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Braid Unraveled: The Science Behind Braided Fishing Line

Understand the composition of braided lines to learn how and when to best put them to use.

Braid Unraveled: The Science Behind Braided Fishing Line

Braided line has a thinner diameter than monofilament and fluorocarbon of the same strength, allowing more of it to fit on a reel’s spool. (Photo courtesy of Shimano)

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Most angling situations call for one of the three common varieties of fishing line: monofilament, fluorocarbon or braided. In recent years, technological advances have allowed braided line to expand its range of useful applications while also diversifying the library of different braids that are available.

Let’s explore the fundamental properties of braided fishing line and examine how the inherent strengths—and weaknesses—of braided line apply to different presentations.

Braided lines are typically constructed from long, tightly woven strands of one of several different polymers, frequently Dacron, Dyneema or Spectra fibers. These are distinctly different from the nylon polymers used to manufacture monofilament and the fluorinated polymer resins extruded into fluorocarbon lines. You may recognize Dacron as the same material used in a wide variety of consumer fabrics. Both Dyneema and Spectra fibers are made from ultra-high-
molecular-weight polyethylene, which is fundamentally the same material found in clear plastic sandwich bags.

Braid Line
Because braid is both highly visible and prone to abrasion, anglers often pair it with a fluorocarbon leader. (Photo by Dr. Jason Halfen)

If you’ve ever had a sandwich bag blow out of the boat while on the lake, then you know that the bag floats until you have a chance to retrieve it. It makes perfect sense that braided fishing lines woven from Dyneema or Spectra fibers, such as Seaguar and PowerPro braids, respectively, also float. Dyneema and Spectra fibers each have a density of .97 gram per cubic centimeter (g/cm3), which is less than the 1.00 g/cm3 density of water and ensures these lines will float. In contrast, braided Dacron lines sink in water, due to Dacron’s density of 1.37 g/cm3 being higher than that of water.

The composition of braided lines impacts their performance characteristics. Consider first the strength-to-diameter ratio of each of the three varieties of fishing line. A braided line will always have a much thinner diameter than comparably rated monofilaments or fluorocarbons, or said another way, braided lines will always have a much higher strength-to-diameter ratio.

For example, 12-pound-test Sufix Siege monofilament, a staple of many multispecies presentations, has a diameter of .014 inch. A 100 percent fluorocarbon line with the same rating, like 12-pound-test Seaguar InvizX, has a diameter of .011 inch, more than 20 percent thinner than monofilament of comparable tensile strength. A premium braided line, like PowerPro Super8Slick V2, has a 30-pound-test tensile rating at a diameter of .011 inch, which is the same as the diameter of 12-pound-test fluoro. At the same time, 15-pound-test braids have diameters of .008 to .009 inch, comparable to that of 4-pound-test mono. These line diameter differences may not seem like much, but they make it possible to fish with the thinnest line possible for less wind and water resistance, while allowing more braided line to fit on a reel’s spool.

Braided lines are not particularly abrasion resistant, due in part to the fact that they are composed of multiple thin fibers woven together. Individual fibers can fray easily when contacting sharp or abrasive objects, and the failure of even a small fraction of the total number of woven fibers can lead to significant loss of the line’s tensile strength. Check braided line frequently for frays and loose fibers, particularly near knots and any areas that may have come into contact with hard cover while presenting baits.

Braided lines trap water within their woven strands, which can make braids challenging to cast when air temperatures flirt with the freezing point. This phenomenon also makes braid a poor choice for ice-fishing applications, especially when fishing outside of a heated shelter. Some braided line manufacturers add a water-repellent coating to their lines to make them more manageable in sub-freezing conditions.

While being the strongest at any given diameter, braided lines are also the most visible both above and below the water. The synthetic fibers woven together to create braided lines are opaque, making the lines easy for anglers and fish to see. Many anglers fishing topwater presentations in heavy cover favor a gray or black braided line to help it hide among the surface grasses and lily pads. Braided lines are commonly combined with fluorocarbon leaders to leverage the strengths of braid with the low visibility and enhanced abrasion resistance of fluorocarbon. If you fish a lot of braid, make a point of learning one or two of the common line-to-line knots—like the Double Uni, Alberto or FG knot—to effectively link a braided main line to a fluoro leader.

Each line variety has its own stretch and sensitivity characteristics. Braided lines do not stretch at all, and as a result are the most sensitive, and least forgiving, line option. To help provide an insurance policy against near-boat surges from powerful fish, many anglers combine a braided main line with a short section of a stretchy monofilament leader. Alternatively, a more flexible rod with a slower-than-typical action will provide shock absorption above the waterline, helping to keep hooks pinned in trophy-caliber fish.

Braid Line
Braids woven with eight strands are typically smoother than those with fewer “carrier” counts, resulting in less friction with guides and longer casts. (Photo courtesy of Shimano)

When selecting a braid, be sure to consider the number of filaments woven together to create the line. Lines with four fibers, often referred to as “carriers,” tend to feel somewhat rough and usually are the least expensive of the braided line options. Contemporary eight-carrier braids, like Seaguar Smackdown, Sufix 832 or PowerPro Super8Slick V2, are much smoother and enhance casting distance by reducing friction through the guides. They also have the best strength-to-diameter ratios. Braids with 16 carriers are available, but these are typically “hollow core” lines best suited for big-game saltwater or freshwater adventures requiring knotless braid-to-leader unions. Bridging the gap in carrier counts are two braids from Berkley: x5 with five carriers and x9 with nine.

Braided lines can be one of the most important components in an angler’s setup. Leveraging their strengths, while also being mindful of their weaknesses, can improve presentations and lead to more and bigger fish this season.


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