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How Often Should Fishing Lines Be Replaced?
Published: July 15, 2021
There are many different types of fishing line materials on the market today, and understanding how each one works will help you have a more successful catch.
It is also important to understand the strength of a fishing line since this is key to making a good choice.
A fishing line will help you reel in any caught fish. That is why you have to make sure it is durable and strong enough to do its job. The quality of the fishing line affects its use, how it degrades over time, and how often it is used.
A fishing line should be replaced once or twice a year, but because many factors affect its lifespan, it is possible to use it for a lesser or longer period. Read along to learn more about this.
Common Types of Fishing Lines
These are good all-around fishing lines that are smooth and a bit stretchy. They have low memory so they can go back to normal after they have been stretched. They are made of nylon, which is extruded in a single continuous filament and then left untwisted. Additionally, there also exist thermal filament fishing lines with higher performance and that are produced by thermal bonding small fibers. However, these are less readily available and a bit more expensive.
Monofilament lines are very susceptible to UV light damages, which degrade their quality. Thus, it’s always best to store any type of line in a shaded area, and especially monofilament fishing lines.
While monofilament is prone to UV light damages, it is also abrasion-resistant, and if stored properly, can last a long time.
Finally, monofilament fishing lines are absorbent and can react differently when wet. This reaction can affect its strength, the line’s weight, and can also harm the hooks’ settings.
- Braided Fishing Line
This type of fishing line is made of synthetic plastic fibers, like nylon, and specialty materials such as Dacron. It is stronger than a monofilament line and has very little stretch. This stretch makes it less likely to absorb shock but provides more sensitivity to allow anglers to feel every move from the other end of the line.
Braided lines are excellent when your goal is to catch and fight larger fish. These types of lines are also dense and sink fast, like fluorocarbon lines, making them a great option for fishing on the waterbed. However, braided fishing lines are the most visible in the water because they aren’t translucent and the color choices are limited, unlike monofilament fishing lines.
- Fluorocarbon Fishing Line
Similar to monofilament lines, fluorocarbon lines are also extruded in a single strand, but the molecules are more tightly packed, making them denser and noticeably heavier than monofilament lines. Fluorocarbon refers to a broad family of compounds, which includes organics composed of chlorine, fluorine, and carbon, along with synthetics derived from hydrocarbons.
Fluorocarbon fishing lines have a somewhat similar strength-to-diameter ratio to monofilament lines. However, they have the same refractive index as water, which is why when the line, once in the water, becomes practically invisible. This makes them great for stealth fishing and will allow you to use a heavier line without it being so visible in the water, like monofilament lines would.
Fluorocarbon fishing lines are denser than monofilament lines, which explains why they sink so much faster. While they are not a good choice for surface fishing, they are ideal for fishing on the waterbed or when using weightless setups.
Characteristics of a Fishing Line
When you pull the line off the spool and can see that it either hangs straight or curls up, that’s memory. A fishing line with a lot of memory results in a kink or knot as you reel it in, which then messes with your presentation and makes it a bit harder to cast farther.
A fishing line’s stretch keeps tension better as you fight fish. Although anglers have different opinions on this, they know that some lines work better in certain situations. Beginners must understand that line stretch can also give less precision and feedback, which can make setting the hook tougher, and that a long stretch line can lead a fish from breaking away or failing to be hooked.
- Shock Strength
It is another advantage of having some stretch in your line as it is less likely to snap when under sudden pressure. The shock or impact strength will also stop hard-hitting fish from breaking away.
- Abrasion Resistance
You need fishing lines with more abrasion resistance to avoid getting cut off by rocks and other debris. Luckily, all modern fishing lines are somewhat abrasion-resistant, and more high-end materials tend to offer better performance.
Some lines float in the water while some sink. However, both remain useful in certain situations. While floating or buoyant fishing lines are great for topwater fishing, sinking lines will give you more precision at depth.
A fish can get spooked when it sees your line or may also get put off biting. To prevent this, you can use a low-visibility line in clear water or a colored line to match the shade and depth of water you’re fishing in.
Understanding a fishing line’s strength is key to making a good choice. The strength of a fishing line is measured in terms of pounds, which refers to how much weight a fishing line can handle and lift before breaking. Since you need to rely on your fishing line to reel in caught fish, you must make sure you have the right strength.
Choosing a line requires at least a basic understanding of the species you want to catch, the area where you plan to fish, and the conditions.
Another factor to consider is the manufacturer’s guidelines on the equipment you plan to use. Often, you will see recommendations or specifications for line weights written on the fishing rods and reels. When this information is available, you have to match your line accordingly.
We’ve listed down some of the factors that can affect a fishing line’s lifespan to help you understand why it needs to be replaced.
The way you store your fishing rod, line, and reed can affect its lifespan. Remember to store your gear in the right area and avoid placing your fishing line under direct sunlight as this can degrade its structure. You should also avoid storing your fishing line while wet as it degrades faster than a dry line.
- Frequency of use
If you regularly use your fishing line, it will also degrade its structure, which makes it weaker and more prone to tangle. Thus, we recommend you choose a more durable fishing line that is compatible with the conditions and location.
- Lighter Line
Since lighter fishing lines have weaker structures, they can degrade more quickly than heavier fishing lines, especially when used regularly.
Your location or the type of water in which you fish can also affect a fishing line’s lifespan. Indeed, a fishing line tends to degrade faster in saltwater than in freshwater.
If you do not have enough knowledge on the types of fishing lines and how each one should be used, there is a pretty high chance of it getting damaged quickly. Thus, proper knowledge about what fishing line is compatible or appropriate to use is important.
Other factors that can affect the longevity of a fishing line include abrasion, temperature changes, UV light damages, and water quality. You should also note that the lifespan of a fishing line on a reel is different from the expected shelf life of a spool that is still in its packaging.
- While in use
When you start using your fishing line, it is exposed to a wide range of abuse. The most common damages that occur are inflicted by rocks and other structures located underwater. The first few feet of your fishing line are the closest ones to your lure, and this part always suffers the worst damages. This frequent trimming is required to remove the scratches and cuts.
Regardless of how abrasion-resistant your fishing line is, you should always check for scratches and cuts that can weaken your line to avoid losing your catch and tackle.
Along with not storing your fishing line under direct sunlight, you should also keep it out of areas where extreme temperatures occur because excessive heat causes degradation and extreme cold can make it brittle and inflexible.
- While still in the packaging
There are no standard expiration dates for a new spool of fishing line. However, most anglers believe that even a new spool of fishing line can go bad at some point when it is still in its packaging and stored for years.
Does an unused fishing line go bad?
According to various sources, an unused spool of monofilament fishing line can maintain its strength for up to 3 to 4 years. However, other sources believe that fluorocarbon fishing lines’ integrity can remain intact even after seven or more years in their original packaging.
It is hard to say how old a fishing line is at a store, but it is best to use a monofilament line within the first two years, just in case it has been on the store’s shelf for a while.
Key Points for choosing a Fishing Line
- Line Breaking Strain (weight)
This simply refers to how much force is needed to break the line. The larger the fish you want to catch, the higher the breaking strain on the fishing line needs to be.
- Line Diameter
This refers to the thickness of the line. In general, the higher the breaking strain of a fishing line, the thicker the line. However, a thicker line can scare fish away. Braided lines, on the other hand, offer very high breaking strains while still maintaining a small diameter.
- Line Stretch
There are advantages and disadvantages to both stretchy and stretch-free lines, and this boils down more to how accurately you need to cast, the distance you want to fish from the bank, and how sensitive you expect your fishing line to be.
- Abrasion Resistance
The more abrasion-resistant a line is, the longer it will last.
- Line Flexibility
Generally, the more flexible a line is, the better it will hug the waterbed when slack-line or bottom fishing. Plus, it will also cast better.
How often should fishing lines be replaced?
Some fishing lines actually go bad over time while some others go beyond their prime but still work fine. However, see our estimates below to find out about a fishing line’s lifespan and how often it should be replaced. Keep in mind that you still have to check your line before fishing and not just rely on the numbers below.
Monofilament lines are the most common and widely used lines.
These types of lines should be replaced after a year of occasional fishing and after 4 to 6 months of heavy fishing.
|Shelf Life||3 to 5 years|
|Occasional Fishing||1 year|
|Moderate Fishing||1 year|
|Heavy Fishing||4 to 6 months|
|Functional lifespan on reel||2 years
with minor loss of quality if properly stored
Fluorocarbons are less prone to the negative effects of UV rays and are near invisible underwater.
Fluorocarbon lines should be replaced after two years of occasional fishing and after six months of heavy fishing.
|Shelf Life||7 years|
|Occasional Fishing||2 years|
|Moderate Fishing||18 months|
|Heavy Fishing||6 months|
|Functional lifespan on reel||3 years
with minor loss of quality if properly stored
Braided fishing lines have a longer life and are some of the strongest lines. They are more expensive but can last longer.
Braided fishing lines should be replaced after three years or occasional fishing and after one to two years of heavy fishing.
|Shelf Life||8 to 10 years|
|Occasional Fishing||3 years|
|Moderate Fishing||2 years|
|Heavy Fishing||1-2 years|
|Functional lifespan on reel||4 years
with minor loss of quality if properly stored
Damages will still occur even with proper storage, which is why you need to get used to inspecting your fishing line before going out. It is better to detect line damages at home as it gives you a chance to change it there. Here are some tips for inspection:
- Check for abrasions
Most cuts are located in the first few yards of the fishing line. Pull some of the line from the reel and then pinch it. Next, run your fingers up and down the fishing line and feel for rough spots along its length until you reach a smooth line. You then need to cut the rough line off. You should do this regardless of the type of line.
- Check for UV damage
If you use braided and fluorocarbon lines, there is not much to worry about. However, you still have to closely watch out for UV exposure on monofilament fishing lines. UV damages can be detected by looking at cloudy portions along an otherwise clear fishing line. You can use a bright light to easily spot these and then cut off any line that shows signs of UV damage. Oftentimes, you may need to just re-spool the reel.
- Check for memory
Monofilament memory does not necessarily reduce its strength. However, this can cause frustrating tangles and twists. You can easily spot some memory issues by removing a few feet of your fishing line from the reel and let it hang limp. If you spot some tight coils, then you know how to remove them.
- Check the knot strength
When a fishing line goes bad, the first thing you have to check is the knot. Any time you tie a lure, you have to give your knot a solid tug to test its strength. This small amount of time you spend testing the knots can save you a small fortune on the replacement of lures.
Disposing of used fishing line
A lot of fishing lines make it into landfills because there are over 40 million anglers in the United States alone. So, next time you change your fishing line, consider recycling it instead. Most outdoor shops offer recycling for used fishing lines and you may even be able to dispose of it in your household recycling bin. Remember to make sure it’s neatly wrapped up and not loose.
Another option, which is popular among avid anglers, is to use your braided line as the main line and monofilament or fluorocarbon lines as leaders. This will save you money in the long run and will also help reduce waste.