Types of Line & Leaders

Fishing Line & Leaders

Fishing Line & Leaders

Fishing line is by far the utmost important fishing equipment component for anglers, as the line is the direct connection between the fisherman and the fish. Using the proper line in presenting lures or live bait, upon hooking a fish and landing the fish is the key to a successful catch. Yet many anglers are not aware about the new types of lines available today each with it’s own special use and qualities including stretch, flexibility, knot strength, visibility, breaking strength, diameter and abrasion resistance.

Modern day fishing lines are made entirely from artificial materials including nylon, polyethylene, dacron, spectra, dyneema, polyvinyl chloride, wire, and lead. The manufacturing of fishing lines vary from using a extrusion process, melting and mixing of polymers which is formed into a strand through a die forming monofilament, fluorocarbon or copolymer fishing line.



Braided line is made by braiding or weaving man-made materials such as fibers of dacron, dyneema, spectra. Wire line used on copper and stainless steel are also braided forming stranded lines Thermally fused lines are made of dyneema/spectra that is twined or clustered together to form a single line.

No brand of line is perfect for all fishing conditions. In choosing the best line for the type of fish being targeted one must consider many factors, the size and species of fish along with the type of fishing presentation and the most important matching the line to the tackle (rod-reel-lure-bait) used. Understanding each of the line types and when to use them will increase one’s fishing success.


Here is a breakdown of each fishing line by type


In 1935 nylon was discovered by DuPont, made public in 1938 as a new invention, this created a group of synthetic super polymers that are commonly used in textile manufacturing today. In 1939 DuPont began making nylon monofilament fishing line that was primitive by today’s standards (stiff and heavy) as braided line was considered still the popular choice by anglers. Over the next two decades improvements where made (added flexibility, uniform quality and thinner diameter) which increased the popularity with the fishing community.

Today monofilament is the most commonly used fishing line accounting most of the line sold today. It offers the angler versatility, as it is available in a selection of colors: red, yellow, green, blue, clear and fluorescent along with degrees of flexibility, stiffness and abrasion resistant qualities. It can be spooled on spinning, baitcasting and spincast reels. Monofilament is best used on shallower water presentations than deepwater fishing due to it’s high stretch and water absorption factors resulting in loose knots and lack of sensitivity.

Walleye and bass anglers use colored mono line when fishing jigs and soft plastic’s to detect strikes by watching the line, conversely live bait fisherman like thin flexible translucent mono for a natural presentation, on discolored water they favor fluorescent, on clearer water clear or green is preferred. For casting lures around cover and rocky area’s abrasion resistant lower stretch clear line is recommended.

With all of the options monofilament offers there are some line maintenance to follow, All monofilament have a memory, which means if the line is stored on a reel for a extended amount of time it will form to the shape around the reel spool. When this occurs in casting it will come off the reel in loops or coils.



The other is the combination of sun or heat, storing your rod & reel outfit in a garage / shed over the  hot summer months or leaving it outside exposed to the heat sun will deteriorate the line making it weak and brittle, if the line has developed a chalky type film it is time to be replaced. Finally in buying monofilament line stay with the known recognized brands than the cheap off brands bulk spools, as the cheaper brands don’t receive the quality control, proper additives and attention during the manufacturing process as the premium grade lines receive.



Fluorocarbon fishing leaders originated in Japan, where the Japanese are extremely detailed about the presentation of their bait. The Japanese fish under heavy pressured conditions and make every attempt to make their presentations as real and lifelike as possible. They pride themselves on their ability to do this, and willingly spend more money to do so.

Ultimately, U.S. anglers began using fluorocarbon leaders, primarily in saltwater and fly fishing applications, for the same reason the Japanese were using it – low visibility. It caught on when anglers reported catching more fish with it. However, leaders are stiff and very expensive. Now, application of fishing line technologies has produced more flexible fluorocarbon at affordable prices.

Fluorocarbon is a polymer consisting of fluorine, a common element that is chemically bonded with carbon, another common element, to create a polymer that can be formed by molding, extrusion or other heat processes thus the name fluorocarbon.

It is inert, so it resists deterioration by the sun and most chemicals found on fishing boats such as, gasoline, battery acid or DEET (common ingredient found in insect repellents).

A density of 1.6, meaning it is heavier than water and sinks, which will enable lures to dive deeper and faster than monofilament fishing lines.

Abrasion resistant against rocks, docks, logs etc.

It is also almost invisible underwater with a light refractive index of 1.42 the same as water, the light passes through the line not reflecting back.

Non-absorbing, because fluorocarbon does not absorb water, it will not weaken or increase in stretch like monofilament fishing lines

Stretch resistance – fluorocarbon stretches slower and less than monofilament, particularly when compared to wet mono making it much more sensitive

The popularity of fluorocarbon line used by anglers today is evident by the features listed above. Fluorocarbon offer’s the best advantage in clear water situations where fish are heavily pressured or slow to bite in finesse situations.



In the mid 1980’s copolymer fishing line was introduced. The process called copolymerization, is a combination of two or more nylon monomers to create a copolymer during the extrusion. The outcome of this resulted in a material that has additional benefits than monofilament.

Copolymer fishing line features are smaller line diameters, abrasion resistant, have a lower stretch factor, high tensile strength, higher impact and greater shock resistance. Over the years new formulas have been added notably the addition of fluorocarbon which adds invisibility stealth factor to the line.



During the industrial period from the early 1900’s modern machinery was developed to manufacture braided fishing lines, this was considered the first commercial fishing line made in quantity. Silk was the common used material with many maintenance issues, after a day of fishing silk lines had to be un-spooled off the reel, washed and hung up to dry in order to prevent dry rot.

Over the wars years two new synthetic fibers were developed and employed as fishing line, first Rayon considered at that time a artificial silk, then Dacron a polymer fiber know as polyester. The invention of braided fishing line was also instrumental in the development as a coated or wrapped component of specialty fishing lines such as fly lines, lead core trolling lines and for ice fishing tip up lines.



Braided lines are extremely strong, very abrasion resistant, low stretch and absorbs less water allowing greater sensitivity even when wet unlike monofilament. It also has no memory so it won’t come off your reel in coils and it doesn’t weaken from direct sunlight. Dacron braided line is still made today but with the advancements of monofilament along with the introduction of the new hybrid lines it has decreased in popularity by anglers and now primarily used for deep water trolling along with backing on fly reels.

In the early 1990s fishing line companies began adding new man made fibers to their braiding process such as Dyneema, and Spectra this created a new category of braided lines referred as ” Super Braids – Multifilament” ( by combining multiple fibers together during the process of braiding) the new synthetic fibers are thread like thin, very strong, pliable but yet abrasion resistant and have little stretch.

The common factor of all of the new super braids today is to provide the angler with the smallest diameter (ultrathin -microdiameter) with the highest break strength. The benefits of the super braids are numerous, in casting artificial lures they dive deeper and faster with longer casts due to the thin diameter, with the low stretch it telegraphs strikes instantly to the rod tip for a immediate hook set, along with the high break strength it is the primary line used by fisherman targeting big fish such as Muskie, Pike, Stripers, Catfish and Saltwater anglers.

In spooling super braids on reels you have two options to prevent line slipping, better casting and less backlashes. If you choose to spool your reel entirely with a super braid tie the line on the reel arbor, wrap a piece of electrical tape over the line and complete the spooling with tension applied, the other option is using monofilament as a line backing spooled on the reel arbor first and tied using a uni-knot to the super braid also applying tension upon spooling. (The lb test of mono should match the diameter of the super braid for uniformity and tying) Using a line backing conserves line usage as well as filling the spool, take in to account that super braids have small line diameters and the line filling amounts listed on the reel are based on monofilament diameters.

Use the lb/yards amount listed on your reel as a guide for spooling the super braid; for instance if a 50lb super braid has the diameter equivalent of 12lb mono and the line capacity on the reel is 175 yds/12lb with the filler spool at 150 yards you will need to add approximately 20 yards of mono backing. As with all fishing lines the proper amount to fill a reel spool is within 1/8 of a inch from the top of the spool rim.



With the popularity of the new super braids incorporating the many features that Dyneema and Spectra micro fibers achieve: ultra thin diameter, low stretch and high tensile strength. Innovative fishing line companies realized this and introduced a new manufacturing process called fusion. Fused line are multiple layers of microfilament  gel spun polyethylene fibers fused/twined together to produce a single strand of line. The end results are a high performance line, ultra thin, superior strength, very sensitive with good abrasion resistance.


Fly Line

Today’s fly lines consist of two components the inner core and outer coating. The inner core is made from a braid or monofilament line, the core determines the line strength, stretch and stiffness, The outer coating is wrapped around the core in a thick water proof sheath, often of PVC polyvinyl chloride. Imbedded in the outer core will determine the classification of floating or sinking line.

Floating line has encased  micro bubbles allowing the line to float, sinking line has impregnated density micro particles such as powdered tungsten to weigh the line for a controlled sink rate. Almost all fly lines are made in such a way so they have a taper that helps the casting process and presenting the fly lure for the angler. Fly line tapers have four major categories: Weight Forward , Double Taper Shooting Taper and Level. Of the four, two are the most popular Weight Forward and Double Tapered.

In order to spool a fly reel properly there are a set of steps to follow along with a knowledge of basic fishing knots. First the fly line backing (The fly reel instructions will provide the suggested amount of backing) which is usually composed of braided Dacron using 20-30lb test, this is secured to the reel spool by using a Arbor Knot. As most fly lines today are under a 100 yards this will ensure a adequate reserve in case of a run by large game fish as well as filling the spool to the proper capacity.

The next step is the main fly line this is connected to the backing using a Albright Knot. Since the line backing (Dacron) and the fly line (plastic) are different materials the Albright Knot will slide easily through the line guides. The final steps are attaching the leader (typically tapered) of monofilament or fluorocarbon using a nail knot which provides a clean and straight connection from the fly line, and next is the tippet the section of monofilament between your fly and leader.

Being that the leader and the tippet are two similar diameters a Double Surgeons knot is suitable. Finally the fly lure is attached to the tippet using a Improved Clinch Knot. As you assemble the fly line set-up make sure you moisten all the knots when drawing them tight slowly, always test each knot by giving a good hard pull, this will reduce the chance of knot failure. Be sure to replace leaders and tippets as they show any wear or abrasion.


Fly Line Maintenance

Fly lines do have a life span, even with all of the new fly line technology prevalent today. With out proper care and maintenance a fly line (dependent on use) will only last one season or less. Here’s a few tips and pointers to extend the life of your fly line.


Cleaning your fly line:

All leading fly line manufacturers build a lubricant inside of the outer coating. Line performance, however, depends on the condition of the coating. The coating is slightly porous, it slowly releases the lubricant, keeping the line slick and floating. From casting the fly line will pick up suspended particulate in the water such as algae and dirt from stripping the line when your fishing from the shore. This clogs the line pores preventing the lubricant from doing it’s job as the line will not float as well or slide through the rod guides easily.



This can be remedied by cleaning your fly line with a clean damp cloth and some mild soap, by wiping down the amount of line you use on a cast. Always keep your fly line away from direct contact with insect repellants (Deet) suntan lotions, and any type chemicals or solvents, fuel or excessive heat. Never cast without a leader, avoid stepping on the stripped line and always check your reel for pinched line between the spool and the reel frame. In storing your fly line on your reel if it develops line memory and comes off in coils simply remove the line and slowly give it a stretch, it should revert back to perform perfectly.


Fly Line Selections

For the beginning fly fishing angler there are a multitude line choices available today which can be confusing to say the least. Floating or sinking, the weight of line and the numerous different taper configurations. The fly line, not the lure size determines the rated fly rod and reel set-up. Your best bet in the selection process of a fly rod outfit is first to research the fishing presentation and species you are fishing for most of the time and match the recommended set-up.

Fortunately fly fishing tackle manufactures have adapted a universal numerical measurement scale to classify fly line weight to the specific rod and type of fly fishing. The scale ranges from 1-14 with 1 the lightest to 14 the heaviest. With this information any good fly fishing pro shop will be able to assist you in setting up your fly fishing outfit. For instance if you intend to fish mainly for sunfish on ponds or small streams for trout a five or six weight line and rod would be the choice if you target pike and bass using larger fly lures or streamers you should consider a eight or nine weight rod.

Using the correct fly line matched to the rod is critical for proper fly casting, if you use too heavy of line this will cause “overloading” causing the leader to turn over and bounce back to the angler, too light of line will inhibit the rod to load and will not be able to flex in the casting process causing short non controlled cast.


Lead Core (Weighted Trolling Line)

Lead Core line came on to the fishing scene during the 1970’s as weighted trolling line. This allowed Salmon, Lake Trout, Steelhead and Walleye anglers the ability to use light weight shallow running lures such as spoons, balsa and plastic minnow lures to reach depths were the fish are present. Lead Core is constructed of two components, the inner wire made of soft pliable lead and the outer sheath of nylon braid which is color coated every ten yards for metering purposes referred as the term colors. Recently a new environmentally safe non lead line was introduced using a metal alloy wire in lieu of lead. Weighted trolling lines are available in 100 – 200 yard spools ranging from 12lb to 45 lb test ratings.

The amount of weighted trolling line spooled on your reel is totally dependent on the species of fish you are targeting by the depth required, as a example Great Lakes walleye anglers may use 30 yards of weighted line or three colors were as a salmon angler may spool the entire 200 yards or twenty colors. The approximate rule dependent on the lb test is every two yards of weighted line will sink one foot. The only reel type to be used for weighted trolling line is a conventional level wind trolling reel, the line capacity is based on the species ( smaller for walleyes larger for salmon).

In spooling the reel a line backing should always be used this also helps to fill the reel to the proper line amount. The most popular line backing used today is the super braids which is tied to the weighted line using a Albright knot, after the weighted line is spooled a monofilament/fluorocarbon leader is tied using a Uni-knot.( Note: When tying backing or a leader to lead core remove the inner wire) This entire line set-up is referred as “segmented” which when properly used places the weighted line and lure at the feeding depth of fish. Trolling weighted (lead core) line is a technical presentation requiring a level of expertise and knowledge. If your considering using this trolling technique your success would be best served if you research the fishery and species before purchasing the proper equipment.



Wire is another trolling line option especially if your fishing presentation requires to go very deep. Wire lines come in a variety of choices, solid and stranded. Solid wire know as Monel is a metal nickel copper alloy which will go deeper than stranded based on the ultra thin line diameter and weight. Stranded offers many versions made of stainless steel or copper, in cable-laid wire, 49 strand, three and seven strand wire some of these come with vinyl coatings used mainly as leader material. One of most popular wire line for freshwater fishing is the seven stranded six wrapped or braided around one.

Copper seven strand is utilized as a alternative to lead core where as the weight of copper is double than lead core this achieves the same depth of lead core with only half the amount of line. The advantages of using wire line are numerous when compared to other conventional lines such as braided or monofilament, wire line with the weight and the ultra low diameter cuts through the water easily getting deeper using less line, it also has very low line stretch thus telegraphing fish strikes as they happen.

Getting set-up with a wire line outfit requires all special equipment, reels are trolling level wind with a metal or stainless steel spool to accommodate wire line, rods require hardened line guides that wire won’t cut along with a roller tip or all line guides using rollers. We highly recommend if you’re looking to use wire as a trolling outfit, go to a pro shop that specializes in wire line rods and reels.

One of the most common problems in using wire starts with correctly spooling the backing and wire on the reel to the proper level. Fishing wire with the proper knowledge and set-up will add another dimension to your arsenal increasing your catch rate.


Tip-Up Line: (Backing)

Tip Up’s are a fishing tool used for ice fishing, tip up’s are built from plastic or wood which lay on the ice, underneath the tip up the reel is submerged in the water. On the reel most ice fishing anglers use a line backing of 20lb to 40lb test to fill the spool, then attach various different types of leader materials, such as seven strand wire, coated wire, monofilament or fluorocarbon.

The line backing on tip ups are  waterproofed by either coating a braid using Teflon or plastic vinyl wrapped over a braid. The purpose behind the waterproof backing is not to let the line to freeze on the reel, upon a strike allowing a fish to run with the bait (free spool) until the angler set’s the hook. Also with the heavier lb test it is easier to handle in cold weather and are less prone to tangle on the ice.


Line Maintenance / Spooling your reel

Line replacement is highly important yet often neglected, this is commonly overlooked as some angler’s feel the existing line on the reel is sufficient. In writing this we can attest to the numerous times trophy fish where lost due to line breakage, in asking when the line was changed the response was similar “never” or “years ago”. Line degradation is caused by numerous different effects, some are environmental such as exposed to sunlight and heat for a extended amount of time other’s are physical, line scraping across rocks, logs, docks or other lake structure.



For practical purposes most line wear occurs in the first few feet from your lure or bait, periodically check this by running your line between your fingers, if you feel any nicks, frays or twists remove that section of line and retie. All fishing line needs to be replaced at one point, as fishing line becomes wet and dry over time it eventually breaks down and wears out. Depending on the amount of fishing you do will determine line changing frequency, tournament anglers and pro guides replace line daily, other fisherman that spend a lot of time on the water replace line weekly or monthly. As a general rule fishing line should be at least re-spooled annually.


Filling A Revolving-Spool Reel

Baitcasting and trolling reels are the easiest to spool up, especially if you ask a friend to help you. Just remember to maintain a moderate, consistent tension on the line at all times (by gently pinching the line between your thumb and forefinger) to avoid loose wraps that might cause tangling later.

1)Insert a pencil into the supply spool to allow the fishing line to feed smoothly off the spool. Have someone hold each end of the pencil while you turn the reel handle. Your helper should maintain slight inward pressure on the supply spool to prevent it from overrunning, and to keep proper tension on the line.

2) Fill the reel within 1/4-inch of the outer rim of the revolving spool. Don’t overfill.


Filling A Spinning Reel

Because the spool of a spinning reel does not rotate, you should use this method to prevent putting a twist in the line.

1. Pull old line off reel through line guides until you have enough room on spool for new line. If this is a new reel or if you wish to completely place new line on the spool your reel use an arbor knot to tie your line onto the spool.

2. If your leaving existing line always leave some line from spool through rod guides and past end of rod to tie new line to.

3. Tie new line to end of old line with a blood knot or a uni-knot

4. Lay spool of new line of floor so line comes off spool just like it goes on reel spool

5. Hold line tight with hand not turning reel handle just above reel

6. Reel line onto reel slowly, making sure it is spooled firmly

7. After about 12 turns allow some slack between the supply spool of line and your rod to be sure you are not getting line twist. If the line is twisting flip the supply spool over. Check this periodically because spinning reels automatically put twist in your line.


Filling a Closed-Faced Spin-Cast Reel

Fill a closed-faced spin-cast reel the same way you would a spinning reel, except remember to thread the line through the hole in the front of the reel.  Spin-cast reels do not hold very much line, so remove the reel cover partway every now and then to make sure you do not overfill the enclosed spool.



Using a proper leader can be the difference between a successful fishing trip and one that ends up so to speak in the tank. Yes, they are that important. Leaders are often one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment that we use. Leaders are the segment of material attached between the fishing line and the lure or bait. It is what connects you and your equipment to the lure and hopefully with some luck, your catch.

Leaders are made of a variety of materials today such as: single strand wire, seven strand wire, coated or uncoated, stainless steel wire, titanium, hard monofilament, and fluorocarbon. They are also availible in various lengths and sizes as well. Some are ready to tie onto your mainline and clip on a lure and start fishing, where other applications may require you to tie it onto your mainline or attach or tie your own lure on. You must use the right application for the right type of fishing you will be doing.

Obviously you dont want to use a large musky leader to go walleye fishing nor do you want to bring a small walleye or pike leader to use when you are after trophy musky. Your leader can be the strongest or the weakest link in your set up, so you must give just as important care in choosing the correct leader for the job at hand as you would determining which lure to use.

Most tackle shops will carry a variety of leaders to choose from. Always be sure to consider what the weight limit or pound test is on the leader you may be using. A rule of thumb to go by is to always remember the lighter leader you use the higher your risk of being bit off or having leader failure can be. Not to say using a light leader is wrong, however just understand that you may have to be willing to accept the consequences. Once you determine what pound test you are going to go with, consider the hardware that is on the leader. Some leaders are tied, some are crimped, some are both. This pretty much boils down to personal preferance, and in time you will figure out what you are most comfortable using.

Take a look at the swivels, make sure they move freely and that they apear to be large enough or small enough to handle the task at hand. Same care to be given when choosing a proper snap. Consider the size lure you will be using and make sure the snap doesnt open and close too easily. The last thing you want is for it to come open on that trophy fish of a lifetime. If there is too much to choose from and you simply cannot figure it out ask a store employee for a hand and they can help you make the right selection.

So the next time you are ready to go fishing and need to run into your local sporting goods supply to just grab some leaders, take a few extra minutes to do an inspection of what you are purchasing. It might make the difference between a smiling photo or going home disapointed.

Page Sources: Berkley Line Co. Stealth Tackle

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