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It's No Stretch to Say Mono Isn't Always the Best Choice

Photo by Robert Montgomery

As an angler, you’ve read or heard about line stretch. You’ve noted that the pros and fishing industry experts say that it’s not good to use monofilament in some applications because of that stretch.

But do you really believe them?  Have they convinced you that braid is the best line for some methods?

Or is it all just hype?

Like many, maybe you think that mono works fine for you and you see no reason to complicate your fishing with a new type of line that often is more expensive. So what if your mono line stretches a bit? It’s not breaking on you. You catch fish. How bad could it be?

Former pro and lure designer Troy Gibson had his doubts too. But after testing the stretch properties of mono, copolymer, fluorocarbon, and braid for himself, he doesn’t anymore.

“Oh, my gosh, was I surprised at what I learned,” said the Alabama angler. “After I did this and switched to braid (for some applications), my hookup rate went way up. I was able to transform all of my setting energy from the pole into the bait. I’ve hooked more bites, and I’ve caught more fish.”

And now that he’s a convert, Gibson also is a vocal disciple. “Other anglers really need to try this too, to see for themselves,” he said.

His recommendation: Tie a 20-foot length of line to a pole or wall. Attach a pencil to the other end.  Then pull the line out as straight as possible, without stretching it, and make a mark on the ground or floor.

Now stretch the line as much as you can and mark that spot as well.

“Once you do this, you will understand about line stretch,” he said. “It will open your mind and make you a better fisherman.

“Line companies really are missing out by not doing a better job of putting out this information.”

What Gibson discovered is that mono typically stretches 1 inch per foot, copolymer ½ inch, and fluorocarbon ¼. Braid, of course, doesn’t stretch.

To put that discovery into angling context, imagine that you’ve made a 20-yard cast with mono and a bass strikes the bait before you begin a retrieve. That means your line will stretch 60 inches --- 5 feet! --- as you set the hook. That translates into both lost speed and power.

And lost fish.

 “When a bass chomps down on a bait and closes its mouth, your hook is not going to penetrate if you have too much line stretch,” said Kent Kelly, a member of Arkansas’ Jonesboro Bass Club. “But when they lose that fish, most people don’t equate it with line stretch.”

According to Kelly, another way to see for yourself about stretch is to tie mono to a full milk jug, back up about 10 yards or so, and then try to turn over the jug with a hookset. “You won’t even shake the jug with less than 20- or 25-pound test,” he said. “This really opens people’s eyes when they try it.”

There’s more. Mono has even more stretch than informal field tests reveal, according to Clay Norris, senior product manager for fishing lines at Pure Fishing (Berkley).

Reflective of the industry, Berkley’s series of monofilaments have an “ultimate elongation” of anywhere from 18 to 30 percent. That means a 20-yard piece of mono can stretch from 3.6 to 6 yards before it breaks.

“It’s like you’re pulling on a rubber band,” said Robby Gant, product manager for Shimano and Power Pro. “You stretch and stretch and stretch, until finally it pulls back. At first, you’re just pulling on the line, and then, finally, you have the hookset.”

Additionally, Gant explained, line stretch equates to reduced tensile (pound test) strength and abrasion resistance as well. That’s because the diameter of the line diminishes.

All of this is not to say that monofilament is inherently a bad fishing line. Rather it is to point out that it is not the best for some methods.

“Mono has plenty of applications,” Gant said. “With crankbaits, it’s good to have some stretch and give in your line. And it’s the same with topwater.”

Norris added, “Mono gives a great cushion, especially for weekend anglers who might not have their drags set properly or are using rods that are really stiff.”

But today’s braid is much better for specific applications and some anglers even are going to it full-time, especially in saltwater.

“Braid is everywhere. Pike, musky, and walleye fishermen are using it, as well as bass fishermen. But more than 50 percent of our business still is mono,” Norris said.

For bass anglers, heavy cover is one of the best places to use braid, Gant explained. “With mono, you lose pulling power and that gives the fish an advantage to stay stuck in that stuff,” he said.

“With braid, you are driving that hook home and moving that fish out at the same time.”

Norris added that braid “always is an advantage” in grass.

“Weeds create a barrier that stretches mono,” he said. “With braid you can keep constant pressure on the fish because it actually cuts through the grass.”

If he’s using mono to throw a jig or frog in grass, Gibson said, an angler “just can’t stick that fish. All it will feel is a little nudge.

“A lot of times, you will think that you’ve stuck a fish and it’s coming to the boat. But when it gets close, it comes unbuttoned. Well, that fish wasn’t hooked at all. It just opened its mouth and the bait came flying back at you, along with the sinker.”

Even in open water, braid can produce better than mono if long casts are required to reach the fish.

But braid, because it doesn’t stretch, does require some adjustment, like loosening the drag or going to a softer rod.

 “Beginning users pull a lot of hooks out of fish,” Gant said. “That’s because braid doesn’t have that little lag time that comes with mono. With braid, you sometimes have to hesitate a fraction of a second on the hookset.

“But once you understand how to use it, braid can make all of the difference in the world.”

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


(Fish) Food for Thought

Something basic draws us to fishing when we’re young, I believe. It is the “hunter/gatherer” imperative, passed on from generation to generation as instinct or maybe through our DNA.

I’m a fisherman, not a scientist, so to delve deeper into what I’m talking about would be pseudo-intellectual at best.

But you know what I mean: Our species survived eons ago by hunting and gathering food. To not have done so would have meant death by starvation. Despite the passage of years, we have retained at least a semblance of that need, no matter how comfortable our existence is today.

And when a rod is placed in a child’s hands, a spark ignites desire, especially upon catching that first fish. If you’ve ever taken a youngster fishing, you know what I’m talking about. Inevitably, his first words as he admires his catch are, “Can we keep it?”

(This is an excerpt from the essay "Food for Thought" in my new book, Why We Fish. If you're an angler, you'll enjoy and identify with this essay and the 49 others in this book.)


Take a Bite Out of Carp Invasion

Okay, enough is enough.


Chef Philippe Parola wants us to east more Asian carp.

Down in Louisiana, fear of flying carp is keeping froggers out of the bayous at night.

On Lake Tunica in northern Mississippi, a woman sustained a broken collarbone when she collided with a barrage of silver carp while tubing.

In reporting on the latter, the Natural Resources Defense Council said:

“Despite somewhat sensational coverage that implied she was attacked, she wasn’t. The fish were doing what comes naturally when startled.

“Her experience is, sadly, not unique. Vast stretches of our waterways are being eliminated from recreational use by the carp’s presence. Folks in places like Peoria, Illinois, have long since abandoned recreational activity on the Illinois River for fear of similar incidents.”

The feds aren’t going to solve this problem. In fact, silver and bighead carp eventually will make their way into the Great Lakes and possibly devastate the sport fishery there because of politics and bureaucratic incompetence.

As with most everything else, the best means of dealing with this expanding invasion is private initiative. Or, as Gary Tilyou, Louisiana Inland Fisheries administrator advises: “When one jumps in your boat, eat it.”

And Tilyou is not the only one in Louisiana recommending that solution, which, admittedly, will require considerable corn meal.

“The Asian carp is not just a Great Lake problem,” says Chef Philippe Parola. “Our solution is to break down these delicious invasive fish and mass produce precooked boneless fish fillets for U.S. grocery stores and restaurants.

“This solution will immediately and rapidly remove these invasive fish from our waters.”

He adds that commercial harvest of silver and bighead carp will create jobs, boost local economies, “and offer a much cleaner, domestic fish. To date, more than 85 percent of U.S. fish consumption is imported and the majority of these imported fish are contaminated with pollutants or abused with overdoses of sodium for preservation and weight purpose.”

Also a recreational angler, Parola is at the forefront of a movement that seeks to control carp, lionfish, wild hogs, and other invasives by popularizing them as food.  As global commerce and increased mobility have accelerated these invasions in recent years, this campaign seems as likely as any government intervention to take a bite out of the problem.

Especially if anglers and others will give carp a chance.

“The meat is white. I’ve eaten it numerous times,” says Tilyou. “It’s not common carp. That’s a different fish.”

Parola adds, “The taste is a cross between scallops and crab meat.”

Besides buying “silverfin” at the markets and restaurants when it becomes available, anglers can help in other ways. The most obvious way is to keep carp when they jump in the boat, as Tilyou suggests.

But snagging and bowfishing tournaments also can reduce populations and put food on the table. And, the field is wide open for figuring out ways to get these filter feeders to bite on baits.

To find out more about eating invasive carp, check out Chef Parola’s web site at

He is quick to advise that the carp should be bled as quickly as possible to improve the taste and he acknowledges that bones are abundant. That’s why he has focused on marketing items such as gumbo, cream bisque, and fish balls and cakes, as opposed to raw fillets.

Also, you can learn about lionfish from Maurice “Mojo” White in the Bahamas. At his site, he will tell you how to safely handle and prepare this invader with toxin-tipped fins. In recent years, it has spread throughout the Caribbean and up the East Coast as far as Long Island.

Following are recipes developed by Parola for “silverfin”:

Silverfin fried strips. 4 servings

16 strips of silverfin fish (boneless if possible)

2 eggs

1 cup of Kleinpeter half & half for eggwash

1 cup of Louisiana fish fry seasoned flour

Peckapepper mango sauce for dipping

Preheat fryer at 350. In a bowl, crack 2 eggs, stir well, and then add half & half. Stir well again. Place the strips in eggwash.  Coat each strip with seasoned flour. Fry until done. Serve with mango sauce.


Silverfin cakes. 4 servings

1 pound of silverfin white meat

4 ounces of melted unsalted butter

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

1 whole egg

1 ounce of crumbled bread

Seasoning and hot sauce to taste

Poach or steam silverfin meat until fully cooked.  Break it up in pieces to remove bones. Place the meat in a mixing bowl. Add butter, mustard, egg, and lemon juice. Mix well and add crumbled bread. Season to taste. Make small cakes, roll in egg wash and seasoned flour, and then fry.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


Separation Still Not Considered an Option for Keeping Carp out of Great Lakes

The latest manifestation of a strategy by the federal government to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes carries a $50 million price tag but still no mention of separating the lakes from the Mississippi River basin.

That omission does not please a growing number of stakeholders who believe that the only way to keep the exotics from destroying Great Lakes fisheries is by eliminating the manmade connection between the two watersheds.

“I think we could take carp control more seriously by disconnecting the Chicago waterway,” said Jim Diana, director of Michigan Sea Grant and a fisheries professor at the University of Michigan. “In absence of that, we’ll have all these kinds of temporary solutions that might work.”

And just a few months ago, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said, “Ultimately, I think we have to separate the basins. I really feel that is the ultimate solution. We have to do it.”

Until that announcement at a meeting of Great Lakes governors, most thought that Illinois would continue to side with Chicago and the Obama administration in opposing disconnection of the waterways.

Although it doesn’t include separation, the new 2013 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework does call for an improved electric barrier south of Chicago, as well as creation of barriers at other tributaries feeding the lakes, nearly two dozen of which have been identified as potential entry points. It also calls for expanded sampling and emphasizes testing of new tools, including water guns, netting, chemical controls, and pheromone attractants.

“This strategy continues our aggressive effort to bolster our tools to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, while we work toward a long-term solution,” said John Goss of the White House Council on Environmental quality, who oversees the initiative.

“The 2013 framework will strengthen our defenses against Asian carp and more innovative carp control projects from research to field trials to implementation.”

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.) 


The Online Fisherman Meets Why We Fish

A review of my new book, Why We Fish, is posted at The Online Fisherman, one of the most popular and informative angling sites on the worldwide web. Thanks to publisher Gary Poyssick. An excerpt is below:

I could talk a lot about the book and not be talking about the book. It is pure "uncle stories" and not a resource of accessible ramps. What it is though is a connection to the mind and heart of a guy whose involvement and background in our fishing industries and the media surrounding the industries could be a book all its own. His own website, the, is one that needs to be in your regular reading folder if it is not already there. His knowledge of the politics and characters behind the global attempt to keep recreational anglers off the water is not matched by many . . .  He reflects his position in a chapter called "I'm not an Environmentalist" but for far more resource and research information, make sure you visit his own site.

Get the book. Whether you read it like one string of spaghetti coming out of a very tasty sauce, or you pick at it like those pistachio nuts you really should stop eating by the thirty-dollar pound, taste it. It is worth the chews, and so is anything this guy spends the time writing.

Thanks Robert, great book. And thanks for the quote from Thoreau. It says it all: Many men go fishing their entire lives without realizing it is not the fish they are after.