Making Sense of the Big 3 Line Types with Billy McDonaldMaking Sense of the Big 3 Line Types with Billy McDonald In bass fishing, there are three main types of line: braid, fluorocarbon, and monofilament. Here's when to use each.
By Tyler Brinks
In bass fishing, there are three main types of line, and they will cover everything you’ll be faced with on the water. Braid, fluorocarbon, and monofilament are the big three, and each has its place in bass fishing.
FLW Tour angler Billy McDonald shares when he uses each of them for this article.
There are many reasons why so many anglers trust braided line. It is very strong with a small diameter, and it also casts and handles very well on both baitcast and spinning gear.
McDonald is a big fan of braid by itself on baitcast gear and for using braided line with a fluorocarbon leader on spinning gear.
“I like it because there is no stretch to it and you get better hooksets,” he said. “Drop-shot, tubes, shakey heads, and all of the finesse techniques are perfect for braid to fluorocarbon.”
He prefers 15 or 20-pound Seaguar Smackdown braid in the high visibility Flash Green color and pairs it with a Seaguar AbrazX or Tatsu leader. One adjustment he makes is to vary his leader pound test based on where he is fishing.
“As a general rule, go with lightest pound test you can get away, but not too light where you can't get fish in. I use 8 and 10-pound the most, but if I am fishing a shakey head around cover, I will switch to a 12-pound leader,” McDonald shared.
Two other prime situations for braided line are for topwaters and when fishing around thick vegetation.
“I use braid for topwater frogs, buzzbaits, and walking baits. You can throw them further, and with sharp hooks and no stretch from the braid, you get a great hookset,” McDonald said, and he offered a tip on landing more bass with walking topwater baits.
“If one blows up on your bait, keep walking it until the line gets tight. Don’t swing for the fences because the bait will fly away. Just keep the same cadence and rhythm, and there is a good chance the bass will circle back and get it.”
Most of the time he is using 40-pound Seaguar Smackdown braid in the Stealth Gray color, but will up it to 50-pound if he is fishing around heavy cover.
Over the past decade, fluorocarbon use has exploded as anglers have learned the benefits to this type of line. It is virtually invisible underwater, it sinks, and it offers more sensitivity than monofilament. These properties make it an excellent choice for a fishing line.
“I use fluorocarbon for flipping, pitching, cranking, and basically everything except topwater fishing. One great thing on fluorocarbon is the durability; it lasts and lasts and also has minimal stretch,” shared McDonald.
Two common gripes with fluorocarbon are the price and knot tying, but McDonald has a reasonable answer to both of those.
“Some people complain about the price of fluorocarbon, but the line I use, Seaguar, has price points for all ranges from Red Label to Tatsu. So, get what you can afford.
“When it comes to knots, I tie a Palomar Knot for fluorocarbon, it is simple, and you can tie it quickly. Always, always make sure your line is wet before you cinch it. That’s where the friction starts and where knot failures happen,” he added.
There are many variables for selecting the right line size. Everything from fish size, cover, and fishing pressure changes how McDonald chooses the proper pound test.
“If I had to pick one all around size, it would be 15-pound test. But, 12, 15, and 17-pound will cover most situations,” said the Indiana pro.
Braid or Fluorocarbon for Flipping and Pitching
These two techniques can be done with both braid and fluorocarbon. McDonald uses both but prefers fluorocarbon.
“Flipping and pitching is my favorite thing to do, and the only time I will use braid is in a heavy grass situation, and when I am punching. Places like Florida and Texas with big bass and heavy cover are when I use a 65-pound Seaguar Flippin’ braid.
“On the other side of that is that I think you get more bites with fluorocarbon because it doesn’t make a sound and is less visible. I use Seaguar’s Flippin’ Fluorocarbon that comes in sizes up to 30-pound test.
“Seaguar has a smaller diameter for the strength compared to other lines, so the 30-pound is very close in diameter to the 20-pound from other brands. This allows the bait to cut through the water better and you also get more action from your bait because of the smaller diameter,” he added.
Monofilament or simply “mono” is the line many anglers started fishing with. It is the least expensive of the three but lacks in some areas that braided line and fluorocarbon excel.
Because of this, McDonald and many other pro anglers are using it less and less. McDonald has relegated it to just one technique now.
“The only time I use mono anymore is for topwater poppers. For most of my topwater fishing I have switched to straight braided line because it casts better and you get better hooksets with braid,” he said. “When I am fishing a popper it is usually short casts, and I’m fishing it slower, so mono is still the best choice for me.”
Just because McDonald has virtually eliminated it from his arsenal, monofilament can still be a good option for some techniques. Since it floats it serves as a good line for any topwater bait or shallow running crankbaits and wake baits. Some anglers also prefer it for cold-water crankbait fishing, and it also works great as a leader for Carolina-Rigs and as a leader for topwater fishing with a braided mainline.
Choosing the right line comes down to many variables. The lure you tie on, where you are fishing, and how the fish are acting all play a role in the decision process. By following McDonald’s advice, you can choose the right line like a pro.
Grow your fishing skills and improve your angling effectiveness.
Subscribe to the free weekly BassResource newsletter.