The Fluorocarbon Advantage
By Mike Bucca
With top name pros like Gary Klein, Takahiro Omori, Kevin Van Dam, Tommy Martin, Gary Yamamoto, Aaron Martens and many others relying more and more on fluorocarbon line, you really can't help but to listen to some of the talk about this new age line. Big name tournaments are being won on fluorocarbon lines left and right and the feedback is very positive from the pros that this could very well be the next best thing since nylon monofilament was invented in the early 1900's. Fluorocarbon lines are without a doubt the next mega trend in bass fishing lines. Read further to find out why.
Before I go further, I want to explain exactly what fluorocarbon line is and a little about the history of this relatively new line. As far as I can research on the internet fluorocarbon was invented in 1970's in Japan, but it wasn't until the mid 90's that fluorocarbon was introduced as a fishing leader line, so yes fluorocarbon line is fairly new to the fishing industry and we have just begun to see its effect. Many of the early generation fluorocarbons were very stiff, hard to manage and not to mention very very expensive at a whopping $1 per yard, but the new processing techniques have enabled the modification of the stiff polymer chains to make this material more flexible, more manageable and also more affordable. This results in branching of the polymer backbone and enables the tailoring of properties and improved performance in handling.
Before fluorocarbon was first introduced into bass fishing, fluorocarbon was and still is used primarily by fly fisherman as tippets and also by saltwater enthusiasts as leader line due to its invisible properties, stiffness, strength and abrasion resistance. Most of the fluorocarbon lines are made from a fluoropolymer called polyvinylidene flouride...PVDF for short. PVDF is a high-grade engineering polymer with good temperature properties and extremely good chemical resistance. You don't see a lot of it around the house, but it is used for a lot of piping, valves, seals, musical instrument strings and in air filters. It has several other applications in the electronics industry such as membranes for fuel cells and batteries.
Do remember that Fluorocarbon lines are a type of monofilament lines. Mono is simply standing for mono, or single filament. So typically I will use the phrase nylon monofilament to make the distinction between itself and fluorocarbon lines.
So what are the advantages of this new age line called fluorocarbon over the tried and true nylon monofilaments lines anyway?
ADVANTAGES of Fluorocarbon
One of the primary advantages of fluorocarbon is its near invisibility when it is submerged under water. Fluorocarbon line comes the closest to the light refractive index of water so it is virtually invisible when submerged. This fact alone makes this line very useful in situations that have a clear water environment. A lot of anglers are now using less-visible 16 lb. fluorocarbon for applications where they may have used more-visible 12-14 pound nylon mono previously. Anglers are able to gain extra strength in their fluorocarbon lines due to the less visibility of fluorocarbon in the water.
Fluorocarbon's chemical composition and extrusion methods create an extremely strong and durable line. Most fluorocarbon lines are closed cellular and does not absorb water like most nylon monofilaments, so it maintains its strength better than nylon monofilaments, which loses strength when exposed to water or humidity. Fluorocarbon is also unaffected by the sun's ultraviolet rays causing fluorocarbon lines to last significantly longer than nylon monofilaments as well. I have personally noticed that fluorocarbon line can last as long as four times the life of nylon monofilaments, making it an excellent choice for anglers looking for a good value in fishing lines.
Yet another advantage of this space age line is that fluorocarbon has less stretch than typical nylon or copolymer monofilaments. Your hook sets are always strong and positive and this is a huge plus when fishing deep water finesse baits and at the very end of a long cast towards schooling fish with a Sammy, where line stretch is detrimental to a good hook set. The stretchiness characteristic of fluorocarbon line is more comparable to that of braided lines than nylon monofilaments, but without the thread look of braided lines that are easily seen in clear water. When you are flipping and pitching your subtle bites will go from a barely detectable tap tap while using nylon monofilaments, to bites feeling like a bolt of lighting up the spine of your rod when using fluorocarbon. The bites are three times more noticeable in my hands while using fluorocarbon.
I have to tell a story as it pertains to the sensitivity of fluorocarbon lines. While giving a tank seminar on jerkbaits at the Atlanta Boat Show earlier this year, I had one rod spooled with 10lb nylon monofilament and another with 10 lb fluorocarbon. I was using two rods for the sole purpose of saving time tying on another bait during the middle of a seminar. In this particular tank the fish were starving and feeding heavily on almost anything you threw. I was describing the different actions between a pointer 78 and a flashminnow 95MR in the tank and while fishing the pointer 78 on monofilament I can clearly see the fish lightly hitting the bait and quickly spitting it out because the hard jerkbait didn't feel real to the fish. I could just barely, if at all, feel those fish hit that pointer 78. But when I threw the flashminnow 95MR on the fluorocarbon the fish just picked at the flashminnow just like they did the pointer 78 and the bites were extremely distinguishable compared to those hits on pointer 78 using nylon monofilament. I taught myself a very valuable lesson that day and it made me wonder how many fish have pocket picked my jerkbaits in the past while I was using nylon monofilament and I didn't even know it. Even though the bites are subtle on inactive fish I could have at the very least has the opportunity to swing on some of those pocket picking fish in hopes to sticking them and getting them into the boat. But now that I use fluorocarbon I will get that opportunity and I will never forget that test and I hope it will give you the reader something to think about as well.
Another advantage of fluorocarbon over a braided line is that fluorocarbon line sinks at much faster rates than nylon line or even much less dense braided lines, which will float. Because of the chemistry of the material and the dense packing of the crystal structures in the polymer chains, fluoropolymers are about 1.7 times as dense as nylon, which gives them a much faster sink rate. The fact that fluorocarbon sinks makes it a better choice for baits that dive or sink like crankbaits and deep jig fishing, and it can even help get your deep diving Lucky Craft jerkbaits like the Staysee 90 get a little deeper than a braided line normally would get you.
It is the surface tension of water combined with the lower density that can keep nylon monofilament from sinking under the water's surface. It often takes the weight of a lure to let the nylon monofilament break the surface tension and sink slowly once it gets wet. Often the dry portion of the nylon monofilament that is unaffected by the weight of the lure, stays on the surface of the water. Most anglers have seen this when fishing with artificial lures. Once the lure hits the bottom, you will notice some of your line still on the surface of the water and any slack in the nylon line will float or arch creating a bow in your line. It is most notable especially when fishing at deeper depths. These bows and arches will not happen with fluorocarbon line. Fluoropolymers, even though they are hydrophobic or water hating, will easily break the surface tension and sink at much faster rates than nylon monofilaments, even without the help of the weight of any artificial lure. This concept leads to a direct connection to your lure, which is a very important aspect when fishing deep water with any lure that is worked below the surface of the water. It is common knowledge that big bows in your line reduce your ability to detect subtle strikes, especially in deep water, and by using fluorocarbon line you have just eliminated those effects.
The hard finish of fluorocarbon line also provides extreme abrasion resistance over nylon monofilaments. In fact, fluorocarbon has been offered for years as a leader material for salt water enthusiasts because of this property, but recent improvements in the processing have enabled makers to manufacture it with enough flexibility to be used solely as fishing line for bass.
Now that's the long list of advantages here is the short list of disadvantages, but they are very minor compared to the long list of advantages.
DISADVANTAGES of Fluorocarbon
One caution with fluorocarbon lines is that you need to be very careful when tying your knots to lures. Knot tying with fluorocarbon is VERY VERY critical to prevent break-offs. A lot of anglers discount the importance of knot tying with fluorocarbon lines and complain of line breakages. I can attest that poor knot tying skills are the most common reasons why anglers break off on fluorocarbon. No matter how long you have being tying knots with fishing line there is always room for improvement.
Here are the steps I take in getting a good strong knot with fluorocarbon. I prefer either the Berkley braid knot or the palomar knot when tying fluorocarbon to lures or hooks. The absolute key to getting a good knot with fluorocarbon is to make sure that your knot is NEAT and not sloppy. Meaning you can't have a strand of fluorocarbon overlapping where it shouldn't be overlapping and you must have a close to perfect knot as possible. Having said that, fluorocarbon lines are fairly stiff and slippery materials, and if you kink or damage the line while making the knot, then the line will be weakened dramatically similar to a single strand wire, once you kink the wire the wire has been weakened. So very careful, slow and systematic knot making, lubrication will help you to form a better knot and offer a stronger bind between your line and your lure. Once you wrap your knot and you are ready to cinch your knot you have GOT to slobber up the knot AND the eyelet of the hook very thoroughly!! Once you wet the knot, SLOWLY SLOWLY SLOWLY, cinch the knot and put a lot of emphasis that your knot stays straight and neat during the cinching process. I take 10 seconds to cinch the knot and I keep checking it to make sure my knot is clean as I am cinching it downward towards the lure. What I do is cinch the knot a 1/4 of an inch and stop and slobber it up and keep repeating the process till your knot is cinched all the way down, but remember to be sure that your knot is PRETTY. If you did everything correctly test your knot by pulling on it. With 8lb fluorocarbon line take the lure in one hand, line in the other with the knot being in between your two hands give it a good pull to see if your knot is sufficient and do this test as often as possible and retie as necessary. I do find myself retying more often on the smaller diameters (8lb test or smaller) than I do on the larger diameter lines. Yes, it's a little bit of a pain to go through some of the rituals that I go through in tying knots with fluorocarbon, but the key to fluorocarbon is some good basic and systematic knot tying skills. By developing good basic knot skills it allows you to concentrate on what is important, finding and catching more fish with the advantages that fluorocarbon provides you. Personally, I just can't imagine fishing with nylon monofilaments again after seeing the advantages of fluorocarbon lines with my own two eyes.
As for knots, I personally like the braid knot shown below. My primary reason for liking that knot is it is the easiest knot to tie and it is the easiest knot to get a pretty knot every time, compared to the palomar knot, with minimal hassle and alignment. There is very little chance of line overlapping incorrectly with the braid knot as compared to the palomar knot in my opinion, but both knots are equally as strong if done correctly. The only thing I do differently than the braid knot picture to the right is I only wrap the loop around the main line only 3 times versus 7 times as shown in the picture.
Fluorocarbon is pretty tough for novice anglers to use on spinning reels. It does work very well on bait casting gear with no noticeable problems. If you're not very comfortable with spinning reels with regular nylon monofilaments, you will probably have a tough time with a spinning reel spooled with fluorocarbon without some kind of a learning curve. In fact, I am finding a lot of anglers using braid with a fluorocarbon leader since braid is a lot more compatible with spinning reels than fluorocarbon, but as you can see from the chart below there is a trade off, line visibility, diving depth of lure and also a giant arch in your line due to the floating characteristics of braided lines. The reason why it's hard to use fluorocarbon on spinning reels is because the line acts like piano wire and is fairly stiff compared to nylon monofilaments. Also, fluorocarbon is known for its twists and loops especially in the smaller diameter fluorocarbon lines. Basically what happens is when you flip the bail while full of line on your spinning reel the line just springs off the spool with almost no effort. However, it can be tamed. There is no way possible that I have found to spool on new fluorocarbon without the line twisting. So here is what I do to alleviate this problem. I spool my new fluorocarbon onto the reel until it is full. Then when I am on the lake and idling out of the marina I put the tag end of my line through the guides of the rod and into the water (remember fluorocarbon line sinks) and let the water take all of the fluorocarbon off of my spinning reel spool. Once all of the line is off the spool, I then reel the fluorocarbon back onto the spinning reel while holding the line between my thumb and index finger. What you have just done is allow the water to undue the twists in your line for you. Now your fluorocarbon will be a lot more manageable on a spinning outfit. You will still have the stiffness in your line, but I have always found that fluorocarbon is like a fine wine, in that it becomes more limp and softens with age.
The final disadvantage of MOST fluorocarbons is that it costs a bit more than nylon monofilaments. There are some line companies that sell fluorocarbon for $40 for a 110 yard spool. But coupled with the fact that fluorocarbon lasts four times longer than nylon monofilaments you still come out way ahead in the value department as nylon monofilaments normally last for only a month or sometimes less under heavy use. The reason for the extra cost is that raw PVDF (fluorocarbon) resin costs about four to five times as much as nylon and since the material is twice as dense as nylon, you get about half the yield from the same amount of resin. Fluorocarbon is also more time consuming to process as compared to nylon monofilaments. Since fluorocarbon line is a sinking line that can be claimed as a disadvantage when using it for hard topwater baits such as a walking the dog with a Lucky Craft Sammy or Gunfish. The line sinks so readily that it drastically hampers the action of almost all hard topwater baits. Because of this simple fact, I find nylon monofilament to be a better option for topwater fishing. However there is no problem in using fluorocarbon for most types of buzzbaits, because there is no action to impart in most buzzer style lures. Find below a ratings chart in the top 7 criteria that anglers use when deciding on purchasing their fishing lines. I found it interesting to see how fluorocarbon stacks up against the rest. Do keep in mind that a lot of other environmental variables come into play when choosing your fishing lines other than the 7 criteria I have listed below so make your choices based on your needs. Copolymers are very difficult to rate because of the many different variables that you can use in a copolymer line. This chart includes the categories that we have already discussed.
Are you using the right line???
4 = being best; 1 = being worst
Joining two lines
Since the cost of fluorocarbon is at a premium price, I use nylon monofilament as backing on all of my bait casting and spinning reel outfits to maximize the use of the fluorocarbon with minimal waste. If I already have a reel spooled with nylon mono, I will go into my yard on or on the water and make a long cast with a heavy topwater bait. Once my cast is complete I have then determined my maximum casting distance. I then strip off another 30 to 40 feet of nylon mono and cut my line and then join the nylon monofilament with the fluorocarbon line and reel the fluorocarbon onto the spool of the reel. The extra 30 to 40 feet gives you a buffer for numerous reties and professional overruns if you have them. There are a myriad of knots that you can use for this purpose. I personally like to use either a J-knot or a double uni-knot to join the fluorocarbon to other lines. These knots will also work well with joining fluorocarbon to braid or to copolymer lines as well. Just be sure to follow the instructions I set forth above, i.e. slobber up heavily, make pretty knots and a slow, slow cinch.
To my knowledge there are only 3 factories in the world with the capabilities to manufacturer fluorocarbon line. Two of those factories are in Asia and the bulk of fluorocarbon lines come from these two Asian factories. The reasons why a lot of fluorocarbons fish exactly alike is because they are coming from the same exact factory. The other fluorocarbon factory is located in Germany and they manufacture the Triple fish brand of fluorocarbon. Some fluorocarbon lines handle better, some are stronger, some are more invisible under water than others and some are a copolymer of fluorocarbon meaning they have nylon filaments combined with fluorocarbon. My personal opinion on copolymer fluorocarbons is that by adding nylon filaments to fluorocarbon you are defeating the purpose of using 100% fluorocarbon. If you add nylon filaments to fluorocarbon you have just made the line more visible underwater and you have reduced the sensitivity of the line by adding more stretch to the line. You might as well just fish with 100% nylon monofilament since it's a cheaper line if you are going to use a fluorocarbon copolymer line.
A few things that I look at when studying the many different fluorocarbon lines is the clearness of the line. Some companies use low quality fluoropolymers, which cause the line to take on a "milky" color and some lines actually have a chalky substance on the line or spool, which in turn makes the line more visible to the fish. The clearness differences can be easily seen when you put a quality fluorocarbon line next to a lesser quality line. Of course cost is going to enter into the equation with several companies coming out with spools with only 110 yards of line costing $40 dollars plus. There are some very good brands of fluorocarbon on the market that do not cost an arm and a leg to purchase. However, the biggest way to save a lot of money is to buy bulk spools. There are only a few select companies out there that sell fluorocarbon in bulk spools so be sure to check into that as a cost saving idea.
Having mentioned all the advantages and disadvantages of fluorocarbon, what techniques are best for the use of fluorocarbon line in bass fishing? Before I mention the specifics of technique fishing with fluorocarbon, let me mention one often overlooked advantage of these lines, and that is the excellent frictional properties. Fluoropolymers, by nature of their chemistry are very slippery materials. Think about Teflon as the best known example of a non-stick, slippery fluoropolymer. Beside the fact that Fluorocarbons won't stick and bind in knot tying quite like nylon monos, the other significant advantage of these very slick lines, is the reduced friction and wear on guide surfaces. Low friction also offers advantages in both casting and retrieving and can translate into longer casts and smoother retrieves, especially under fighting loads. One slight disadvantage to the stiffer fluorocarbon lines would be in casting very light baits where a somewhat more flexible line type would offer an improvement. Softer, more flexible materials can minimize the feedback and interference of the line when casting light lures which have little momentum.
Aside from the material properties such as low friction, Fluorocarbon lines offer many advantages for specific techniques. Most dropshot pro's almost use fluorocarbon line exclusively for the simple fact that drop shotting is technically a clear deep water finesse technique. Sensitivity is paramount for deep finesse fishing in depths of over 40 feet and the limited stretch characteristics of fluorocarbon ties in very well with any deep water finesse tactics.
Flipping and Pitching is another technique that I like to use with fluorocarbon lines. Fluorocarbon is very abrasive resistance due to its hardness, and for those of you that have to line watch with nylon monofilament, those days are over with the sensitivity (minimal stretch) features of fluorocarbon. Those subtle bites now become stronger and you are able to react quicker to those bites before the fish blows your jig or creature bait out. Because fluorocarbon comes the closest to the light refractive index of water it is virtually invisible to the fish when submerged and it is great for clear water flipping and pitching where as braid is more visible in clear water. If you still find the need to watch your line you can use a permanent sharpie marker to color parts of your line that is above the water while you are fishing your jig. Remember since fluorocarbon has the same light refractive index as water it is fairly invisible under water so you can upsize your line with less-visible 16 lb. fluorocarbon for applications where they may have used more-visible 12-14 pound mono previously.
Fluorocarbon is also an excellent choice for fishing jerkbaits and crankbaits as well. Again, fluorocarbon has great abrasion resistance for cranking through heavy laydowns and due to the fact that fluorocarbon is a sinking line with minimal stretch you will have no problems detecting bites or pocket picks when fishing jerkbaits and cranks. You might even get a little more depth out of them than if you used a nylon monofilament or braided lines.
Spinnerbaits, swim baits and traps are other great baits to use with fluorocarbon. The biggest advantage to using fluorocarbon with spinnerbaits, swim baits and traps is to be able to set the hook at the end of those long casts. When making a long cast in open water flats with spinnerbaits and traps, the line stretch of nylon monofilament is enough to cause you a weak hook set on those long distance casts especially if your rod is in the wrong position. But with the limited visibility and stretch of fluorocarbon lines you will be sure that the fish doesn't see your line as well as get a decent hook set even if you have bad fishing form.
I have always used my lines to feel and hold the fish after the hookset. Having said that take advantage of the action of your rod to land the fish and use a light drag if possible. If you are unfamiliar with the free-spooling technique of fighting a fish I would strongly advise you to read up on this lethal fish fighting technique to even further your development into a proficient fish fighting angler and watch your landing percentages sky rocket tremendously.
A lot of people don't use fluorocarbon with topwater baits because the line has a tendency to sink rather quickly. What I have done to alleviate this problem is go up to 20lb fluorocarbon with my walking topwaters such as the Sammy or Gunfish. By using a bigger diameter line with topwaters it helps slow down the sinking characteristics of the fluorocarbon line. I also don't do a lot of stop and go retrieves with my topwater baits. I fish a lot for Spotted Bass and they tend to like a faster retrieve anyway. However, if you feel like you need to do a stop and go retrieve I would opt for a good nylon monofilament. I would not recommend the bigger line for baits like a G Splash or similar Pop R type bait primarily because the bigger diameter line seems to over power such a small pop r style bait.
That pretty much sums everything up on this new age line that is becoming more and more popular in the sport of bass fishing. There are lots of characteristics to take advantage of in fluorocarbon lines with minimal disadvantages. Since I have switched over to fluorocarbon on all of my bait casters and spinning reels I can honestly say that is the best thing I have ever done to improve my fishing. Give it a try and take the tips and information I have given you here and see for yourself why this is the best thing to happen to bass fishing since the invention of nylon monofilament in the early 1900's and it's only the beginning of great things to come from this new age line.
Special thanks to Mark Gibson, a Materials Scientist from Stillwater, MN, for input into the technical portions of this article.
"Triton" Mike Bucca spends over 200 days on the water and is the owner of Mike's SpotCountry Guide Service (www.tritonmike.com) out of the Metro Atlanta area where he guides on Allatoona Lake (one of the very few guides in the United States that specializes in catching Spotted Bass). He has been featured numerous times in various state and national publications such as Georgia Outdoor News, Huntsville Times, Cullman Times, Outdoor Life and Gary Yamamoto's Inside Line. He can often be seen giving various seminars at Bass Pro Shops, Atlanta Boat Show and various Bass Clubs throughout the Atlanta area.
Mike is an avid participant on the BassResource.com Internet message boards where he enjoys sharing and discussing the joys of fishing. In previous years, he has participated in the Anglers Choice as well as several other local trails with great success - even winning a brand new Triton boat. His sponsors include Gary Yamamoto's Custom Baits, Lucky Craft Lures, SOB Fishing Products, Bass Stalker Jigs, Quickdrop Sinkers, Triple Fish Lines, Motor Guide Trolling Motors and Super Target Stores.