you to put more action on poppers, stick-baits and soft-baits, improving results when using these methods.
• Although braid’s abrasion qualities are not generally as good as mono, the lack of stretch allows you to exert more pressure on the fish, meaning they don’t make it into the foul as often. This is especially useful on snapper, even smaller ones, with their tendency to immediately head into rock and weed when hooked.
• On really windy days windknot problems are more than made up for by the lower wind drag on your line and the associated ability to get down low in the water column (you can really struggle to achieve the same with mono on such days). There are similar benefits to be had when fishing in a heavy swell, which tends to drag mono around a lot.
• More bites – I am a huge fan of stray-lining off the rocks and braid’s thin diameter allows you to present baits with a very natural ‘drop’, which I’m convinced results in more bites. This is particularly the case with shy-biting trevally and kingfish.
• I’ve also been pleasantly surprised with snags. As I’ve said, a decent braid snag is a real problem, but I’ve found, because of braid’s low stretch, I’ve been able to pull myself free of most of the snags I’ve found myself in.
• The superior bite detection can be a huge advantage. When straylining with mono in swell and current, it can take a long time to detect a bite – sometimes so long that by the time you’ve worked it out you are in a very poor position to dictate terms. By comparison, bite detection with braid is incredible – even the smallest of nibbles from a passing maomao is detectable on a slack-ish line!
All in all my recent experiences with braid have been enhanced by matching it with the right tackle, reinforced by time in the saddle. Braid is more unforgiving off the rocks than mono, but for intermediate to advanced anglers looking to get a little more from their fishing, it is worth some experimentation.
On days of strong wind and swell it offers definite advantages that even the stubborn, old-school mono angler can see. In fairer, more regular conditions, or when the fish are shy to bite, it offers better bait presentation, which can result in more bites. Admittedly, in such conditions, the mono versus braid debate is more evenly matched and there is certainly an element of personal preference.
All things being equal, my ‘go to’ right now is my new nine-foot 10-24kg rod and compact eggbeater spooled with braid. I use 24kg braid, which may seem like overkill to some people, but even this heavier, thicker gauge braid is much thinner than mono of the same breaking strain, so all braid’s advantages remain available, but with a little more abrasion resistance. And I still have my heavy mono set sitting on the rocks ready to toss pitch baits at a passing monster kingfish or XOS snapper, should one turn up in the berley.
Mono leaders are essential when fishing off the rocks, and on the set up described above, I tend to tie a 40-60lb mono leader on the night before fishing, which, if I’m lucky, will last me through the day. It pays to give yourself a little more trace length than you need as wear and tear around the hook, gut-hooked fish and changing hooks slowly reduces its length through the course of the day.
Braid and mono don’t join well – braid has a tendency to cut through mono – and poor joins result in break-offs. The key is to spread the joint pressure across a wider area using lots of twists. There are some very sophisticated and effective joining knots you can use, such as the Bimini twist, Albright and Bristol knots. However, these take time, and when you’ve just been busted off by a nice fish and need to get your line back in the water, the one thing you don’t have on your hands is time!
So I’m a fan of tying a Bimini twist the night before fishing, but I revert to a simple back-to-back uni-knot on the rocks. If this knot is tied poorly the braid can cut through, so make sure you use plenty of twists and double over the braid so its diameter better matches the mono’s.
• Fine diameter compared to monofilament which improves casting distance.
• Low stretch qualities improve bite detection and allow for greater fish control.
• Thin diameter reduces drag by wind and current and improves bait presentation.
• Doesn’t suffer the same amount of line twist when used with spinning reels.
• More susceptible to wind knots in the cast (can be an issue off the rocks in New Zealand’s windy conditions).
• Lack of stretch can result in frustratingly nasty snags that can be difficult to pull out.
• Lacks resistance to abrasion when being dragging horizontally over rocks, reef, and weed.
• Breakout sinkers are easily dislodged due to braid’s lack of stretch – nylon stretches and better absorbs the effects of swell.
• Lack of line stretch can impose real physical pressure on the angler when fishing from stationary rock positions against strong/heavy fish.
• Requires much more care when tying to mono leaders, which can be a nuisance when fishing for big fish in gnarly country where regular bust-offs require constant retying.
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