We get a lot of questions here at USAngler, and one of the most common concerns is "How Long Does Fishing Line Last?".
Can you leave the line on your spool from last season and start fishing?
Probably, but not certainly.
Can you grab the line from last season, spool it on, and expect it to perform?
Almost certainly, if you’ve stored it well away from sunlight and temperature extremes.
As you can see from our provisional answers, the life expectancy of fishing line depends on a number of factors that we’ll discuss in depth below.
But if you’re a pro, or an angler who earns a living on the water, respool often. Just don’t take the chance on line failure when money is at stake!
If you want to know more about fishing line life expectancy, keep reading!
We’ll cover the basics, tell you what the experts have to say, and cover the science behind fishing line in a way that’s easy to understand.
Table of Contents (clickable)
Fishing Line Materials
We’ve had a lot to say about fishing line, and if you want the details, as well as our careful myth-busting, check out these articles:
- Best Fishing Line - Monofilament vs. Fluorocarbon vs. Braid
- Best Monofilament Fishing Lines Reviewed: Mono is Better Than You Might Think
- Best Braided Fishing Lines Reviewed: Greater Strength, Longer Casts, More Sensitivity
- Best Fluorocarbon Fishing Lines Reviewed: Using Fluorocarbon as a Main Line
The basics here are easy to understand.
Monofilament is made from a single strand of nylon. It’s tough, durable, and extremely abrasion resistant. Braid is made from woven fibers of Spectra or Dyneema. And fluorocarbon, like mono, is composed of a single strand of - you guessed it - fluorocarbon.
On Your Reel
All-day, every-day exposure to UV will damage mono and braid.
By far, the place where line has the shortest life expectancy is your reel.
From exposure to sunlight, to the memory created by a small spool, your reel is not a friendly place for line of any type. And before we even get into the meat of the discussion, I recommend that casual anglers re-spool once at the beginning of the season, no matter what.
Pros, serious anglers, and charter captains should respool each time they hit the water, especially if money is on the line.
Sunlight exposure is the biggest hazard for fishing line on your reel. UV radiation degrades materials over prolonged exposure, as you might have seen on plastic deck furniture, tarps, or clothing that’s been subjected to a lot of sun.
Nylon isn’t particularly resistant to UV radiation, and mono takes a real beating from the sun.
According to the experts at Berkley, “Monofilament is affected by exposure to ultraviolet light (UV). Under normal circumstances, monofilament loses about 20% of its tensile strength for every 100 hours of exposure to sunlight.”
The good news is that “Most anglers do not leave monofilament on their reels long enough to expose it to 100 hours of sunlight while fishing.” With the exception of people who make a living on the water, like charter crews and pro fishermen, you just won’t expose the line on your reel to enough U radiation to make a difference.
For most anglers in most conditions, the mono you have on your spool can last a typical season. Of course, cutting and retying to replace damaged line can eat through a spool over a season in any case, but you can feel pretty safe if you end the season with the same line with which you started it.
But beware: mono will pick up memory over time on your spool, and it may become close to unmanageable after it’s been left to sit on your spool for a year!
Your best bet is to strip off the old and spool on the new each season.
Braid: Dyneema and Spectra
Dyneema and Spectra are both polymers exhibiting extreme strength for their diameter. That allows anglers to spool on some very heavy test that’s amazingly thin, packing more line on a reel and getting better casting performance to boot.
Unfortunately, both of these materials degrade much like mono when exposed to sunlight, and the smaller the diameter, the more damage is done.
When the manufacturer of Dyneema performed their own UV tests, they found that strength loss started to occur after more than 100 hours of exposure, with substantial losses in strength as you approach 350 hours.
And as they note, “After UV-exposure, UHMWPE fibers (Dyneema) show a slight increase in modulus and a decrease in tenacity and elongation at break. The direct irradiated fiber surface will degrade more than the non-irradiated core of the fiber. Therefore, the application thickness is of influence to UV resistance.”
In plain English, this means that sun exposure will cause the Dyneema fibers to swell and lose some of their strength. This happens through direct exposure, so the core of the line is less affected than the exterior.
But super-thin braided lines are going to be compromised, given that their woven composition depends on each strand sharing the load.
Practically, however, to reach more than 200 hours of sun exposure is going to take a lot of time on the water, far more than most of us have the time to spend. UV exposure may be a problem for pros, but for us average joes, there’s no real concern.
Similarly, extensive material tests on Spectra revealed much the same results, and though UV degradation was “severe” by engineering standards, for anglers in the real world, it’s simply not a serious concern until you reach hundreds of hours of exposure.
One great thing about braid is that it exhibits almost no memory. So if you’ve been careful to strip and cut line after each catch and still have a usable spool left from last season, it’s almost certainly safe to start fishing with it this season.
Fluorocarbon is amazingly tough stuff, and one of the big advantages it offers over the alternatives is that 100% fluorocarbon is nearly impervious to UV degradation.
Simply put, the sun exposure fluorocarbon gets on your reel isn’t going to affect it at all, so there’s no need to worry about that.
But - and this is a big but - leaving fluorocarbon on your reel between seasons is going to create a heck of a lot of memory, and it may become unmanageable. Line conditioners can help, but it’s probably best to discard last season’s spool.
Again, integrity won’t be the issue, but fluorocarbon is going to remember those tight coils from last summer.
In Your Truck, or In Careful Storage?
This may seem like a good idea, but watch the temperatures with mono and braid.
Maybe you’ve decided to re-spool with new line this season, but the “new” stuff is coming off a big replacement spool you bought last year - or the year before that.
Can you expect that line to perform?
Overall, I’d say yes.
If you’ve kept that line in your garage or closet, and it hasn’t been exposed to wilting temperature extremes and sunlight, go ahead. I really don’t think there’s a maximum shelf life for well-stored mono, braid, or fluorocarbon.
My personal experience is that storing my line in my garage, where temperatures are pretty moderate year-round, has had no negative effect on my lines. They’re just as good as they were the day I bought them.
But let’s break this down for the details on each line type.
You already know that mono is UV sensitive, and if you’ve been storing your line where the sun can get at it - even indirect sunlight - don’t trust it.
Instead, keep in a dark, humid environment.
If you have any of these around, they’re perfect for storing fishing line.
The experts at Ultima have this to say about line storage:
“All nylon should be stored away from direct sunlight in a shaded or darkened place.
If line has been subjected to direct UV light for any significant period the outer layers of the spool should be removed. Storing for longer periods should be done away from any natural light source even indirect natural light. In doing so you [sic] line will maintain optimum performance almost indefinitely.
Temperatures below freezing do not affect the strength of line to any significant degree, although the elongation and softness do decrease noticeably. At low temperatures the knot strength remains almost unchanged.
Humid conditions at or above 60 per cent are preferable when storing monofilament to maintains [sic] softness in the line.”
Nylon mono is pretty resistant to temperature extremes, so as long as it’s not subject to extremely high (oven) temperatures, there’s nothing to worry about.
Braid: Dyneema and Spectra
Both of these super materials are affected by UV radiation, but it takes long exposure times to accumulate damage.
You won’t reach that time fishing unless you’re one the water day-in and day-out, but you can easily exceed them by storing your spare line in the sun.
Just like nylon mono, you want to keep your braid in the dark, and a garage, closet, or a spare Amazon box is a perfect place for it.
And unlike mono, heat can be an issue for braid.
Dyneema, for instance, starts to melt at 284F. And while that’s an oven temperature, it starts to stretch and lose its strength permanently when exposed to temps as low as 158F.
That’s hot - but at the extremes for summer temperatures inside a car!
So if you’ve tossed your line into the trunk of your car or the back seat of your truck, you might need to buy new line.
As you’ve seen, UV exposure isn’t a big deal for fluorocarbon, and it turns out that heat isn’t either. While I wouldn’t recommend storing your expensive fluoro in the back seat of your car all summer, it’s pretty tolerant of poor storage.
While we can only offer general guidelines, anglers who earn a living on the water should generally replace line in very short intervals, and certainly before any money is to be won.
Recreational anglers can stretch that replacement interval quite a bit, depending on the line type involved.
And if you store your spare line properly, there’s really no issue with life expectancy.
We hope you learned something from this article, and we’d love to hear from you if you have.
Please leave a comment below!