Light Tackle Sportfishing
  |  First Published: September 2006

There has been a major revolution over the past few years towards the use of braided and gelspun ‘superlines’ for fishing. Their lack of stretch and the thinner diameter, compared to same strength monofilament lines, give an improved feel of what is happening at the business end of your line.

There are a handful of specific situations where braid has significant advantages. One example is deepwater reef fishing. This revolution has taken hold to such an extent, however, that the advantages of mono lines have been forgotten and we are in the midst of a ‘must use braid’ fad. I would like to put some balance back into the debate.

Stretch is the major advantage of mono lines over the new generation superlines. That’s right; often stretch can be a big advantage. First we need some facts on exactly how much stretch we are talking about. I have done a series of tests on the lines I use (Platypus Pretest and Hawk Tournament) and found that the maximum stretch was around 20%. The stretch at a strike drag of 1/3 of the breaking strength is only 6-8%. Further information from Australian Monofil states that Platypus Pretest stretches 30% before breaking, and Platypus Pink stretches 20%. The small discrepancy with my data is probably due to the method of testing and my knots. These stretch figures are a lot less than what most people seem to think.

So, what are the advantages of this stretch? Firstly, cushioning the impact of the strike when a fish first hits your lure may stop the line from breaking or the hooks pulling. Secondly, when fighting a fish the line’s stretch helps keep tension between the rod and the hook. This reduces the chances of a sudden change in direction creating slack line and the fish throwing the hook. It’s an important consideration for the less experienced anglers. The stretch also reduces your ‘feel’ of your lure in the water, and the chances of detecting a piece of weed fouling the lure is definitely reduced, but the vast majority of fish will hit your lure hard, so you won’t miss many bites using mono, if any.

Other advantages of mono over braid are the increased abrasion resistance, far lower cost, and simpler knots required.

The final advantage relates specifically to light tackle sportfishing. It’s a natural progression for many anglers once they have mastered their preferred form of fishing to use lighter tackle to increase the sporting aspect and the challenge of landing the fish. Let’s face it, the actual fight when you are connected to a fish is where most of the fun is, and the scream of the reel is what we all live for.

Unfortunately, the breaking strength quoted for braided and gelspun lines is usually well below the actual breaking strength (by up to half), so the real relationship of the fish’s weight to line breaking strength is lost. This problem can be avoided when using certain mono lines that are ‘pretested’ by the manufacturer to break just below the stated strength. The most well known of these is Platypus Pretest, which comes in either fluoro yellow (useful for trolling) or clear. I guess ‘light tackle’ is a definition based on personal experience, but a rough guide is to target fish weighing more than your line strength.

I have found that often, using lighter line and playing a fish out, rather than skull dragging it in, results in a less stressed fish in better condition for release or for the table. It also reduces the chances of injuries to anglers at the boat from big pelagics that are still green.

Sportfishing captures are determined by organisations such as the Australian National Sportfishing Association (ANSA) and International Game Fishing Organisation (IGFA). For ANSA, the merits of a capture is quantitated using a formula which divides the fish’s weight by the line class used and adjusts this using a ‘fighting factor’ which takes into account the ease of capture of each species. For example, a 2.95kg mackerel tuna captured on 3kg line is calculated to be 2.95 divided by 3.0, multiplied by the fighting factor of 1.5 and times 100, gives 148 points. No guessing required.

There is a system within ANSA that records meritorious captures (those calculated to be more than 100 points) and encourages the angler to capture a variety of species and use different methods of fishing. The same points system is also used during sportfishing competitions, which allow an angler to weigh only five fish, with a maximum of two of any one species.

There are nearly 50 ANSA affiliated clubs throughout Queensland, and their contact details can be found at http://www.ansaqld.com.au/ under ‘contact us’.

Look Deeper

I encourage everyone to look past the hype and consider the advantages and disadvantages of monofilament lines compared to braid. Mono will save you money and might even improve your catches. Using lighter mono lines will hone and test your skills. You may be surprised at what is possible.

Quantitation of stretch in mono lines
Line StrengthStrike Drag (1/3 breaking strain)Breaking Point

Line stretch was measured over a length of 3m at both strike drag (1/3 of the stated breaking strength) and breaking point.

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