Fishing line is the most important connection between you and your catch. Fortunately, today’s saltwater fishing line is strong and subtle, capable of casting a long distance, transmitting the slightest tap, resisting abrasion and stopping a big fish.

Fishing line is classified by "pound-test," or the pounds of pressure it takes to break the line. The pound-test of the line you use is determined more by the amount of drag pressure you apply than it is by the size of the fish you might catch. Huge fish are caught on light line by anglers using little drag and a lot of patience. Lighter line will cast farther and sink faster, while heavier line is stronger and stiffer.

Look closely at line color, too. High-visibility saltwater fishing line is easier to see, but camouflaged or clear line will be virtually invisible to the fish. Once you’ve settled on the pound test and color of the line, the next step is to choose monofilament, fluorocarbon or braid.

Monofilament Saltwater Fishing Line

Monofilament, or mono, is the most popular fishing line for most applications. Mono is thin, strong and subtle. It is also water resistant and has good knot strength. Monofilament is more abrasion-resistant than braided line, but it has greater width-to-pound test and stretches more than braid. The best mono will have a thin diameter and low memory, which means it doesn’t retain loops when it comes off the spool. Look for line with the lowest diameter-to-pound test ratio for the best performance. Monofilament will break down when exposed to direct sunlight and should be changed every six months to a year depending on how often it is used.

Braided Saltwater Fishing Line

Unlike mono, braided lines are made by fusing several strands of fibers together. Braided lines are stronger per diameter than monofilament — you can often get 60 pounds of breaking strength in braided line that has the same diameter as 30-pound test monofilament. For this reason, braided line will cast farther and cut through the water faster than mono. Unlike mono, braided lines do not break down in the sun and salt so they last longer. Braid also has very low stretch and is very sensitive, making it perfect for bottomfishing. On the other hand, low-stretch line does not work well for trolling and requires a lighter drag setting and softer hand (less aggressive technique) when fighting fish.

Fluorocarbon Saltwater Fishing Line

Fluorocarbon is a new type of fishing line. The major advantage of fluorocarbon line over mono and braid is that it has very low light refraction, making it virtually invisible underwater. Fluorocarbon is stiffer than mono and more abrasion resistant. It is also denser, meaning that it sinks faster. For the most part, fluorocarbon line is used for tying leaders to saltwater fishing lines. Fluorocarbon is stiffer than mono, making it difficult to use to tie knots. It also breaks down in sunlight, losing its strength and invisibility.

Wire

Wire is an effective leader material when facing toothy fish. You can also use wire or lead-core line to troll a bait deep in the water. Wire comes in two varieties: braided and single strand. Single strand is thinner and stronger than braided wire, but it doesn’t bend well. Braided wire is easy to work with and bends easily enough to be tied in knots and used as main line. Situations that require you to troll at a specific depth require lead-core line.

 

Spooling Fishing Line

Spooling saltwater fishing line is more difficult than it may seem. For the best results, take your reels to a pro shop to have them filled. For do-it-yourselfers, the key is to keep the line from twisting. To spool a saltwater spinning reel, lay the spool on the floor, run the line through the guides on the rod, and use an arbor knot to attach the line to the reel spool. Before tying braid fishing line to the spool, wrap a short piece of electrical tape around the arbor of the reel to prevent the line from slipping. Pinch the line between your fingers in front of the reel and turn the reel handle to put a dozen wraps on the spool.

To test if the saltwater fishing line is going on correctly, drop your saltwater fishing rod tip to put slack in the line. If the fishing line starts to twist and spin into loops, then it is twisting. Flip the feeder spool over and continue to fill the reel. To fill a conventional saltwater fishing reel, place a pencil through the center of the feeder spool and hold it so the line comes off the top of the spool. Always wind the fishing line under pressure and fill the reel to one-eighth of an inch below the top of the spool. Be sure to recycle your old monofilament and dispose of braided line so that it doesn’t get into the water.

Setting the Drag

Drag is the amount of pressure that the reel applies to the line when a fish is pulling on it and should be set at one-third the pound-test of the line. For example, 30-pound line can handle 10 pounds of drag. To set the drag, put the rod in a holder and pull on the line with a hand scale. Tighten the drag until the scale indicates the desired amount of pressure.