The 30lb. Challenge

Single out one item that has undisputedly revolutionized fishing in the 21st Century, and the spotlight would have to shine on braided fishing line. Today’s super lines provide superior strength, ultra-thin diameters and virtually zero stretch. Not only have they changed the way we fish, but they’ve also changed the way manufacturers build rods, reels and lures. Smaller is the latest trend with lighter, more manageable gear now designed to effectively conquer extremely powerful fish. Just a short decade ago, none of us would have considered going head-to-head against brutally strong hundred-pound class tuna with a medium action spinning outfit. Today, thanks to braid, in oceans around the world these battles are won on an almost daily basis.


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With numerous options, choosing the ideal braided line is a tricky task. Photo: Steve Dougherty

When it comes to quality braid, manufacturing materials, number of threads (carriers), picks per inch, coatings, softness and roundness must all be calculated, as the perfect balance of these properties results in the perfect fishing line. And while we may have experienced problems with braid in the past with wind knots and damaged gear, the latest super lines sport new weave processes and state-of-the-art coatings which increase the rewards that come with fishing braid, while drastically reducing the line’s drawbacks.

Once the carriers are woven under a predetermined amount of tension and spun onto a large spool, the braided line is ready for coating. This is one of the most important steps in the manufacturing of high-quality braided fishing line…

Today, just about every familiar manufacturer sells braid, leaving anglers with the daunting task of choosing just one. To see if there really is a difference from one label to the next, Florida Sport Fishing requested a third party dissect more than a dozen of the most popular 30lb. super lines. Our goal was to not only verify the information provided on the packaging, but to ensure you understand how braid is manufactured and how to select the ideal fishing line based on the properties most important to you.

Super lines come in two varieties, those spun with Spectra® and those spun with Dyneema®, which for the sake of simplicity are different brand names for the same stronger-than-steel, ultra-thin fiber. All of the popular brands currently on store shelves start the braided line manufacturing process the same way, with massive spools of one of the above, which in their original state are white, quite soft and very slippery.

What comes next is “carriers,” an important term to understand. Each carrier represents one bobbin of thread, which is placed on an automated machine called a braider and woven with a select number of other threads to ultimately produce braided fishing line. An easy example would be a French braid, which requires three carriers. Carrier diameter can vary so do not base your purchasing decision on the number of carriers alone.

Results from our testing process reveal that 30lb. braid features anywhere from 4 to 8 carriers. You’ll notice one exception on the chart, which is known as a flat braid weaved from three carriers. Many manufacturers claim the greater the number of carriers; the smoother the finished product. This is not necessarily true as coatings play a big role in the line’s final characteristics.

You’ll also see the phrase “picks per inch.” This term is best used to describe when one carrier, or thread, crosses another in the weaving process. Picks per inch also varies, ranging from 15 to as many as 28 in the lines we tested. Too many picks per inch may actually weaken a line, so the philosophy of “more is better” is not necessarily accurate. Also consider that a manufacturer may produce an 80lb. braid with a certain number of picks per inch. The manufacturer may then stretch the line to reduce its overall diameter, resulting in a 40lb. line. While not commonly practiced, this extremely complicated process wouldn’t affect the number of carriers, but it certainly reduces picks per inch.

Once the carriers are woven under a predetermined amount of tension and spun onto a large spool, the braided line is ready for coating. This is one of the most important steps in the manufacturing of high-quality braided fishing line and is a guarded secret from one brand to the next. Proprietary coatings not only apply color (braid is not dyed), coatings also apply an added level of abrasion resistance and roundness to the line. If you notice the color of your braid fading it’s an indication that you have worn down the line’s coating and hence, reduced its abrasion resistance.

Now that you understand the basic composition of braid, lets take a closer look at the test results. All 30lb. braids claim an equivalent diameter to 6lb. or 8lb. mono. Utilizing a Beta Accuscan Lasermic we measured each brand ten times under identical parameters. This was one area where most super lines failed with averaged results slightly greater than those stated.

Next was breaking strength—a shady area. Again, ensuring all parameters were identical, results from ten individual tests utilizing an Instron Electromechanical Tester for each line were averaged for both straight breaking strength and knot breaking strength. Overall, the average straight breaking strength was over 40 lbs., higher than stated claims. When it came to knot strength the average was expectedly lower, as low as 18.32 lbs. After studying the chart, you may wonder why breaking strength results varied so wildly. The answer is because some manufacturers produce a product designed with a straight breaking strength as close as possible to the line’s rating, while other companies design braid with a knot breaking strength close to the line’s rating. Packaging will not reveal the manufacturer’s intentions. It’s important to note that we selected a Palomar knot for testing purposes for the simple reason that it applies cross directional stress. Results would undoubtedly be different with a straight uni-knot.

One thing we learned for sure is that the composition of 30lb. braid varies wildly from one brand to the next while still resulting in a superior product. Evidently, there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Ultimately, the choice of which 30lb. braid you fish should be determined by your desires. Are you looking for maximum reel capacity? Would you prefer a line with a straight breaking strength as close to its rating as possible? Or is a perfectly round line best suited for your application? Whichever you choose, you can count on remarkable abrasion resistance, superior castability, ultra-thin diameter to strength ratio, incredible sensitivity, and overall excellent fishability in a wide array of applications.