Line Diameter and Bass Fishing: The Truth About Fishing Line
For years I adopted many of the techniques and tips easily accessible on the internet to try and catch more fish, in this case, bass. I have put both time and effort into ensuring my knowledge base is vast enough to be able to adapt to anything and everything on the water. Honestly speaking, the most important piece of fishing knowledge I have ever been lucky enough to be privy to, was not about the latest sonar, rod, reel, or bass boat. It was about line, and not the heavy stuff either.
The Importance of Fishing Line Attributes for Bass Fishing
This subject could cover some serious ground, so what I want to focus on sharing is how line contributes to what I consider the most challenging and interesting parts of fishing. That is, getting fish to bite, or the presentation as most would say. Before we get into presentation, one has to understand fishing line first. And to understand fishing line an angler should understand the dimensions of it. These factors and dimensions are as follow:
How Fish Perceive and React to Fishing Lures in Relation to Line
Contrary to what you might see on television or read, how our line affects our presentations has little to do with how well fish can see fishing lines.
Research has shown that bass can physically see lines of all diameters. Fish can perceive our line and may be put off or even spooked by them, but it is not because it is a fishing line. There are plenty of line-shaped objects in the wild and underneath the surface of the water – but instead, whether the lure is perceived as food. Such as a prey-sized object that moves in a tantalizing manner, close enough to some sort of fodder that’s in an appropriate mood.
What Bass Think and Perceive
The pee-sized brain – as people often like to refer to when talking about the inner workings of a bass mind, is more sophisticated than most of us probably realize. Its central processing center deciphers incoming sensory stimuli and either give a fish the go-ahead to eat, or cautions it to slam on the brakes.
Fish exhibit two primary responses to outside stimuli. For example, a splash or a movement nearby. One is a positive and investigative response and the other is a negative or inhibitory one, which most anglers figure out for themselves over time.
What they don’t realize is how deeply wired and easily triggered the negative inhibitory response actually is. Unidentified objects, especially those deemed large enough to be potentially dangerous, trigger that deeply wired negative response. Thicker lines will also trigger this negative response.
There are sections of the bass brain that are dedicated to the perception of what are called looming objects – objects that can be seen as dangerous to the bass such as birds of prey, terrapins, alligators, kingfishers, etc.
Where do fishing lines fit in? These become significant because fishing line triggers that negative response in bass. So the thicker the line, the greater its diameter, and the larger the object you’re putting in the water. That line landing on the water during the cast, cutting and moving water as you retrieve, even merely twitching that line when you bring it under tension for strike detection can suddenly make fish aware that there is a large unidentified object in the immediate area.
Water Effects on Line and Presentation
A line immersed in water, keeping in mind that it is a thick gelatinous substance, is acted upon across its entire length. The important factor here is the total surface area exposed to that gelatin.
The thicker the line and the more of the line you have out of water, the more surface area of line is affected by the water. These effects counteract the weight, buoyancy, and action of the lure.
Anglers should also realize that the breaking strain indication of line on its packaging can lead you astray because line brake ratings are marketing categories essentially and may not match the line diameters across different line formulas. Lines should be purchased on line diameter and not break strength.
Matching Line Diameter to Lures
Although all lures are affected in similar ways, we’re going to use a simple, older than most small hair jig (1/8oz) for this explanation. They consist of a simple weight and buoyant body that well illustrate the basic effects of line on our presentations and because of this may be the single best way to learn those fundamental controls and lure manipulation for triggering.
First, we need to match the line diameter to the lure. The active factors here are the lure’s density, its weight, and its buoyancy or resistance to the water.
These counteract the negative effects water has on the line. For example, if you and a friend are fishing and you are both using 1/8oz jigs and he is catching fish and you are not, the first question that should be asked must be that of his line diameter and not the cliché, ‘what lure are you using?’ question. This is a very good place to start in matching his depth and speed and will more likely be the missing piece of the puzzle.
Advantages of thinner line diameter:
- Slice the water column easily, giving us a more direct and sensitive bite detection.
- More precision in manipulating the lure’s action.
- Forces anglers to use lighter-wire hooks allowing for more successful hook-ups.
Dropping the size and shank diameter of your hook is a must in line or lighter line presentations. Hook sets will be easier and penetration of the hook will be a lot more effortless. Always check your hook tip regularly.
Choosing Fishing Lines
In choosing fishing lines it helps to know what’s asked of them out on the water and how line manufacturers meet that challenge.
Before going into some sort of detail, here are the basic properties of fishing line:
- Break Strength
Nearly every angler seems to focus on break strength when they choosing fishing line and this would seem the logical primary parameter to look at when considering a fishing line.
I am going steer you in a different direction and approach to choosing line and get you looking and thinking about something else. All Monofilament line types both nylons and fluorocarbons are relatively close to tensile strength. Tensile strength is the strength of a line in relation to its diameter.
Pound-test ratings aren’t at all accurate, and in fact, most break way above their rating.
This is the single most important factor in terms of presentation, and in terms of getting fish to bite. This is because line diameter is so significant to the fish’s response to a fishing line’s presence as well as to the fundamental presentation controls, depth, speed, and lure action.
Diameter also accounts for more abrasion resistance than any other property and companies will very often up the diameter of the line when prioritizing abrasion resistance without changing the pound-test rating on the box. Dealing with this inconsistency is easy. Choosing to use the diameter as a gauge will stop this issue. Diameter is also easier to measure than pound-test rating, which is why a lot of manufacturers get it wrong.
This is essentially how soft and supple the line is, so its ability to cast and wrap back onto the reel spool on the retrieve.
Softer lines lay on reel spools tighter, form loops less easily, absorb twist better, cast more smoothly, and simply lay on the water straighter. However, softer lines seem to tear and shred more easily making them less resistant to abrasion.
This refers to how a line will deform longitudinally when a force is applied to it. Both nylons and fluorocarbons average about 30% stretch.
It’s part of a recipe for preventing shock on line by the manufacturer. Higher stretch lines often do not help hook sets and their stretch could mean the difference between penetrating the hook on a strike or not.
Lower stretch line obviously helps with this and can help with hook setting power.
This falls into four categories. Abrasion, friction, shock, and UV resistance.
Abrasion is the wear and tear of the line touching or rubbing against a hard or soft structure.
Friction is the heat created by line being stripped of the reel by fish, or line is rapidly rubbed against a dry object like rod guides or if we draw a knot too quickly instead of wetting and slowly sinking it down.
Shock may be dealt by surging fish.
Exposure to the UV component is quite significant as sunlight weakens nylon-based lines.
Some lines float and others sink. Denser sinking lines work better for deeper water and they also go through wind a bit better than the floating lines.
Floating lines are good for topwater lures because they do not have the sinking-dragging-down nature than that of sinking lines.
Fishing Line Types
There are three types of fishing lines: Braided Polyethylene, Fluorocarbon Monofilament, and Nylon Monofilament.
Braids are extremely low in diameter and have a very low mass. This often makes them susceptible to wind on a huge scale and they are insensitive to UV degradation. Knot strength is lower on braid as they have the ability to slip. Braid is also super sensitive for bite detection.
Fluorocarbon lines are not buoyant so they sink through the water column, an advantage in keeping lures deeper and in strike detection if it is more direct. Their mass makes them fishing in the wind a lot easier as well. They are more stiff and wiry and can twist if not managed well. It also has better longevity than nylons and need to be checked for kinds and abrasion regularly.
Nylon lines are abrasion resistant, with high tensile strength and good knot strength. They’re very manageable, making them very comfortable to work with.
Nylon is also buoyant so they remain on or near the surface which is an advantage for keeping lures shallow. They tend to have some stretchability which can be a pro or con depending on the technique. Nylons are vulnerable to UV degradation.
For this, I would advise the angler to take his time and do not follow conformity but rather his own personal comfort. For years I used the lines the generic bass fishing public would use and for years I was not satisfied with thicker diameter lines.
Seaguar series, Berkley series, Spro essential series, Maxima, Double X Abrasion-resistant are options for line brands. All except the Double X have braid options anglers can have a look at.
These are just a few of the well-known, reliable line brands out there. One needs to consider and modern lines are coming out thick and fast, and are changing the face of bass fishing when it comes to hook-up ratios, sensitivity, and general durability.
Fishing with a smaller diameter line has changed my whole outlook on fishing. All lines – if you consider what they do and how they work – are marvels of modern-day science. This type of fishing takes practice and more to develop confidence with thinner diameter lines, than for catching more fish.
Once that has been established with the lighter and thinner lines, the number of fish you will catch will increase exponentially. Also, you will surprise yourself with how many big fish you DO NOT struggle to get landed.
Fishing with lighter line has not only elevated my angling understanding and just general enjoyment, but it has made me pay attention to how many bites I was missing fishing the conventional way. Practice makes perfect as with anything, so if you do snap off once or twice keep at it. The angler that cannot adjust to lighter, thinner might struggle being versatile. Remember: Tight lines.