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Hamilton's Lab
The Vital Link – Part 2

Thursday, March 30, 2006
by Robert Hamilton 

(Robert Hamilton, a former Bassmaster Classic champion, is a full-time BASS tour pro and industry consultant with over 30 years of on-the-water experience. He's not sponsored by any tackle or gear manufacturers, so he's uniquely qualified to deliver unbiased, behind-the-scenes reports on specific types of fishing products. An avid outdoorsman himself, he understands your need to buy the best product available within your budget.)

Last time I talked about monofilament fishing lines. Today I will look at fluorocarbon and braided lines.

These two categories of lines are what I consider specialty lines. I use them often, but under special circumstances and conditions. Let’s look at their construction and then break them down into when and where to use them.

There are two types of braided line. Regular braids are bundles of micro-fibers that are tightly woven together, then usually coated with a polymer to give them body and abrasion resistance. Some of the newest generations of braids actually coat the individual fibers before they are spun into a braid. This process helps the line retain its shape and color better than a regular coated braid.

The second type of braid falls under the fusion category. These lines are still micro-fibers woven together and coated with a polymer, but they are then fused together with heat to create a smoother surface and better durability. Although I have done research on the fusion lines, I haven’t yet used them in tournament competition.

Why Use It?

When braided line first hit the market, several of the top pros started using it exclusively. They quickly learned that by using a mono leader, they got many more bites than by using braid alone.

I bet you’re wondering, "Why use braid at all if you get more bites with mono leader?" Why not just use straight mono? Remember earlier? I stated that I only used them under certain situations and conditions. Let’s look at those.

> When making a vertical presentation in matted grass. The small diameter coupled with a heavy weight lets your bait slip through the mat. It also offers great sensitivity and the braid will actually cut through the grass on the hook set, allowing you to land a better percentage of your bites.

> Flipping around and into heavy cover in stained water. For a long time I didn’t believe bass distinguished between limbs and fishing line. However, I still get more bites flipping with mono in clear water or in heavily fished areas than with braid.

> Carolina-rig fishing, especially in heavy cover. By using a mono leader, I seem to get the same number of bites, but with three advantages. The braid offers no stretch on the hookset and I have greater sensitivity, especially in deep water. The third reason is when I hang up on wood or rock I can usually break the leader and get my lead and swivel back.

> Cranking lipless crankbaits around and through heavy submerged vegetation like milfoil and hydrilla. Most strikes occur in vegetation when ripping the plug free from the grass. Braid and a fiberglass rod offer a great combination for this technique.

> Fishing soft-plastic frogs over matted grass. The key to catching a higher percentage of bass using this method is literally jerking the fish’s head up out of the grass and skidding it on top of the grass. This is truly power fishing at it’s best – man vs. beast.

> Skipping lures under docks. When I get in a situation where I am breaking off fish on pilings, I will try braid on my spinning rods. If I can still get some bites and land them, then I will use it.

The Pros and Cons

An angler has several advantages with braid. It has no memory on the spool, allowing you to use it considerably longer than other lines. The diameter is much smaller, allowing you to use stronger lines than mono without increasing the size of your line.

There are also some negatives. Knots slip, so use fishing glue on them. Because of its construction, braid has a tendency to pick up grime and trash in the water. This hardens, then creates drag and noise in the rod guides, so maintenance is necessary.

The price is considerably higher than mono, and finally, braids have a tendency to break on a snap hookset. You can stop the line breakage by just reeling the hook into the fish. Since there is no stretch, it only takes a small amount of pressure to penetrate a bass's mouth.

Here are a few tips about braid and my picks for good, better and best.

> When spooling new braid onto your reel, use a damp cloth to hold the line as you wind it on. This will take off any powder or other substances used when the manufacturer spools it.

> Use mono backing on the reel and only about 60 yards of braid on the outside of the mono. Most casts are only 30-40 feet.

> When the line loses its color and seems to get worn-looking, tie the used end onto another reel with mono backing and reel the braid onto that reel. Because there is no memory, the end that hasn’t been used will fish brand-new.

> Always use something to hold the spool of line vertically when winding onto your reel. A 1-foot piece of round, 1/2-inch diameter wood is perfect to hold between your knees. This keeps any twist out of the line on the reel.

Final Lab Report

GOOD: Power Pro – A good all-around braid.

BETTER: Spiderwire Stealth - Has everything you want in a braid. Just a little noisy coming through the guides.

BEST: Stren Super Braid - This line just preformed flawlessly. Top notch.


Fluorocarbon refracts light just like water. Because of this, it is virtually invisible in the water. It won’t absorb water and is abrasive-resistant, especially in the heavier pound-tests.

Because of their stiff, hard finish, the earlier fluorocarbons were used strictly as leader material. Offshore anglers used heavy fluorocarbon leaders to fool billfish in the ultra-clear blue water. As the manufacturing process got better, manufacturers saw the need for its application as a mainstream choice for clear-water and finesse presentations.

Today’s top fluorocarbon lines are soft and supple, although they still retain memory on the spool. With low stretch and good feel, it fills a void that pros have had on mountain lakes and other clear bodies of water.

Some of the companies are not going to like my next statement: There are some lines being sold as fluorocarbons that are not true 100% fluorocarbon material. These lines are polymers with a coating of fluorocarbon on the outside.

They test well with one exception – they are not truly invisible underwater. Less visible than regular mono, they still don’t have the invisibility of 100% fluorocarbon.

Remember that there are always tradeoffs when choosing your fishing line. Fluorocarbons are no exception. My friend Shaw Grigsby calls them high-maintenance. They are harder to fish with and much more temperamental than mono.

Although I have tried almost every brand out there, I still have trouble with knot strength and memory on the reel. The best knot I’ve found and the only one I use is a double-improved clinch. This knot has the best strength, although it is not 100%. My view is that if I get more bites, then I can afford to lose a fish once in a while.

Here are the situations when I use fluorocarbons and my picks for good, better and best.

> Clear-water situations – these include mountain lakes, some Western lakes and any water where the visibility exceeds 2 feet.

> For leader material when Carolina-rig fishing.

> Anytime I use a dropshot rig.

> Bed-fishing in heavily pressured areas.

> Using the shaky-head type worms.

Final Lab Report

GOOD: Maxima Fluorocarbon – A good all-around line.

BETTER: Berkley Vanish – With the exception of knot strength, this preformed as well as any.

BEST: Seaguar Carbon Pro – Sometimes a product just feels right. Great performance all-around with good knot strength and castability.

Tip of the Week

Keep all types of fishing line in a cool, dark place like a closet inside your home. Sunlight and heat are two things that break down line. Stored correctly, your purchase will last several years.

Tennessee's Robert Hamilton Jr. is a former Bassmaster Classic champ and, like all fishermen, can't get enough gear. To suggest equipment to be tested in Hamilton's Lab, send him an email at [email protected]

(the following article was originally posted and found on at )

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Hmm Interesting on the braid.
I heard Bill Dance talk about Stren Super Braid as a great braid to use. If I recall right, he said something to the effect of it being round it wouldnt dig in on the spool. ( I cant recall exactly what he said , but I think that is the jist of it )
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