Line choice is critical, and the wrong decision can have catastrophic consequences.
And while there are many issues to consider when choosing the right line for your situation, experienced fishermen know that abrasion resistance is near the top. From barnacle-encrusted pilings to sharp rocks, submerged debris to jagged stumps, there are more than a few things waiting underwater to break your line.
Unfortunately, myths about abrasion resistance are as common as hot days in the summer. And though everyone thinks they know which lines can take a beating, facts are few and far between. Add to that the hype of advertising copy, and it can be virtually impossible to find a straight answer.
Among the misunderstandings, you’ll find statements like these:
The folks at Wide Open Spaces say that, “Traditionally, braided lines have been known to be considerably more durable than monofilament, particularly in terms of abrasion resistance.”
And the people at Bullbuster.net think that “Mono is definitely more abrasion resistant than braid around sharp objects. This is simply because of its larger diameter.”
First off, they can’t both be right!
But we’ve researched this subject quite a bit, and we already have doubts about both claims.
That said, we don’t want conjecture, guesses, or even my own semi-educated opinion. We want to know whether braid is better at resisting abrasion than mono or fluorocarbon. And if it’s not, is diameter the issue?
Let’s get some solid answers!
Table of Contents (clickable)
We selected some of my favorite lines for this test: Sufix 832, Stren Original, and Seaguar InvizX. These are top-flight picks that any angler should be happy to spool on their reel.
Each was chosen in 20-pound test, but we took an extra step to deal with the issue of diameter.
We also included 6-pound Stren Original mono, which is nearly identical in diameter to the Sufix braid (.22 mm to .23 mm), giving me a better apples-to-apples comparison. If diameter alone is the issue, this will help me figure that out.
Braid and mono absorb water as you fish them, while fluorocarbon’s composition makes it impervious to liquid. But as many anglers know, comparing dry lines won’t give you accurate results, and in the real world of fishing, you want to know what your line is going to do as you fish it--not how it performs in your living room.
So before any testing, we thoroughly soaked all four lines in water for several hours.
Using a rig that suspends two lines simultaneously under the same load, we subjected all four challengers to two rounds of abrasion (sandpaper).
The first round was aggressive, simulating the effect of barnacles, the rough keel of your boat, a beat-up prop, metal debris like junk or wrecks, or sharp rocks.
The second round was less aggressive, mimicking the effect of rough concrete, sharp stumps, gill plates, or oyster shells.
These first two rounds are merely for comparison: it doesn’t really matter how many absolute passes each line can withstand--that doesn’t tell you anything in the real world. Unless you’re fishing around lots of submerged sandpaper, you don’t care!
Instead, what matters isrelative resistance. If one line dramatically outperforms another in these tests, it will probably provide similar comparative performance in the real world.
Surprisingly, the braid failed immediately, disintegrating in a single pass!
The mono took four swipes before failing.
That’s not just a difference--that’s a huge difference.
The mono and fluorocarbon failed simultaneously on the fifth pass.
Given my previous research, we didn’t expect braid to do well in abrasion tests, but we didn’t expect the dramatic failure we witnessed in this test.
Sufix 832, a very fine braided line, surrendered to harsh abrasion immediately! That’s meaningful.
It tells me that head-to-head, braid is going to fail on very abrasive surfaces much, much faster than mono or fluoro.
We were also surprised that fluorocarbon, made from denser material than nylon mono, was roughly equal in abrasion resistance.
Braid didn’t hold up any better in this test, with the Sufix 832 breaking immediately again!
By contrast, the Stren Original survived six passes of this moderately-abrasive sandpaper.
In the second round, Stren Original and Seaguar InvizX took the same punishment, each failing after eight passes of the sandpaper.
This reinforced that mono and fluorocarbon are roughly equal in terms of abrasion resistance.
Again, the Sufix 832 failed immediately, while the InvizX shrugged off nine passes of sandpaper.
The final pairing of Round 2 tested a diameter-to-diameter matchup.
Both lines failed immediately, confirming that diameter does affect abrasion resistance.
This test was eye-opening. We expected all three lines to improve their performance against less-aggressive sandpaper, but that’s not what happened at all!
Braid’s performance was identical to the first round: miserable.
By contrast, both mono and fluorocarbon did improve, suggesting that they have vastly greater abrasion resistance than braid--at least among the brands compared.
That answers one basic question: “Are mono and fluorocarbon more abrasion resistant than braid?”
We can answer with a qualified yes.
We say “qualified” because this is just two tests with three brands. A less qualified answer would need laboratory testing with precise controls, as well as a much larger range of lines. If 10 different braids showed similar results compared to 10 different monos and fluorocarbons, we think we could have a more definitive answer.
But within the limitations of our test, WE think it’s fair to say that braid is probablymuch less abrasion resistant than mono or fluorocarbon.
The final test in Round 2 was interesting, spurring more questions than answers. Both braid and mono--of nearly identical diameters--failed immediately, suggesting that diameter matters. And you might be tempted to say--based on these tests alone--that diameter is the determining factor in abrasion resistance.
But not so fast!
After the first test, we knew something important: braid can’t stand up to abrasion like mono or fluorocarbon of the same test strength.
But plenty of you will say that this is to be expected and that a fair test will compare braid against its rivals at the same diameter. In the real world, you might continue, you’ll be running heavier test braid than you would mono, meaning that the braid will be thicker than a test strength-to-test strength comparison.
In the second test, we wanted a much closer look at what was happening during abrasion and failure, and we wanted to know how much a measured abrasion affected test strength.
For instance, if you’re fighting a fish that wraps the line across an abrasive surface but doesn’t break it, how strong is the line after that?
To help answer this question, we tested 20-pound Sufix 832 against 20-pound and 6-pound Stren Original.
We started by tying each of the lines to a carabiner and a fishing scale. We then lightly abraded each line with three passes of 180-grit sandpaper.
As you can see from the stills in the video, the braided line was far more damaged by this treatment than the mono, a result we expected from the earlier test.
What we didn’t expect were the dramatic results!
After abrasion, the 20-pound braid broke at just 1.05 pounds! That’s just 5% of its test strength!!!
By contrast, 6-pound mono broke at 4.5 pounds, or 75% of its rated test strength. 20-pound mono broke at 17.25 pounds, or 86% of it’s rated test strength.
This was surprising.
It’s important to note that each line failed at the point of abrasion, and not at either knot.
And when they did fail, it was obvious that braid was severely compromised by this abrasion, while mono of the same test--and mono of the same diameter--maintained the majority of its strength.
This is probably a result of the woven construction of braided line, in which multiple strands of Dyneema or Spectra are braided together into a single strand, sometimes with an addition like GORE and a coating.
Additions, coatings, or other manufacturing processes may increase (or decrease!) abrasion resistance.
But what’s painfully clear from this test is that where abrasion resistance matters, braid is a very poor choice.
It’s also clear that abrasion resistance is not merely a function of line diameter.
These tests revealed some surprising results, within the limits of my testing methods:
But what does this tell us about real-world angling?
We can’t recommend braid of any diameter and test strength when abrasion is likely to be an issue. After seeing it fail immediately against two different grits of sandpaper, and measuring it at just 5% of its rated test strength after light abrasion, we would never fish braid around rocks, oyster shells, shipwrecks, pilings, or any other high-abrasion environment.
Does this mean that braid is “bad” line?
Not at all!
When you need the greatest casting distance you can wring from your tackle, demand the greatest sensitivity, or need very little stretch, braid is ideal. So from jigging deep, to casting to wary fish, to finesse techniques for bass, braid is where it’s at!
But if you’re fishing reds and specks near rocks or oyster shells, working flounder near pilings, or fighting big cats where there’s plenty of debris, I’d stick to mono.
I’m also not sure about investing in fluorocarbon leader. My tests didn’t reveal a meaningful difference between braid and fluorocarbon in terms of abrasion resistance. And given that mono ties easier and holds knots with greater strength, the only advantage fluorocarbon might offer is that its refractive index is closer to that of water, making it hypothetically less visible than similar mono.
As we’ve written before, however, the science is still out on that claim, and until we see a reason to pay more for fluorocarbon, we’ll be sticking with mono leader--and suggest you do the same.