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Pros Opinions on Fishing Line:
Mono vs. fluorocarbon vs. braid
By Tom Cannon

Brent Chapman

Talk to any group of anglers long enough and various debates will come up. What is the best lake, boat or motor, fishing lures, and of course what fishing line is the best are arguments that rarely get settled. Fishing line is a challenging topic and one in which there are lots of variables such as water color, cover, depth, and other conditions that come into play. Often times there are situations where one particular line may be better suited but for the sake of argument we will simply get the opinion of some of the nations best fishing pros on what their day to day choice of fishing line happens to be.

The guy who may just be the “hottest” bass pro at the moment is Kansas angler, Brent Chapman. Chapman is coming off two big tournament wins at the Cabela’s Top Gun Championship, and in the Bassmaster Busch Shootout. When I asked his choice of lines he stated that he utilizes fluorocarbon, specifically Gamma Line, about ninety-eight percent of the time. His reasoning is that the ultra thin diameter allows his lures to run deeper, function better, and cast farther than monofilament.

Side by side comparisons of fluorocarbon to monofilament prove to this pro that Gamma line is noticeably thinner than similar sized mono. Additionally Chapman’s experience has proven to him that this fluorocarbon is tougher and more abrasion resistant than mono. Likewise, the fluorocarbon is touted as being nearly invisible in the clearest of waters, and dozens of tests have proven this to be true.

Why else would a pro bet everything he had on this line? “I just really like the way it flies off the reel allowing me to get longer casts, and since it has less stretch it’s easier to set the hook,” advised Chapman. He used Gamma fluorocarbon line in the fore mentioned two big tournaments and raved about the ability to withstand nicks and cuts from fishing in heavy cover. Admittedly Chapman uses the fluorocarbon on everything from flipping heavy vegetation and thick wood or brush to finesse fishing a drop shot rig.

Only with topwater lures does the Kansas pro switch to a different line. “Fluorocarbon line sinks, and adversely affects the action on topwaters, so I use a co-polymer line made by Gamma for my spooks, poppers and other topwater lures,” explains Brent. The dense construction of fluorocarbon causes it to sink which may help gain extra depth for crankbaits but as stated by Chapman really disrupts the natural action of a floating topwater bait. His experience has shown that a co-polymer line is superior to standard mono for this application.

When I asked Brent to summarize his opinion of fluorocarbon lines he summed it up by stating, “Fluorocarbons are a happy medium between braid and mono”. Day to day use has him convinced that when there is money on the line, his line is going to be fluorocarbon.

“Fishing lines are like clubs to a golfer,” states Alton Jones. “There are lots of clubs in a pro’s bag and not one is perfectly suited for all situations,” he explained. For instance braided fishing line is what he would compare to a “driver”. Its use is to get the angler into the thick of things but then a more subtle approach such as a “putter” or standard mono line might offer advantages.

Alton Jones
Alton Jones

Jones spent years perfecting his trade by guiding on cover laden lakes in Texas. Its here he gleaned his passion for the “super lines”. Heavy wood cover or thick vegetation is probably the optimum place to toss the braided lines and that’s where you’ll usually find Alton who fishes a ton of jigs and plastic creatures.

His reasons for sticking with the braided stuff are simple. Limited stretch, ultimate feel (of bottom and bait) and control. Jones also saves an unbelievable amount of time by not having to re-spool with new line everyday like other pros who utilize the mono or fluorocarbon fishing lines. Often he will go three or four tournaments before rigging up new braid on his reels. This translates into more time rigging and perfecting lures, studying his maps or game plan and more time with the family.

In the modern bass fishing era, most of the top pros are neck and neck in skills. Often just a slight difference in one category may help an angler pick up a win or championship. Jones admitted that the use of braid may well be his ace in the hole. “I just feel like the lure presentation with braid is so much better than with typical lines,” claimed Jones. A mere matter of dropping a jig or any lure just a few inches closer to the target than another pro might translate in a bite or two more which is critical in the all so equal field of fishing these days. Jones says he is able to get his lures slightly closer to the “hole” with braid and is also able to control the lure better thus getting a quieter, softer landing which spooks less fish.

Normally, Alton’s braid set up consists of something like this. His main line is thirty pound braid to which a four foot long leader of twenty pound Silver Thread Fluorocarbon line is attached. The reasoning behind the Silver Thread leader is that it allows Jones a bit of a shock absorber since the braid has little or no stretch. The leader also gives him the opportunity to tie his lures on with a regular knot instead of a special purpose knot which again translates into time saved. Let’s not forget that the near invisibility of the Silver Thread Fluorocarbon line helps Jones bait look quite a bit more natural in clearer water situations.

In unique settings this pro will step up to an even bulkier line such as fifty pound braid with a twenty-five pound fluorocarbon leader. Another very unique situation is that which is found in Florida among the dense weed mats. Alton will tie his lures (usually a jig or plastic bait) directly to the braid when flipping or pitching in matted vegetation. The reasoning behind this is that a smooth line will collect less obstruction. The simplest thing like a knot connecting the leader to a main line will often pick up lots of debris and mess up the presentation. By the way, Jones’ choice of knot is what he calls a “hang man’s noose” which consists of about six wraps around the main line before being pulled tight in a noose fashion. He claims it’s as strong as anything he has every tested.

Braided lines do require a bit of specialized equipment admits Jones. He has scaled down the action on his rods from the stiffer, heavier blanks to a medium action for his flipping and pitching needs. Additionally when he sets the hook, he reels the line tight and pulls rather than snaps the line. Good rods with premium guides are also typical of Jones choice in tackle because the braid can weaken inferior guides.

Since he uses braid strictly for his heavy cover flipping and pitching what does Jones use on his casting set ups? Well here he has a much more standard approach. He scales back to Silver Thread monofilament for his topwaters, spinnerbaits, and buzzbaits. Most everything else is tied up to Silver Thread Fluorocarbon line including his crankbaits and jerkbaits. You might say Jones has a club (or line) for all situations.

Another fluorocarbon constituent is Randy Blaukat. One of the all time money winners and a staple on the FLW Tour, Blaukat has spent twenty years casting for cash and tried his share of fishing lines along the way. For several years he has chosen to spool his reels with Seagar fluorocarbon lines for various reasons. He is known as being an intensely mental angler and that translates into deep thought and research about all of his tackle.

“I use the best product I can whether they sponsor me or not, and for several years I bought and used Seagar even before I picked them up as a sponsor” relayed Blaukat. “The stuff is just extremely reliable, tough and versatile enough to use on baitcast or spinning reels,” he added. Originally developed for saltwater applications it wasn’t long before freshwater pros like Blaukat took notice of the seemingly invisible nature and reputed strength of fluorocarbon. Randy normally uses seventeen to thirty pound test when flipping and pitching and down to seven pound line when it’s necessary to finesse fish in heavily pressured situations.

Alton Jones
Randy Blaukat

A proponent of strong lines, Blaukat always attempts to spool up with the heaviest (strongest) line possible for the given situation. Thus if he is flipping in willows or near docks he will go to the thirty pound Seagar as long as it doesn’t affect his lure’s action or the rate of fall. “Fishermen need to always remember that thicker diameter lines will affect the action of a lure as it slows the rate of fall for a jig or worm,” advised the Fuji Film pro. Blaukat brings up a good point. If bass are biting a ½ ounce jig fished on twenty pound line, switching to thirty pound or even twenty-five pound line may result in a lack of strikes for the angler. These are critical lessons that need to be in the back of a fisherman’s head when he/she is wondering why the fish shut off.

Match the line diameter as well as material to the water clarity for maximum effectiveness. When bites begin to fade, do what Blaukat does and begin to scale back. If the “bite” suddenly quits, Blaukat will drop down in line size in hopes that the fish have not left the area but merely gotten critical of the presentation. Quite often this ploy plays out for the veteran pro.

Well not everyone has gotten away from the traditional monofilament line. Take Denny Brauer, who heads the all time money list in B.A.S.S. Denny has stuck with mono through thick and thin and cashed dozens of huge paychecks with old school mono spooled on his reels. “I am just really comfortable with mono,” he modestly stated. His experiences have proven that mono works for his style of fishing and that’s typically flipping or pitching to heavy cover and jerking them out.

Remember that by changing one small piece of any puzzle (especially in a sport such as bass fishing) the entire result can be affected. This may be another reason that Brauer doesn’t jump on the fluorocarbon band wagon. Brauer has pieced together his patented methods of putting bass into the boat and to change one small piece of his “swing” might wreck his whole approach.

That may well be a portion of why Brauer hesitates to leave the familiarity of his tried and true mono. Still, Brauer has made some improvements by his own admission. Recently Denny switched from his old familiar line company to the new Mustad Ultra Line constructed by the makers of Mustad Hooks. The switch in products was both a business decision for Brauer as well as a product enhancement. “Fishing lines have improved so much in the last few years it’s unbelievable,” advises Brauer. Take for instance the new color line the Missouri pro is currently using. “Mustad makes a platinum colored shade that is the best color line I have ever used,” touts Brauer. The grayish color is really easy to detect above the water surface but disappears somehow in the water column.

The jig king has never really had affection for the fluorocarbon lines. He mentioned that his experience with them has been poor and that he has literally seen them shatter. Thus mono remains his mainstay and he uses it in various applications from light eight pound line up through the heavy duty thirty pound rope he spools up with for flipping heavy cover.

One of the great things about being Brauer, is that you get to test out all the hottest gear. Thus he had an early hand in helping bring the newest braided line up through the development stages. That’s right Mustad will soon have their own braided line on the market for those anglers who request an even stronger capacity line.

Muddy water or mats are the typical scenarios that make Denny switch from the good old mono to braided line. “I get very technique specific when I go to braided line,” explained Brauer. He will have it spooled on the reel should he be making long casts with a frog over vegetation, or ripping a Diamond Shad rattle bait through grass beds. Otherwise if it’s on the flipping rod one can bet Brauer is concentrating his efforts in chocolate colored water. In those situations he will take advantage of the lack of water clarity by rigging his baits to sixty or eighty pound braid! Why mess around if you can get by with the tough stuff? Unlike Jones, Brauer always ties his braid directly to the lure with a Palomar knot. “I just never felt like a leader was necessary with braid,” explains Denny. Where he is fishing braid the bass won’t know the difference anyway!

As one can see there are lots of opinions as to what line may be the best. Still most of these pros will agree that different situations often dictate using different lines. As Alton Jones said, ”there is no one universal golf club and there is no one universal fishing line.” Use what best suits your particular application whether it be barren crystal clear waters or brush chocked fudge colored backwater. Stick with a premium line like those mentioned by these pros and it will be hard to go wrong!

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