Whether you are looking for the right fishing line to buy, or just wondering what fish you can catch with the line you have, This is your resource. I have caught dozens of fish species and used all types of line. In this article, I laid out everything I have learned. Hopefully this can save you not only time but money, and get you more time on the water.
Let’s Get Started!
Everyone has their preferences on what lines and leaders to use for any given species. I’m here to tell you what most people recommend and what I recommend from my own experience. There will always be a good, better, and best, and those can change around depending on the conditions. This guide should act as a starting point.
When I say starting point I don’t mean I’m giving you the basics. The information I’m giving you here is high level information.
I think if someone is serious about fishing, they might as well start with the proper gear. Choosing the right fishing line can be the difference between fish and no fish.
As I have delved into the online fishing world over the many years, I have found so much basic information that isn’t going to help beginner anglers get off on the right foot. My goal with this guide is to give you the information you need so that you can choose the best fishing line for your target species, location, method, and fishing conditions.
Let’s start out with a table, then I’ll break things down even farther.
In the table below, I wrote the recommended pound test (lb.) for each species and each type of line. If the type of line was not a good consideration, I entered (NA.) This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t catch the species with that line, but it’s either not worth the cost, or the characteristics aren’t suitable.
Click on the species to get more detailed information about the reasoning behind the line choice as well as some other options.
I also underlined the top recommendation for each species.
|Blue Catfish||20 lb.||NA||60 lb.||20 lb. Mono|
|Bluegill||4 lb.||4 lb.||NA||4 lb. Fluoro|
|Bullhead Catfish||6 lb.||NA||10 lb.||6 lb. Mono|
|Carp||10 lb.||10 lb.||15 lb.||10 lb. Fluoro|
|Channel Catfish||20 lb.||NA||60 lb.||20 lb. Mono|
|Crappie||6 lb.||6 lb.||NA||6 lb. Fluoro|
|Flathead Catfish||20 lb.||NA||60 lb.||30 lb. Mono|
|Lake Trout||17 lb.||17 lb.||30 lb.||12 lb. Fluoro|
|Largemouth Bass||12 lb.||14 lb.||45 lb.||12 lb. Fluoro|
|Musky||NA||NA||100 lb.||130 lb. Fluoro|
|Perch||4 lb.||4 lb.||NA||4 lb. Fluoro|
|Pike||12 lb.||12 lb.||30 lb.||30 lb. Steel|
|Salmon||25 lb.||NA||60 lb.||30 lb. Mono|
|Smallmouth Bass||8 lb.||8 lb.||30 lb.||8 lb. Fluoro|
|Steelhead||12 lb.||12 lb.||15 lb.||10 lb. Fluoro|
|Striped Bass||12 lb.||12 lb.||20 lb.||12 lb. Fluoro|
|Sturgeon||40 lb.||NA||60 lb.||60 lb. Dacron|
|Trout Over 18″||6 lb.||6 lb.||NA||6 lb. Fluoro|
|Trout Under 18″||4 lb.||4 lb.||NA||4 lb. Fluoro|
|Walleye||8 lb.||8 lb.||10 lb.||6 lb. Fluoro|
Now let’s say you already have fishing line on your reel and you are just wondering what kind of fish you can catch with what you already have. Or, maybe you want a fishing line that will allow you to catch a large variety of fish species. Here is a much simpler table.
|2-6 lb. Test||Trout, Bluegill, Crappie, Bullhead, Perch|
|8-12 lb. Test||Carp, Smaller Catfish, Bass, Walleye, Steelhead, Striped Bass, Pike|
|14-30 lb. Test||Bigger Catfish, Lake Trout, Salmon, Largemouth Bass, Salmon,|
|30-40 lb. Test||Catfish, Sturgeon,|
|8-15 lb. Test||Crappie, Trout, Walleye, Perch, Lake Trout, Carp, bullhead|
|15-35 lb. Test||Steelhead, Bass, Catfish, Striped Bass, Salmon, Pike, Lake Trout, Carp|
|35-50 lb. Test||Catfish, Bass, Pike, Salmon|
|50-80 lb. Test||Sturgeon, Catfish, Bass, Pike, Salmon|
|80-100 lb. Test||Musky, Sturgeon|
Characteristics of Braided Line
Braided line is a favorite of many anglers. It’s very popular for bass anglers, as well as other techniques that need extreme sensitivity.
Strength VS Diameter of Braided Fishing Line
Braided fishing line is super strong for how thin it is. For example, 40 pound braid is about as thin as 10 pound monofilament. This means you can use much stronger line on your regular rod and reel.
Here is a chart showing equivalent line diameters between mono and braid.
40 pound mono would be very difficult to use in most fishing situations. It is extremely thick, has a high memory (stays curly when it comes off your reel,) and isn’t very sensitive.
Most bass anglers choose braid because they are usually fishing in or around thick cover. Using a strong braided line helps the angler to pull the fish out fast before they get a chance to wrap around a snag.
Memory of Braided Fishing Line
Fishing line memory is how you describe line coming off your reel with curls in it. Mono and fluoro both have pretty significant memory. This can result in more tangles, less sensitivity, and less direct contact with your hook.
Braided fishing line has no memory, casts very well, and has no stretch which means it’s extremely sensitive.
Sensitivity of Braided Fishing Line
I like using braid when I’m bottom fishing for fish like carp and catfish. Braided line is so sensitive, you’ll notice every little bite.
Sensitivity is important when you need to set the hook as soon as the fish picks up the bait. For example, when fishing with artificial baits, fish will spit the lure out as soon as they realize it’s not real food.
Sensitivity is less important when fishing with bait, because fish will usually hang on to it for longer and even swim off with it.
Abrasion Resistance of Braided Fishing Line
Braid is known for it’s abrasion resistance. This means it is more difficult for fish to break you off by rubbing your line against rocks and snags.
Braided line also has a very long life to it. Most people would be just fine leaving the same braided line on their reel for 5 years or more. Where as mono and fluoro should be changed at least once a year depending on how much you fish.
Characteristics of Mono
Monofilament (aka mono) is the most common fishing line these days. If you buy a fishing combo at the store then it most likely has mono on it. Like any fishing line, it has it’s pros and cons.
Mono Fishing Line is Cheap!
The number one pro with mono is the price. It’s the cheapest option, and in many situations it gives you everything you need in a fishing line.
If you only go fishing a few times a year, and your goal is more to kick back and relax rather than catch as many fish as possible, then mono is probably the line for you.
Another good use for mono is if you are just fishing for catfish, and you care about saving some money.
Catfish don’t seem to be leader shy. Besides, when you are bottom fishing, your line is laying in the mud anyways so fish are less likely to see it.
Mono Fishing Line Stretches
Mono is very stretchy so you do lose some sensitivity. But sensitivity can go both ways. It can help you feel the fish biting, but it also helps the fish feel you holding the rod. For this reason, some catfish anglers will choose mono over braid. When a fish picks up a hook on mono, the line stretches and gives you an extra second or two to set the hook. So the stretch can either be a pro or a con depending on the situation.
Mono Fishing Line Floats
There is another characteristic of monofilament that is worth mentioning. That is that mono floats. However, in most applications, it’s not that significant. Where it makes a difference is if you are fly fishing where the fly is so light, that your mono may keep it closer to the surface.
Another instance where floating line should be considered is when you are bobber or float fishing. You can totally fish a bobber with any type of line, but if you want to take things to the next level, then it’s better to use floating line such as mono or braid.
This helps with mending the line on the surface of the water to make sure you get a natural float through the river. It can also help with your hook set because you have more direct contact with the hook.
Mono Fishing Line Absorbs Water
It doesn’t seem like a plastic fishing line would actually soak up any water, but it does.
The absorption of water does a few things. For one it causes it to sink. Depending on the condition and age of your line it could start sinking after a few hours on the water. New line will probably be good for a couple days of use.
As your line absorbs water it will also become softer. This means you’ll have less memory curls when you cast out your line. However, when it dries on your reel, it may be worse than before.
The third and worst part about mono absorbing water is that it weakens it. A day of fishing probably won’t make a huge noticeable difference, but it is something to consider.
Here is a video from Analytic Angling who does a break strength test on mono that has been soaked and mono that is dry.
Characteristics of Fluoro
Fluorocarbon fishing line is one of the best lines for all around fishing. It’s a big improvement over monofilament lines, but… it is more expensive.
Fluoro is Virtually Invisible Under Water
One of the ways Fluoro is different than mono is in how it reacts with light. Mono reflects light, while fluoro does not. This means that when it is under water, it blends in so well that it is almost invisible.
This is one of the reasons why it is the all around best leader material. It doesn’t matter what main line I’m using, I’ll almost always use fluorocarbon for my leader when I want to make sure fish won’t see it.
Fluoro Has Great Abrasion Resistance
Another reason why fluorocarbon makes a great leader material is because it has very good abrasion resistance. Your leader takes the most abuse. It can be damaged by the teeth of the fish, or the rocks and snags in the water.
No matter what fishing line you are using for your leader, you should check your leader every few casts. Especially after catching a fish, or getting your hook loose from a snag.
But if you use fluorocarbon, you’ll be retying leaders less often than if you were to use mono.
Fluoro Fishing Line Sinks
In the fly fishing world, whether a line floats or sinks is a bigger consideration than it is in the rest of the fishing world.
Some anglers say that using fluorocarbon line will get your lures deeper than using mono. In reality it probably isn’t going to make a noticeable difference.
If you are concerned about getting your lure deeper, or to sink faster, then go with a thinner diameter line. The water resistance of pulling a fishing line through the water, will make the biggest difference in sink rate and lure depth.
Fluoro Fishing Line is Expensive
Unfortunately Fluorocarbon is quite a bit more expensive. It’s usually going to be around 3 times the price of mono. Think: $30 vs $10.
This is another good reason to just use it as a leader rather than fill your whole spool up with it.
With lighter lines like 4 pound, the price is still reasonable enough for me to just spool up with fluoro on my trout and panfish setups. That way I don’t have to carry an extra spool of leader material. I can just use what’s on my reel.
Choosing the right fishing line for the job can make a huge difference in the success of your fishing trip. There are many different opinions out there but by reading the information I’ve collected through personal experience, research, and talking with the pros, you can have a good idea of where to get started.
If you haven’t yet, go back to the table and click on the specific species you are interested in. It will open a page that will give more specifics as well as some other options.
I hope this saves you some time and helps you out. Have fun out there!