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Monofilament or Braid? The Great Trolling Debate

By Mark Romanack

The Diver Rod shown here is rigged with Spectra braid (Maxima 8
Strand) because the low stretch and super thin diameter makes it
easier to fish divers at greater depths.
Jake and I stay pretty busy in the winter months doing fishing seminars at sport shows, fishing clubs, wild game dinners, in-store promotions and church events. One of the most common questions we get focuses on the best line types for trolling.

A decade ago this question would have been easy to answer because only a handful of credible anglers were trolling with braid in those days. Today, approximately 50% of anglers favor monofilament and the rest are in the braid camp. The reason so many anglers are switching to braid is because these lines have frankly gotten a lot better over the years. The early “braids” weren’t even actually braided lines, but rather fishing lines formed by fusing Microdyneema fibers.

Fused lines are super thin and they have very low stretch. The down side of these lines is they tend to have fairly low abrasion resistance, low knot strength and they load onto reel spools poorly because they are flat instead of round in shape like monofilament.

True “super braid” lines hit the market when Spectra fibers (similar to Microdyneema) were used to create fishing line by twisting these fibers into a true braided product. Braiding Spectra fibers into a fishing line creates a line that has a round shape similar to monofilament, exceptional abrasion resistance and these lines have awesome knot strength. Super braids are very thin in diameter and they also have near zero stretch.

At Fishing 411 our favorite “super braid” is made by Maxima and it’s called Braid 8. Formed by tightly braiding under pressure eight strands of Spectra fiber, this line also features a triple coated treatment that yields a much better casting and handling line.

Fishing multiple in-line boards per side of the
boat requires using monofilament line that is
user friendly to the line releases used on these
boards. The author recommends using premium
monofilament for this trolling application and his
favorite is Maxima Ultra Green.
We use braid when trolling larger diving planers such as the Slide-Diver, Lurk Disco Diver or Luhr Jensen Dipsy Diver. The ultra thin characteristics of braid helps these diving devices achieve maximum depth at the shortest possible lead lengths.

Typically when trolling with divers and braid we recommend using 40 or 50 pound test, but in some situations like walleye trolling 30 pound test is adequate.

A growing number of anglers are also using Spectra braids for trolling with a planer board mast system. Again because braid is ultra thin it allows these anglers to reach target depths with a minimum amount of line out.

Unfortunately Spectra braids are super slippery and this line type doesn’t function well with the rubber pinch pad style of line releases typically used when trolling with a mast system. The solution to this problem is to half hitch a rubber band around the braid and then place the rubber band into the line release.

When a fish is hooked the rubber band stretches and can be snapped free of the release by simply giving the rod tip a good snap. This set up works well for anyone who fishes a lot because super braids last and last. Even charter captains who fish every day are getting two and in some cases three seasons from set ups spooled with a quality braid!

Despite the fact that Spectra braids are becoming a major factor on the trolling scene, monofilament continues to be a work horse in this department. What makes monofilament so popular is the affordable cost, controlled stretch, exceptional abrasion resistance and amazing knot strength.

The biggest problem with monofilament is all brands and types are not created equal. A line that is designed to be limp and also to deliver great casting features is going to function very poorly as a trolling line. Trolling is hard on monofilament and the best choice here is a line designed with trolling in mind. Harder surfaced lines that have a little more memory and much greater abrasion resistance are required for trolling.

When it comes to choosing monofilament for trolling, the Fishing 411 staff highly recommends Maxima Ultra Green. This stuff is as tough as tough gets in a monofilament fishing line. Ultra Green is dependable even when it gets nicked up from hard use.

For some trolling situations like downrigger fishing, high quality
monofilament is the only practical choice. The Fishing 411 team
uses and recommends Maxima Ultra Green or Chameleon for
downrigger applications. This line is super abrasion resistant and
holds up well to the abuse of line releases.
Downrigger fishing is hard on fishing line. Ultra Green is so tough it holds up to the constant abuse dished out by line releases. Because Ultra Green is so tough, we tend to spool up with much lighter line than traditionally is used for rigger fishing.

Most captains who fish monofilament on riggers are spooling up with 25 pound test. With Ultra Green we recommend using 20 pound test for Great Lakes trout and salmon fishing and 15 pound test for browns, walleye and trout fishing on in-land lakes.

Another place that monofilament shines is among in-line board trollers. Because in-line boards are attached directly to the fishing line and several boards are typically stacked on each side of the boat, it’s critical to fish a line that functions flawlessly with a host of line release designs.

With the Off Shore Tackle OR12 Side-Planers we use on Fishing 411 this board features a line release on the tow arm and a line clip on the back of the board. Rigged in this manner, when a fish is hooked the line can be tripped from the tow arm release, allowing the board to spin in the water and remain attached to the line via the clip at the back of the board.

Once tripped the board stops planing to the side and drops back out of the board formation quickly, allowing the angler to stack multiple boards without having to clear lines to fight fish hooked on outside boards. Off Shore Tackle pioneered this rigging system which is hands down the most popular means of rigging and fishing in-line boards.

For walleye and brown trout trolling with in-line boards we recommend using 12 pound test Ultra Green which is approximately .013 in diameter.

Another area where monofilament is a clear choice is when bottom bouncer fishing for walleye. The natural stretch of monofilament functions perfectly when fishing bouncers and spinner rigs for structure loving walleye. Typically these rigs are fished as flat lines incorporating a fairly soft action rod. A little give in the line and a little give in the rod helps fool walleye into holding onto the bait long enough to get hooked.

Both 12 pound test Ultra Green and Chameleon are great monofilaments for fishing bottom bouncers. Ultra Green blends well in clear to stained waters and Chameleon disappears in stained to turbid water conditions.

These days modern fishing lines have some unique features worth exploring. Old school anglers who haven’t tried Spectra super braids should give these lines a solid look for certain trolling applications. While Spectra braids are expensive, they last much longer than monofilament helping to mitigate the cost.

Monofilament works great for lots of trolling situations, but it’s important to use hard surfaced lines designed with trolling in mind. If a line is advertised as being limp or having exceptional casting qualities, chances are it isn’t going to hold up to hard core trolling.