by George Poveromo

Is fluorocarbon really all it’s cracked up to be ? I’m a  firm believer that in certain situations the material can make a big difference in getting fish to strike, while also offering impressive abrasion-resistance. For instance, on a recent trip to the Northeast I hooked a good-sized striped bass that managed to reach the protection of a cement bridge piling on its first run. I harbored little hope of catching that fish, especially since I could feel the leader grinding against the piling. Fortunately, the leader was made of fluorocarbon, which held up to the abuse, and I was eventually able to maneuver the fish into open water and land it. Tough stuff indeed!

Compared to most monofilament lines, which are made primarily of extruded nylon, fluorocarbon is manufactured from extruded polyvinylidene fluoride. Although the extrusion process -- whereby the respective line material is pushed through a die to create different diameters and strengths -- is basically the same for both monofilament and fluorocarbon, that's where the similarities end.

Monofilament is popular as a line material because of its low memory and suppleness, which make it easy to cast and handle. Furthermore, mono boasts excellent knot strength and abrasion resistance, and has an inherent stretch that makes it forgiving when subjected to sudden strain. It's also fairly inexpensive. But stretch can also be perceived as a disadvantage of mono, since it may reduce the sensitivity needed to detect subtle strikes, as well as limit the angler's ability to set the hook solidly in certain situations, such as when bottom-fishing in deep water. Mono also absorbs water, and can lose as much as 15 percent of its rated breaking strength when saturated. Lastly, mono weakens considerably under repeated exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays.

THE FLUORO ADVANTAGE - Fluorocarbon's biggest selling point is its low visibility. This is due to its refractive index -- the degree to which light bends or refracts as it passes through a substance - which can be as low as 1.42. That's nearly identical to the refractive index of water (1.3). The refractive index of nylon monofilament is higher than that of fluorocarbon, coming in at about 1.52.

Fluorocarbon also contains more material than mono, is non-porous, and has a harder finish. It's virtually a solid material that's denser than water. That means it sinks and doesn't absorb water, the latter quality enabling it to maintain its rated breaking strength whether wet or dry. Furthermore, it has a diameter that's comparable to or smaller than monofilament of the same strength, and also has very little stretch. Both features enhance fluorocarbon's sensitivity and hook-setting ability. Lastly, fluorocarbon is very abrasion-resistant and is less susceptible to damage from the sun and chemicals.

On the down-side, original fluorocarbon is much stiffer than nylon monofilament and retains a fair amount of memory. That's why fluorocarbon has excelled as a leader material, but hasn't been manageable as a fishing line. Another drawback has been price, since fluorocarbon leader material costs considerably more than monofilament. However, all that is about to change with the arrival of new fluorocarbon fishing line. Banking on the popularity of fluorocarbon leaders, several manufacturers have recently introduced technologically advanced formulations of fluorocarbon that are slightly softer and more flexible than the original material. Although these new fluorocarbon products retain nearly all the advantages of the leader material, they're intended for use as a primary fishing line. They're reasonably priced, and are already becoming quite popular with salt water anglers. Let's take a look at three current brands.

Seaguar's Carbon Pro is a 100-percent pure fluorocarbon fishing line. Advantages include lower visibility, enhanced abrasion resistance, no water absorption, less stretch and increased resistance to UV rays and chemicals.SEAGUAR CARBON PRO - "CarbonPro is a 100-percent pure fluorocarbon inside and out," says Bruce Delventhal of G.B.S. Distribution, the North American distributor of Seaguar fluorocarbon leaders and fishing lines. "Through a slight alteration of the molecular structure of fluorocarbon and a more intricate extrusion process, Kureha (the parent company of Seaguar and the inventor of fluorocarbon) was able to take quite a bit of memory out of the line. The process also produced a line that was soft enough to spool up and cast like a traditional monofilament."

Delventhal says the advantages of CarbonPro over mono include lower visibility, enhanced abrasion resistance, no water absorption, consistent breaking strength wet or dry, less stretch, more sensitivity, and increased resistance to UV rays and chemicals. However, he states that because of its softer formulation, the new line isn't quite as durable as fluorocarbon leader material. He also mentions that pure fluorocarbon fishing lines still have memory issues in strengths over 20-pound test. That's why Seaguar and most other companies don't market fluorocarbon line exceeding that strength. "The line performs fine on both spinning and conventional tackle up to the 12-pound-test range," says Delventhal. "Above that it's better on conventional reels. That's a factor of the twisting placed on the line by a spinning reel, and the line's memory. It's also a good idea to fill a reel just shy of its capacity to counter the memory issue."

CarbonPro is available from two- to 20-pound test, in 100- and 150~yard filler spools, and 1,000- and 2,000-yard bulk spools. Seaguar's retail pricing for its filler spools runs between $19 and $23.

Berkley Vanish - "Vanish is definitely stiffer than monofilament and softer than fluorocarbon leader material," says Ron Kliegl, Berkley's Line Brand Manager. "It's an easy-casting fluorocarbon line with enough control to fish with. It also has low visibility. We've run tests in which we hung both nylon and Vanish in a fish tank side by side. We couldn't tell the difference by looking at the lines underwater, but in a 24-hour period the fish actually bumped into the Vanish twice as much as the nylon."

"Vanish is 60 percent denser than nylon monofilament. It doesn't float, which helps lures, sinkers and jigs sink faster, and its low stretch makes for better hook-sets and enhanced sensitivity." Kliegl suggests that baitcasting reels may require a brake adjustment to compensate for the extra momentum created by the heavier fluorocarbon line. He also mentions that because the line sinks, it may be a disadvantage when used with light surface lures.

Vanish is available in 250-yard filler spools and 2,000-yard bulk spools from two- to 20-pound test, with suggested retail prices between $10.95 and $12.95 (filler spools) and $66 and $108 (bulk spools). It's also available in 110-yard Pony Spools, which retail for between $4.95 and $5.95.

Stren Fluorocarbon - According to Stren's Linda Powell, Stren Fluorocarbon is a "softened" version of the company's High Impact Fluorocarbon Leader material. "Fluorocarbon is the hottest, most up-to-date, high-tech line on the angling scene," states Powell. "Stren Fluorocarbon is a line that virtually disappears in water. It has a refractive index that closely matches that of water. It's easy-to-handle, doesn't absorb water, and isn't affected by harmful UV rays. It won't suffer the wear and tear of traditional nylon lines." Stren Fluorocarbon comes in six- to 20-pound test, spooled on 250-yard Reel Fill Paks that sell for between $10 and $16.

To sum up, the new fluorocarbon lines could be advantageous in demanding situations, such as when fishing in clear water or at other times when fish are wary. Their relatively small diameters and low refractivity should prove beneficial when fishing the flats, drifting baits in a chum slick for yellowtail snapper and tunas, chunking or live-lining for striped bass, and even casting or slow-trolling for king and Spanish mackerel (where they'll compliment the fine wire leaders and diminutive hooks used in these fisheries). And given their high abrasion resistance, the new lines could be the hot ticket for fishing in and around heavy structure for bottom fish, calico bass, striped bass, snook, Pacific yellowtail and other powerful gamesters.

Furthermore, their sensitivity and low stretch should help when setting the hook on bottom fish in deep water, jigging, or trying to maintain contact with a lure or bait in a strong current -- situations in which super-braids excel. In fact, some anglers now spool up with a monofilament backing, then add a 100- to 150-yard fluorocarbon header, similar to a super-braid setup. And if you need extra strength, the small diameter of fluorocarbon allows you to upgrade to a heavier line without compromising its low visibility, sensitivity, or capacity. However, be aware that their limited stretch makes them less forgiving than monofilament.

Don't expect monofilament fishing lines to fade away anytime soon. However, there are sure to be plenty of times when the new fluorocarbon lines will give you an advantage. They make sense. Give them a try and let us know what you think!

HYBRID FISHING LINES

Anglers seeking a happy medium between traditional mono and fluorocarbon will appreciate the new breed of hybrid lines. By combining nylon monofilament and fluorocarbon, some manufacturers have created a low-visibility line that is extremely manageable, highly abrasion-resistant, waterproof, sensitive, and durable. These lines also maintain impressive breaking and knot strength (dry or wet), and have diameters that are comparable to or smaller than most monofilaments of the same strength. Furthermore, they aren't limited to a maximum strength of 20-pound test, as are the pure fluorocarbon fishing lines.

Light-tackle anglers who do a lot of casting are discovering that these lines perform well on both spinning and baitcasting tackle, due to their low memory and suppleness. The hybrids are also showing up on more offshore boats, where they're used by anglers who live-bait and troll for big game. 
 

Yo-Zuri Hy-Brid is a nylon monofilament and fluorocarbon composite line. It offers the best features of traditional monofilament and fluorocarbon.Yo-Zuri has just introduced a premium nylon/fluorocarbon line called Hy-Brid. "What we've done is basically eliminated the water absorption of nylon line by reprocessing it with fluorocarbon," says G.B.S.'s Bruce Delventhal. "Hy-Brid is not simply a fluorocarbon-coated nylon. The two materials are actually chemically intertwined. Because they're bonded, all the materials work together. They won't pull apart, which is characteristic of fluorocarbon-coated nylons."

Aimed at both light-tackle and big-game anglers, Hy-Brid is available from four- to 200-pound test. The smoke-colored line is priced competitively with premium monofilaments, with a 275-yard filler spool of 14-pound test selling for around $11.95. The 1,000-yard bulk spools retail for between $19.95 and $90, depending on strength.