It’s been just over 16 years since braided line took the bass fishing world by storm, but today, perhaps more than ever, anglers still question where, when, how and why to use it. Some love braid because of its strength, but others dislike it for the same reason; ditto for its lack of stretch, or because it sinks.
“The bottom line with choosing braid is that you have to understand the line’s characteristics and then decide how they fit into your style of fishing,” emphasizes tournament pro Marty Stone, who has experimented with braided lines for many years. “There are no rules that say you can or cannot use braid for any fishing technique, but there are definitely times when it offers a distinct advantage over monofilament or fluorocarbon.
“Even the pros use braid differently, simply because of how they like to fish.”
The two most obvious characteristics of braided line are its lack of stretch and its overall strength. The three most popular line strengths the pros use are 30, 50 and 65 pounds, and on occasion they go as high as 80 pounds. When lines this strong are combined with braid’s lack of stretch, the result is practically unparalleled hook penetration, particularly with larger hooks (6/0 and above) at greater distances.
“That’s why I use 50-pound braid for topwater floating frogs, buzz frogs, regular buzz baits and swimming jigs,” Stone explains. “With each of these presentations, I’m generally making long casts and retrieving the lure through or very close to thick cover. All four lures have large hooks, and floating frogs actually have two hooks.
“When a bass hits, I make a sudden snap-set with these baits and only braid lets me do that. Regular monofilament will stretch too much, and fluorocarbon is difficult to skip underneath docks and overhanging limbs.”
Stone also prefers 50 or 65 pound braid when he’s flipping thick, matted vegetation. Because he’s often using a sinker weighing an ounce or more, he takes advantage of another braided line characteristic, its sensitivity.
The heavy sinker, needed to pull a soft plastic lure through the greenery, can eliminate much of the feel an angler needs to detect a soft bite, but braid restores that feel. Most of the pros use braid when Carolina rigging, too, because of this sensitivity and its lack of stretch.
There’s another advantage braid provides that pros like Stone quickly recognized: because of its thin diameter, a taunt braided line will cut through heavy vegetation like lily pads, water willows and even hydrilla when a bass runs. Monofilament and fluorocarbon stick in the greenery and prevent straight-line contact with the fish so it often escapes.
“The down-side is that braid is so strong it will actually cut into wood and prevent you from playing a fish,” adds Matt Herren, an FLW and Bassmaster pro and long-time braid user. “Most of us use braid when we’re flipping thick vegetation and matted cover, but it may not be a good line choice if there’s a lot of flooded brush, such as on Falcon Lake in Texas where shallow bass are almost always close to wood.
“Braid cuts into the brush but not through it and gets snagged, kind of like a saw getting stuck in a wet log. That nearly always means a lost fish, so instead of braid we usually revert back to a strong fluorocarbon.”
The pros rarely use braid with crankbaits and jerkbaits either, but for a different reason. Because of the long casts and the way fish hit diving plugs, some line stretch is preferred. Either fluorocarbon (limited stretch) or monofilament (more stretch) is used. With braid, the crankbait would actually be yanked away from the bass on the hook-set.
Some pros use braid when fishing spinnerbaits, but primarily when they’re working around vegetation. With these lures, choosing braid or fluorocarbon is largely a matter of personal preference and style.
Herren, Gary Yamamoto and many other pros also like braid when they’re using spinning tackle to fish shaky heads or drop shots. They’ll spool 20 or 30 turns of 10 or 15-pound mono on their spool first, then add six, eight, or 10-pound test braid. In clear water, they may tie on a four to five foot fluorocarbon leader, as well, primarily because it’s virtually invisible underwater.
“Braid works well in these situations because you’re often fishing fairly deep and with a light action rod,” Herren explains, “so the lack of stretch in braid works to your advantage. The reason we add monofilament as reel backing is because it helps keep the braid from burying into itself when you have a hard hook-set.”