Bass Fishing 101: Part 3 of 5 – Line Selection

Monofilament, flourocarbon, and braid are the three different types of line that I use every time I go bass fishing. These different types of lines have different properties that make them great for certain techniques, and terrible for others. In this blog I’ll detail those properties as well as outline what techniques work best for each line type. Beyond more obvious tips behind choosing location, deciding on whether to go with swim-bait, crank-bait or jerk-bait. There are finer details you may want to consider.

Monofilament

Monofilament, or mono as it is often called, is a popular choice because it works well for most fishing techniques. Mono floats are abrasion resistant and stretches more than other line types.  Monofilament also has very low memory. Memory refers to the line’s tendency to retain its shape in coils after it has been placed on the spool. Low memory lines are much easier to cast and are less likely to backlash with baitcasters. 15–17-pound test monofilament is an excellent starting point not only for beginners learning to cast a baitcaster, but for a wide range of techniques as well. The best part about monofilament is that it is cheap. A 330-yard spool costs around $7, but I typically go for larger spools around 1,000 yards for around $10.   

Most topwater presentations work well with mono. Monofilament floats, so it helps to keep the nose of topwater baits riding high on top of the water. If your line were to sink when using topwater lures, the nose of the bait would be pulled under causing flaws in the bait’s action. These hard plastic topwater baits have treble hooks that are notorious for loosing big fish. Using monofilament for topwater is great because I feel that it stretches just enough to allow fish to eat the bait better.

The treble hooks are often deeper into the fishes’ mouth which reduces the change of it being able to get off the hook during the fight. I would not advise using less than 12-pound mono for topwater’s because it tends to have too much stretch. You lose action on the bait as well as power on hooksets. Buzzbaits are another topwater bait that works great with monofilament. Anglers often have the tendency to set the hook too soon when a bass blows up on the lure as it buzzes across the surface. Monofilament’s stretch creates a small delay in the hookset leading to a greater hookup percentage with buzzbaits.

Crankbaits work with monofilament as well. Just like with topwaters, crankbaits utilize treble hooks to land fish. Once again, the stretch of the line allows the fish to take the bait better leading to more fish. It is also great for throwing crankbaits around shallow cover such as wood, rocks, or docks. Your line can get pretty dinged up when coming over and through this type of fish habitat. Therefore, it’s important to use a line that has a good amount of abrasion resistance. Mono fits the bill here and is my go-to for throwing a squarebill crankbait around wood. I tend to stay away from using mono for crankbaits running deeper than 5 feet for two reasons.

First, the stretch that mono has reduces the amount of feel I have of what my crankbait is doing on the bottom.  Second, the floating tendencies of mono tend to not allow the bait to run to its true depth. 12–15-pound test monofilament is a great choice for this technique.      

Throwing a Texas-rig and a jig are two popular techniques for bass fishing that nearly every angler can use in their home waters. Mono is a great choice for Texas-rigging and jigging because this approach to bass fishing is usually around some type of cover fish are hiding in. When you set the hook with Texas-rigs or jigs, you must set the hook hard and quickly get the fish out of the cover and into open water.  The stretch of mono allows the knot to withstand a strong hookset, and the abrasion resistance keeps the line from breaking as it rubs across the cover. Much like crankbaits, I tend to stay away from mono with these techniques when fishing deeper than eight feet.

Flurocarbon

Flourocarbon, or flouro for short, is another line type that is widely used and is essential for certain bass fishing techniques. This line type works great for nearly every technique except topwater. Flouro sinks, has little stretch, is fairly abrasion resistant, and has a medium amount of memory. Most of my rod and reel combos are paired with 15lb flourocarbon line. This seems to be a great all-around choice for most techniques. Since flourocarbon has such little stretch and sinks, it is a very sensitive line even when fished at deeper depths. This allows the angler to easily detect strikes from bass that would otherwise go unnoticed. One of the most attractive properties of flourocarbon is that it is nearly invisible under the water. This leads to not only more bites, but also bites from larger than average fish who are more wary of a bass angler’s approaches.   

Flourocarbon can get expensive and can be tricky to use when starting out. On average a 200-yard spool costs around $18. The biggest tip I can give to have the most success with flouro is to pay close attention to the knots you’re tying to your bait. We’ll discuss specifics on which knots you need to know in the next blog, but for now understand that the line rubbing against itself creating friction is the number one cause for flourocarbon breaking. Be sure to wet the knot thoroughly and cinch it down slowly when tying on your lures. Because flourocarbon is stiffer, it tends to have more memory than the other line types.

Flouro will want to jump off the spool of your reel at first, but after 30 minutes of fishing it tends to take its new shape. Line conditioner can be applied to the line while on the spool that helps cut down on line memory. Don’t let these issues scare you away from using flouro.  Much of my rod and reel combos are paired with flourocarbon because it is so strong and sensitive. If I am using an approach where my bait is worked beneath the water’s surface around a medium amount of cover or less, flourocarbon will be my choice. It is an absolute must for several popular bass fishing techniques.  

Most bass anglers prefer flourocarbon for baits that are drug along the bottom such as texas-rigs, carolina-rigs, jigs, shakey heads, and dropshots. Flouro’s lack of stretch and sinking properties create a great amount of sensitivity and feel within the rod. These techniques require that amount of sensitivity in order to feel what your bait is doing on the bottom as well as to detect strikes once they occur. These bottom-dragging techniques utilize single hooks that require a strong amount of force to drive the hook home when a fish bites. Flourocarbon has little stretch, making hooksets more effective and giving the angler a higher landing percentage. I typically use 15lb flouro for these techniques unless I’m trying to finesse fish from clear water or fishing heavy cover. 8–10-pound test flouro seems to work well in clear water for pressured fish while 17–20-pound test is my choice for heavy cover.

Crankbaits and jerkbaits both work very well with flourocarbon. In fact, flouro is preferred for these techniques and there are several reasons why. Flourocarbon sinks and has a thinner diameter than monofilament so it allows these diving baits to reach their true diving depth. The sensitivity of flouro allows the angler to feel crankbaits running in deep water along the bottom and to detect strikes from fish who swat or nip at jerkbaits. When an angler gets that bite, the lack of stretch leads to good hookups if paired with the right rod for these techniques. 12-pound line is likely the best choice for both cranking or jerkbaiting. It has the right diameter, strength, and sensitivity to handle both techniques well.

Nearly all other bass fishing techniques that require a bait to be retrieved through the water column will work well when paired with flourocarbon. Spinnerbaits, swim jigs, chatterbaits, swimbaits, and lipless crankbaits will perform flawlessly with flourocarbon for the same reasons they work well for the techniques mentioned previously. There are often where flourocarbon will outperform other line types when matched with these techniques simply because the fish can’t see flouro in the water. It will also allow these baits to get down deeper in the water column, which is often key to soliciting strikes from bass hanging around cover such as wood, rock, or grass.

For these approaches I like to stick to 15-pound test and move up when I’m retrieving these baits around heavier cover. Keep in mind that lines go up in diameter as the pound test gets higher. This will cause your baits to ride higher in the water column and may keep your bait from going as deep as you’d like. 

Braid

Just as you’d expect in the name, braided line is made up of numerous carriers wound together to create a small diameter braided line that is extremely strong, sensitive, has no memory and zero stretch. All braided lines have these same characteristics but may look or feel differently than each other for two reasons. First, braid can be dyed in a wide range of colors that appeal to certain types of bass fishing.  Brighter colors like white, yellow, or orange are great for spinning reels because it makes it easier to detect strikes by watching your line.

For baitcasters I utilize green or black colored braid because it blends in with heavy shallow cover like grass that I typically use it around. Second, different brands of braid may feel differently than each other depending on how many carriers the manufacturer uses to create the line. Four or eight carriers seem to be the most common choices on the market with higher carriers creating a rounder and smoother braid.

I like an eight-carrier braid when making long casts with baitcasters because it seems to cast better and is quieter due to its round shape. A four-carrier line isn’t quite as round or smooth as the eight carrier, but it is great for fishing around shallow vegetation as it will saw through the cover with a powerful hook set. Keep in mind that the four-carrier braid can be slightly more difficult to cast and the noticeably louder sound of the line coming across cover could sound an alarm for wary bass.

One of the downfalls of braid is that it can be difficult to cast with a baitcaster and is highly visible to fish. I often tighten my spool tension adjustments slightly on my baitcaster when using braid. The line is so limp that major backlashes can occur if the angler doesn’t pay attention to tension adjustments or stop the spool when the bait hits the water. Since braid is so visible, I often pair it with a mono or flouro leader so that I don’t have to tie the highly visible line directly to my bait.

The only time I don’t use a leader is when fishing around heavy cover. High pound test braid used around thick cover can get expensive, but for the most part it is available at the same price point as flourcarbon with a 165-yard spool costing around $15. 40-pound braid is a good starting point for bait casters, and 20 seems to work best for spinning reels.

Braided line is a must for flipping, pitching, or punching texas-rigged soft plastics in and around heavy shallow cover such as vegetation or wood. In this scenario the angler is usually presenting the bait to fish that are less than 20 feet away and are buried deep in the thick cover. Braid is extremely sensitive, strong, and has no stretch so it is perfect for detecting bites and wrestling big fish out of heavy cover. I typically use 40-, 50-, or 65-pound test braid for these techniques. If the cover is medium or sparse, I go with 40 or 50 pounds. For punching through thick grass mats 65-pound test gets the nod every time.  Typically, I use a 4-carrier braid for these techniques unless I feel that the fish have been pressured and are detecting the sound of the line rubbing across the cover.

Hard plastic topwater baits work well with braid also. The biggest selling points here are that braid can be cast further, it floats, and has no stretch. Often, open water fishing with topwaters can require very long casts to reach fish that come to the surface chasing bait. Braided line gives me the casting distance I need to reach schooling fish busting bait far away. Braid also allows the topwater bait to perform as it should because it floats and has no stretch. At the end of a long cast an angler’s control over their topwater is reduced with monofilament because of the stretch.  With braid, all it takes is small and sharp movements of the rod to get the topwater lure to dance across the surface. The lack of stretch also increases hookups with fish that strike at the end of a long cast. 

With hard plastic topwater baits I like to utilize 40-pound test braid with a 20 pound two-foot-long monofilament leader. This keeps the line directly connected to the bait nearly invisible and reduces the chance of the line getting fouled in the hooks. Floating frogs and buzzing toads are two other topwater lures that are synonymous with braided line. 50-pound test braid seems to work best with these two baits because they are typically fished around heavy cover like grass or emergent vegetation.

Literally every spinning reel I own is spooled up with braid as the main line. Spinning reels are notorious for causing line twist when paired with mono for flouro, but braid does not. This paired with the sensitivity of braid are the two biggest reasons I choose to use braid with spinning equipment.  Drop shots, wacky rigs, and shakey heads all work great on spinning setups and require a great deal of sensitivity and finesse. I typically choose 15- or 20-pound test four carrier braid as my main line and then drop down to 8 – 15-pound flourocarbon as my leader. The four-carrier braid tends to work better than eight carrier when tying to a light flourocarbon leader resulting in fewer lost fish from line breakage occurring at the leader knot.  

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