How Many Yards of Fishing Line Do I Need?

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Calculating how much line you need for your fishing is a complicated subject that ultimately depends on a variety of factors. How much line you need will depend on the species you are targeting in your fishing, the waters you are fishing, the distance you need to cast too, and the amount of line the reel on your spool can take.

The capacity of your spool will affect the type of line, the gauge, and the breaking strain that you can spool it up with. This is the main determining factor that will affect the length and distance of line you are able to fit on your reel. When you are targeting individual species or fishing a new water it is important to understand exactly how much line you will need and its breaking strain.

If you are trying to fish for catfish with a bass reel you will obviously be lacking the length of fishing line needed to play the fish and the breaking strain line you will be able to fill your spool with will be far too low. So, before we start on how to calculate how much fishing line you need, you first need to ensure you have the correct reel for the job. Make sure you have the right reel for your target species and the water you plan on fishing by checking out Fishing Reels 101 .

Having the perfect reel for the job at hand will make calculating how much fishing line you need much easier and you will get an idea of the distance at each gauge and breaking-strain your spool can take. Generally speaking, a bigger reel and deeper spool will take more line at a thicker gauge and breaking-strain. This doesn’t mean that small reels won’t take as much line as a large one, they may take the same amount of line and have the same distance capabilities, but they will cater to different gauges and breaking strain.

To get an idea of distance versus gauge and reel type is to assess a typical 2500 size spinning reel to a 14000 size big pit reel. Your typical 2500 spinning reel is capable of holding 250 yards of 6lb line whereas a typical 14000 big pit reel will hold 270 yards of 25lb line. As you can see, they are very close in distance but massively different in breaking strain and capabilities. You wouldn’t fish for bass with a big pit reel spooled up with 25lb mono, just as you wouldn’t fish for big cats with a spinning reel spooled up with 6lb mono. You must couple the right reel with the right line for the right target species.

Types of Fishing Line

There are two commonly used types of mainline (the line that you fill your spool with). These fishing lines are braided mainline and monofilament mainline. They are both excellent lines as long as they are used for their intended purposes and in the right way. In this section, we will go over what both of these mainlines are good for, how they perform, and the differences between the two.

Monofilament Mainline

Monofilament line has been most angler’s top choice around the world for over 80 years. It is strong, abrasion-resistant, translucent, flexible, and inexpensive, meaning it can be acquired by anglers of all budgets and from all walks of life. Mono is extremely easy to use, it casts well, is spooled easily, and knots tied with it are strong and easily formed.

Mono stretches when under strain. This is an excellent feature when fighting large fish as it is a bit more forgiving than braided line when a fish knocks its head or takes a turn. Using mono can reduce the risk of snap-outs and straightened out hooks and allows you to play the fish a little bit harder when it gets close to the bank or boat for landing.

Due to the stretching qualities of monofilament, some anglers can find it hard to detect small light bites when lure or bait fishing. When targeting fish with bony mouths or pads with mono, you have to strike hard and make sure the hook is properly set as this stretch puts a “buffer” between your rod and the fish.

When lure fishing, monofilament can become a pain to cast if you are casting at distance all day long. It has a tendency to twist after quite a few casts especially if it is poor quality or you are casting light lures and spinners. This can cause casting accuracy issues and tangles in some cases and can be an issue for lure movement, affecting the realism of a lure or spinner in the water. Keep an eye on your mono especially if it is a small gauge and look out for twists.

Overall, monofilament line is a great choice for all kinds of fishing and has some superb qualities. Its abrasion resistance, low cost, and flexible qualities make it the perfect choice if you are a multi-species angler or someone that fishes different venues week to week.

Braided Mainline

Braided line has gained some popularity in recent years as it has improved greatly from the product it used to be. It is highly abrasion-resistant, comes in smaller diameter gauges per breaking-strain compared to mono, and is brilliant for determining sensitive pick-ups and hits on a lure.

Unlike monofilament, braided line has no stretch. From the rod, an angler can feel almost every knock and bite and get a clear picture of what is going on below the surface. This makes this an excellent choice for deep water and sensitive feeding fish.

The no stretch quality of braid is great for sensitivity however it can be detrimental when playing fish if your end tackle isn’t strong enough. A fish can easily be overplayed when using braid which can lead to straightened hooks or your catch easily bumping off or shedding the hook. When using braid anglers must play their fish with caution when using lighter tackle.

Braid is very abrasive and if you are fishing by catch and release rules then a long leader of fluorocarbon or monofilament must be used to protect the flank of the fish from cuts and tears. It is also more visible in the water so when fishing for sight predators it is wise to use a synthetic fluoro or mono leader to avoid detection.

This type of mainline is more expensive compared to monofilament and must be treated in a different way. Standard knots that would hold up well with mono do not work with braid as they can tend to slip and fail under tension. Even self-tensioning knots like the blood knot can fail when using braid, so be sure to revise on your knots before tying up end tackle to this mainline.

Overall, braid is a sensitive line that provides great bite detection and strength in a small diameter gauge. If you are targeting large fish and need a 40lb+ breaking strain line, then you will be able to spool up far more braid than mono. It is perfect for deep water and long-distance fishing when searching for large, finicky feeders.

Gauges and Breaking Strain

Gauges and breaking strain can be a confusing topic. To simplify it, the gauge is the diameter (or thickness) of your line and the breaking strain is the amount of pressure needed for the line to fail. Gauge or diameter is measured in millimeters and breaking strain is measured in pounds and ounces. The higher the breaking strain the higher the gauge and ultimately the bigger the fish you can target.

When your line breaking strain and gauge go up, the distance of line you are able to fit on your spool will go down, that is why it is absolutely necessary to select the right reel. In this section, we have two in-depth lists for mono and braid mainlines. In these lists, we have compared average breaking strain to line diameter so you can get an idea of how thick mainlines are.

We will be looking at monofilament lines from 2lb up to 30lb breaking strains and braided lines from 12lb up to 50lb breaking strains in the most popular sizes. These are number averages and you should note that gauges and breaking strains will vary slightly either side of these numbers depending on the manufacturer.

Monofilament Mainline

Breaking Strain (lbs)Gauge/ Diameter (mm)
2lb0.09mm
4lb0.14mm
6lb0.18mm
8lb0.20mm
10lb0.24mm
12lb0.28mm
15lb0.35mm
18lb0.40mm
20lb0.43mm
25lb0.50mm
30lb0.55mm

Braided Mainline

Breaking Strain (lbs)Gauge/ Diameter (mm)
12lb0.20mm
14lb0.22mm
15lb0.23mm
20lb0.28mm
22lb0.30mm
25lb0.32mm
30lb0.34mm
35lb0.35mm
40lb0.38mm
45lb0.40mm
50lb0.42mm

Working Out How Much Line You Need

Now you know the differences between braided and monofilament line and their diameters compared to their breaking strains it is time to work out how much line you need. First, you need to ask yourself what type of line you want, mono or braid? Then you need to assess what fish-species you will be targeting with this spool of line.

If you are targeting bass and small predators then a line with a breaking strain between 4lb and 12lb will suffice. If you are targeting larger predators like big muskie then a line with a breaking strain between 18lb and 25lb is perfect. Always go with a higher breaking strain if the water you are fishing has sunken branches, weeds, or other snags. If you are fishing for big catfish then a strong monofilament or braided line of 30lb+ will be needed, even braided lines of over 100lb are used in Europe when targeting big cats over the 150lb mark!

Once you have figured out what breaking strain line of either monofilament or braided you need, you should look at the reel you desire to put it on or the manufacturer’s product information if you haven’t purchased it yet. You should be able to find a description of the amount of line in yards in the different gauges suited for the reel that you can fit on the spool. With this number, you will be able to calculate how much (in yards) of your preferred breaking strain line you will be able to fit on your spool.

Ask yourself if the distance of your preferred breaking strain line will cope with the size of the water you are fishing and the distances you will be fishing at. If it will suffice then your choice is perfect. If you feel like you will be short on line or close to an empty spool when you hook up to a big fish, then ask your self if you can get away with dropping a few pounds in line strength. If you lower the breaking strain and gauge then you will gain some distance, just ensure you won’t risk losing your target fish due to insufficient line strength.

Once you have figured out how much line you can put on your reel you should soak your line before transferring it on to the spool. To do this simply place your line in a bucket of water and start transferring it directly from the bucket onto your reel. This will help the line bed down on the spool of the reel much better, as long as you keep good tension while winding. Leave between 1/16 and 1/8 of an inch of space between the edge of the reel’s spool and the line, this will make casting much smoother and reduce any “birds’ nest” tangles.

When you spool up your reel make sure you bed the line down well under tension from a bucket of water. Once your line is bedded down well, we advise heading out to a field or large lake with a lead and casting out as far as possible around ten times. Doing this will aid the bedding-in process and give you better line-lay when it comes time to put a bait or a lure in the water. 

Conclusion

To conclude, make sure you have the right size reel for the distance of your preferred breaking strain monofilament or braided line. Never over spool your reel or spool up a small reel with a gauge that is too big for it, this will give you poor line-lay and a distance of line that is too short. Make sure you find the best breaking strain and line type for your target fish and the type of water you are fishing. If there are loads of snags in the water you are fishing, it is always best to play it safe and up the strength of line you are using. If you make all the right decisions when it comes to selecting line you will be sure to land even the largest fish within your target-species. Having a balance between line strength and distance will ensure your setup is capable of fishing the waters you love for the fish you enjoy catching. Tight lines and happy fishing!

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