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September 16, 2011

Sport Fishing Line Test 2011

How 76 different 20-pound fishing lines stack up in break- and knot-strength testing

“When are you guys going to do another line test?”

That seems to be one of the questions asked of SF editors most consistently. So I decided recently that I couldn’t put off the task any longer.

Here, you’ll see the results of tests and specific ­information gathered for each line — some of which are likely to prove a surprise — to help you optimize the dollars you spend buying line, which is often no small investment (see chart showing cost per yard).

Testing Methods

I wanted to offer a comparison of many different lines of the same strength — at least according to their labels. I chose 20-pound lines as an intermediate strength with wide applicability. While there’s no suggestion that these results will necessarily prove applicable for other strengths of the same lines, they should allow some insight into how the brands might compare.

I tested many of the more popular monofilaments and fluorocarbons (some sold as main line, others as leader) and braided lines — 76 in all.

Break tests were conducted using the sophisticated Instron tensile tester at the International Game Fish Association headquarters in Dania Beach, Florida. This is, of course, the same sophisticated, computerized testing machine the IGFA uses to test all lines submitted with world-record applications; it is checked and calibrated regularly.

I tested both line strength and knot strength.

To test the tensile (straight line) strength, I performed five break tests, discarding the highest and lowest results, and averaging the three remaining. I also recorded the standard deviation.

To test knot strength, I used a “real-world” knot, one which I believe is the best way to connect anything to any main line or leader — that is, using a double line formed by a Bimini twist. I tied 12-turn Biminis exactly the same way, finishing each with a simple triple-half-hitch lock.

I performed break tests on three such knots for each line, averaging the three, and again noting standard deviation.

All lines were tested dry, rather than soaking them (regarding the implications of this for monofilaments, see the discussion of results for absolute break strength).

I measured line diameter with a digital caliper (and compared my results with diameters claimed by manufacturers). With hard, round monos and fluoros, this is a no-brainer. Braids are somewhat notorious for being difficult to caliper, because they’re not solid and want to compress when the jaws of a caliper apply pressure to get a reading. Using the least amount of pressure necessary to get a result, I averaged several readings taken from different spots along a length of the line.

Finally, you’ll see the cost per yard listed for each line. These might not represent manufacturer’s suggested retail pricing, since I chose to look for a price (for 300 to 600 or so yards where available) online from one of several large online retailers. 

Qualities Not Tested
It’s worth noting those characteristics of fishing lines that were not tested here. This includes abrasion, a quality I would dearly love to test were a truly effective method of testing for abrasion available. Unfortunately, abrasion testing is more involved than testing tensile break strength, and we have yet to find a suitable testing machine for that purpose.

Although the Instron does measure stretch, in this series of tests, I did not include stretch for each line. Typically, monofilaments will stretch 10 percent to 20 percent or more; braids should stretch less than 3 percent.

These results do not measure castability, memory or other characteristics important to anglers. In many cases, actually using a line will prove the only way to truly assess all of its qualities.



Actual Diameters | Strength to Diameter Ratio | Actual Break Strength | Knot Strength | Cost Per Yard