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Jim Porter

In recent years, one of the most fielded questions in fishing has to do with the so-called advantages or disadvantages of 'super lines'.

'Super line' is a term applied to the newer family of fishing lines made from SPECTRA and it's new generation offspring, Micron-Dyneema. It started with the introduction of the Spiderwire braided line, which was soon followed by Berkley's Gorilla Braid. Then, there were the non-braided, continuous strand variations called Spiderwire Fusion and Berkley Fireline. There were others that cropped up under various brand names, but all were generally the same basic materials.

The history, as intimated to me by a trade industry brochure, say that a Dutch chemical company invented the basic SPECTRA fiber material and Union Carbide, an American firm, bought the U.S. rights. The materials for the Spiderwire and Berkley products came from there. Later, an improved formula was developed and it was called Micro-Dyneema. As Berkley is the only one who advertises that material name in its product, it appears they bought the rights to its exclusive use. My various information sources differ on some details of this history, but the basic data appears correct.

To set a baseline of understanding, we will define the braided versus non-braided versions. The braided super lines were actually braided by machine. The strands were not twisted like a rope is made, but really entwined together in a tight compact pattern. This process is machine intensive and depends on very close physical tolerances. Hence, equipment maintenance is high and is a major cost driver in the production process.

The fused lines, Fusion and Fireline, are much easier manufactured. The hair-like strands of material are extruded under heat and pressure. Then, bundles of these strands are compressed and coated with a bonding agent. The number of strands used determines the diameter of the finished line and the strength.

Now, to that question about advantages and disadvantages of the super lines.

Having worked with Berkley for many years in evaluating fishing products, I was one of the early users of Gorilla Braid. As I recall, that was around 1993. Not long after that, I was able to try early versions of the Fireline. In addition, I was asked to evaluate what was then the Bagley Bait Company's short-lived venture into the super line market with its Silver Braid brand (the name was derived from the company's successful copolymer fishing line, Sliver Thread, which is now owned by PRADCO). So, after 6-7 years of nearly 100% use of super lines, here are they pro's and con's as I have experienced them.

One of the biggest problems I had with shiner fishing for trophy bass was that monofilament line would sink. That was a major problem when fishing in timber and areas of cover, in that the line would become tangled in the vegetation or wood remains below the surface. The only answer we had for a long time was to constantly apply a paraffin-based fly line dressing to the monofilament (that, or move to more open water).

Then, along came the braided lines. Guess what? They float. Yes, they lay on the surface of the water like a cork. Was that great for shiner fishing in the Stick Marsh/Farm 13 reservoirs, or what?! And, after a period of use, we found that the fish did not appear to mind the more visible braids over the clear monofilaments, so we did not need to use any form of leader material. That was a time and aggravation saver, too. Braids are super strong in relation to their diameter, plus they are very limp. That allows us to use high pound test braid and still be able to place the shiners well. Braids appeared to be a complete solution. Except ------.

Yes, there was/is one exception and it is a serious factor to consider. Guess what happens when you DO get hung with braid?? It takes six men and a MAC truck to break the stuff. In fact, we normally have to cut the line to get free. That means pulling up the anchors, going in on the fishing spot, and making a mess of it. We could choose to cut the line at the boat, but that would mean our successive shiner presentation might become fouled in the line residue, not to mention other creatures eventually becoming fouled in it.

The result was that nearly all experienced guides moved back to 30 pound test monofilament, unless they fish cover areas that do not present hard shag potential.

As noted earlier, braids are very limp right out of the package. That makes them great on revolving spool, baitcasting reels. The angler must take care, however, not to choose too small a diameter braid or it may easily wind up getting in-between the spool lip and the reel frame. One other aggravation can arise and that is line 'cut in'. If the angler gets hung or has a strong fish on, the heavy pull on the line can cause the small diameter braid just coming onto the reel spool to drive down in-between other strands already on the spool. On the next cast, this can cause binding and a good possibility of backlash. The solution is, after one of these strong tension encounters, to pull about 30 feet of line off the reel and reel it back on with normal tension. Other than those two items, baitcasting applications for braids are fine.

The limpness of braid is often detrimental to spinning reel use. Unless the angler can keep a constant pressure on the line as it goes onto the spinning reel spool, he will get loose line loops which will impede the next cast. This problem normally occurs when fishing a erratic action lure in which the angler imparts the action, such as a work or top water plug. I have found it is best to eliminate braids from spinning reel use altogether.

The fused super lines work well on both baitcasting and spinning reels and are my personal preferred choice for casting situations. The fused line works much better on spinning tackle than braid and that 'cut in' problem is general non-existent in spinning reel applications due to the wide overlay of the line by the oscillating spool shaft. Their strength all but eliminates fish break-offs, unless the angler panics and does something to tangle his equipment. But, they do have a few negatives as well.

Both Fusion and Fireline have a noticeable stiffness when they are first placed on the reel spools. This is normal and is caused by the bonding coating that was applied to the bundle of strands. This coating is not infallible and will gradually wear away some over a good bit of use. As it wears, the fused line will become more limp and take on a lighter, dull color. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that. The line will cast and handle more easily as the coating wears somewhat.

With a great deal of use, the coating can disappear entirely along small sections of the line and the individual strands will be noticeable. However, this complete loss of the bonding normally occurs in small locations near the end of the line, as it takes the most wear from the obstructions in the water. When this wear is noted, simply cut off the first six feet, or so, of line and keep fishing until the wear is noticed again. It will probably be a good while.

You may experience some 'cut in' on a bait casting reel. It is important that the 'pawl' in the level-wind worm gear mechanism of the reel be checked from time to time to assure it is working smoothly and not skipping in the worm gear tracks. Again, it is a good idea to pull some line off and re-wind it on after a high line tension situation.

I like to use a snap so I can quickly and cleanly replace a lure on my line. Well, the strength of the super line got me in hot water a few times in this area, until I wised up. I had a few big fish straighten the snap out and take the lure. The solution was simple - move to a big, strong snap with a positive lock. With lure of metal/plastic/wood in front of him, that snap means absolutely nothing to a fish who has his mind set on eating something!!

DO NOT, ever, try and break a super line using your bare hands. They make bad, very sore cuts. If you get hung and must try and pull it loose or break it, wrap the line around your pliers 5-7 times and pull with that.

Finally, the super lines do not have much of a 'half-life', meaning they do not deteriorate much. They are very limp and birds and animals can easily become tangled in them. NEVER leave or throw any super line residue into the water or leave it on the bank. It spells a slow death for our wildlife friends.


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