Strolling through the aisles of a sporting goods store might appear as though the selection of fishing line should be a basic operation. But any experienced angler has can tell you how broad the monofilament fishing line has become. Fortunately, most of the chaos is only the result of marketing. Finding the right fishing line isn’t all that hard. Of course, the first step is to know what you’re looking at. Ever wonder what the heck is a monofilament line? Well, here’s a quick explanation to ease your dread the next time you’re at the sporting goods store.

Monofilament Line Defined

As the name implies, a monofilament line is composed of a single strand of polymer, which is also known as nylon polymer. Rather than a braided line which is composed of multiple strands of some sort of material. Originally, all fishing line was braided. For the majority of human history, the strands were organic and bore a close resemblance to the good old thread. More so, items such as horse hair, cotton, and linen were used throughout history. Thus, mankind’s mastery of synthetics finally allowed for the production of monofilament fishing line around the 1950s.

Monofilament line is nothing more than a single strand of polymer, extruded industrially, and made of material strong enough to reel in a fish of similar size to the test that the line is rated for. The difference between monofilament line and a braided line, in terms of performance, is essentially the same as the difference between wire and cable. A wire is a single strand of metal, while a cable is multiple strands of metal braided to increase strength.

The Upside of Monofilament

a spinning reel

Image credits: Cbetraha xnmo4ka via Pixabay

The first thing you’ll probably notice about monofilament line is that it costs less than a braided line. It costs less because it is easier to manufacture. Melting and extruding polymers doesn’t take overly complicated machinery. Depending on the type of polymer used, and the diameter of the strand, monofilament line can be extremely strong. Thanks to the line being composed of only a single strand, monofilament line is less apt to snarling on your reel and generally easier for an angler to work with. The smooth nature of monofilament line will also help you to avoid snagging when fishing in weedy or overgrown areas. Unlike, a braided line that is just grabbier by design.

The Downside of Monofilament Line

As with everything in life, the use of monofilament line has its trade-offs. If monofilament line is to be strong enough to handle giant fish, then the strand must be large, too. At some point, this increase in diameter means that the line really isn’t applicable to fishing. A braided line will always be stronger, with a smaller diameter because the individual strands pull against each other when the line is put under weight. Monofilament line will also never be able to handle quick jerks, such as a fish hitting a bait in a rush. Whereas, the multiple strands in a braided line act as a shock absorber of sorts and make the braided line a better choice for really aggressive fish species.

Getting the Most From Monofilament

a fly rod

Image credits: Steve Buissinne via Pixabay

In the same way, thin spots occur when you pull on a wire, thin spots occur in monofilament line after it is used through a few outings. These thin spots are where the line is going to break when you’re trying to reel in a big lunker. After you use monofilament for a while, you’ll get a feel for how long it takes for a skinny place to form. Additionally, UV damage and line memory are also big factors that can lead to premature snapping. Avoid losing fish by pulling a few feet of line off your reel now and then and tossing it. The stuff on the reel doesn’t get stretched, so just use that until you get low on it. Run your fingers over the line, feeling for smoothness. If not, the line needs to be replaced.

Final Thoughts

For the vast majority of anglers who spend the majority of their time going after non-predatory fish, monofilament line is more than adequate for their needs. Braided line makes for a better choice against toothed species like northern pike or muskies. But for species that are less armed, monofilament makes for a consistent strike. Many trout, perch, or catfish anglers go their whole fishing careers without using braided line.

Naturally, braided line is more popular with saltwater anglers, since the size of monofilament gets a bit ridiculous by the time you can reel in a shark with it. Yet, some use monofilament for that, too. As the technology of fishing line manufacturing improves, it’s hard to say what monofilament might be good for in the future. Every year, monofilament line is available at higher test ratings, and the prices adjust accordingly.