The 4 Main Types of Fishing Line: Mono, Fluoro Braid, and Copolymer

Learn the characteristics of the four mains types of fishing line and when to use each: mono, fluorocarbon, braid and copolymer lines

It is important to know the characteristics of the four main types of fishing lines so you can choose the right line to use in any fishing situation.

In this article, we give you the full facts on all types of fishing lines to help you fish better and catch more fish.

We take you through monofilament line, fluorocarbon line, braided line, and copolymer line.

Fishing Line Type #1: Monofilament Fishing Line

mono fishing line
Monofilament is a popular fishing line due to its low cost, suppleness, and versatility, but it has disadvantages such as low transparency, low abrasion resistance, and decays over time in sunlight.

Monofilament is the most commonly used fishing line. It’s almost transparent underwater, it is relatively supple for tying good knots and it is cheap. It is made from the common polymer nylon.

Mono is tried and trusted line that pretty all fishermen and women use in many fishing situations. Monofilament line is made from a single strand of nylon extruded into a clear line that remains relatively supple, casts well and is easy to tie strong knots with.

Mono retains quite a bit of stretch – it can stretch by as much as 30% at its breaking point – so it is good for applications where you need the line to be a bit forgiving such as open water situations where a fish isn’t likely to bury you in structure.

Monofilament line can be used in two ways: you can spool your whole reel with it, or you can use it as a transparent leader when the main line on your reel is a colored braided line.

See here for how mono fishing line is made and our recommendations for the best brands of monofilament lines.

Monofilament Fishing Line Advantages

  • Low cost
  • Supple line that is good for tying knots
  • Has some stretch, which is useful in some situations such as fishing light line to absorb runs or chasing fish with soft mouth tissue
  • Monofilament line floats – an advantage in certain circumstances

Monofilament Fishing Line Disadvantages

  • Not as transparent as fluorocarbon fishing line
  • Absorbs water if kept immersed for too long impact strength
  • Less abrasion resistance than fluoro
  • Stretch is not good in some circumstances such as deep water jigging where you need to set the hook
  • Decays over time in sunlight

Fishing Line Type #2: Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

Straight fluorocarobon on a baitcaster feature image of a lure and a knot
Fluorocarbon fishing line offers good abrasion resistance, near invisibility underwater, and negative buoyancy, but it is more expensive than monofilament, less supple for tying knots, and doesn’t absorb water.

Fluorocarbon fishing line is nearly invisible underwater and offers good abrasion resistance. Like monofilament fishing line it can be used as either the main line on your reel (straight through fluoro) or more commonly as a leader line attached to a reel spooled with braid.

Fluorocarbon is an advanced line made from polyvinylidene difluoride (or PVDF for short). Like mono, it’s extruded in a single strand but it’s molecules are packed more closely resulting in a denser line that sinks. It’s key characteristics for fishing are its very low visibility and stretch and good abrasion resistance. Fluoro is popular as a leader material when fishing with braided line.

See here for how fluorocarbon fishing line is made and our recommendations for the best brands of fluorocarbon lines.

Fluorocarbon Advantages

  • Tough and abrasion resistant
  • Almost invisible underwater
  • Negative buoyancy so it sinks – useful in some situations

Fluorocarbon Disadvantages

  • Expensive
  • Not as supple as monofilament so tougher for tying decent knots
  • Doesn’t absorb water

Fishing Line Type #3: Braided Fishing Line

Best braided line feature image
Braided fishing line made of thin Dyeema or Spectra fiber strands has advantages such as high strength and zero stretch, but requires a leader due to its visibility in water and has disadvantages such as poor abrasion resistance and tangling in the wind.

Braided line is comprised of up to eight strands of opaque and super thin line made from a fibre known as Dyeema or Spectra, similar to the Kevlar used in bulletproof vests.

Braided fishing line is usually colored and can be readily seen in the water. For this reason, anglers usually attach a fluorocarbon or monofilament reader of between one or two-rod lengths to prevent fish from shying at the line.

Because braided fishing line is very thin but high strength, braid is great for casting long distances, particularly with light lures.

Because braided lines are so thin, you can also fit a lot of this type of line on your spool, which is useful for fishing in saltwater fishing scenarios where you need to let fish run on the drag to subdue them.

See here for how braided fishing line is made and our recommendations for the best brands of braided fishing lines.

Braided Line Advantages

  • High strength to diameter ratio
  • Allows you to fit a lot of line on the reel
  • Zero stretch – good for setting the hook
  • Sometimes having an opaque “sighter” is good – when you see the line move you can detect bites

Braided Line Disadvantages

  • Poor abrasion resistance
  • Prone to tangling in the wind
  • Opaque nature of it means you need a leader

Fishing Line Type #4: Copolymer Fishing Line

Copolymer fishing line
Copolymer fishing lines are thinner, more abrasion-resistant, and less visible than monofilament lines, allowing for more line on a reel, while retaining the suppleness of traditional mono fishing lines, although they are more expensive than monofilament lines and not as invisible as fluorocarbon lines.

Copolymer lines are made from two different nylon polymers with different characteristics, which are melted together and then extruded into a single strand.

It is more abrasion-resistant and results in a thinner line for a given breaking strain than ordinary mono. That means it is less likely to be detected by wary fish and you can fit more line on your reel. There is also less resistance when casting light or ultralight lures.

Copolymer Fishing Line Advantages

  • Great strength to diameter ratio – more than mono or fluorocarbon fishing line
  • Low visibility
  • Good abrasion resistance
  • Retains the suppleness of traditional mono fishing line

Copolymer Fishing Line Disadvantages

  • Not quite as invisible as fluorocarbon fishing line
  • More costly than monofilament line

See also:

So, Which Fishing Line Type Should I Use?

In this section, we will break down some situations where each of these types of fishing is preferred.

When to Use Monofilament Fishing Lines

Basic fishing situations in water that’s not necessarily crystal clear and there’s a low risk of fish getting you into structure.

Mono is also great for fishing for fish such as crappie where the stretch that it possesses helps you set the hook without pulling it through the fish’s mouth tissue.

Mono is also good when you are on a budget as it is much cheaper than any other type of line, although to make it last a long time it is important to store it inside away from sunlight as mono decays in UV light.

Mono is also preferred for trout fishing leaders, particularly for fishing with dry flies as mono line actually floats so it helps the fly retain buoyancy.

When to Use Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

Fluorocarbon fishing line is great for fishing in clear water where having a fully invisible line allows you to present your lure or bait without the fish detecting the line.

Fluorocarbon lines are good for fishing piers and rock walls and other structures as the abrasion resistance means it rarely breaks when rubbed against pylons, docks, timber, or rock.

Fluorocarbon lines also possess virtually no stretch, so whether used as a leader or straight through, it is much better than mono when it comes to setting the hook on fish with bony mouths or with a lot of line out from the reel.

Fluorocarbon line is also great for fishing in structure as it is the most abrasion-resistant type of fishing line. If you need to cast lures hard against submerged trees or similar structures and then pull fish out of this type of heavy cover, there’s nothing better than fluorocarbon line.

Fluorocarbon line is also good as a leader material for fly fishing with wet flies as the line sinks allowing you to present your fly well subsurface.

When to Use Braided Fishing Line

Braided fishing lines come into their own when you need to cast light lures a long distance. The low wind resistance of the thin braid means you can fling even a 1/32 of an ounce lure a decent distance with an ultralight rod.

The fine braid flies off the spool of properly spooled light spinning reels, which helps you get even that bit more distance.

It is also good for baitcasting reels with the added advantage that you can thumb the spool to correct when you overshoot.

Braided lines are also great for fishing in open water in the ocean or lakes where you can safely let a fish run. Because it is so thin you can pack so much of it on the spool that you won’t run out of line even on a searching run from a big fish while saltwater fishing.

It’s also a favorite for deepwater jigging and other types of bottom fishing because the lack of stretch provides a lot of sensitivity for feeling bites and for setting the hook without delay.

When to Use Copolymer Line

Copolymer line is very versatile and can be used in a wide range of fishing situations. Copolymer lines are great for topwater fishing, trolling lures, and a range of other fishing methods.

Any situation where you can use monofilament fishing line or fluorocarbon fishing lines is also a good scenario for using copolymer lines (with the possible exception of fishing in deep structures where the abrasion resistance of fluorocarbon lines is a real must-have).

When to Use Ice Fishing Lines

Ice fishing can be brutal on lines with extreme cold and jagged ice combining to weaken some lesser products. Your line has to be able to withstand this gruelling environment to be reliable or you will lose fish.

Click here to get our breakdown of the best mono, fluoro and braided ice fishing lines.

Which Fishing Line Floats?

Monofilament line is the only form of fishing line that floats. Fluoro has a higher density than water so it sinks, and braid is not really used without a leader of some sort anyway.

Anglers can take advantage of the fact that mono line floats – it can be used for fly fishing leaders for fishing dry flies and flotation is a must. It can also be used when fishing lures where you want to keep them in the upper part of the water column.

Lines For Different Species

Different types of species call for different fishing techniques and different types of fishing line. See our breakdown of which lines are best for various species.

Fishing Line Advice

We also have a lot of content on fishing lines that provides advice rather than reviews. Feel free to take a look at some of these articles that delve deeper into the subject of fishing lines.

Anglers who are interested in the precise properties of different types of lines might be interested in our fishing line diameter chart which provides the thickness of line of various breaking strains across braid, mono and fluoro.

Finally, we want to leave people with some thoughts on the importance of recycling used fishing line.

Final Thoughts on Choosing the Right Fishing Line

The one thing you do want to do is the flexibility to change fishing line types so I can always use the right line type. I do a lot of light tackle and ultralight fishing, so my basic spinning setup is a braided line with either a monofilament leader or a fluorocarbon leader.

I carry spools of monofilament lines in different pound tests and fluorocarbon lines of various strengths so I can choose what type of line and what line strength and thickness I want to use.

Even fishing ultralight braided line of 4lb test, I usually find that if I get broken off either on a fish or a snag, it is usually the leader that breaks even if it is 6lb or more – nominally a higher breaking strain than the braided line.

I also have another setup with a slightly larger reel spooled with a 10lb braid that functions the same way. I also have spare spools for these reels with straight monofilament line and straight fluorocarbon line so I have the option of changing out the spool to change the line type.

You don’t want to be stripped all the line off a reel – even if you have a good line spooler – just to change the type of fishing line you are using.

In summary, your line is your all-important connection to a fish – which could be a trophy – so it is important to either choose the right type of line for your favorite style of fishing or have the flexibility to change as the circumstances change.

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Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.
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