Human nature makes us suspicious of the unfamiliar. "This line doesn't feel like my old line." Common sentiment. It takes time to appreciate a new line. Unless it's snapping off on every fish, stick with a line for three weeks. Some lines change character for the better after a week or two of hard fishing--and some change for the worse.
But, in all honesty, most of the lines on the market today--and there are lots to choose from--fill some niche in the walleye world. The following is like a wedding. Something old, something new. But, realize this: The box may have the same name on it that you used 25 years ago, but the line inside probably isn't the same. Almost all of the older lines we once loved have been reformulated within the past 6 years or so. Some for better, some, some would suggest, for worse.
Something old: Consider Ande Premium, which has been around a long time. It's perfect for big walleyes in snag-infested water. The first day, it's stiff, coily, and seems to break relatively easily. After one hard day of fishing, it's an altogether different line--almost impossible to break on snags. The 6-pound line will haul trees to the bank. It absorbs shock like nobody's business, and the coils are long gone after day-one. The best thing about it is that it stays that way--strong and tough--throughout a calendar year of hard fishing and beyond. Maxima Ultragreen is much the same--tough, strong, and long lasting, but a nuisance the first day or two. Berkley Big Game and G. Pucci P-Line are examples of other abrasion-resistant lines we need around rocks and wood.
Walleye fishermen need limp lines, like Stren Ultra Cast, Berkley Trilene XL, or Rapala Finesse, to present livebait on mudflats, sand, gravel or, sometimes, in scattered weeds, to achieve the most natural movement of the bait. Unless you know the bottom is ragged and littered with snags or sharp rocks, it's usually best to start with a limp line on the business end.
Something new: New techniques for bonding nylon polymers at the molecular level have been developed, and the lines we once knew are going to start changing ever faster. Berkley uses what they call a "reinforced polymer matrix" to make a revolutionary line called IronSilk. Though made with nylon, the basic building block of monofilament, IronSilk is different in the way it looks, the way it feels, and the way it fishes.
And therein lies the problem. The first few hours you fish with IronSilk, you may not like it. Casting distance suffers, tangles are common, and it's stiff. But after a good stretch--several hours of fishing a deep-diving crankbait for instance--it starts to come around. By day-two, Iron Silk provides fewer problems with tangles and coils than, perhaps, any other line on the market. The knots never slip, and it is one of the toughest lines out there, perhaps the toughest in terms of abrasion resistance (though not in terms of shock absorption). IronSilk becomes so limp, and the coefficient of friction with rod guides so low, that casting distance is reported to be 10 to 25 percent better than conventional mono of the same diameter.
Some of the newest lines are best for pitching jigs--tough lines that act somewhat like limp lines--like Suffix DNA, a new reformulation of Suffix Tritanium. Another is Stren Magnaflex, an amazing new line that might be somewhat thicker than a limp line and certainly is more abrasion-resistant, yet it casts like a limp line. With a soft, underhand flip, DNA and Magnaflex carry a light jig plenty far. And they get it back to the boat.
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Some lines are made to last about three weeks. It's called planned obsolescence--a wasteful operation designed to soak you out of a few more hard-earned shekels. Some line manufacturers know more about protecting mono from ultraviolet light and heat than they want you to know. If the line you're using isn't mentioned here, that might be the reason. Good luck.
The old braids--Innovative Textiles Power Pro, Berkley FireLine, Cortland Spectrum--still deliver. The new braids--SpiderWire Stealth, Triple Fish Bully Braid--are being made with thinner, tougher base materials. If this keeps up we won't be able to tie knots because we'll need microscopes to see this stuff.
Braids are thinner, provide less water resistance, and therefore take cranks and suspending baits deeper. If the object is to keep the lure high, such as night fishing over the tops of weedbeds, I stick with a 10- to 12-pound monofilament. For most other hard-bait operations, though, braided lines are the way to go.
The newest improvement to the basic building block of braided line is Triple Fish Bully Braid. "Bully Braid is the latest version of Dyneema," says Dave Burkhardt, owner of Triple Fish International. "Gel-spun polyethylene is similar to plastic in the sense that it keeps evolving, and SK-65 is now the world's toughest fiber. It's 16- to 20-percent smaller than other versions of Dyneema and Spectra. With this significantly smaller diameter, smaller reels hold more line, crankbaits get deeper, and casts go farther."
New methods of fusing braids are going to help you cast farther this year, too. New Spider Wire Stealth "has the tightest weave on the market," according to Pure Fishing. "The tight weave gives rise to improved abrasion resistance and better castability. It fishes more like monofilament," according to Brian Thomas of Pure Fishing. "It won't dig into the reel spool or cut into line guides."
Stealth is advertised to be "pressure treated" with Teflon in the effort to produce smoother, longer casts. It has a rounder cross-section, like monofilament and, unlike wax-coated braids, the Teflon in Stealth won't wear off. According to Thomas, this line won't "whipknot" or backlash like other braids. The 10-pound version has the diameter of 2-pound mono.
Since braids don't stretch much, they set hooks better at those longer distances than mono does close to the boat. The same reasons make braids the odds-on choice for trolling with crankbaits. Braids like Innovative Textiles Power Pro and FINS are great choices for bottom bouncing, too. Spool it onto a casting reel with a flippin' switch (for better one-handed operation) and tie directly to the bouncer.
If you like to troll or cast with crankbaits, or toss jigs and plastics along weedlines, braids are the ticket. Mono breaks down, while braids can outlast your rod and reel. Want to cut down on the time you spend respooling every year? Invest in some braided line and use it for more than a week or two before bailing out. Familiarity breeds respect.
I seldom tie braids directly to jigs or crankbaits. Braids are thinner than mono, but they're opaque, creating a dark silhouette. I use monofilament or fluorocarbon leaders. One of my new favorites is Yo-Zuri Hardcore X-Tex Cobra, the newest blend of nylon and fluorocarbon. It's softer and has lower memory than its predecessors, yet retains the high abrasion resistance of a good fluorocarbon. Yo-Zuri calls it a "camouflage blend" of green shades with the same coefficient of reflection as water. Fill the spool with this line and use it to jig in clear water, too.
G. Pucci P-Line Fluorocarbon, a new addition to the P-Line family, Silver Thread Fluorocarbon and Seaguar Grand Max, are good choices for leader material in clear water. Fluorocarbon won't break down, like mono, so you don't have to worry about leaving a leader spool in your tackle box in hot weather. It's dense and sinks, which helps crankbaits and jigs get deeper faster. But that same added density means added problems when tying knots, as friction and heat builds much quicker. Always lubricate before cinching knots, and do it slowly. "I was astounded at the ease of tying knots with Cortland Climax," adds Walleye In-Sider Editor Dave Csanda. "Every knot works every time, regardless of cold weather." Another good idea is to go up a few pounds in test. If the situation calls for a 10-pound mono leader, go with a 12-pound fluorocarbon. It's still more difficult for fish to see than 10-pound mono.