The popularity of braided line (often referred to as simply ‘braid’) by UK sea anglers is a perfect example of how developments in sea fishing tackle are constantly moving forward. In previous generations braided line was thick and bulky, meaning it could only be used for boat fishing where casting distance was not important. However, the manufacture of braided line has advanced so far that today braided line is extremely low diameter (while also being very strong) and can be used for shore casting. Indeed, many anglers are reaching casting distances with braid far in excess of what they could have with traditional monofilament. Furthermore the low diameter of braid means that it cuts through tide and it is also stretch free (monofilament can stretch by up to 30%) meaning that anglers using braid are more in touch with what is happening at the end of their line. The increasing use of braided line can be seen as something of a revolution in UK sea angling, but there are a number of drawbacks to using this type of line and it certainly does not suit all anglers.
The Manufacture of Braided Line
Up until the early 2000s braided line was made out of multiple strands of polyester which had been woven together. While this created a strong and stretch free line it was also very high diameter which meant that it was useless for shore casting.
Related article: Long Continental Fishing Rods
However, modern manufacturing process which have came about in the last few years have seen the quality braided line come on leaps and bounds. Simple polyester is now no longer used (apart from in ultra-cheap braided lines which should be very much avoided) and instead braided line is made with modern, man-made fibres such as Dyneema® and Spectra which are spun through a machine known as a spinneret and then intertwined together.
This creates a fishing line which is extremely strong and stretch free and yet also very thin – while a monofilament line of 15lb breaking strain would typically be 0.35mm in diameter a braided line of the same breaking strain would have a diameter as low as 0.13mm.
Advantages, Disadvantages and Myths
- The low diameter of braided line means that casting distances can be improved dramatically. Anglers using braid along with a long, continental style rod often see their casting distances greatly improved with no changes/modification to their casting style – an overhead thump casting style can still see big improvements when braid is used.
- The low diameter of braid means that it can cut through tide as it does not catch in the tide in the same way that thicker monofilament does.
- The stretch free nature of braid puts anglers in touch with what is happening at the end of their line. Bite detection is much improved.
- Braid is much stronger than monofilament of the same diameter and also more abrasion resistant
- Because the coils of braided line bed down into each other as it is wound onto a reel many anglers find that they can only us braided line with fixed spool reels. Braid is very difficult to use with multiplier reels.
- The non-stretch properties of braided line can also work against it. Lacking the stretchy give of monofilament means striking can rip the hooks from the mouth of a fish. Incorporating a monofilament shock leader adds a little stretch and helps counteract this.
- The lack of stretch can also be a problem when casting as even the smallest mistake can be greatly amplified. Again most anglers get around this problem by using a monofilament shock leader.
- Braid can cut through monofilament if lines are allowed to come into contact. Some anglers over-hype this problem and believe braid has lightsaber-like qualities – it does not but if monofilament and braid come into contact under pressure it will be the monofilament line which is cut through first.
- Braided line is expensive. It can be triple or quadruple the price of monofilament of an equivalent breaking strain. Many anglers incorporate a weak link into their set up so that they will not lose their braid mainline if they become snagged.
Myths: Some anglers think braided line cuts through rod rings. This is only true on ultra-cheap rods. Any half decent rods will not have braid cutting through the rings in any way. Braided line also has a reputation of ‘slipping’ on the spool. If the spool is loaded properly and a sufficient amount of braided line is on the reel then this does not happen.
Why is Braided Line Growing in Popularity?
It is not difficult to see why braided line in growing in popularity throughout the UK. The combination of increased casting distances and better bite detection mean that many anglers find that their fishing is vastly improved when switching to braid. However, braid is not the best choice for all anglers. As stated braided line works best with longer, softer action continental rods as these rods go some way towards counteracting the lack of stretch in braid, and are the best way to gain the extra casting distance which braid offers. For this reason braided line works best for anglers using these types of set up to fish over sandy beaches to lightly mixed ground. Anglers fishing rocky and snaggy areas would probably be best served by sticking to stiffer fishing rods, multiplier reels and 30lb breaking strain monofilament straight through.
Types of Braided Line for UK Sea Fishing
- Hercules PE Braided Line – An excellent choice for anglers looking for their first braided line as Hercules is high quality and yet competitively priced. Available in 10lb, 20lb and 30lb breaking strains in dark/black colour, this line is a four strand braid which offers high strength to diameter ratio and good abrasion resistance. Prices start from just £9.99 for a 300 metre spool.
- Spiderwire EZ Braid– Another popular choice. This line is relatively cheap for a braided line from a highly regarded manufacturer and is a good choice for anglers making their first choice of a braided line. It is a high quality dyneema braided line and is four times the strength of equivalent monofilament. Available in a range of breaking strains, with 15lb and 20lb being the most popular with UK anglers.
- Spiderwire Stealth Braid – This braided fishing line is fluro coated making it abrasion resistant and yet smooth to use. It comes in a range of breaking strains all of the way up to 80lbs, but UK anglers will find most use for the 15lb breaking strain which is only 0.20mm in diameter and the 20b breaking strain which is 0.25mm.
How to Use Braided Line
There are no real secrets to using braided line. As stated it works best with fixed spool reel. This is because braided line both wraps around and smoothly flows off a fixed spool reel, whereas on a multiplier reel the coils of line bind down into each other. Braided line is simply loaded onto the spool in the usual way. Because braided line is so thin even a long length of braided line will not fill up a normal spool. For this reason many manufacturers make special shallow braid spools which can be filled with 200 – 300 yards of very low diameter braid. The Penn Surfblaster 8000 is an example of this as most retailers sell it with two spools – one standard spool which is designed for monofilament line and another shallow braid spool. However, anglers who want to use braid but do not have specialist braid spools can always fill up a standard spool with backing monofilament and then put braid onto the spool after that.
Some anglers are confused over whether a monofilament shock leader needs to be used with braid. If a full-sized beachcaster is being used to cast 4 – 8oz weights then using with braided line a shock leader is highly advisable (and considered essential by some) as the stretch free nature of braid amplifies and compounds any mistakes which are made in the cast – a mis-timed cast with braided line can be nasty. Incorporating a monofilament shock leader avoids this problem and also adds a stretch during the cast, absorbing some of the impact of a mistake. As stated the lack of stretch in braid means that striking in the conventional manner can potentially rip the hooks out of the mouth of any fish which has shown an interest in the bait, but this can partially avoided by using the monofilament shock leader which will at least add a little stretch and absorb some of the power of the strike. However, many anglers modify the way they strike to a much less energetic strike to avoid hooks being pulled out of fish. This is of course a process of trial and error for anglers using braid and working out exactly how to strike and hook fish with braid is something which all anglers have to learn on an individual basis. While monofilament shock leaders are important with full sized beachcasters anglers using braided line to lure fish with small and light spinning rods (where much less energetic casts and much lighter weights are used) often forgo the monofilament leader and simply use braid straight through.
Finally, anglers need to be aware of the unique qualities of braided line: many have lost fish due to striking too hard, and pulling out of snags is very different as the braided line will not stretch at all and then suddenly snap – a very different experience to pulling out of a snag with stretchy monofilament line.
Maintenance and Longevity of Braided Line
Braided line is strong and abrasion resistant and should last anglers for a considerable amount of time – anglers are glad to hear this with how expensive braid is! Of course it is impossible to say exactly how long braided line will last an individual anglers as it depends on the type of fishing which is being carried out and how much stress and strain the line will be under and how much damage it will take from rocks, rough ground and other structures. Just like monofilament line braid should be examined for nicks, tears and damage on a regular basis and the line should be changed if it is thought to be past its best. Anglers should rinse a spool containing braided line in cold water after it has been used for sea fishing.
To maximise the life of braid some anglers ‘turn the braid around.’ This consists of doing the following:
- Remove all of the line from the reel
- Take the end of the line which was previously the end which the rig/lure was attached to and attach this to the reel.
- Wind all of the line back onto the reel
If this is done the worn and used end of the line will now be safely attached to the reel (and will not be used if there is a sufficient amount of braid on the spool), while the unused line which was previously stored on the reel will now be getting used. This is an effective way to effectively double the life of expensive braided line.
See the article on Long Continental Style Rods for ideas on rod and reel set ups which are suited to being used with braided line.