February 01, 2015
A 4-pound smallmouth wraps you around the anchor rope. A heavy pike drags line across a nicked prop. An 18-ounce bluegill plays Maypole with a lily pad. These dicey events took place within weeks of my writing, and all three fish came to net.
Just as importantly, all three major categories of line were involved: The bass tugged on 6-pound mono, the pike on an 8-carrier, 20-pound-test braid, and the bluegill on a 4-pound fluorocarbon leader.
Three lines, several trends. Lines in all categories are becoming stronger, more abrasion resistant, yet more supple. When braids first appeared, one of the loudest and most persistent knocks was lack of abrasion resistance. Today, they stand up far better. Casting distance, as a by-product, flew off the charts.
Lines also continue to become more versatile, eliminating the need to choose a mono that's limp over one that's abrasion resistant, or stronger, or easier to cast. Fluorocarbons act more like monofilament than ever.
"Eight carrier" is a hot term in the braided line industry. When eight polyethylene microfibers are bundled to form each strand in a braid, it results in a smoother, rounder exterior that won't easily catch on sharp edges. Coat an eight-carrier with something slick that doesn't wear off and the result is a line that not only resists abrasion almost as well as mono, it can add 10 to 20 yards to a cast.
Berkley Nanofil (made by molecularly bonding Dyneema brand fibers) and PowerPro Super 8 Slick (made from Spectra brand fibers) started the "slick" revolution. Both perform as advertised, adding casting distance and accuracy with low stretch and high strength. Neither claims to increase abrasion resistance on the package, but each certainly seems to do so in the field. Nanofil is so slick we had to develop new knots. Super 8 Slick employs what PowerPro calls Enhanced Body Technology. Both can send lures out 80 feet with a flick of the wrist, but neither advertises the use of a line coating on the package. Expectedly, a flock of eight-carriers answered this call from the future.
Now, P-Line XTCB Braid has arrived, another new 8-carrier with a slick surface. "Eight carrier is a smoother, tighter weave with a smaller diameter," says Don Newman, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for P-Line. "We spool it in 10-pound increments from 10- through 80-pound. What makes it different is the DuPont Teflon coating. In field tests, we found Teflon won't allow the braid to rip when dragged across structure. And XTCB doesn't cut into itself on the spool. These characteristics also make it quieter through the guides, and more color-fast.
If a slick coating allows lines to slide rather than catch on zebra mussels, wood, and rocks, it follows that abrasion resistance will be better, too. That seemed to be the case when casting cranks and spinnerbaits into heavy cover in current on the Mississippi River last year, using several new slick braids.
Famous for creating diverse blends of quality fluorocarbon, Seaguar entered the braid game several years ago with Kanzen Premium Braid. Success spawned two new entries last year including a 16-strand, hollow-core line called Threadlock. Seaguar also added Smackdown, another entry in the 8-strand microfiber class, braided in a "microweave." Using smaller fibers and more of them, the result is a rounder product that performs better with conventional tackle designed for round lines.
"I really like Smackdown," says In-Fisherman Senior Editor Steve Quinn. "It provides the performance it advertises. With light jigs it flies off the reel and lies on the water smoothly. No memory, so it creates a direct connection between lure and rod tip for better feel of what the line is passing through and what fish are doing to your lure. I've used tests 10- through 40-pound with great results." Smackdown is available in 10- to 65-pound-test increments in low-vis green or high-vis yellow.
Threadlock, developed for bigger game, is available in 50- to 200-pound test in white, yellow, green, or blue. Muskie fishing with 60-pound Threadlock has been essentially trouble free. Designed to up the ante in tensile strength, Seaguar managed to develop a line that won't double back on itself and catch, which can cause unmanageable tangles. When Threadlock does come off in a bunch, it sorts quickly without cutting line — one of the things I look for in a braid.
Long a fan of Maxima Ultragreen mono, I was anxious to try the new Ultragreen Braid. It didn't disappoint. The 50-pound test is smooth off the reel. Ultragreen Braid is another 8-carrier with a rounder shape, providing long casts. Pre-stretched and heat fixed, it has better abrasion resistance than any standard braid I've used, it won't cut into itself and bind, and it won't cut into fluorocarbon or mono leaders when tied together with surgeon's knots or back-to-back uni knots.
The big knock on braids for ice fishing is frozen-spool syndrome. Water is carried on the textured exterior to the spool where the line freezes together. Gamma Torque Ice is a new ceramic-coated version that won't carry water to the spool. Amazingly, the coating doesn't make the line stiffer than other coated braids and it sheds water better. I've been using braids for ice fishing for the past 5 or 6 years with long fluorocarbon leaders tied in with back-to-back uni knots. Neither line breaks down from age, heat, or UV so ice rods can be stored year after year and be ready to go first ice.
Western Filament's new TUF-Line Tournament 8 sports a hydrophobic barrier unique to the industry, using the same nano-ceramic coating used in Rust-Oleum paints. It's another 8-carrier, but how the line is braided makes a big difference. Western Filament has been at it as long as anybody and makes braids for the aerospace industry. "Tournament 8 carries no water," says Ted Thibault, promotions manager for TUF Line. "The lubricant is broken down into nano particles that fill every gap. It reduces friction by more than half, adding significant casting distance. But it also doubles down on abrasion resistance because it slides across abrasive materials without grabbing." It's available in green or blue from 10- to 80-pound test.
PowerPro recently introduced a specialty braid called Zero Impact (20- to 100-pound test) with a neat twist. Strength is doubled at the knot with TZT — Termination Zone Technology — and clearly marked black. When knots are tied with the black segments, Zero Impact provides the strongest knots of any braided lines on the market in comparable sizes.
Monofilaments with More
When Berkley first released IronSilk years ago, it was a great fishing line with some very good properties, but application was limited by problems discovered in the field. Last year, Berkley reintroduced IronSilk and hit a home run, winning accolades at the ICAST Show for best line product.
Political overtones often skew the results of such "contests," but Berkley sent samples and I put it through some paces on the Mississippi River. Claims of longer casts were true. There's something slick about the exterior of this line, thus the "Silk" portion of the name. When snagged, 10-pound IronSilk straightened premium hooks on Gamakatsu Football 24 heads. No small feat. The feel was excellent, and the hook-setting power good. IronSilk is extruded in test strengths of 6- to 20-pound.
Vicious introduced X-A.C.T. last year, which stands for Advanced Copolymer Technology. The advance is in coated lines — X-A.C.T. has two coatings serving several functions. Abrasion resistance rises off the charts, and the stretch factor is reduced to 28 percent according to Vicious, which would make it one of the least stretchy copolymers on the market. Somebody decided they needed a line that lives up to a name like Vicious, and this is X-A.C.T.-ly that. It's clear and available in 2- to 30-pound versions.
Gamma has a new copolymer called Polyflex — a perfect example of one of those "do everything" lines from the future. Gamma discovered a blend of polymers capable of increasing strength and shock resistance while improving limpness and castability. In fact, Gamma claims Polyflex increases casting distance by 50 percent over other leading brands. In the field, Polyflex is one of those lines you seldom think about because it casts smoothly and performs with fewer twists and tangles. And it's tough. Lines both supple and abrasion resistant are what the future of fishing is all about. Gamma also added Panfish Line in 2- to 12-pound high-vis yellow, which should be available this spring.
McCoy Fishing has news for catfish lovers. The 2014 unveiling of McCoy Tuff Cat took place at the ICAST Show. This new copolymer speaks casting gear and heavy-action rods. "This line was developed for catfish anglers," says Steve Hartigan, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for McCoy Fishing. "Catmen demand strength and toughness you can't find in ordinary monos. Tuff Cat is a blend of nylons that won't nick or cut when big cats run for cover." Tuff Cat is light brown, matching the most prevalent water color big cats dwell in. The specs include superior knot strength and impact resistance and it's off the charts in abrasion comparisons. Tuff Cat is available in 250-yard spools from 15- to 40-pound test.
Fluorocarbon lines, which went through the same growing pains as mono, are constructed with Polyvinylidene fluoride, or PVDF. The point is stealth. PVDF lowers optical density or, as some companies put it, lowers the coefficient of reflectivity closer to that of water itself. At any rate, fish can't see it as well in most conditions. At first it was stiff, coily, lacked abrasion resistance, and was suitable only as leader material.
Seaguar changed all that by adjusting density and molecular composition in the lab, coming up with a variety of fluorocarbons with differing characteristics. When it comes to spooling up with fluoro, Seaguar InvizX and AbrazX set standards for castability, abrasion resistance, and performance in cold weather. Other companies have been setting their sites on that bar. Seaguar's newest fluoro product is Pink Label. Every sale (you guessed it) benefits breast cancer research. "Seaguar just sent a donation of $10,000," says Chuck Reynolds, President of Scott Advertising. "A growing number of anglers from the Gulf to freshwater demanded a pink fluorocarbon because they say pink is a little more visible above the water but, being in the red part of the spectrum, disappears just under the surface. Seaguar offers it in 15- to 200-pound test."
BassFan tested Gamma's new version of Edge Fluorocarbon and it "impressed in terms of flexibility" and "abrasion resistance was notable." Gamma changed molecular properties in the manufacturing process, the report notes, resulting in excellent shock and knot strength — two of the other major problems with early fluorocarbons. And by adjusting PVDF molecules in the lab, Gamma discovered marketable qualities in lines with other properties, which resulted in Touch. "Touch is perfect for livebait rigging, light-line jigging, and drop-shot applications," says Dale Black, President of Gamma. "We had these finesse techniques in mind when developing it, thus the unusual 2- to 9-pound range in tests."
Bass Pro Shops XPS Signature Series Fluorocarbon carries the endorsement of bass-fishing legend Kevin VanDam, and the new version blends increased abrasion resistance with better castability. I use this line as leader material and it has excellent capabilities in that department. It's available in 2-pound increments from 8- through 20-pound test.
Specialty lines, developed for specific techniques, keep appearing with greater frequency. Flipping involves fast, heavy rods, short casts into heavy cover, massive hook-sets, and battles in close quarters. So the blend of resins in Sunline Flipping FC were selected for shock resistance, knot strength, abrasion resistance, and high tensile strength, yet allow this line to be spooled, lay smoothly, and pay out evenly with low memory on casting reels. Flipping FC is spooled in 16- to 25-pound-test setups. Due to growing demand for tinted fluoros, Sunline added a green version, Super FC Sniper Green in 7- to 20-pound test.
The development of lines involves lab science and vast experience in the field. As the years have passed, we've all benefited from more lines that scoff at nicked props, pooh-pooh dense vegetation, and laugh at anchor ropes, thanks to the competitive nature of line companies today.
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