Them’s the Breaks

How tough are these new fishing lines? Read on.

The world’s most popular line began with a series of sitcom-like misadventures that sent hard-core anglers of the late ’30s into laughing fits. Early nylon monofilaments stretched like cliff-jumping bungees, and when they failed it was occasionally with bloodletting effect. Boy, have we come a long way. Today’s nylon-based monofilaments are so advanced, so specialized, that a novice in a well-stocked tackle store needs to present a list of fishing habits, species, tackle and intended waters in order to get the right product. That needn’t be the case. Our close look at some of the newest “strings” is designed to eliminate confusion. But first let’s clear up some terms worth knowing.

The original single-strand extruded nylon lines were chemically-as well as physically-monofilaments. They were built from one basic component or monomer-typically Nylon 6. As always, things became more complex. In a frenzy of manipulation, line wizards infused nylons with additives and combinations of polymers, and experimented with dual structural engineering that produced lines with a distinct inner core and outer layering or sheath. The terms “alloy” and “co-polymer” are commonly used to describe the more complex lines. For a quick fisherman’s description, calling these lines “nylons” is generally correct-or plastic line if you want to get cute-though if you revert to calling them “monofilament” everybody will still know what you’re talking about. Manufacturers keep changing formulas and introducing new blends. To help you choose the best ones for your fishing, we’ve cherry-picked through the new nylon-based offerings and tested those that seemed most interesting. No fluorocarbon lines are here, nor any superlines (braided or fused); we’ll test them next.

**Trends **
Lines are becoming ever more niche-oriented. Early in the game, manufacturers touted products with an even balance of key properties such as tensile or break strength and shock and abrasion resistance. In other words, all-around lines. Now we have lines built around a couple of specific characteristics, such as thinness, increased sensitivity (less stretch), limpness, lower memory and so on. This means that in a day’s fishing during which you expect to use a variety of techniques in varying locations, you’ll be best off with different lines spooled on several outfits.

HOW WE TEST LINE
Outdoor Life’s reel-drag-testing guru Skip Halterman, who created Dragenstein, the machine that was used in our “Tackle Test 2003” (April), has engineered a new testing device. He’s dubbed the beast Breakenstein, and it’s designed with components from NASA to perform independent tests on fishing lines that will benefit both casual and tournament fishermen alike.

We tested each line dry as well as wet (we figured the latter would be more important to you). Before the wet line tests, we submerged all lines and knots in 70-degree water for 11/2 hours, or in some cases up to three hours. One end of a line is affixed by wrapping it onto a spool, with the hook or other end of the line affixed to an opposing spool. The line is then stretched electropneumatically (instead of wound onto a spool, as in most line test machines) as the amount of stretch and force required to break the line or knot is measured. The precise breaking strength and the percentage of stretch are then calculated.

In this system, both ends of the line travel under pressure, as when you actually fight a fish. The device shows how long it takes for the line to break after stress is initiated and whether the break was clean and fast or whether the line stretch was accelerating at the end. More than 600 line and knot samples were broken. Every break was recorded, including where the line broke in relationship to the knot, whether the break resulted in a bent hook, the hook diameter and more. Unfortunately, time constraints precluded abrasion tests.

THE PRODUCTS
Cajun Red Lightnin’
Distributed by Shakespeare, this nylon line boasts a good balance of abrasion resistance, tensile strength, stretch resistance and knot strength. Its main feature is a non-fluorescent red color. Red loses its quality, becoming dullish brown soon below the surface; therefore visibility is reduced, especially in stained water. It comes in 8-200-pound-test. (800-334-9105; www. cajunline.com)

IronSilk
This is the first line made with a breakthrough technology Berkley calls Reinforced Polymer Matrix. The method reinforces the line’s nylon base at the molecular level. Think of it as steel rebar reinforcing concrete. According to the company, the line is at least 200 percent more abrasion resistant than other leading tough lines, and resists nicks far better. It has low stretch and extremely low memory. It comes in subtle dark green and high-visibility Solar Mint, in 4-50-pound-test. (800-237-5539; www.berkley-fishing.com)

Stren Magnaflex
Stren bills its new offering as a do-all line that in proper strengths is at home everywhere from trout streams to bass and walleye lakes to salt water. The company praises the co-polymer’s flexibility (even in extreme cold-weather conditions), low memory and great abrasion and shock resistance. It comes in clear (4-100-pound-test), smoke green (4-30-pound-test) and high visibility neon (10-100-pound-test). (800-243-9700; www.stren.com)

Stren Heavy Cover
The company bills this one as an attitude-busting line designed to drag big fish from bad places and says HC’s stellar abrasion resistance is “off the charts” while the line still casts well with little memory. It comes in clear and low-viz olive in 10-25-pound-test. (800-243-9700; www.stren.com)

Toray Ninja
Available at Bass Pro Shops, this co- filament is marketed as having a soft nylon core with abrasion-resistant polymer coating infused with UV inhibitors. Low stretch, and thus high sensitivity, is claimed, as are pliability and casting ease. The line comes in green in 6-20-pound-test. (800-227-7776; www.basspro.com)

Triple Fish RX ** **Spinning
This co-polymer line has been blended for use with spinning reels. It has a very small diameter-up to 20 percent smaller than that of some basic nylon monos. It is advertised as having extremely low memory and a soft core for longer casts and the near elimination of loops and tangles. It comes in clear in 4-20-pound-test. (352-243-0873; www. triplefish.net)

Triple Fish Ultra-Viz
This is an ultra-high-visibility nylon with four alternating fluorescent colors: yellow, green, red and clear, to help keep an eyeball on where the line is at all times. It is becoming popular with trollers in salt and fresh water (including some walleye anglers running planer boards) and with guides fishing live shiners for bass. It comes in 8-80-pound-test. (352-243-0873; www.triplefish.net)

Knot Alert!
We tested three common knots on all line samples-the Improved Clinch, the Trilene and the Palomar. However, another knot might prove to be even stronger than all of those three. It’s a doubled-over Duncan Loop (also known as a Uni Knot). Skip Halterman refers to it as the DOD for short. The normal Duncan or Uni is regularly tied using a single line strand and the knot produces good average break strengths. It has the benefit of allowing you to form a small loop ahead of the eye of the lure or hook. This loop snugs tight on a strike or heavy pull. The DOD is the same knot, but you tie it by doubling the line back into the eye as with the Palomar Knot. This results in four strands being used to form the knot.

While using this knot to test the effect of hook wire size using Cajun Red Lightnin’ in 12- and 8-pound-test, it produced break strengths of 99 percent and 102 percent of the wet breaking strength of the lines. Only the Trilene Knot in 8-pound-test IronSilk did as well in the regular runs.

Findings from Test

  • Very generally, the more stretch created when breaking a knot, the higher the knot breaking point (relative to the line’s wet strength). This was true if the stretch was done slowly. Knots that were broken at faster speeds-snapped-often had much lower break strengths.
  • On the plus side, a series of quick snaps to free (or break off) a snagged hook results in a minimum of stretch. A sustained hard pull, especially if it causes a break in the line above the knot, can result in stretching line to a critical point where weakening will occur. Here it’s best to cut off the line section involved and retie. Interestingly, limited stretch appears actually to increase some lines’ break strength.
  • Up to a point, larger hook wires seem to result in better break-test results. The best knot break results were with the Trilene knot in 8-pound-test Cajun Red Lightnin’ and 8-pound-test IronSilk on .048 wire hooks. The Palomar Knot in Cajun Red Lightnin’ 8-pound-test and RX Spinning 8- and 20-pound-test were next best and the hooks were also .048 diameter. Surface texture of the hook and presence of tiny flaws on the hook wire could affect breaking point. Smaller hook wire (.032 tested) resulted in lower break points. This has dramatic implications for using small-diameter swivels, snaps or clips-especially with fast, hard hook sets.
  • Breaking strengths appear to change so much over different periods of line soaking, and probably temperature, that it would be difficult for a manufacturer to give a rating based on wet line. Perhaps the approach taken by Berkley and Stren is best: Make the line break at a high enough strength that even if soaked during a day of fishing, it still will not fall below spec.
  • Unless knots are tied with meticulous care, unidentified factors can slip into the tying process, resulting in catastrophic consequences.
  • Excessive line stretch can contribute to line-roller effect on spinning reels, both causing excess twist and affecting drag performance.
  • The tests-at least for these new lines-show greater need for retying knots while fishing, and for changing line more often than ever thought before. This is vital for tournament fishermen. However, with some lines (not these test lines) anglers have found that fishing them several days seems to result in better handling characteristics. There may be a trade-off here between somewhat reduced break strength and better casting performance.
  • Soaking lines changed their handling characteristics. In some cases they became stiffer. IronSilk 12-pound-test, for instance, came off the spool without twist and lay dead straight. However, the perceived increased stiffness could make managing it on a t and 102 percent of the wet breaking strength of the lines. Only the Trilene Knot in 8-pound-test IronSilk did as well in the regular runs.

Findings from Test

  • Very generally, the more stretch created when breaking a knot, the higher the knot breaking point (relative to the line’s wet strength). This was true if the stretch was done slowly. Knots that were broken at faster speeds-snapped-often had much lower break strengths.
  • On the plus side, a series of quick snaps to free (or break off) a snagged hook results in a minimum of stretch. A sustained hard pull, especially if it causes a break in the line above the knot, can result in stretching line to a critical point where weakening will occur. Here it’s best to cut off the line section involved and retie. Interestingly, limited stretch appears actually to increase some lines’ break strength.
  • Up to a point, larger hook wires seem to result in better break-test results. The best knot break results were with the Trilene knot in 8-pound-test Cajun Red Lightnin’ and 8-pound-test IronSilk on .048 wire hooks. The Palomar Knot in Cajun Red Lightnin’ 8-pound-test and RX Spinning 8- and 20-pound-test were next best and the hooks were also .048 diameter. Surface texture of the hook and presence of tiny flaws on the hook wire could affect breaking point. Smaller hook wire (.032 tested) resulted in lower break points. This has dramatic implications for using small-diameter swivels, snaps or clips-especially with fast, hard hook sets.
  • Breaking strengths appear to change so much over different periods of line soaking, and probably temperature, that it would be difficult for a manufacturer to give a rating based on wet line. Perhaps the approach taken by Berkley and Stren is best: Make the line break at a high enough strength that even if soaked during a day of fishing, it still will not fall below spec.
  • Unless knots are tied with meticulous care, unidentified factors can slip into the tying process, resulting in catastrophic consequences.
  • Excessive line stretch can contribute to line-roller effect on spinning reels, both causing excess twist and affecting drag performance.
  • The tests-at least for these new lines-show greater need for retying knots while fishing, and for changing line more often than ever thought before. This is vital for tournament fishermen. However, with some lines (not these test lines) anglers have found that fishing them several days seems to result in better handling characteristics. There may be a trade-off here between somewhat reduced break strength and better casting performance.
  • Soaking lines changed their handling characteristics. In some cases they became stiffer. IronSilk 12-pound-test, for instance, came off the spool without twist and lay dead straight. However, the perceived increased stiffness could make managing it on a