In some cases, mono isn't quite good enough. Southern Kingfish Association pro Chris Blanton of South Carolina says he uses straight Hi-Seas fluorocarbon for kingfish. "It's costly to do, but fluoro adds a little better feel, and we've found it works," he says, adding that he attaches six inches of wire to the fluoro as a leader. "We've had fish run around a rig in the Gulf, and it frayed up the fluoro, but it still caught the fish."
Fluorocarbon features average tensile strength, but its knot strength rates below that of nylon, Gerlach says. It does offer good abrasion resistance, better than mono, and some say better than braid. "Braid's strength is straight up and down," says John Drouet, sales manager for HiLiner (Diamond Fishing Products). "Braid breaks down when the fibers abrade. Once you breach that finish, the line is compromised."
On the other hand, Pure Fishing's Norris ranks the abrasion resistance of braid higher than mono — of equivalent diameter. "You get some fraying on the outside, but the fiber is so strong," he says. "Let's say 10 percent of the line abrades, but the line is still three times stronger than mono at the same diameter."
PREFERENCE FOR BRAID
Redfish-tournament pro Bryan Watts says he and brother Greg use only braid, preferring Fireline Crystal and Walkfish Invisabraid. The reasons: no stretch factor and improved casting distance.
"Being from the west coast of Florida, we still have a lot of fish on the flats that are spooky and wary. The primary reason for braid is casting distance. We want to get the bait as far as possible away from the boat," he says.
With a bait that far away, the brothers need the taut braid to drive home the hook point. "Basically, braid enlarges our fishing zone," Watts says.
Just how much farther braid casts remains debatable, but its smaller diameter compared with mono means it flies through the air and cuts through water more easily.
The brothers use 10-pound braid and spinning gear on the open flats, and then switch to 40- to 50-pound SpiderWire Stealth on bait-casting reels when fishing around mangroves. The stronger braid allows them to pull fish from structure quickly where mono might give the fish time and distance to wrap a few roots.
Braid's sensitivity makes it a great line for working plugs and lures and for bottomfishing. "It's great for any crank or spinner bait that has movement," Norris says. "If you pick up a piece of grass on the line, you feel it. And it creates more positive contact with the fish."
Braid also offers more strength compared with line diameter, which means anglers pack more line onto smaller reels — an advantage for long-range tuna fishermen off Southern California. SoCal yellowtail anglers prefer braid because it quickly slices through kelp, a favorite hiding place for those Pacific brawlers.
But while braid's strength creates confidence, its knot-failure rate means connections must be tried and tested. When you tie mono and braid together, braid will win. "With some knots, people are getting only 50 percent [breaking strength]," Drouet says.
Pros like Montella know how to make the best connections between braid and mono, and while they use braid for a main line, they also rig long top shots and wind-on leaders offshore to add stretch and subtract visibility.
"When daytime deep-drop fishing for swordfish, I complete my rig by using a 150-foot wind-on leader made from 250-pound Hi-Catch mono connected to a 9-foot piece of 250-pound Hi-Catch X-Hard clear mono to the bait. We've taken two first places and a second place in the last four swordfish tournaments we've entered," he says.
The evolution of braided lines in recent years has all but eliminated early issues with wind knotting and tip wrapping, Norris says. Monofilament has also come a long way, as the formulas now include multiple ingredients to focus on lowering stretch and memory and improving tensile strength. The current manufacturing trend seems to be combining the best attributes of the two.
SPORT FISHING INSIGHT: FLUOROCARBON FEATURES
In salt water, anglers rarely use fluorocarbon as a main line, but the product would make a good inshore choice, says Clay Norris, senior product manager for Pure Fishing. Fluorocarbon features high shock strength and good abrasion resistance. Its primary drawbacks: cost and susceptibility to friction. Anglers must also take extra care when tying knots.
"Some knots don't do well — the Palomar is not fluoro friendly in small sizes," Norris says. "If you tie knots right, fluoro has fantastic knot strength, but it's very susceptible to friction."