Wire line is simply any line made out one or more stands of flexible metal. In terms of sea fishing wire line was never used by shore anglers as its properties made it impossible to cast with. However, in the past it was very popular for boat fishing where its zero stretch and ability to cut through strong tides were extremely useful properties. Today it is very rare to see any boat anglers using wire line, as braided line – which has all of the advantages of wire line and almost none of the drawbacks – has replaced it.
Manufacture and Properties
The wire lines which were first used in UK sea fishing were single strand and made out of Monel metal (a type of nickel alloy). These type of lines were strong, robust and stretch-free although they were high diameter, especially when compared to modern line. The manufacture of wire line soon advanced and much thinner and stronger multi-strand wire line became available to anglers, and fears of the line corroding due to contact with saltwater were soon overcome when nylon coating of wire fishing lines was developed.
Popularity and Decline
Boat anglers during the 1970s and 1980s enthusiastically took up the use of wire line. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, wire line was lower diameter than the equivalent strength monofilament meaning it cut through strong tides. This was a revelation to anglers of the time who found that weights of 8oz to 12oz could hold the seabed when wire line was used, compared to the 1½lb to 2lb which would be necessary with monofilament.
Secondly, the lack of stretch put anglers in touch with what was happening on the seabed in a way which stretchy monofilament could not. Anglers saw bite detection hugely improved and could even feel when weights had hit the seabed, something which was impossible with monofilament.
For these reasons wire line soon became very popular with anglers, although it did have some significant drawbacks. It could revert to coils and develop kinks if not kept under constant tension and early lines could literally cut grooves into rod rings when anglers were reeling in large fish. Furthermore, it could be very difficult to pull out of snags as wire line under pressure could easily cut into unprotected hands. Wire line was unsuited to be used with fixed spool reels and was instead mostly used with large, high capacity multiplier reels, although some anglers preferred to use wire line with old-fashioned centre pin reels. The popularity of wire line led to further fishing tackle development. Specialist boat fishing rods were developed which were specifically designed to be used with wire line. These rods did not have traditional rings but were instead fitted with rollers, eliminating the issue of wire line damaging the rings.
The qualities of wire line meant that it had a huge impact on boat fishing. The book A Complete Guide to Fishing from 1979 states that wire line was “the most important sea angling innovation of the [twentieth] century” (p 216) which could “open up a new world to the angler” (p217). When wire line was at the peak of its popularity the main alternative of braided line was still in its infancy, being bulky and only available in very high breaking strains (most braided line used during this time was not specifically designed for fishing but was made for general use and repurposed by anglers). By the 2000s braided line had been developed specifically for fishing to offer all of the stretch free properties of wire line, but also being much easier to use. Today braided line has almost totally replaced wire line, and wire line has decreased in popularity by such an extent that it is seldom used by boat anglers. Indeed, it is now quite hard to find wire line for sale on spools long enough to fill a sea fishing reel.
Wire Line in Sea Fishing Today
The main use of wire line for contemporary anglers is as a short, strong, bite-resistant hooklength line for species which have sharp teeth which can damage or snap monofilament line. Shore anglers may use wire hooklengths with big hooks when targeting species such as conger from the shore, while boat anglers fishing for tope, blue shark and related species will also use wire hooklengths. Usually these hooklengths are just a metre or so in length, as it is only the line immediately next to the hook which needs to be bite-resistant. However, boat anglers specifically targeting large shark species may use a much longer leader made out of wire line as the abrasive skin of shark species can damage and weaken monofilament, particularly when the line is under tension. Trace Builder 7-strand Wire Line can be used to make wire hooklengths and is available to buy (with or without heavy duty crimps) from Sea Angling Shop by clicking here.
Wire line can be seen as an example of sea fishing technology moving forward. What was seen as a revolutionary new development a few decades ago has now been superseded to the extent that it is now only used as a specialised item of tackle. Any anglers persisting with wire line for boat fishing today are in a very small minority and the era of wire line being a popular and mainstream type of line for boat fishing is very much in the past.