If you go to the fishing line shelf at a bait shop, you might be surprised to see the many different types of fishing line options. While most people say “fishing line” and think it only refers to one thing, there are many types of fishing line including monofilament, copolymer, fluorocarbon, and braided line. And all are a little different.
Each has their own purpose too, but if you are a beginner fisherman you just want to look for monofilament line. In fact, I recommend beginner fisherman only buy one fishing line to start fishing – 6 pound test Trilene XL monofilament fishing line. So if you just want to buy fishing line and go fishing – there you go. Buy Trilene XL in 6 pound test. But if you want to know why it’s better than anything else on the shelves, read on.
Why Monofilament is the best type of line for beginners
First things first, why is monofilament the best type of line for beginner fisherman? Simply put, monofilament is cost effective, works in a variety of situations, is very forgiving, and available anywhere.
Monofilament is cost-effective
If you’re just beginning fishing there are quite a few costs you’re probably absorbing right now. A fishing pole, reel, tackle, license… they add up real quick. So there is absolutely no reason for you to go out and buy the most expensive line available when the cheapest line will work just fine for you until you get more advanced. In fact, it’ll probably work even better for you now than the expensive stuff.
A 330 yard (the most common size that will outfit a few poles) spool of Trilene XL monofilament line is about $8, maybe even less if you can find it on sale. 200 yards of Seaguar InvizX Fluorocarbon (what a professional might recommend) is $25. So it’s about four times as expensive to use a “better” type of line – and the truth is for a beginner fisherman it isn’t likely better for you. Why?
Line memory and monofilament line
When you’re just learning to fish, one of the main things you’ll want is a line with low memory. Memory is simply how much the line keeps the shape it has on the spool when casted into the water. If you cast a line and it goes completely straight, it has low memory. If you cast it and it stays in the circles it was in on your spool, it has high memory.
Monofilament falls in the middle of most lines when it comes to memory. It’s not extremely low but not too high either. Fluorocarbon (like the InvizX) has high memory. It will stay in circles no matter what you do. Which can be really problematic when you’re trying to cast and reel. If your line is out in circles, it will get reeled back in with circles in it and not go back onto the reel correctly. Then you’ll get knots. And you’ll get frustrated.
So don’t use it. Use monofilament which has a much lower memory and if you keep an eye on it, won’t loop easily and create knots inside your reel. Plus if you knot it so badly you have to cut it out and re-spool, do you want to use the $8 a package stuff or $25 a package stuff? Yeah, use the cheap stuff that not only won’t loop and knot as much – but won’t cost as much.
This is where I do want to mention braided line. It has no memory at all, meaning it has almost no chance to loop or create knots inside your reel. It’s one of the main benefits that it provides as well as a great deal of strength. So now you’re probably wondering why I don’t recommend it…
Line Visibility for mono
If there is one way that you can guarantee not to catch fish, it’s by using a fishing line they can see. And this is where braid like Seaguar Smackdown becomes an issue. Unlike fluorocarbon or monofilament, braided line is made from natural fibers that are not transparent. It will not be clear when you purchase it, and instead comes in a variety of colors. All of which fish can see.
But then why is braid even an option? There are some fish that won’t care about braided line such as catfish. They use senses like smell much more than scent, and therefore won’t care if braid is attached to a hook in most cases. But those fish are far and few between. The majority of fish will not bite if they can see the line.
Fisherman get around this by using leader lines. This means they spool braid onto their reel and then tie several feet of another clear fishing line to the end to get all the benefits of braid, with the low visibility of the other kinds (like monofilament). So you get low memory and strength from braid, but the fish can’t see it at the end near the hook.
The issue with this, for beginners especially, is that you have to now buy two different types of fishing line so it’s twice as expensive. You also have to tie a knot between braid and another line which, even after 20 years of fishing, I struggle with. Tying knots with braid is just difficult. And I have had multiple knots break on me after hooking into fish right where the braid went into a different line. The benefits that braid provides just isn’t worth the headaches it will create. Spool the whole reel with monofilament and it’ll be much easier and the difference is negligible.
Should you decide to not take my advice and do a braid to leader like a fancy pro fisherman – know that your leader material should be fluorocarbon. It is strong and has the lowest visibility. And if you’re only buying it in small 3 feet sections – the cost doesn’t matter as much. They even sell small spools meant specifically for making leader materials out of. Again – this is not my recommendation if you are just beginning.
Ease of tying knots with monofilament
As mentioned previously, tying knots with braid can be a real headache and several fishing knots won’t even work with braid. Fluorocarbon will take most any kind of knot, but can easily be harmed in the process of tying knots. The coating on a fluorocarbon line is not as easy to slide the way that is necessary to secure knots and instead of knotting it will simply break. Which is both frustrating if you’re trying to just tie on a bait to fish, and infuriating if it happens when a fish bites.
So what fishing line is good for tying knots? Monofilament. The coating on monofilament makes it slide easily and hold well. It also doesn’t deteriorate easily with a bad tie. It has good stretch too which is needed to make a secure knot that won’t damage the line inside the knot.
If you’re a beginner fisherman, you’re most likely a beginner at knot tying as well. So having the most flexible material that won’t break easily but will tie easily is a big advantage when learning all the different knots you might want to use fishing. Monofilament is absolutely the best possible line in that regard.
Line Stretch and mono
Since I mentioned that monofilament line has more stretch than others which leads to good knot tying, lets cover it next. All fishing lines have different levels of stretch – which as you would think means when one end is pulled if it gives any or just stays taught. Monofilament has the most stretch, which makes it good for a few reasons aside from tying knots.
The first of these is that it allows you to always set the hook hard. “Setting the hook” is the fisherman’s way of saying actually pulling a hook into the fish’s mouth when it bites. This is one of those things that sounds very simple but is really complex. Every fish, technique, and fishing line makes your hookset different. Set too hard you can blow out a fish’s mouth, basically making so much force that you make their mouth open and the bait flies out. Not hard enough, the hook won’t go in the fish’s lips.
Monofilament having a lot of stretch makes it easy to just always have a hard hookset and not worry about potentially blowing out a fish’s mouth. Because the line will stretch at the initial pull you give when setting the hook, it won’t immediately blow out a fish’s mouth even if you try. It will have that give that prevents it and lets the hook cinch in their lips instead. So you can just worry about setting the hook hard when you get a bite and not worry about if it’s too hard, not hard enough, etc.
But most importantly once you hook the fish, having a line with stretch helps you in fighting a fish. The number one reason you will lose fish is by losing tension. A hook just sitting in a fish’s mouth without taught line can easily fall out. Keeping the tight line between you and the fish is essential in making sure it stays hooked until you get it to the bank.
Fish, however, don’t just come willingly. They will jump, splash, run towards you, and a whole lot of unexpected things. If you have a line with no stretch and a fish makes a quick directional change – you will lose the tightness in the line immediately. And maybe the fish. But if your line stretches like monofilament, it is already stretched as you fight the fish in. So a quick directional change will just take some of the stretch out, but still leave a taught line between you and the fish. So you have a much better chance of getting the fish in.
Professional fisherman have become experts at hooking and fighting fish, so this isn’t necessarily a concern for them. But for a beginner fisherman, it is maybe the biggest concern. So use a monofilament line which will assist you in hooking and fighting a fish all the way in.
Other benefits of monofilament
The last two benefits of monofilament line is that it is abrasion resistant and that it floats.
Abrasion resistance simply refers to how likely a line is to fray easily. It’s the exterior coating on the line that makes it strong when rubbing against anything. Which if you’re a beginner fisherman, can happen quite easily. There are tons of things in the water you will never see until your line hits them. Monofilament can run against these things repeatedly and not deteriorate noticeably. And if you’re like I was, you might have the inclination that even as a beginner you can cast in a perfect spot right under a tree. But end up right in the tree. Assuming you can get your bait back, your line will still be in good shape because it is so abrasion resistant.
The materials used to make monofilament also float on the water which makes it good for topwater baits. But don’t worry, if you put any bait or weight on the end of monofilament that is supposed to sink in the water it still will. This versatility is another great reason to use monofilament exclusively when beginning fishing. Even professional fisherman will have a rod or two outfitted with monofilament for their topwater baits simply because it floats.
Why Trilene is the best monofilament for beginners
I think I’ve done enough to preach the merits of monofilament line, so I will briefly cover why I recommend Trilene XL in 6 pound test.
First, Trilene is probably the mostly widely available brand of monofilament available. If a store carries fishing line, they are likely carrying Trilene. It’s a popular brand available everywhere and for good reason. It works. And it’s budget friendly.
I also have had great personal success with Trilene. It will break like any line will. But it holds up as well as any I’ve tried and will last for a long time if you care for it well. So if you don’t leave it in extreme heat or cold, expect to get at least a year out of it before needing to respool your line. I’ve even let some go a few years that I don’t use as much and haven’t had issues. But I can’t recommend doing that.
The reason for 6 pound test is simply because it covers the most amount of fish you could want to catch. It’s light enough to catch bluegill and panfish, which is likely what you will catch if you are a beginner fisherman as they are the most abundant and easy to catch fish. But if you want to catch catfish, carp, or bass then it’s strong enough that you can still pull them in if you fight them slowly. Don’t expect to muscle in a giant, but if you let it play and take it easy then you’ll be okay with 6 pound test. I’ve caught catfish up to 15 pounds on it before.
The recommendation to get clear instead of one of the colored lines such as moss green is simply because it works in the most situations. Clear line is invisible in clear ponds and muddy ponds alike. Moss green is really only invisible in murky waters and not as good in clear lakes. So why buy it? Just go with clear and don’t think too much about it. It’s really a minor consideration in my eyes.
Monofilament fishing line is absolutely the best fishing line for beginners, and honestly is a solid option for an angler at any level. While I have some poles outfitted with braid and fluorocarbon, I also have several with monofilament still that I use often and enjoy. Monofilament will give you everything you need to catch fish and avoid a lot of the headaches that other types of fishing lines can cause, especially for beginners.
Leave your favorite brands of monofilament below if you think there is a better competitor for Trilene XL and I’ll try it out!