Muskie Lines – Super braids, Co-Poloymer, Kevlar – So What’s New? by James Smith
Ah the good ol’ days! I remember the black Dacron lines, then they came out with a camouflaged line that changed color every foot or so. I have to admit that I still have an old Pfluger Rocket reel with that camouflaged line still on it. That was my first muskie reel. Later monofilament was discovered and so began the revolution in fishing lines. Along in the early 90’s we started seeing the “Super-Lines”, then Co-Poloymer lines, and then Spectra Fiber lines. Today we have thinner, stronger, and more abrasion resistant lines to select from. So where do we start?
I have five muskie rods and six muskie reels. Each year I try to restring my reels with some new line and experiment with it to see what results I get and how I like it. Now, I want to admit that I probably don’t fish as much as many of you do, and certainly not as much as I would like to, so I save my one year old lines. Here is how I save them; I take the line off the reel and wind it backwards, I start with the unused reel spool end going on first so that the terminal line ends up on the spool last. The next time I wind it onto a reel the “front” end of the line that has had all the previous use goes on the reel first leaving the back or unused end on the top, so it is like having new line to start all over with. This way I can get twice as much use out of a spool of line.
Next, I wrap rubber or plastic electrical tape around the spool barrel (core) so that the line does not slip. You can also use a small piece of double backed cellophane tape. The issue here is that many of us use ABU Garcia reels and there is no hole in the spool to attach your line. With a lot of these newer lines they do not bind up well on the spool barrel and will turn or slip. Your reel manufacturers recommend tying some monofilament line on your spool barrel first then attaching your new line. Either way will work if done properly. For your information there is a web site for ABU Garcia that will give you some great tips on obtaining greater casting distances, reel tips, rod tips, what line works best with ABU Garcia reels, etc. It would be well worth taking a look at this site.
Now you’re ready to spool your new line on your reel. It is best to have someone else to assist you here by providing some tension while your reeling the line on. Next, I would check your rod guides with a dry cotton Q-Tip to see if there are any rough spots in the guide loops. If so you’ll do yourself a favor by replacing that or those guides. You do not need any frayed line when you’re out muskie fishing.
Some of the problems that we had with the older lines were that some of the lines were not round. This was one of the causes of the lines cutting into itself on the spool when pulled tight. This was also caused by the thinner line. The solution is use heavier line. If you were used to using 20-pound line, now you can go to almost an 80# line and still maintain the same diameter (thickness) as your older 20# line. Second the newer lines are now round and don’t tend to pack down as much.
Another problem was the knots you used to have to use. These “Spectra” based lines were pretty much all the same. The problem here was that the lines were very “slick” smooth and your usual knots were not holding. The reason for these “slick” lines was that they were aerodynamically less resistant and therefore cast greater distances. But, then you had to lean how to tie double line knots like the Palomar or double improved Clinch Knot. To be perfectly safe some of us would glue our knots with super glue Today’s newer lines have roughened up their outer coatings and now you can go back to your standard knots like the Uni-knot or Clinch Knots. These lines will still cast an ol’ muskie lure a country mile.
These new lines have very little stretch so when you set your hook there is the possibility of snapping a rod tip. This may also happened in your normal casting routine. Occasionally you might snap a lure off and may not get over to it in time to retrieve it. Today’s newer lines have addressed that issue and have added a slight amount of stretch in their lines.
Now you have new line on your reel and are ready to hit the water. If you are unfamiliar with the term “Professional Over Run” it is just a more respectable way of talking about your typical backlash. A tool you might find useful in removing a bad backlash is one of your wife’s crochet hooks. Pick a size or even a couple of sizes that fit your line size and keep them in your tackle box. They’re great for picking those backlashes out. The newer lines will teach you patience. These lines will give you some wonderful professional over runs. It is best to have a back-up rod ready to go and leave your backlash to the evening after you come off the water or during the heat of the day when nothing is biting to work them out. It will take you some time, so be patient. Do not cut your line or attempt to cut the backlash out. Maintain your patience and work it out.
A couple of weeks ago my fishing partner Joe Keebaugh and his wife were fishing with Lynda and I on my boat and Marilyn got a professional over run. Joe had some 30# Power Pro line on his reel. Joe worked on attempting to pick this backlash out, then gave it to his wife Marilyn to work on for a while, and then I took over. After about a half an hour I finally was successful in getting it all out, but needless to say it was a good one.
Another caution: These new super braids, being very thin, must never be wrapped around your hands or fingers as severe injuries could result. Bass Pro Shops sells an orange polyester “work” type glove for grabbing these new lines when bringing a fish on board. The gloves sell for $2.99 a pair and are a must for “hand-lining” any fish, especially a muskie or northern. I haven’t mentioned how the new super braids work trolling, but a fellow muskie aficionado Bob Kimm, summed up his approach to questions using the super braids trolling. “I troll with TUF line quite a bit so I may be able to help a little. You are correct about the release clips not holding superlines too well. Superlines are thin and slippery, so they tend to pop out. What I do is use a heavy release (Kumler or Offshore) with a rubber ‘O’ ring slid over it to hold it tighter. You can find the ‘O’ rings at most hardware stores. Slide the ring up onto the release jaws and roll it past them, put the line in there lease, then roll the ring down again so it clamps the jaws
tighter. Seems to work pretty well. A fish will still pop it off, but the pull of a bait or ripping a weed top usually won’t.
As far as leaders go, from what I gather in talking to a couple die-hards out there, most of them use 80 or 90 lb mono leaders made with Berkley Big Game (which is great line by the way, if you like mono for muskies.). I guess their reasoning is it’s the only thing in the system with any give, so it’s a little insurance against breakoffs or pulling hooks out. None of them seem to have any concern with biteoffs, and say they almost never happen. I do use mono leaders some when I shortline troll, but it sort of gives me the willies. When I troll the rocks in Canada, I use either a stranded wire, or more often now a single strand.”
Finally, when your line becomes curled, twisted or kinked while casting, check to see that you have ball bearing swivels on your leaders. If you do and the line is still kinking try adding a second ball bearing swivel. You could add a second ball bearing swivel between the lure and the leader. You can also let all your line out behind the boat (no lure attached) and troll, letting all your line off your reel. This will eliminate the line kinks for a while. Use this idea whenever your line begins to twist or kink.
On the Rating to Break Point Comparison Chart you’ll note eighteen lines tested. This comparison gives you some idea between rated line break points and average break points. This chart surprised me. Some of these lines are rated at more than the actual average break, while others were higher than the rated break strength. This is very important information to consider should you be looking at a line class record. You could be disappointed if you submit a sample of your line and it misses your break point for a line class record. Understand that this was not a scientific study but a great junior high school science project. I think it is important to note that the three Berkley Trilene XT, monofilament lines and the Stren Clear/Blue Fluorescent line exceeded the rated break strength. The remaining fourteen all came out less than the rated strength.
The lines I have tried are as follows: Cortland Musky Mono 20#, 25#
Stren PowerBrand Kevlar 35#
Cortland Musky Master
Braided Micron 18# 27# 36#
Berkley Ultra Max 25#
Berkley Tri Max 20#
Micron Tresse 36#
Cortland Spectron 50#
Spectra Versitex 50#
Spectra T.U.F. 50#
DuPont Magna Thin
Berkley Trilene XT 14#
Berkley Trilene XL
Power Pro 30# 65#
My observations with using these lines are summarized here; Silver Thread cut into the spool. Berkley Trilene XT 14# mono was stiff. However, I liked the Trilene XL until I switched to Cortland Muskie Mono, which I really like. Stren Kevlar I found nothing I liked about it. Stren Kevlar had some sort of a coating on the line like a wax that got very ratty and frayed. The Power Pro 65# line I now have on one of my rods is looking similar to the Stren. It appears to have quite a bit of fraying and gives you a very insecure feeling as you reel it in. I have not determined why it is fraying. Of these sixteen lines I have tried over the years these are the only ones that I have had any kind of problems with. All the other lines have preformed as expected.
I did capture an 18# line class record using the Cortland Musky Master Braided Micron in 1993. I have been very pleased with all of the Cortland lines I have tried. I like the Cortland Musky Mono a tad better than the Berkley Trilene XL for a monofilament line. I understand from Bennett’s, a Colorado Muskie Shop owned by former RVP Bob Todd, that Berkley Fireline is his top seller. I asked the fellows at Rollie and Hellen’s what their top selling line was and they told me Spectra T.U.F. In talking with Berkley about their new Whiplash and FireLine, that Trilene Big Game is still their most popular line. Their newest “superbraid” line-100% gel-spun, Whiplash in 50#, 80#, and 100# are the most popular line weights and “green” is the color. With regard to FireLine the lighter 8#, 10#, 14#, and 20# are the most popular line weights and still the “smoke” color is the most popular. You may recall Berkely had some trouble with the old smoke color, but they have changed their formulas and made some revisions in the old Fireline. So try some of the new FireLine and see if you don’t notice a difference.
In summary, the muskie line manufacturers understand very well what the problems were with the early super-lines. They have made changes and corrected their products to better accommodate us and serve our needs. With the variety of lines available to a muskie fisherman there should be no problem finding just what you need. Good luck and Good fishing!
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