Bass fishing is one of those things where having the right equipment makes all the difference. Get the ingredients right and you’ll find more bass, hook more bass and consistently, catch bigger bass.
One of the most critical components to a well tuned bass fishing setup is your fishing line. I am constantly refining my line size to deliver baits with just the right combination of function and power. But it’s always a work in progress.
For bass fishing, use 8 to 12 pound test monofilament or fluorocarbon line with finesse presentations using spinning gear. Bump it up to 15 or 20 pound test in heavy cover. When casting big swimbaits, crankbaits, jigs and topwater tackle, a braided main line in the 30-50 pound test range is incredibly versatile.
Sounds reasonable but the thing is, bass anglers really like to get technical. Everyone is going to dial in their gear and no two opinions on line size are the same.
It is so easy to get lost in the complex tangle of line choices. That’s why we asked experienced anglers and scoured the web in order to make a guide designed to simplify your decision about the ideal line size for bass fishing.
Types of lines for bass fishing
The majority of anglers are aware that there are three main types of lines. Monofilament, fluorocarbon and braid. Each has unique attributes that make one line better than another depending on the application.
As far as bass anglers are concerned, the most important traits in a fishing line are sensitivity, strength and invisibility under the water. Balancing these primary factors is critical to get the most out of your line.
Here is what distinguishes the three types of line for bass fishing.
Monofilament is the jack of all trades in bass fishing. It’s invisible enough for finesse tactics like the drop shot yet strong enough for most lighter jigs or top water baits in light cover and reeds. What mono lacks is sensitivity. This is primarily due to stretch.
While this stretch hinders bite detection when the bass are softly slurping at your bait, it does help act as a shock absorber on crushing strikes. That’s why mono line is often used as a leader on braided line. Braid supplies sensitivity and mono absorbs some of the impact from savage strikes.
The most limiting feature of mono is line thickness. Monofilament above 20 pound test is ungainly and becomes a hinderance to lure action and castability. For most of our bass fishing, mono is only ever used as a leader and not a mainline.
Fluorocarbon has come a long ways over the years but it is still a ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ type of line for many anglers. It has its place in a bass angler’s repertoire though. For invisibility, nothing beats fluoro. Fluorocarbon line has similar light refracting characteristics as water and is virtually invisible to fish.
It is also extremely sensitive and has significantly lower stretch than mono. When it comes to finesse fishing for heavily pressured largemouth, fluoro is superior. Even so, most anglers find it stiff and hard to manage on a spinning reel. Whether you use a spinning reel or baitcaster, fluorocarbon will work as a mainline for most applications except topwater.
Fluoro sinks so avoid using it with topwater baits. Poppers and walk-the-dog baits will get tangled in your line every time.
Braid has enjoyed increased popularity in recent years and for good reason. This ultra strong line has a super thin diameter relative to strength. Not only does this allows for extremely long casts, it also has the power to yank big hogs from thick cover.
Braid has zero stretch so every bump and bite will register in your hands. The one draw back to braid is its high visibility in water. It’s not a problem in stained water or thick vegetation. However, clear water bass anglers can add a fluoro or mono leader to braid to combat this.
When it comes to casting buzz baits, crankbaits, frogs or jigs in heavy cover, braid is an all around versatile choice.
Best line size for every technique
Unfortunately, no one line will do all that bass fishing demands. That’s why we put together this comprehensive chart to help you tailor your line size to every application you use. There is some overlap so knowing what line size and type is best will put more bass in the boat with fewer line changes.
Best Line Size For Bass Fishing
|Fluorocarbon||Braid (use with mono|
or fluoro leaders)
|Finesse soft plastics||8-10 pound test||8-10 pound test||10-20 pound test|
|Jigs, Texas or Carolina rigs||15-20 pound test||15-25 pound test||40-50 pound test|
|Spinnerbaits and Chatterbaits||15-20 pound test||15-20 pound test||40-50 pound test|
|Crankbaits||12-20 pound test||12-15 pound test||30-40 pound test|
|Swimbaits||20-25 pound test||20-25 pound test||50+ pound test|
|Topwater||12-20 pound test||Never use with topwater||30-40 pound test|
|Buzzbaits and Frogs||No leader, use straight braid||Never use with topwater||30-50 pound test, no leader|
Hopefully, this chart simplifies the process of selecting a line that covers a wide range of techniques. Take note of these additional tips when pairing the right line weight with different lures.
- For topwater baits, use a stiffer weight leader. If you can get away with a higher pound test mono, then do so. A stiff leader will keep your popper, frog or spooks from gliding over your line and tangling. This is especially true on topwater baits using trebles.
- Take water clarity into consideration when selecting your line. Down size or use fluoro leaders in ultra clear water.
- Any time you’re fishing in heavy structure and weeds, use the heaviest line you have to pull bass free before they wrap your line up.
- Mono is often used as a leader but occasionally it works as a mainline too. When a little stretch is needed, try mono.
Now that you know what line you need, find out our recommendations for pairing it with the best size bass fishing rod for any situation.
Spinning reels vs. casting reels
When it comes to bass fishing, your rod and reel setup is technique specific. Everyone has their own preference so do what feels right to you.
In general, spinning reels are better suited for light weight line applications using finesse baits. Think drop shot, wacky rigs and Neko rigs. 12 pound test mono or fluoro is the upper limit for our spinning reels for bass fishing. Anything above 12 pound test will give you problems. On the other hand, you can get away with heavier line sizes on a spinning reel by using braid as a main line. 20 pound test braid is our recommended max on spinning gear.
Want to learn how to spool up a spinning reel without twist? Check out our easy guide with our tricks for doing it right.
Baitcasters can handle much heavier line and are well suited for bigger baits and situations where long cast are needed. Most bass anglers outfit their bait casting reels with 15-25 pound test mono/fluoro or 30-65 pound test braid. Avoid using braid below 30 pound test on a baitcasting reel. The narrow diameter will cut into the spool and bind.
Does line color matter for bass
In our experience, line color only matters for bass in extremely clear water. Otherwise, line thickness is more important since it directly effects the action of your lure.
A safe bet is to use clear fluoro or mono line as a leader in most water conditions. In stained water, green tinted braid tends to blend in well. When fishing weed beds or structure, line color seldom impacts your success. Bass key in on your bait before noticing the line.
Our favorite fishing lines
There is a lot of fishing line to choose from now days. Selecting the best brands takes a bit of trial and error. Not all lines are created equal so here are our top picks that should serve you well.
Suffix Advance – For finesse spinning techniques, Suffix Advance remains supple and manageable on the spool. It also handles abuse from rocks and cover well. 8 pound test is our choice for finesse.
Maxima Ultragreen – As a leader material, Maxima Ultragreen in 15-25 pound test is tough to beat. It is invisible enough for any technique including topwater or reaction baits. Maxima is a tough line that resists breaking even when bass slam your baits.
Seaguar InvizX – Any angler requiring top of the line flourocarbon leader or mainline should consider Seaguar InvizX. This line covers everything from finesse baits in clear water to lipless crankbaits and squarbills. As long as it’s not a topwater bait, Seaguar fluoro is a must have. Keep a range of 6 to 25 pound test to cover just about any bass fishing technique.
Power Pro Spectra – Power Pro braid continues to prove itself as a top performing braid. Whether we are pulling largemouth out from under docks or through thick weeds, Power Pro has never failed. Power Pro Spectra is thick enough to keep from biting into your baitcasting spools or wrapping around your rod tip but is still thin enough for phenomenal casting distance. We recommend 30-65 pound test Power Pro for most bass fishing techniques.
Among bass anglers, novice or pro, line choice is hardly universal. Everyone has their own preferences depending on technique and experience. Me personally, I like to keep it simple. The advice in this article is a great starting point.
As your gain confidence in your skills and develop your bass fishing style, branch out and try new lines and experiment with other brands. You’ll know you are on the right track if you catch more fish and loose fewer lures.
Speaking of lures! Check out our guide to the 9 best smallmouth bass lures that will never let you down.