On the upside, On July 3, 1994 I managed to hook and land my personal best king salmon, weighing 71 lbs. The downside was that the no stretch of braid absolutely freaked me out as I was battling the fish. Every time the fish turned toward me, the line would go slack. This was not a comfortable feeling with a fish of a lifetime on the line. The end result? I didn’t use braid again for at least another ten years.
I started to use braid again for halibut fishing, for which it was perfectly suited. Then I got much more used to it while learning to use braid on my steelhead float rods. Float fishing is another virtually perfect’ application for braid, with its thin diameter and the fact it floats on the surface. Float rods tend to be long and soft, so the braid also helped with a good hookset. Deep-water bottom fishing and float fishing are two areas where braid shines.
Fast forward to 2011 and my new kayak! Fortunately for my progress, my main area to kayak fish held both salmon and halibut. I started carrying a salmon troll rod loaded with mono, and a halibut rod loaded with braid. Slowly but surely, I started using my halibut jigging stick not only for halibut but for salmon as well, and it worked out great for me. Now, I use braid on every rod I use out of a kayak, except for my fly rod.
What do I like about braid, and what are the pros and cons? Let’s start with the ones that are commonly listed:
- Minimal stretch
- Super diameter-to-strength ratio (its super thin relative to mono)
- Lasts forever [Well, almost… IR]
- Minimal stretch
- Cuts flesh like razor wire
- Super limp. Wind knots and bird’s nests cen be very challenging to fix.
- Low “shock strength” relative to mono
- Poor abrasion resistance
For me, the key is to select the characteristics that I need in braid, and plan accordingly. For example, I typically don’t need super thin line. Between a downrigger or diver I can get down 50’ with 65lb braid, and that covers about 90% of the fishing I do.
So out of a half a dozen setups that I have braid on, all but one has 65lbs or 50lbs braid. My average salmon I catch is 10lbs – 15lbs,and the average halibut about 20lbs. This might seem like overkill, ut I think this is the most common mistake first-time users make. They want to try braid, so when they replace 10lb test mono, they buy 10lb braid. I can still recall my feelings of frustration as I went down this path.
First, instead of 100 yards, I needed 300 yards of line to fill the same spool! That was expensive! I’ve since learned to use backing if I don’t need that much line. Then I discovered what a royal tying knots and dealing with any minor tangle is with microscopically thin line.
My recommendation is if you are replacing 10lb test, unless you absolutely need super-thin line or the casting distance, you need to go with at least 30lb test minimum. It is much easier to handle all around. If you feel guilty for using 30lb test on 2lb trout, feel free to use a much lighter leader set up. There’s nothing wrong with that. Do you fret that your steel gears on your reel won’t break unless fifty pounds of pressure is put on it? You shouldn’t.
In addition, the “heavier than mono” pound rating for braid solves one of the cons: relatively low “shock strength”. Berkley websites says on their: “Shock Strength—Nylon monofilament offers superb shock strength, while fluorocarbon ranks in the middle and superlines have the poorest ability to absorb sudden impacts such as a hard hookset or violent headshake.” Compensate for this by using heavier pound test than mono.
You need a leader for just about any fishing you do with braid. Braid may be stronger than steel, but even steel wire less than half the diameter of your hair isn’t very strong. Neither are the individual strands that make up braid. Any portion of your line that comes in contact with the ground and rocks must have a leader on it. Don’t believe the advertising about greater abrasion resistance. It may be true of weeds and even tree limbs, but on rocks, piers, downrigger cables, and anything hard, both mono and fluorocarbon provided much greater abrasion resistance, in my opinion.
When bottom fishing in deep water, the advantages of braid are obvious. No stretch means you can detect the strikes, you can fill a smaller reel with enough line to get down, and the line provides plenty of strength to haul up a big fish from the deep.
Where I have found braid shines is in trolling applications. The “conventional” trolling set up for salmon is a fairly soft long rod using mono. I’ve found for kayak fishing that the opposite is true. My longest trolling rod is 8’ long, and the shortest is 5’6”. In my opinion, braid allows for a much better hook set. Imagine a fish following a lure, nipping at it versus smashing it. The hook is much more likely to get set with braid and faster action rod than mono on a slower rod. The first inch of flex is critical for the hookset on trolled gear in my experience. Especially with lures, once they nip metal, you better have them hooked. Mono can stretch up to 10% of its length. It’s not uncommon for me to have 100’ of line out. That’s just too much stretch before a solid hook set. Yes, a longer softer rod may land more fish once hooked, but first you have to get them hooked.
I think there would are plenty of folks who have different opinions. Well heck, let’s be a little more controversial! I will make the bold statement that braid is superior to mono for downrigging applications, as well. The shortest explanation is the braid will “tighten up” to the fish much faster and more solidly than mono, due to the stretch of the mono.
I believe one of the keys to my successful use of braid is the kayak platform. Unlike fishing from a large powerboat or the shoreline, the kayak gives very easily when pulled. It is another form of “drag”. My kayak turns around when I simply crank in my line for a bait check. This additional shock absorber is a huge advantage when using braid.
I could likely write a novel about all the specific uses and how braid excels in each particular use. But really, it all boils down to personal preference. One of the reasons I love braid is that you really feel connected to the fish. You can feel every head shake and every little nibble. If you have never used braid, you will quickly learn to hold on to your rod tightly. The strikes are just much more vicious with no stretch.
If you have never tried braid and want to give it a shot, my main piece of advice is to gear up with braid that is closer to the diameter of the mono line you have been using, not the breaking strength. If you use 10lb mono, step up to 30lbbraid. If you are using 20lb - 30lbmono, step up to 50lb - 65lb braid. Every brand has its followers. Remember, it is a manufactured product that is only strong as its weakest section. I’d buy a reputable brand name. I use PowerPro, but there are many other great lines out there. I just haven’t had a reason to switch.
Learn a few good knots. My personal preference, even though I know it’s not optimal, is the standard improved clinch knot with the line doubled up. The Palomar knot is a good knot to know as well. You should also learn the improved albright knot so you can connect mono to braid. A quick search will reveal lots of different methods for tying knots in braid.
Since you are reading this article on YakAngler.com, I assume you fish from a kayak. It’s really a great platform to give braid a try. For full disclosure, if you use it long enough, you may break a rod when the limp line wraps the rod tip and you cast. You will almost certainly get a bird’s nest that’s impossible to untangle. You might cut your hands pretty severely and painfully. You’ll likely lose a fish because slack developed when you couldn’t reel fast enough. Sounds like a ton of negatives, but I use it for 95% of my fishing applications now simply because the advantages are worth the downsides.
Braid-haters can come up with all sorts of very legitimate reasons not to use it. I read enough that I think I know most of the issues. After reviewing a decade of my personal use and all of the good and bad I have experienced with it, the equipment on my kayak is currently 90% braid equipped (my fly rod uses mono). I think that’s the single best argument I personally have for braid.