As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This post contains links to products that I may receive compensation from at no additional cost to you. View my Affiliate Disclosure page here.
You may think fishing line lasts forever but it certainly does have a shelf life and you should re-spool your reels periodically to ensure you are fishing with reliable line. Like most things, line degrades over time and when it is put under strain it can lose some of its qualities. Fishing line gets weaker when it has been well used so it is important to know the signs of a degrading line before you start getting snap outs and losing fish.
There are many reasons why your line may be past its use-by date and in this article, we will be looking at what those reasons are as well as identifying some of the telltale signs that show when it is time to discard the old and re-spool with new. Enjoy!
What is the Average Life Span of Each Type of Mainline?
In this section, we will give you a rough life span of Monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided mainlines. These shelf lives are a guide so you know when you should change the line on your reel periodically unless damage is made sooner to your line.
The rough times below are when you should change the line on your reel id you have been fishing with it and haven’t had any high-pressure situations, abrasions, or grazes. If you have had any line-weakening situations happen to your line, you should change it much (much) sooner, but we will get into this more later.
- Monofilament Mainline: Change this mainline yearly
- Fluorocarbon Mainline: Change this mainline every 18 to 24 months
- Braided Line: Replace this mainline every 2 to 3 years
The times above should be followed lightly and if you see any damage or notice a brittleness, fraying, or loss of strength in your line you should change it immediately to reduce the risk of a snap out. To make sure your line lives up to these shelf lives you should rinse your gear off after fishing (especially when saltwater fishing). You should dry your kit off and store it in a cool dry place with low humidity.
What Makes Line Degrade?
Even if you haven’t been fishing in a while your line will eventually degrade naturally. When line is exposed to the sun’s UV rays, freshwater, and saltwater it eventually becomes brittle (synthetic lines) or starts to fray (braided lines). This is especially true with saltwater fishing as the salt crystals are abrasive to the line, creating minuscule scrapes and scratches in the line that can become weak spots over time. To combat this, you should clean and dry off your kit after every session and store it in a cool dry place.
Lines can become damaged and degrade when you are casting. During a cast, your line unspools from the reel which creates friction from the spool and the eyelets on your rod. Over thousands of casts, this will eventually wear your line out to the point where it will become weaker and lose its shock-absorbing values. There is not much you can do about this as this is a natural part of consumable wear.
During your fishing, it doesn’t matter whether you are casting baits, spinning, or float fishing, your line is exposed to abrasive materials in the lake. Every time your line brushes past a sunken log, rock, or stony lakebed abrasions are made and this ultimately affects the integrity of your line. This is the most common cause of snap outs and you should check your line thoroughly for inconsistencies, fraying, or scratches.
When you hook up to a fish (especially catfish) they can take you for a ride through all kinds of vegetation, under branches, and against rock-faces. This has an extremely abrasive effect on your line and even if you manage to land an unruly fish that does this without snapping your line, you should check your line over intensely. If you notice any deep scratches and an overall roughness of the line itself, then it is time to re-spool. Having a couple of spare-spools that are pre-loaded with the same line can make situations like this easier, as you can simply change over your spool and re-load the one with damaged line on when you are home.
What are the Risks of Using Damaged Line?
Using damaged line is awful for the environment, can damage fish, and it makes other angler’s lives much more difficult. Avoid using line that has degraded and change it periodically and whenever it is necessary. Fishing with heavily damaged line is irresponsible and foolish because you will likely snap out when you hook anything with a half-decent weight on it. Sure, losing a fish this way is a pain for you, but it is more of a pain for the fish that has to tow a hook line and sinker around in its mouth.
Many fish become tethered to branches, vegetation, and other underwater features when a hook and line is left trailing from them and ultimately, they die a slow death from starvation and the inability to move. Fishing with damaged line also decreases your chances of getting your rig out of a snag under the water. When line is left in the water from a snap out, it is bad for the environment and a nightmare for other anglers that will likely get their rigs caught on the same line.
If you want to make the world a better place for the animals and your fellow anglers make sure you check your line regularly and change it when necessary. Doing this makes sure the big fish are able to grow larger for future generations to enjoy, keeps the waterways clear for the fish, wildlife, and the anglers, and it helps reduce the risk of plastic pollution buildup in our precious waterways.
How to Know When You Should Change Your Fishing Mainline
Knowing when to change your fishing line is an essential skill. It not only ensures that you have the best chance of landing any fish that you hook up too, but it also helps reduce the risk to the environment around you. As you know, not changing damaged or degraded line has a knock-on effect on the environment, the wildlife, and the angler. Keep everyone happy and check your line. In this section, we will help you understand how to check over your line, so you can tell when it is time for a re-spool.
The best way to examine your fishing line for external damage is to feel it. If it feels rough and abrasive, then you should replace it. To do this, every now and then head out to the lake and tie a sinker to the end of your mainline. Cast the line out and as you reel it back In, pinch it between your fingers and feel for rough spots. A healthy line should run smoothly through your fingers without any feeling of inconsistency, roughness, or fraying.
If your line feels rough throughout its entire length or it has patches of damage while there is still many yards of line in the water, then replace the whole spool. If you find that most of the line is smooth and healthy as you reel it in but there is a rough section in the last 30-feet, then simply cut that section of line off and continue using the rest of the spool. This helps you get the most out of your line however you should only do this if you have a large capacity on your reel, so losing 30-foot or so will not affect your fishing.
If you want to test your line’s breaking strain and figure out whether it is still as strong as the day you spooled it, you can do the weight test. If your line has no visible or feelable damage to it then this is a great way to see whether it is time for a re-spool or not. All you have to do is find a weight to hold up that is the same breaking strain as your line. So, if your line has a 20-pound breaking strain find a weight that is 20-pound.
Tie the weight onto a length of line from your spool using a reliable knot and lift the weight up. If the line doesn’t snap, your line is in perfect condition. If it does snap, hook your line up to a slightly lighter weight (18lb for a 20lb line), if it doesn’t snap from this strain, then your line is also in perfect condition. If it does snap out again with the lighter weight, then it is time to replace your line because it has started to lose its strength.
Make sure you replace your line periodically whether it has been damaged physically or not. When it has been damaged replace it regardless, and make sure you check over your lines properly to ensure that they are in top condition. If you are ever in doubt simply replace your fishing line. Line is cheap compared to the headache of losing a massive fish and the headache you cause other anglers when heaps of line is left in the water.
Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.