The Fluorocarbon Factor

Updated: June 19, 2007, 3:06 PM ET
By Tim Tucker | BASSMASTER Magazine, July/August 2007
Roland Martin couldn't have realized the extent of what he had stumbled upon when he introduced the sport of bass fishing to fluorocarbon line in the early 1990s.

The all-time BASS tournament winner and nine-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year had long seemed to be at the forefront of most fishing innovations — either as the inventor, the angler who helped refine it or a pro who quickly adapted its potential to the bass fishing scene.

So it was hardly surprising when the now-retired Florida pro came up with an adaptation that he borrowed from his saltwater compatriots. Martin had long incorporated leaders into his bass tackle more extensively than his tournament competition. And that was where fluorocarbon first came in.

"I use a leader for everything from cranking to worming," Martin said at the time. "I've found a leader material that is even better than monofilament. I'm using a fluorocarbon, which is a very high-priced fly fishing leader that's made in Japan.

"It sinks three times faster than monofilament because it's heavier — which is a big plus for most crankbait fishing. And it has the same light refraction as water. So for all intents and purposes, it is less visible than monofilament. The good side is that 20-pound-test fluorocarbon doesn't show up in the water; the bad side is that it is expensive —as much as $1 a foot for some pound tests."

Martin had discovered that polyvinylidene fluoride (the official name for the fluorocarbon material) was indeed less visible to fish. Measured via a refractive index that gauges the light refraction of water at 1.33, early fluorocarbon line was gauged at 1.41 or so, while monofilament line was 1.55 and greater. That translucent quality allows fishermen to get away with using heavier test leaders than usual, according to Martin.

In addition to sinking faster than monofilament, fluorocarbon had an inherent abrasion resistance, didn't absorb water (which robs monofilament of its strength) and was unaffected by ultraviolet rays, Martin realized. It was partly at his urging that Stren began offering its High Impact Fluorocarbon line, which was the first major brand of fluorocarbon on the freshwater market.

From there, the lines kept getting better as fluorocarbon continued to become a bigger part of the Bassmaster scene with each passing year. In the last couple of years, fluorocarbon has made arguably the biggest impact of any fairly new technology among professional anglers.

Today, fluorocarbon is not limited to leader material. The most successful anglers are filling their spools with the remarkable line for a variety of uses.

"A couple of years ago I used 95 percent mono and a little bit of braid," two-time Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam says. "Now I'm probably using 75 percent fluorocarbon, 20 percent mono and 5 percent superline.

"I think what the anglers really have learned, with not only fluorocarbon but also the braids and the monos, is what techniques the properties of the lines really excel at. The great thing about fluorocarbon is that it is a superior line for a lot of the techniques we use on a regular basis."

Arizona pro John Murray remembers spending as much as $35 for a 30-yard spool of fluorocarbon more than a decade ago. Right away, the Elite Series competitor realized that it was well worth the money.

"It was awesome," Murray said of the Yamamoto Sugoi that he still utilizes 85 percent of the time. "I started throwing it because I wanted something very sensitive to throw a little 1/4-ounce jig on Lake Oroville in 1995 or '96. And I could feel that little jig hit the bottom in 10 feet of water just like it was 10 feet away. I said, 'This is the best stuff.' It was smooth casting, and unbelievable.

"At that point a lot of the guys said that it was just for leaders; that was how you were supposed to use it. Well, I spooled it up on a whole reel and I just loved it. (Gary) Yamamoto had brought a few spools from Japan, and I kept begging for more and more. That's where I started with it. Now everybody's using it."

There is much to like about fluorocarbon.

2005 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Aaron Martens, a fan of Japanese-made Sunline, emphasizes that the low-stretch properties of fluorocarbon give it a sensitivity that falls between that of mono and braided line. It is for that reason that he uses fluorocarbon for about 75 percent of his fishing.

Martens' mono applications are now limited to topwaters, buzzbaits and other shallow situations where he is pitching a jig or Texas rigged soft plastic. Fluorocarbon is heavier and sinks too quickly in shallow circumstances.

Veteran Florida pro Shaw Grigsby utilizes it for most of his spinning tackle applications and about 40 percent of the time when using a baitcaster. In his mind, it has become a must in clear water situations.

"I got hooked on it in saltwater, where fish can get line sensitive," Grigsby explains. "Using fluorocarbon leaders in saltwater and having transferred that into my freshwater fishing, I have found that fluorocarbon definitely helps you in clear water.

"So if it helps you in a clear water situation there's no reason not to use it in other situations. I tend to use Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon a lot more than I did five years ago, and every year it's getting a little bit bigger niche in my fishing repertoire."
VanDam first began using fluorocarbon when Berkley introduced Vanish and immediately recognized its potential. Today, he depends on Bass Pro Shops' XPS, which he calls a premium grade of fluorocarbon, still made in Japan.

"For me, I use it anytime I throw any kind of bottom bouncing bait, spinning equipment with tubes, jigs, finesse, Carolina rigs, casting a jighead with a worm, anything like that," the three-time Angler of the Year notes. "Because it sinks fast, in deep water you don't get that bow that you get with the mono or with braid — you get direct contact.

The extra sensitivity due to lower stretch means you get better hook sets and better action when you're shaking baits and things.

"It has a lot of attributes. I'm even flipping and pitching with it. It's one of those things that in the beginning we learned how to adjust our rods to match the line. I'm using rods with a little softer tip, which enhances my presentation and other things, too, just to make fluorocarbon the most effective that it can be."

Martens has learned that fluorocarbon's superior sink rate means gaining precious extra depth from jerkbaits and crankbaits. It allows him to gain as much as 2 additional feet of depth even while enjoying the luxury of using heavier line for his crankbaits. With crankbaits and jerkbaits, 14-pound-test fluorocarbon gives him the strength of 14-pound line, but the sink rate of 10-pound test.

"If you rig two rods with identical baits — one rod with 14-pound fluorocarbon and the other with 14-pound monofilament — you will feel a tremendous difference," he adds.

During tournaments, Murray doesn't feel the need to change his reels spooled with fluorocarbon on a nightly basis like monofilament. He points out that the line "doesn't go bad. It remains very consistent" for weeks.

Grigsby was asked to name the best attribute of fluorocarbon.

"Clarity of the line," he replies. "Immediately, I have the confidence that the fish are not going to be line shy, and I'm going to get more bites. That's the mindset when I throw fluorocarbon — I know I'll get more bites."


Here are some considerations for fluorocarbon:

Knotty problem. There seems to be an inherent breaking problem with fluorocarbon, but Aaron Martens says it almost always involves the type of knot being used.

"You have to tie a San Diego Knot or some kind of cinch knot like a Trilene Knot," he advises. "A Palomar is not good because it crimps the line. It crimps on top of itself and it will break."

Nick of time. "If you get a nick in it, it will break," Martens adds. "You have to be really careful with it. I usually retie every half-hour, no matter what. The stress from casting and reeling can weaken the knot after a while. You can go all day on one knot with 20-pound line without it breaking, but it gets weaker."

Reel matters. Because fluorocarbon is considerably stiffer than monofilament, Kevin VanDam points out that it is a little trickier to control.

"It kind of wants to fluff up on baitcasters and jump off the reel on a spinning reel," he explains. "That's something that's been a major concern to me from the start. There's not a lot that you can do with the premium fluorocarbon to erase those negatives.

"I've learned that if I'm using it for spinning, I'll use the absolute largest spooled reels that I can. It stays better on there and casts better. And on baitcasters, I've learned to adjust my cast control tension differently than I would for mono to keep it from fluffing up or fuzzing up a little bit."

Line treatment. KVD always sprays fluorocarbon with Kevin VanDam's Line and Lure Conditioner. "It lubricates it and helps keep it on the spool. With fluorocarbon, you don't get the distance that you do with a softer, limper line. By treating the line with this spray it really enhances the control of the line, eliminates twist and increases your casting distance."

Clear Choices

Seaguar Carbon Pro

Megabait Zero

P-Line Floroclear

Berkley Vanish Transition

XPS Fluorocarbon

Cabela's ProLine Fluorocarbon

Maxima Fluorocarbon

Triple Fish Fluorocarbon

Sufix InvisiLine Fluorocarbon

Yo-Zuri Fluorocarbon