Different Types of Fishing Line Explained

closeup of fishing line on a fishing reel
Dale Shetler
By Dale Shetler
Updated September 8, 2020

For people who fish, fishing line is arguably the most important piece of equipment they’ll use. It may not be the flashiest gear, but it connects to lures, baits and is necessary to pull in fish. What types of fishing lines are available? In this guide, we’ll explore what characteristics fishing lines share, the differences between the types, and their pros and cons.

Need To Know: Characteristics Of Fishing Line

All fishing line types share certain traits. Knowing those traits helps you decide what line works best and what features should be prioritized based on your needs. Let’s go over six features:

Memory

When you pull a line off your spool, does it curl up? Does it hang down straight? Line that curls has more memory. This means the line is more likely to kink or knot as you reel it in. High-memory lines are also trickier to cast over long distances.

low memory vs high memory fishing line infographic

Stretch

Some lines are stretchier than others. A stretchy line does better with the tension generated by a wiggling fish, but setting the hook is harder. Stretchy lines also don’t give you as much precision and sensitivity.

Flexibility

A line’s flexibility is important because it determines how easy tying knots will be. When a fishing line is nice and flexible, you’ll be able to tie a wider variety of strong knots and more complex knots. No matter what kind of line you’re tying, it will be easier when the line is wet.

Shock strength

Shock strength has to do with how well a line can absorb energy without breaking. If you’re fishing for large prey, you want a line with good shock strength. The pound test measures how much stress a line takes. You’ll find this number on every line sold.

Abrasion resistance

You’re bound to encounter things like rocks when you fish. You want a line with good abrasion resistance, so the line doesn’t get scratched or weakened by different obstacles. Most fishing lines these days are pretty resistant to abrasions.

Visibility

Many fish (especially freshwater) have good eyesight, so you want a fishing line that they won’t notice. In clear water, you want a very clear line. There are also colored fishing lines that can be matched to the color of the water you’re fishing in. The diameter of the line also plays into how visible it is. The thicker the line, the easier it is for fish to see.

how to choose the right fishing line color infographic

Buoyancy

Does the line sink or float? If you’re hoping for fish that stay deep in the water, you want a dense fishing line that sinks. Lighter, more buoyant fishing lines will float in the topwater. Buoyancy and density also affect how fast the line sinks.

Main Fishing Line Types

There are four main types of fishing available these days: monofilament, copolymer, braid, and fluorocarbon. Let’s define what they are, their pros, and their cons.

Monofilament fishing line

Berkley Trilene Big Game Monofilament Line

Mono fishing line is a classic. It’s made from just a single strand of synthetic fiber. For years, it was the dominant fishing line, but that’s changed a little in recent times. It comes in a variety of colors, including clear. It is the most visible fishing line type, so if you’re fishing in very clear water, it may not be the best choice. It’s also vulnerable to heat and UV rays.

It absorbs water, as well, which can cause weakening. On the plus side, it works well for topwater fishing, knots very easily, and is very strong. Because of its versatility and ease of use, it’s great for beginners. It’s also a fan favorite because it’s the most affordable fishing line.

Also read: Best monofilament fishing line

When should you use monofilament?

If you’re new to fishing and planning on using topwater lures, monofilament is a great choice for your line. It’s also a good choice if you’re using hard jerk baits.

People like this line for leaders on a Carolina-rig, too, because the leader will float rather than sink. Whenever you want your bait or lure around the top of the water, mono works very well.

Pros & Cons of mono line

  • Works well in topwater

  • Cheap

  • Low visibility

  • Knots very well

  • Has great abrasion resistance

  • It absorbs water, which can cause the line to weaken

  • It can be too stretchy for long casts

  • It retains memory

  • It isn’t UV resistant

Copolymer fishing line

Copolymer fishing line

Copolymer fishing line is made from two different types of nylon, so it’s similar to monofilament, but comes with advantages. It’s relatively new to the fishing scene, but has become popular. You can find copolymer designed specifically for a variety of conditions, including deeper waters.

It’s less buoyant than mono, but you can find copolymer formulations that float a bit more. Like monofilament, it’s vulnerable to UV rays, heat, and water absorption, but it’s known to be stronger and more abrasion-resistant.

It also has less memory, so you don’t need to worry as much about kinks. To get the most from your copolymer line, it’s a good idea to switch out your spool after about a year.

When should you use copolymer?

Copolymer is a good line choice when you want something a bit more robust than monofilament. These two lines share many characteristics, but copolymer offers more strength.

It also sinks. While it does absorb water, it absorbs a little less than mono, making it a good choice if you’re bottom fishing. Suspending jerkbaits and swimbaits pair well with copolymer line.

Pros & Cons of copolymer line

  • It has fairly low memory

  • Very manageable

  • Stronger than monofilament

  • More abrasion resistant

  • Sinks, so it’s good for deeper water

  • More expensive than monofilament

  • Can get damaged by UV rays and water absorption

  • Doesn’t usually last longer than a year

Braided fishing line

SKYSPER Braided fishing line

This fishing line material (more commonly referred to as “braided”) is made from weaving strands of polyethylenes together. As for the number of strands, it could be from anywhere from four to 16 strands. Braided line has been around for a while and combines strength with thinness.

It has essentially zero memory and doesn’t stretch, so you can be very precise with your cast. It’s great for deep water fishing. On the downside, braided fishing line is very visible underwater. It’s also hard to knot and because it doesn’t stretch, it’s easy to jerk your line out of the strike zone by accident. It’s on the pricey side.

Also read: Best braided fishing line

When should you use braid fishing line?

Because this line is visible and strong, it works well in low-visibility water with lots of weeds and vegetation. It also works really well on spinning reels, but any good-quality reel and braided line are a good match. Thanks to the line’s precision, many use it for deep dropping and precision jigging.

Pros & Cons of braid line

  • Very low memory

  • Very strong and thin

  • Works really well on spinning reels

  • Great sensitivity

  • Puts more stress on equipment

  • Doesn’t work well in clear water

  • Difficult to knot and untangle

  • If snagged, it’s hard to break

Fluorocarbon fishing line

Seaguar Invizx Fluorocarbon line

Fluorocarbon is a fairly new fishing line that’s gained in popularity, especially among anglers. The main ingredient is PVDF resin. This material, combined with the manufacturing process, makes fluorocarbon expensive. It also gives fluorocarbon advantages over other types of line.

Its main claim to fame is that it’s essentially invisible. It’s excellent for fishing in clear water. Fluorocarbon is stiffer than other types of line. In fact, when fluorocarbon first came out, it was only suitable for leaders. Now, it’s more manageable.

It doesn’t absorb water, so it retains its strength and sensitivity underwater. It’s also resistant to UV light. On the downside, fluorocarbon is not a low memory fishing line.

Also read: Best fluorocarbon fishing line

When should you use fluorocarbon?

Fluorocarbon is the best choice for clear water. It also sinks quickly, so it’s good if you’re not fishing in topwater. Deep-diving crankbaits work well with this line, as well as worms or jigs. Because fluorocarbon is also very resistant to abrasion, it’s a good choice if you’re fishing around rocks, weeds, etc.

Pros & Cons of fluorocarbon line

  • The clearest fishing line material

  • Great abrasion resistance

  • Waterproof and UV resistant

  • Strong knots

  • Expensive

  • Not ideal for topwater fishing

  • High memory

  • Stiffer than monofilament

Final Thoughts

In this guide, we explained the different types of fishing lines and tips that help you choose the right one. In addition to factors like memory, flexibility, and strength, you should also think about your fishing environment and where the fish you want to catch live. Do they swim around in the topwater or will you need a line that sinks deeper? Are they known for their great eyesight? Will you need to deal with heavy weeds or rocks?

You should also consider how often you fish and your budget. If you fish a lot, it might be worth spending a bit more on your line. Braided and fluorocarbon lines are the most expensive of the line types.

If you only fish occasionally and just want a cheap line that’s easy to use, monofilament or copolymer are good options. The fishing line you choose matters! It could make all the difference between a frustrating fishing trip or an awesome time on the lake, river, or ocean.