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September 22, 2011

Fishing Line 101

As technology surges ahead, there’s a fishing line for every occasion

Braid: A New Game in Town
Indeed, the combination of fluorocarbon leaders matched with nonstretch braids has proved effective, even revolutionary, in dozens of fishing applications. But the extent of what’s happening today runs even deeper.

The emergence of these lines ignited nothing short of a sea change in fishing gear. As line technologies rapidly evolved, rod and reel design raced to keep up, prompting massive evolution in both categories.

This might seem like a lot of fuss over a little line. But, then again, braid is no ordinary line.

All braided fishing lines begin with a synthetic ­thermoplastic known as polyethylene. Through a process called gel-spinning, this raw material is processed into razor-thin, spider-weblike fibers known as Dyneema or Spectra (see Braided Lined Defined ).

These fibers, also called carriers, contain dozens of microfilaments and are extraordinarily strong. When woven together with other carriers on a braiding machine — voila! — you create a braid’s core.

Extremely thin yet incredibly strong, these braided structures then enter the highly guarded coating process. And it’s here, according to Rex Nelson, president of Western Filament, that braided-line ­technology has truly blossomed.

Nelson should know. His company, founded in 1938 and currently operating 4,500 braiding machines, produced “the first braided fishing line made from Spectra in 1991,” he says, “and then built Spiderwire from 1993 to 1996.”

Coatings were largely a trial-and-error experiment in those days, Nelson says. “You had to find something with adhesive properties — and even the engineers were scratching their heads at first.”

Bryan Yamane, assistant product manager for fishing lines and accessories at Daiwa, maker of Saltiga and Samurai braids, remembers that era well. “Some of the ­original lines had a really rough feel,” Yamane says. “You could hear the lines hiss on the guides.”

But things quickly improved, and manufacturers honed their coating technologies. Western Filament, which currently manufacturers Tuf-Line products, settled on a synthetic, bicomponent elastomer that the company uses to this day; and Nelson notes that a 4-, 6- or 8-carrier braid with 18 to 22 pics per inch (points at which the carriers intersect) is optimal on most standard braids built for conventional reels.

Spinning reels are another matter. They’re best served with what’s known as a fused braid, such as a Berkley Fireline. What’s the difference between the two? The braids are, well, fused.

“You can get the molecular construction of the fibers to change at about 220 to 240 degrees F,” Nelson explains. “The raw materials begin to fuse or melt together when treated with heat.”

This process allows for the creation of lines that are much more supple, and less likely to tangle and form wind knots. Industry insiders agree that much evolution is just around the corner for the fused category.

For that matter, anything’s possible these days, even the creation of a new category. At press time, Berkley was releasing its new, Dyneema-based Nanofil, a line that could prove to fit the bill (see gallery at top).

Says Norris: “The future is wide open with possibilities.”

And that’s no line.