Top-Shot to Success

While countless contraptions have come and gone over the years, few innovations have revolutionized the recreational sport fishing industry quite like braided fishing line. Inshore and offshore, braided superlines have literally changed the way we fish.


Ultra-thin diameter lines with nearly zero-stretch characteristics are incredibly sensitive and have opened the door to deep-water fisheries never before possible with the use of stretchy monofilament. Braid has also allowed anglers to downsize their tackle and afforded fishermen the thrill of fighting fish rather than fighting heavy, bulky gear. Really, the list of benefits and achievements of braid is long and though it has been in use for more than a decade, innovative anglers are still developing new applications for utilizing braided superlines in ways we never imagined.

The combination of braided running line with a monofilament top-shot is continuing to revolutionize the way big game anglers fish and will some day be the standard by which all offshore crews spool their reels.

Tackle companies too, are adapting to evolving fisheries by continuing to introduce rods, reels, and various components specifically suited for fishing braid. New knots have been developed, new jigs and poppers and innovative techniques have been perfected, and anglers are reaping the rewards by successfully landing bigger and stronger fish across a variety of venues more efficiently then they ever have.

Perhaps braid’s biggest benefit is increased line capacity when compared to the same class monofilament. Existing reels capable of holding 400 yards of 30- or 50-lb. test monofilament can now carry in excess of 1,000 yards of braid—a real game changer for blue water fishermen targeting speedy wahoo, tuna and billfish. Nighttime swordfishermen are also taking advantage of the extra line capacity by including additional baits in their spread set hundreds of yards from the boat with no risk of getting spooled. The same benefit also applies to tuna fishermen in distant ports who ply their craft from anchored boats or from a crowded party boat where the skipper isn’t going to chase down a single big fish.

Limited stretch and greater sensitivity associated with braid are also huge benefits by transmitting strikes far better than monofilament and allowing bottom fishermen to achieve solid hook sets in deep water. Furthermore, braid’s ultra thin diameter slices through the water with substantially less resistance than the same class monofilament, enabling baited rigs to reach the bottom and remain in the strike zone with less weight.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of braid and I know that some day in the not so distant future, spooling with monofilament will be a thing of the past for me. I currently load my reels with Diamond Braid in nearly every application from yellowtail snapper fishing to daytime swordfishing. I fish braid across all of my deep drop gear. I also fish braid on my vertical jigging outfits and on my mutton snapper and grouper rods. Inshore, my entire arsenal of light tackle outfits is also spooled with braid and most recently I’ve converted a set of trolling outfits. While all of these applications require unique rigging techniques they all have one thing in common, the inclusion of a monofilament wind-on or top-shot.

An excellent example of the effectiveness of this deadly duo is regularly used for coercing hefty gag and black grouper away from jagged structure where an adequately sized conventional reel is matched to a beefy rod rated for 80- or 100-lb. test. Eighty-pound test braid is a popular choice when filling these reels, followed by a 50 ft. top-shot of 100-lb. monofilament. While the braid provides unparalleled pulling power, the top-shot provides stretch and stealth and also handles the abuse of the bottom while preserving the integrity of the costly braid.

While braid is ultra thin and offers tremendous strength, it is not very abrasion resistant. The hair-thin threads that are weaved together to form the super-line are susceptible to damage, which can lead to premature line failure. Monofilament on the other hand, is much more resistant to frays and nicks and because of its elasticity, a monofilament top-shot offers a cushion against pulled hooks and parted lines when fish jump or take off on drag-screaming runs.

An additional benefit and certainly one of great importance when utilizing a monofilament top-shot is only having to replace the leading section of line when it’s time for a fresh start, which may range from 25 ft. to 100 yards depending on the application, or when you want to change line classes from 50- to 80-lb. and so on. With all of these valuable benefits, Diamond Fishing Products got my attention when they leaked they were introducing a new line of 50- to 200-lb. test monofilament top-shots on 100 yard spools specifically designed for topping off braid on offshore trolling reels.

Traditionally, offshore anglers spool their trolling reels with monofilament because of its inherent stretch characteristics, its relative affordability and its visibility in the spread. Plus, few anglers are daring enough to risk pulling a full spread of eight or ten hard-to-see braided lines behind the boat. The result could be disastrous with a huge tangle or worse yet, crossed lines cutting each other when it matters most. Additionally, many pelagic fish jump and braid offers little in the way of shock absorption. A 100-yard monofilament top-shot solves these problems and more.

By loading trolling reels with braid and topping them off with an extended wind-on, offshore anglers can scale down their tackle without risk of limited line capacity. With today’s top-shelf reels built with advanced drag systems, a light to medium-duty size 20 trolling reel loaded with 50-lb. braid rather than 30-lb. monofilament is essentially a 30-wide reel, but much lighter to handle and easier to fish, as well as substantially easier on the wallet.

As far as rigging is concerned, the 100 yard top-shots include a Spectra loop incorporated into the butt section of the mono, leaving users with the reliability and ease of a very simple and very streamlined loop-to-loop connection—very much like a traditional wind-on leader.

The combination of braided running line with a monofilament top-shot is continuing to revolutionize the way big game anglers fish and will some day be the standard by which all offshore crews spool their reels. It’s already common practice across the Pacific and Northeast corridor and it’s heading here. Personally, I am already reaping the rewards of trolling with lighter gear loaded with braid, coupled with a 100 yard top-shot and I can also see myself taking the same approach when kite fishing this upcoming season, thus greatly increasing my line capacity while still enjoying the benefits of monofilament.

One crucial mistake anglers should avoid is spooling with braid that’s substantially stronger than the rod. It makes no sense fishing 80-lb. braid with a 100-lb. mono top-shot on a rod rated for 30-lb. line. Doing so could potentially lead to catastrophic tackle failure when locking up the drag and attempting to muscle powerful fish. Also be aware that utilizing the combination of braid running line with a monofilament top-shot may render trophy fish ineligible for IGFA records.

Keeping these factors in mind, if you target super fast pelagic predators or notoriously powerful bottom dwellers that push the limits of your tackle, then the killer combination of braid running line with a monofilament top-shot is perfect for you.