Outdoor Corner: String Music

Lyle Johnson

String; quite an interesting word to be sure. String bean — a long green bean that when popped in two always leaves a string looking thing-a-ma-jig hanging off; or could be a very tall, Country Music Hall of Fame star that loved to play the banjo and bass fish. String music — a phrase coined by an ex-LSU basket ball player turned announcer that alluded to a shot that goes into the net without touching the rim.

There could be no strings attached, one could string another along, one could be tied to his mother’s apron strings, you could certainly bend some guitar strings, and, if all else failed, you could string it out. A little much, isn’t it?

Tre Gautreau and Speedy Rettig with a mess of bass and specs caught in Venice. The bass were caught on plastics flipping in the canes using braided line.

Well, that’s just about how complicated fishing string or line has become today. Back in the day, the Johnson family bought string by the 2,400-yd spool because we had seven people stringing reels. All that was needed was Stren, clear blue fluorescent line in 14-lb test for all our bass reels. There were a few other choices of test, but 14-lb would suit just about anything we decided to tie on it.

17-lb might be a little better for worm or jig fishing, and 12-lb would be a little better for fishing a crankbait or top water plug. But 14-lb was right in the middle and was sufficient for just about everything. We rarely experienced line breaks, it cast really well, was fairly invisible to the fish but the angler could see it pretty well.

The only other line on the market back then was of the salt & pepper variety that was used on casting reels, but that kinda faded out while I was still a kid. Bill Dance used Stren mono so that was good enough for me. Although it proved itself to me time and time again in its strength and castability.

So just what is an angler to do? How does one know how to pick out a line? I was privileged to attend a seminar that was hosted by Gerald Gaspard (recently retired) with Pure Fishing/Berkley that addressed all my questions. Gaspard compared the many types of lines and gave us all the what’s and why’s.

Monofilament line is still the most popular for several reasons. It’s readily available and reasonably priced, even for the best products on the market. All monofilament lines stretch on the hook set, which makes it great for crankbaits and top water lures. But even in the mono group there are different types of line.

Trilene XL — “Extra Limp” for great casting for spinning reels. XT — this “Extra Tough” line is noted for its durability and strength while working best on a bait caster. Trilene Sensation is ultrasensitive and ultra strong, it’s also abrasion-resistant and easy to cast. Small baits cast more easily, crankbaits go deeper, and spinnerbaits run truer. Sensation works equally well on a spinning reel or Baitcaster.

Another mono line by Berkley is Trilene TransOpticTM. The first and only nylon monofilament fishing line to physically change color! If you like watching your line, this is the line for you. It turns gold in the sun but is invisible under the water. It’s also great for all types of lures.

Braided line is another type of line that has changed the way we fish. The diameter, compared to the line strength, is staggering and allows your cast to travel what seems like a country mile. 50-lb test braid is around 14-lb mono diameter, and it’s so sensitive you can feel everything. Stren Superline is one of my favorites, although it took me a while to make the switch for some of my fishing.

There is no stretch with braided line, so lure selection is critical. Power fishing — pitching and flipping is the best application for the tough line. Great hook setting is one attribute; you can get them out of the cover quickly and in the boat before they know what’s going on. For a quick and powerful hook set, braid is the way to go!

Fluorocarbon had carved out quite a spot in the line market because it’s invisible underwater. It's the ultimate in manageability and invisibility. It reflects light nearly identical as water, so fish can't see it! Fluorocarbon sinks swiftly and doesn’t stretch much, which adds to its popularity. It doesn’t absorb water, so it retains most of original strength.

Berkley NanoFil is a revolutionary line made just for spinning reels. It has exceptional casting distance and accuracy that is sometimes hard to believe. It has an incredibly high strength to diameter ratio, creating the thinnest line per lb. test. The sensitivity is incredible as I’ve experienced fish hitting my lure before the popping cork moved.

Two very popular knots; clinch knot for mono and fluorocarbon and Palomar for all types; especially super-lines.

I also learned the hard way that knot selection is also critical. I used one knot for everything; the clinch knot. I can tie it blindfolded in about five seconds, so I lost no time retying or changing lures.

The Palomar knot is now the main choice because it retains nearly 100 percent of line strength.

As I tried the new lines, breakage became an issue for me, so the Palomar knot is now the main choice because it retains nearly 100 percent of line strength. It just takes me a lot more time now. And with braided line I can’t bite it, so line shears are essential.

Dang, this could be confusing as we only touched on a small portion of the brands and line types available today and of course everybody has their favorite. I love all that new line but sometimes I run out of reels to put it all on.

But if you want to keep it simple and affordable, you could just spool them all with that Stren clear blue mono; they still make it the same way and it’s every bit as good as it was 58 years ago. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!