Line Size Does MatterLine Size Does Matter We all have to be versatile enough to pick the right line in the right situation every time we go to the water.
By Fred Wall
It was about an hour before time leave for weigh-in and I had one little dink in the livewell. I'd been casting this crankbait o long I was sure I would be sore when Tuesday got here. We had pre-fished the day before the tournament and had talked. A friend "owed" me some information due to the fact that I had shared my pattern with him at the last lake we had fished. He showed me exactly the crankbait that had worked on pre-fish day, I verified this by seeing the teeth marks and missing paint. He even gave me part of the water, and said there were plenty of fish for both us both. A fellow can't have a better friend than this. As I said, I had watched him throw this particular Bandit medium-diving crankbait and catch fish on it all day. He finished in second place that day and while we both tried to figure out what I was doing wrong, I happened to ask him what size line he was using. He said, "You know I never use anything heavier than 10- pound in the spring when the water is this clear."
We were both using 7-foot rods, medium action, Shimano reels, and the exact same crankbait. Not to speak of the extra 15 yards in distance he gained by using the 10-pound line. It's all in the diameter of the line and how much resistance it has with the water. His crankbait had been ticking the top of the grass in 12 feet of water and the fish were in the grass. They just wouldn't go the extra two feet toward the surface to get my lure. I had made the wrong line selection.
At the other end of the spectrum was the trip to Sam Rayburn, pre-fishing for the a team championship tournament held there a few years back. Neither I nor my partner knew anything about how to catch the fish in the grass that everyone had talked about for two months prior to the tournament. So we sprung for a guide trip two weeks before the cut off date. Using a local guide on a foreign lake is a common practice for tournament fishermen. It teaches you the technique, shows you what pattern will work, and all of the guides I've ever fished with have been more than helpful as to what they think it will take to win. The only drawback is, don't try to use the exact water he fishes because chances are you are not the only one that knows where his fish are. Use what he teaches you and find your own water, that is similar to his in as many ways as possible.
Okay, back to the line size lesson. He told me to bring a Carolina rig, a wacky worm rig and a good stout rod. We started out the day catching a few wacky worm fish out in the sparse grass beds scattered outside the main grass mat. I had 12-pound test on that rod and it worked fine. For the rest of the day I got to feel the bites, but never got to see the fish that he said it would take to win the tournament. He was rigging a giant salt craw on a 5/0 hook and a 1/2-ounce worm weight, or a 3/4-ounce black blue purple jig with the back half salt craw on it for a trailer. He would nose the boat up on the edge of the grass and pitch at the smallest holes in the mat. He would feed the jig enough line to let it go to the bottom, jig it twice, pull up and pitch to another hole. He had two big fish in the boat in less than 30 minutes, and said, "I just wanted to show you they were here." Then we left. He was fishing a brand of that fancy spectra-fiber in 50-pound strength just couldn't make myself put that on my reel.
For the tournament I had rigged up a 7-foot jig rod that had about the same action as a pool cue. I had dug out one of my old Ambassador 5000 C's from the late 70's, cleaned her up put it on my pool cue, tightened down the drag with a set of industrial vise grips, spooled up with 20-pound mono and I was ready.
We started out tournament morning with a plastic twitch bait I had found to work, then caught one more fish on that blamed wacky worm. We had three fish in the livewell. It was 10:00 a.m. and time to go to the jig fish and put a couple of kickers in the box.
We went to the guide's water and sure enough no one was in sight. I nosed the boat to the mat and hadn't been fishing 10 minutes when the first fish bit. I set the hook and, as instructed, I was holding her head up and was bringing her to the top. I got to see her head before she turned and straight down she went. That 20-pound line sounded like a 22 rifle shot when it broke. I settled myself down from that and after a thorough butt chewing from my partner decided I would not put quite as much pressure on the next fish.
Okay it's 11:30, I've got plenty of time to catch two more fish so back to work I go. The next fish that bit took the salt craw and headed to China before it had sank two feet. I reared back and set the hook, but I didn't pull quite as hard on her as I had the first one. She made a big circle under the water before I got her up and there was no way to get her and three square yards of hydrilla in the boat.
I had now lost two good fish that might not have won the tournament but would have sure got us a nice check. All due to my line size selection. We had driven 400 miles, rented a room for four days, bought a guide and pooped off a tournament, cause I didn't consider line size.
I've made these two examples, but we haven't even considered underwater visibility yet. If you fish clear water, you are constantly aware of whether or not the fish can see the line under the water. I personally believe if I can see the line under the water, so can the fish. I don't, and won't use, florescent coated line because the ultraviolet light that makes line florescent penetrates water to a certain depth. I know you boys that fish rootbeer-colored water or muddy water 80 percent of the time don't understand this, but anything we can do to keep the fish from knowing whether our lure is real or not matters. For me this is a confidence thing, and confidence is one of the most important tools in your boat. If you are confident with line that you can see, this is your choice.
There are as many brand names of line these days as there are lure companies and each of us have our favorite, but take a new look. They have all made an effort to improve their products. The newest trend is in the fluorocarbon market. The chemical structure of fluorocarbon is that under water it literally disappears. Pure fluorocarbon line is strong, has little stretch but tends to be stiff and has a bit too much memory "slinky action" for me, not to speak of the cost. However, a few of the line manufacturers have found a way to put a fluorocarbon coating on their line achieving the advantage of being invisible underwater without the bad characteristics of the pure stuff.
Fishermen's views of braided line are much like spinach. You either love it or you hate it. Braided line has also made many advances since first introduced a few years ago as a sort of hybrid kite string. It was costly when first introduced and was suspected to be hard on equipment. In certain situations it would not break and had no stretch, but if you didn't tie the right knot would "untie" itself from your lure. It became very popular with muddy-water fishermen and people who fished heavy weed beds or heavy wood cover. The manufacturers have made improvements here, too. They have made the line easier to tie a knot in, available in many different colors yet still able to keep the no-stretch, no-break advantages as well as not as abrasive on fishing equipment.
The bottom line is, line choice does matter and we all have to be versatile enough to pick the right line in the right situation every time we go to the water. It's very simple, read the information about each type of line and use the qualities it has to apply to your fishing techniques and you will be much better off in the long run. Pay attention to what other people tell you about the types of line they use and don't forget some rod manufacturers even recommend the proper pound tests for specific rods, which is a big help.
I hope this has helped you see, you really do have the ability to create your own luck.
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