SUPERLINES

 

 

Some swear by them, others swear at them! That, in short, is how people seem to feel about superlines.

Over the years, I’ve used Gorilla Braid, Fireline, Whiplash, Stealth, Spiderwire Braid and Fusion, PowerPro and TUF-Line Regular and Plus, and probably a couple others I forget about. While this doesn’t make me an expert, at least, it gives me some points of reference and a basis for comparison. I’ve drawn some conclusions, come up with some hypotheses and made some plain observations that may not be sufficient for conclusions. Here they are, in no particular order.

 

A hard to kill myth

Ever since superlines came out, some people have been saying that it cuts the guides and tip tops of their rods. While there may have been some truth in this at the time (the first superlines were made out of Kevlar), today, it’s pure nonsense!

 

The belief probably came from the noise superlines make as they move through the guides; of course, all manufacturers that didn’t make a superline jumped in and made the most of this myth to discourage people from moving away from their mono.

As I recall, in those days, guides were made of pretty soft, cheap materials and the Kevlar fibres may have worn grooves in them. More likely, the guides were already worn, damaged or cracked and as the superlines were of a much smaller diameter, they rapidly made things worse and the blame was placed on the line with no thought given to the original problem.

 

Today, all superlines are made from either Spectra or Dyneema, which are just about the most slippery materials in existence after Teflon. On the other hand, even the cheapest rods made today come with guides made of reasonably hard materials and the guide cutting stuff is a non-issue. I have used superlines on dozens of rods, including some real El Cheapos and have never had the problem, whereas I regularly had to replace tiptops that were grooved from mono in the good old days.

 

So don’t start worrying just because you hear noise as the superline goes through the guides, it’s just the nature of the beast to transmit sound (vibration) more efficiently. The only rod I have that doesn’t make any sound when I use a superline happens to be my cheapest; the guide material is probably so soft (low quality) that it absorbs all sounds. I haven’t got the scientific equipment to be sure of this, so it’s only a hypothesis, but it seems to make sense. Anyway, I have yet to see any trace of premature wear on these guides either.

 

It’s still possible to damage guides today, whatever line you use: I believe the three most frequent causes are the following:

1 - Using the guide rings as lure holders when you store your rods is a great way to do it.

2 - Being much harder than before, the materials used in line guides today are also more prone to cracking when the rod hits an object.

3 – Picking up sand and debris with your line and then running it through the rod guides will give a very good impersonation of a metal saw… The slightly sticky coating on some superlines may also be conducive to picking up this kind of small stuff.

 

One little finger, two little fingers…

The very fact that superlines are strong, slippery and of low diameter makes pulling on them with your bare hands a big no-no!

 

It is recommended that you wrap your line around a piece of solid material (ex: a stick of some kind) if you’re going to exert much force pulling against superlines. Maybe it’s been just dumb luck, but SO FAR I’ve managed to unhook my lures and/or bend the hooks while wrapping the line 3-4 times around my arm OVER MY SHIRT and using a slow, steady pull. Another thing that probably helps me stay out of trouble is the fact that I never use any superline that’s stronger than 20-pound test; something always gives before my arm. I’m passing this one along without any guarantees, but I find it helpful since I always have an arm on hand (!), which is more than I can say about sticks…

 

POP, goes your line!

When I first started using superlines, I found that they would sometimes snap when bringing the lure to a brutal stop. This would happen when really giving a cast the Mark McGuire heave-ho and creating a backlash. I eventually understood that this was a direct result of the no-stretch characteristic: no stretch = no shock absorbing = break off on a sudden shock. The solution proved to be easy: Just ease up on those hyper-casts and stay away from backlashes. I also found out that I could get better distance by making smooth casts. Duh! So what else is new?

 

Going deep

Superlines have been criticized for preventing deep-running lures from getting down to their targeted depth because they float and people “logically” came to that conclusion without really trying them out. While this line (!) of reasoning makes sense, in real life, another factor comes into play that has much more impact on the running depth of a lure: LINE DIAMETER. While the slight buoyancy of superlines may work against achieving depth, their comparatively small diameter will more than compensate and actually give you more depth for an equivalent line test. Water resistance from the line is really the main factor that prevents a lure from diving to its designed depth and the superline’s small diameter helps a lot in this respect. Don’t take my word for this, go out and measure it for yourself. But don’t take any incomplete theory at face value either!

 

No stretch

While some mono and fluorocarbon manufacturers will call some of their lines “no-stretch” or “low-stretch”, recent tests have shown that even quality mono can stretch up to 40%, with the average being around 25%. While fluorocarbons fare better in this respect, we’re still talking about a major loss in the connection between you and the fish. No wonder the “cross-their-eyes” hook set is often considered the norm when using mono. If you consider that superlines have less than 5% stretch, you’ll begin to understand why their manufacturers suggest you change the way you set the hook!

 

A solid hook set with superlines requires nothing more than a sharp wrist snap, with all the motion getting transmitted to the hooks, without loss of amplitude, force or speed. This means that if you’re using really sharp hooks, you need only use slightly more motion than if you were jerking bait, and the fish is solidly hooked. If you really must prove that you’re stronger than a fish 1/10th your size and insist on a “cross-their eyes” hook set, stay away from superlines, else you’ll either take the lure right out of their mouth or break your rod.

 

Sensitivity

With the no-stretch characteristic comes sensitivity: instead of being absorbed into the line, any slight movement or resistance by the lure gets transmitted without any loss along the line. In turn, this means you can feel minute things that would otherwise go unnoticed. The difference with mono, and, to a lesser degree fluoros, is really quite apparent. The best test I’ve found for this is working a weightless worm on the bottom: as you crawl it along, you can readily feel every bit of vegetation and/or pebble the worm runs into. And should a fish get interested, you can be sure it won’t go unnoticed. When I first started using superlines, I was astonished to find that I could actually feel very small nibbles even as my line was lying on top of the water in loose curves. The surface tension of the line on the water was enough to transmit even those subtle vibrations!

 

Some people have said that “if you can feel the fish, the fish can feel you”. While this is certainly true, one should consider the amount of vibrations and resistance that gets transmitted back and forth: if you’re really paying attention, you can figure out the ticks and pauses for very small movements, while what little resistance the fish feels is easily mistaken for a live bait’s natural tendency to pull away. I’ve repeatedly played a very delicate version of a “tug-of-war” with dinks for long periods of time before they figured out the morsel they were trying for was just too pig-headed to be real.

 

Knots

Many anglers, when trying out superlines, don’t pay enough attention to their knots. Sloppy knots or the wrong kinds of knot are bound to slip, because of the materials used in superlines. The two most popular knots that WORK are the Palomar and the Uniknot. As long as you’re careful to get your line wet before you tie them and cinch them using a smooth steady motion, these knots will not slip. They will, however be weaker than the line itself unless you use the “double” version of those knots, essentially using a doubled line where the original calls for a single line. Once doubled, the knot will be as strong as the line itself! The Powerpro site (WWW.POWERPRO.COM) gives nice illustrations under the PowerPro Advantage heading. Superlines being so thin in the first place, even a doubled knot will not be too bulky, and will also prevent the line from slipping through the small gap where the eye is not closed properly on some hooks.

 

Untangling bird’s nests

While I NEVER get a backlash myself (yeah, sure!), I’ve been told that it’s very easy to untangle them with superlines. A very (!) close friend of mine has even bragged that he could undo the mess just by feel, even in pitch darkness. Just a matter of picking at the loops delicately and in no time flat, you’re back in business. Even in real bad cases, the old “apply strong pressure on the spool with your thumb while cranking” will get you out of trouble. No kinks, no damaged line, pure bliss. Of course, this also applies for those who, like me, get the occasional “professional overrun”. I will only get such a bad one that I need to bring it home to clear it about once per season.

 

Visibility

One point brought up frequently against superlines is the fact they’re not transparent like mono or fluorocarbons, and therefore more easily visible to the fish. I don’t doubt for a second that the fish can see them very well indeed, but that’s not the point. The point is DO THEY CARE? As far as I’m concerned, bass haven’t got the brainpower to understand what the line means in terms of danger to them. I was using Berkley’s Fireline in bright Flame Green for my best season ever! I’ve also caught the same smallie (very distinctive markings) three times on three consecutive evenings while using white TUF-line Plus. I’ve also had fish go for the point where my line enters the water numerous times; you’ve probably had this happen to you too. If they’ll do this when all they can see is the line itself, I’m not about to start using a leader to try and make my line invisible. I rest my case.

 

Abrasion resistance

The only time I will use a leader is when I’m fishing in an environment (rocks or boulders) where I’ll need it for extra abrasion resistance. This poor abrasion resistance is a fact of life when fishing superlines. Considering that the main factor in abrasion resistance is the diameter of the line (notwithstanding advertising hype), superlines' small diameter becomes a minus in this case and has to be compensated for. The coating on the superlines that have it may provide additional protection in this case, but since it seems to wear off rather quickly, I wouldn’t want to rely on it too much.

 

Limpness and memory

If you’ve ever tried a superline, you’ll never again call a mono limp or say it has no memory. Otherwise, do these simple tests with lines rated for the same pound test:

1- Take a six-inch length of line and try to hold it horizontally while holding just one end. A straight piece of mono will stick out just fine, while a superline will simply droop. That’s limpness. (I suggest not doing this test in sight of your wife, otherwise, you may be in for some heavy sarcasm)

2 - Take six feet of mono off your spool and let it fall in front of you: what do you see? Springy coils of line that give a fair imitation of a Slinky, similar to its previous arrangement on the spool: that’s memory. Do the same thing with a superline, and whatever coils you see will be random and they’ll be pretty loose, with no relation to its previous position on the reel’s spool. That’s even worse than my own memory, except that in this case, it’s a good thing.

 

This limpness and lack of memory of superlines makes for very much less friction against the guides as the line goes out, not having to flatten coils to make them go through the eyes of the rod. In turn, this will give you a substantial amount of extra distance compared to mono and fluoro.

 

Of guide wraps …

With limpness and small diameter comes the chance of guide wraps. Now this can really be a problem if you’re not careful never to let your line get too loose when casting or retrieving. Guide wraps are what happen when your line gets wrapped (!) around one (usually the tiptop) or more of your rod’s guides. Even if you’re really careful, guide wraps do happen sometimes and you have to stop and undo them occasionally. In my experience, this happens mainly when I get hung up: when the lure finally breaks loose and comes flying at me, guide wraps are almost guaranteed. Most of the time, just flicking the lure directly in front of me while pointing my rod in the same direction will undo them. Sometimes I do have to stop and do it by hand, but hey, it a small price to pay for all the advantages. It’s really a question of compromise: the smaller the diameter and the limper the line, the more likely you are to get guide wraps. If it really bothers you, get heavier line (larger diameter) with a coating (more stiffness) and the problem just about disappears.

 

Coated or non-coated

Getting up on my soapbox now....

 

Power Pro is the rage right now, and has almost become a religion, so saying anything negative about it is like waving a red flag at a bull, but here goes: After spooling with Power Pro Hi-Vis Yellow and finding waxy flakes of the same color as the line all over my fingers and reel, I threw the whole thing away. I then got a very old spool of Moss Green PP to double-check, and it was the same thing again. I’ve since seen many others mention the same problem on various forums, so I can only conclude that the people who neither see or feel the gunk are either not very observant or sponsored by PowerPro. Now this in NOT specific to PP as I’ve noticed it to various degrees with all the coated superlines I’ve tried so far, so I’m not saying the PP’s no good, just that it’s not the “perfect” line it’s touted to be. Even the newest generation superlines like Stealth and Stren’s Super Braid aren’t immune to this problem.

 

Even though everybody agrees that coated superlines cast better after the line gets "broken in", this is simply the coating wearing off. Coincidently, as the coating wears off, you'll also notice that it looses its' color. That's why people recommend re-coloring it using Sharpies, Magic Markers, etc. So the conclusion is clear: worn away coating = better casting. In my book, there’s something wrong with lines if they become better as a feature (the coating) touted by the manufacturer disappears.

 

Now then, why do so many manufacturers put this coating on the line in the first place? I've heard it was to give "body" to the line, so that it wasn't so limp as to get wrapped around the guides and rod tip when casting. I mentioned this above and have made my choice. If I really want “body” to my line in order to avoid guide wraps, I’ll use 15-pound mono and be done with it. “You pays your money and you take your chances…”

 

Bottom line – my preference

My personal choice among superlines is Western filament’s TUF-line PLUS (not to be confused with XP, which is coated) in 18 and 30 pound test. This line is a non-coated braid that has no memory and is extremely limp and thin (I can live with the occasional guide wrap). To put things into perspective, you have to consider that I fish from shore, so distance is of great importance – as everybody knows, the fish are always 10 feet further out than what you can reach. If I were fishing from a boat, my choice may be different, but I suspect I’d be sticking(!) with an uncoated braid, while upping the size somewhat. TUF-line Plus is also one of the most economical superlines out there, but it would also be my line of choice for my needs even if was sold at twice the price.

 

So there you have it, warts and all. Any comments short of a flame war are welcome!

 

Ye olde Fishingelbow

 

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