by George Poveromo

When strength is needed and stretch is not, braided line can help anglers put more fish in the box.
George Poveromo

ON A BENDER: Braided line lets anglers put the hurt on stubborn bottom fish.
Photo: Kim Bain

The bumps clinging to the bottom on our fishfinder made it seem like the right spot. Targeting black sea bass in Buzzard's Bay, Massachusetts, my angling partner shifted into neutral as I dropped down a three-ounce pink SPRO bucktail tipped with a squid strip.

The jig pulled the braided line off the reel in a nearly vertical free fall straight down. On previous drops, I could feel the slightest touch of rock or mud through the line as the leadhead reached bottom. But this time, something bumped the bucktail on the fall, prompting me to strike immediately. The rod bent over as the fish bulldogged for the bottom. A few minutes later, I landed a beauty of a black sea bass that weighed more than six pounds.

While I can't say I wouldn't have caught this fish had I been using monofilament line, the advantages of the braid surely helped. The line gave me better control of where my bucktail ended up on the drop, allowed me to detect the subtle take during the lure's fall and drove my point home by telegraphing the hookset instantaneously through 40 feet of nearly zero-stretch line.

Better Than One

UP CLOSE: magnified 125 times, Spiderwire Stealth reveals its stranded structure.
Photo: Courtesy of Pure Fishing
Braided line is made of multiple fibers that have been weaved together into one strand that is then coated and spooled up as fishing line. Chemically, it is polyethylene, but it's such a strong type that the material is also used in bulletproof vests. The strands that become braid all start out white, so most manufacturers add color.

Each individual fiber is called a "carrier," and most of the lower-pound-test braids are either four- or six-carrier lines, depending on the number of strands entwined in the line. Of course, the number of carriers increases with the strength of the line, so 20-pound-test braid is usually an eight-carrier line.

Two major companies supply these fibers to most of the fishing-line manufacturers-DSM in the Netherlands makes Dyneema and Honeywell USA makes Spectra. The fishing-line companies that sell braid, including Sufix, Stren, Berkley, Power Pro, Ande, P-Line and others, all use basically the same Dyneema or Spectra materials. So it's how the line manufacturers braid and coat their respective lines-the "secret recipe"-that sets one brand apart from another.

The line makers set the way the individual carriers line up for the braiding process differently. Known as the pic count, the arrangement of the strands determines how tightly-or loosely-the braid is wound, as well as other characteristics, such as its cross-section shape: oval or round.

Line companies also vary the coating they use to enhance the smoothness, slickness and performance of the line, in addition to maintaining its integrity. If the coating wears off braided line, the "roundness" of it will be compromised. And a flattened braid will probably hurt an angler's casting distance. It may also dig into itself on the spool, fray and form unwanted knots.

The intricacies of the manufacturing and coating processes leave us with strong braided fishing lines that have virtually no stretch and much smaller diameters than monofilament of the same breaking strength: a 20-pound-test braid has the same diameter as six-pound mono, while 130-pound braid is comparable to 40-pound mono.

Strong and Thin
More line on the spool means more breathing room with hard-running fish, so the high strength-to-diameter ratio that braid provides opens up a world of possibility for more than just bottom dunkers. Line capacity is a big issue among South Florida swordfish anglers, and the hot setup these days nearly fills an 80-pound-class reel with 130-pound braid. Then they join the line to a 200- to 300-yard top shot of 80-pound mono with either a Bimini to Bimini, or a double uni-knot. Depending on the reel, you can get up to 1,400 yards on the spool-1,200 yards of braid and 200 yards of mono.

Some anglers who chase marlin in the Bahamas-where a 1,000-pound blue is a possibility-rig the same way, capitalizing on super-high line capacity.

Down Bound
Those huge line capacities don't hurt in any type of fishing. As I showed with that black sea bass, braid's attributes help bottom fishermen too, especially in very deep water. The line's diminutive diameter generates little hydrodynamic resistance and slices through the water faster, so lighter jigs or weights still reach the fish down deep. The sensitivity lets you feel the slightest movement of a bait or a jig tapping the bottom-40 feet down or 240 feet down.

If I felt a deep strike with mono, I would need to reel tight to the fish and keep winding as it begins to run off-just to eliminate stretch to turn the fish. But with braid, a positive hookset is merely a matter of rearing back on the rod-there's no slack to take up. With braid, I start off tight to the fish.

And the higher pound tests of braid, say 30 pounds and up, seem to offer better abrasion resistance than comparable mono. I've dropped a jig down 100 feet into a treacherous coral reef, had it hit by a grouper and-without hesitation thanks to the lack of line stretch-immediately set the hook and began pumping up the fish, keeping it off balance. Some brutes still make it into the rocks, but braid has improved my catch rate, even if the line brushes against encrusted structure.

Inshore, I spool with stronger braid and still get more line capacity. And the lack of stretch helps me keep fish away from oyster beds, bridge groins, channel markers and mangroves.

Braided lines aren't for all situations-that lack of stretch can sometimes pull the hook right through the lips of some fish. But if you need sensitivity, quick response to rod movement and hooksets or even a jump up in line class or two without sacrificing line capacity, braid is worth a try. Just be ready to boat fish you might have otherwise lost.