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DOCK TALK: Fishing line: When to Respool

When it comes to fishing line, there is really not a lot to get stressed about...


Once it is on the reel, we rarely think of it. That is, until the fish decides to show you that you have waited too long to respool, and it breaks off. Fishing in general is rough on our gear.

Exposed to the elements, drastic temperature changes, in and out of trucks and boats, it's no surprise that things take a beating. Line is no exception. It is consistently skipped, flipped, pitched, and punched into some pretty inhospitable places. We drag it across gravel and sand bars, bounce it off boat docks, and expose it to ultraviolet light. After all that, add wind knots and the occasional bird’s nest and we have thoroughly thrashed our line.

But don’t be discouraged. Human beings are great at innovating and engineering our way out of problems and fishing line is no exception. Anglers of yesteryear had to make do with what was available to them. Most fashioned line from spun silk, catgut, and twisted cotton strands. By those standards, we have nothing short of engineering marvels available to us in the form of monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided fishing line

Those responsible for these little miracles of ingenuity have been given a seemingly impossible task. Not only must fishing line be incredibly strong and borderline indestructible, but it must also be extremely small and possess the ability to cast effortlessly. Fishing line must be able to withstand immense force; they rocket through guides at speeds that would make professional baseball pitchers green with envy. To top it all off, on a cast, line must deal with acceleration forces nearly 14 times that of gravity. I know, I know, now you’re asking yourself, just how strong are they? 

Well, first let's break down the ratings you will see on fishing line packaging. We have all noticed the number on the box of line that is associated with breaking strength. 10, 12, 15, these numbers indicate the pounds of force it will take to break that particular line. There  is often a metric measurement as well that is equivalent to the pound rating.

You may also see a diameter measurement that becomes important if a substantial amount of line is needed on the reel. Braided line is often shown with its break strength rating, plus a diameter comparison to monofilament since braid is so much thinner than other lines. Braid is stronger, thicker, and less likely to break, but smaller, thinner lines cast easier and are less visible to fish. A good rule of thumb is to check what weight of line is recommended for your specific rod and use that to ensure you are not placing too much stress on the rod.

One common question you may be asking yourself, does fishing line have a service life? The answer is, yes. Well, yes and no. Between monofilament line, fluorocarbon line, and braid, monofilament degrades the quickest. This is because it is the most affected by exposure to direct sunlight. For every 100 hours in direct sunlight, Monofilament will lose about 20% of its tensile strength. 

Fluorocarbon fishing line, while herculean in comparison to monofilament when dealing with sun exposure, has its own drawbacks as it is more prone to suffer nicks and scratches during use, degrading the line over time. Fishing knots are also something to consider when thinking about line strength. The best, most efficient, strongest knots in the world will diminish line strength at the knot. 

The right line can be the difference between catching a bucketload of fish and coming home empty-handed.

From: Berkley: Line Matters

The right line can be the difference between catching a bucketload of fish and coming home empty-handed.

Now let's discuss the strongest of the group. The “go-to” for frogging, flipping, pitching, and punching. Braided fishing line is essentially immune to the effects of UV light and provides the strongest breaking strength by diameter. Braided fishing line has a similar construction to a rope; many microfibers are woven together to create one strong strand of line. It does, however, have a weakness, most common failures with braided line are caused by abrasion and shock. 

Monofilaments and fluorocarbon fishing lines are not immune to abrasion issues. Brushing line up against anything that is sharp (rocks, logs, limbs, fence posts, even fish teeth) can cause degradation. Improper knot tying, backlashes (it happens to the best of us), and wind knots are just a few of the other culprits that may weaken fishing line. It is also critical to match rod action, line, and lure weight for optimal line performance. See the manufacturers' specifications for more information here or seek out your local retail bait shop staff, professional guides, or fishing club to gain insight into good pairings for the equipment you have and the species you are after. 

Most anglers put their line though many different trials and are oblivious to the damage that has incurred. As a person fishes, the damaged line will continue to weaken. This weakness may rear its ugly head at the most inopportune time. Think of a fishing tournament with a big check on the other end of that damaged line. 

So, at the end of the day, it is important to respool reels in accordance with each angler's individual needs. As a general rule, give your line a once over before heading out on that trip. Simply running your fingers down the line should reveal any noticeable imperfections. Normally, the first six to eight feet of line will receive the most wear as this portion is consistently exposed to UV rays and abrasive materials like rocks, wood, vegetation, etc. If you notice any defects, cut the line above the problem area, and retie. Unlike the nicks and rough spots on fluorocarbon and monofilament, braided line will appear fuzzy or frayed when damaged. Now if there is money on the line, you will want to respool before each tournament. For your average angler, respooling before each new season should suffice. Maybe throw in one more halfway through the season if you are an avid ripper of lips. Just trust your fingers and your eyes, if it looks nicked or worn, better to remove the bad line or respool than to lose the big one! 

Lastly, please dispose of discarded line appropriately. For monofilament line, visit your local Berkley retailer and locate a Berkley Conservation Institute bin. 

Pure Fishing Dock Talk
Shawn Smith, Author, Pure Fishing


Shawn Smith is a native of Northwest Georgia and a graduate of the University of Georgia. An avid outdoorsman, he was introduced to fishing as a child and has spent the better part of the last 25 years with a rod in hand while venturing throughout the United States. As the Ecommerce Marketing Manager for Pure Fishing, Shawn is able to put his passion into practice while sharing his knowledge and love for the sport with others.

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