Is there a best fishing line for surf fishing? Or is line selection more or less irrelevant? There are surf anglers who swear by braid. Others use only mono. A lot of us, including me, have used all three. Interestingly, there are few surf anglers who use mainline fluoro exclusively - but they’re rare.
I’ve fished the surf with all three with fantastic results. And after decades of observation, it’s clearly evident that no one line type catches more fish than the other, or creates more disasters than the other - depending on the angler.
By and large, line selection for surf fishing is a personal choice, and rarely is it a mistake to choose one over the other (with some exceptions for fluoro). But for peak fishing line performance for certain applications, line selection becomes more important. Let’s find out why.
Why Does Line Choice Matter?
With a few exceptions, line selection is not at all critical for surf fishing. Especially in terms of catching and landing fish. I disagree with the notion that braid is in every way superior to all. Braid is fantastic, but there’s no objective truth behind the notion that it’s best.
I’ll put it this way. If for some reason I could only ever use mono or braid from this point forward, I’d not be the slightest bit phased or concerned. The price of braid might upset me, but I’m not worried at all about line performance in the surf. If I had to use fluoro exclusively, my only concern is that I’d have to use ultra-expensive brands for surf-appropriate fluoro.
But Isn’t Braided Line the Ultimate in Fishing Line?
I’m forever being challenged by the braid brigade telling me about its superior qualities for surf fishing. Braid is awesome, no doubt. But my response to the braid-or-nothing crew is to ask them what on earth they think we did before braid.
For most of my fishing life, we had a choice of mono…or mono. I caught as many fish then as I do now using braid - and mono. So why all the fuss? In order to unpack the issue we need to understand the key performance properties of fishing lines.
Fishing Line Properties
Each of the 3 line types has distinct properties. For the average angler, there’s less of a discernable difference between mono and fluoro, but braid is significantly different for both of them.
The unique properties of each line type deliver performance advantages, or disadvantages, depending on the application. But what are the general fishing line qualities in which we base line selection?
By and large, casting distance is dependent on a balanced rig and angler skill. But line type can play a significant role.
Strong knots are critical. It’s important that anglers know that all line types can have knots with equally strong tensile strength, so long as the correct knot is carefully tied.
Ease of Knot Tying
Mono, braid, and fluoro require knots of different complexity, depending on breaking strain and diameter.
Resistance to abrasion is a fishing line’s ability to maintain its integrity following contact with rocks, reefs, and other such gnarly snags.
Fishing line stretches. The amount it stretches varies significantly between line types, and will also vary between brands and models. Stretch can be good or undesirable depending on the application and user.
Shock strength is a fishing line’s ability to resist sudden, heavy pulling. This can happen when a heavy fish strikes a bait aggressively.
Different fishing line types, models, and brands have varying propensities to retain the shape in which they’ve been stored. With most fishing lines stored on cylindrical spools, it retains loop shapes.
Fishing line buoyancy is a far more complex equation than most anglers realize. Generally speaking, both mono and fluoro sink, with mono sinking more slowly than fluoro. Braided lines generally float.
Strength to Diameter Ratio
Strength to diameter ratio denotes the breaking strain of the line relative to its thickness.
Line suppleness is the softness and flexibility of line. It impacts handling, knot tying, knot strength, and line memory.
Line sensitivity denotes fishing line’s propensity to transmit bites and other contacts from the hook to the angler.
Fishing lines can be clear, colored, fully visible, or translucent. At times, anglers want to see their fishing line - spot fishing is a good example. Other times, we prefer stealth and use fishing line that is difficult for fish to see.
Performance Qualities of The 3 Types Of Surf Fishing Line
Let’s look closely at the performance qualities of each of the three line types. I’ll recommend a couple of products in each category that I find to be good for surf fishing. Following this, I’ll outline situations where you might use one line type over another in surf fishing applications.
1. Monofilament Fishing Line
Mono is still the go-to fishing line for most surf anglers. It has an excellent balance of all key performance properties for all surf applications and is my first choice for bait fishing.
The key features of mono are its excellent balance of performance qualities across all key criteria, and its suitability for every application. It’s ideal for beginners and fishing legends alike, it’s the easiest to use, and the most cost-effective.
Mono casting distance is good to very good, particularly in small diameter and lighter line classes. In heavier, thicker lines, distance rigs, and heavier weights are usually required.
Mono knot strength can be outstanding with the simplest of fisherman’s knots, pushing above 98% of line strength.
Ease Of Knot Tying
Mono is the easiest line in which to tie dependable knots. Greater care is required the thicker the line.
Mono is highly abrasion resistant but without sacrificing suppleness and flexibility.
Stretch reduces sensitivity and can weaken hook-setting. However, these are small issues by and large. Stretch makes mono very forgiving, especially with poorly timed, aggressive strikes on fish with soft mouths. Hence why mono is great for beginners, novices, and the average angler.
Mono has good shock strength and is unlikely to snap during heavy aggressive strikes.
Mono has a strong memory, which is its biggest weakness, making it more prone to loop knots and tangling if care is not taken.
Mono sinks at a reasonably slow rate. This feature has little if any impact on performance or line selection for the surf.
Mono has a poor strength-to-diameter ratio relative to braid. The stronger line class we need, the less we can fit on our spools.
Quality mono has good suppleness, mitigating memory issues, and enhancing knot strength.
While mono is famous for its stretch, the impact on sensitivity and your ability to feel a bite is negligible.
Mono has hi-vis colors and clear, translucent models ideal for stealth.
Good Mono Line for Surf Fishing
Sufix Siege Clear
The 17lb Suffix Siege clear 17lb has been a staple for me for some time. I like the abrasion resistance, strength-to-diameter ratio, and suppleness. I also use the 30lb for big fish applications. It's a very good mono for surf fishing.
Stren is a household name for US mono fans. It has excellent abrasion resistance, great casting, and low memory, making it an excellent choice for surf fishing.
2. Fluorocarbon Fishing Line
Modern fluoro mainline is far more supple than it used to be. It’s also very expensive to get brands that perform well in the surf. Generally speaking, fluoro isn't a common fishing line choice for surf fishing.
The key features of fluoro are its minimal stretch, faster sink rate, excellent abrasion resistance, and extremely low visibility. It can be very expensive and doesn’t have the product range of mono for surf applications.
Fluoro casting distance is good to very good in small diameter and lighter line classes - less so as the line class gets heavier - similar to mono.
Fluoro knot strength can be excellent. However, it’s often less supple, so care must be taken to ensure knots are appropriate and correctly tied.
Ease Of Knot Tying
Greater care is required when tying fluoro knots, particularly in thicker lines. The knots are easy - but extra caution is needed.
Fluoro is a harder line compound and likely the most abrasion resistant of all the line types.
Very low stretch is a feature of fluoro. It makes it very sensitive, and a great line for lures and natural baits.
Fluoro has excellent shock strength.
Fluoro, being a harder line, has more memory than the other line types. It has improved over the years, but can still be an issue with kinks, and bends.
Fluoro sinks faster than mono. This feature has little impact on surf fishing where heavy lead is generally used anyway.
Fluoro is more or less identical to mono.
Only the very best fluorocarbons are supple. Suppleness, or lack of it, is one of fluoro's most notable misgivings.
With limited stretch and harder compounds, fluoro is particularly sensitive.
This is fluoro’s strength. Few lines have the stealth qualities of fluoro. It’s virtually invisible to fish.
Good Fluorocarbon Mainline for Surf Fishing
I should note that there’s no significant advantage to using fluoro over braid or mono in the surf. And as surf-appropriate fluorocarbons are so costly, I’d generally recommend mono and braid first.
Seaguar Invizx 100% Fluorocarbon
Seaguar is a nice, supple mainline fluoro. If you’re a fluoro die-hard, you’ll love this for general surf fishing. It casts beautifully, ties easily, is particularly sensitive and doesn’t get bent up in a churning surf like some fluoros will.
Sunline Super FC Sniper Fluorocarbon
Sunline would be my first choice for fishing surf breaks where rocks and gnarly snags can cost me a heap of terminal tackle. Generally speaking, it fishes very well in the surf, but its abrasion resistance is outstanding. There's a very wide range of test weights available.
3. Braided Fishing Line
Many anglers use braid for all of their surf applications. I use it when I’m chasing something bigger that’s hanging further out in the breakers. It’s also my go-to when I’m tossing my favorite surf fishing lures. It’s highly regarded for its high tensile strength, casting distance, and effectiveness in maximizing lure action.
Braid's casting distance is one of its huge advantages in surf fishing. With its thin diameters and proprietary coatings that minimize friction, you bring distant targets into casting range.
Most braids have outstanding knot strength, so long as the appropriate knots are tied correctly. Leaders are essential, so rigging is rarely straightforward.
Ease Of Knot Tying
Tying effective knots can be complex and time-consuming. This is one of the biggest drawbacks of braided line.
Modern braided lines have improved abrasion resistance significantly - many swear by them. I’m less convinced and think mono and fluoro are better.
Braided line has no discernable stretch so it’s incredibly sensitive. However, it’s very unforgiving. Poorly timed strikes often result in missing hook-ups.
Braid has terrible shock strength - mono or fluoro leaders are essential. Leaders create a shock absorber so you don't snap your line or damage your surf fishing rod.
Braided lines have no memory at all. Anglers love this feature.
Braided lines float and resist water absorption. But this has little to no bearing on surf fishing performance.
Strength to Diameter Ratio
Braid’s strength-to-diameter ratio is its biggest advantage. Comparatively, a 20-pound braid is about the same thickness as 6-pound mono. You can pack prodigious amounts of heavy braids on spin reels.
Braid is as supple as it gets. It’s floppy, with no memory at all, and easy to work once you’re proficient at critical braid knots.
Braided fishing lines are the most sensitive fishing lines available. You can feel the fish thinking.
Braid is available in a huge range of color choices. It is usually hi-vis and has limited stealth properties. This factor is rarely an issue in the surf.
Good Braids for Surf Fishing
Sufix 832 Advanced Superline
Sufix 832 is expensive tackle but it’s great for casting and reliable knots. Its abrasion resistance is better than many, and it comes in handy refill sizes. Its cost is offset by its durability.
Power Pro Spectra Fiber Braided Fishing Line
Power Pro Spectra Fiber is my favorite braided line by some margin. It’s cost-effective and casts prodigious distances. It’s also available in a wide range of test weights, with 3 handy refill sizes.
When to Use Mono in the Surf
- Mono is the go-to choice for beach fishing and all its applications
- When you’re a beginner angler or new to surf fishing
- When you’re on a tight budget
- When you’re game fishing from the beach, chasing monsters over 500lb
- It’s an ideal choice for all species, in all conditions, using all techniques
- When you’re not confident tying complex knots
- When you’re using natural or live baits
- A must when using conventional reels
When to Use Fluorocarbon in the surf
- When there are no waves, and stealth becomes important
- When you’re fishing areas of heavy cover with sharp rocks and snags
- When you feel extra sensitivity is advantageous, but sharp cover might compromise braid
When To Use Braided Lines in the Surf
- Braided lines are an excellent default fishing line for the vast majority of surf fishing situations
- When you’re fishing with lures of any type
- When you’re confident with complex knots and rigs
- Braid is outstanding when you need to cast a long way, which is common for surf applications
- When you’re chasing trophy fish and need to maximize your spool capacity with a heavy line class
- When you’re using larger cut or live baits
- Excellent for spin reels 3000 to 5000
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.