Fishing Line Test
During the deep freezer tests a gentleman approached me and wanted to know what I was doing. “I’m testing fishing lines to see how strong they really are” I replied. He still looked puzzled, so I continued “Do you hunt”?
“Even more than I fish” he snapped back, grinning.
“Well when you buy a box of 185 grain bullets, how much does the bullet weigh”? I asked him.
He answered, “185 grains, and if it didn’t weigh 185 grain the company wouldn’t be in business long”.
And then I made my point, “So when you buy a spool of 10 pound test, what will it break at”? Neither he, nor most anglers could answer that question with any degree of certainty. It is because there are no laws or industry standards requiring companies to conform to a set of standards. What we need is some objective data to compare the multitude of fishing lines available.
Other blood sports are rigorous in the testing of their equipment such as rifle hunters, muzzle loaders, and bow hunters. If rifle hunters took the same approach to their bullets that anglers do with fishing lines, a box of 185 grain bullets would weigh between 165 grains and 210 grains.
Well anglers deserve better. In March of 2007
I did my first set of tests, and published them online. There was plenty of
room for improvement. I did my best to improve the quality of the tests,
throwing out 20 hours of line testing when the initial testing set up didn’t
provide accurate enough results. I reviewed Doug Olander’s extensive testing of
fishing lines. I revisited my college statistics. I walked the aisles of Home
Depot for at least 2 hours trying to figure out how to replicate the accuracy
of a ten thousand dollar industrial tensile testing machine. Now I can finally
release the results available only here on Gamefishin.com, as VHawk’s Ultimate Line Tests.
I had several important criteria that needed to be met; the testing needed to be as free of bias as possible, the results needed to be consistent and reproducible, and the equipment needed to be easily available and affordable to most anglers. I believe the procedures listed below met those criteria.
No free samples/demo lines were used. All the lines in the tests were paid for out of pocket, and bought off the shelves of Sportsmen’s Warehouse, Cabelas, and Tumwater Sports.
I set the test up as a blind study. I wouldn’t know which lines I was testing as I performed the tests, and worked with the raw data. In order to do this I precut 11 lengths of fishing line, put a loop at each end, wrapped them on a foam leader pipe, put the name of the line in the center of an envelope and stuffed it inside the foam insulation pipe. I set up a bunch of leader rolls like this, and when I get around to testing them I pull out the envelope a couple of inches and mark it with an identifier, i.e. x-1, x-2, x-3. The results are marked in my notebook only using the "x" identifier. My notebook does not have the key, only the anonymous identifier marks. I then used the “x” identifier to while I worked with the data in Excel. After the math was complete, I pulled out the envelopes and matched the x-number on the corner of the envelope with the name of the line which was inside it. I then uncovered the identities of the lines.
The testing apparatus needed to test the strength of the line, not knot strength. Even with a Palomar knot, two or three knots that don’t set well, out of a sample of 10 would significantly widen the margin of error. An observation made on the water would provide the inspiration. When fishing line gets snagged up on the river bottom and needs to be broken free, a small branch is frequently used to wind the line before pulling it free. Often the line breaks, either near the terminal end, or sometimes halfway up, but never does it break at the point its wound around the stick. So the tests would be done by setting one end of the line anchored in the rubber jaws of a table vise (illustration 1, 2), and the other end would be wrapped around a padded roller brush. The handle of the brush would be attached to the hook end of a hand held digital scale. The line was pulled slowly and deliberately. The results were called out loud, and the highest number prior to failure was recorded. This was done 11 times, with the lowest result being thrown out. All totaled, this was repeated 319 times for the final tests. This doesn’t count the several hundred tests done in the prior testing that I threw out.
Foam leader rolls are wrapped with line samples. The true identity is inside the rolled up envelope to be revealed at the end of the tests. The small roller brush provided one point of attachment for the sample being tested. The handle of the roller was attached to the digital scale and pulled until failure. The table vise was customized with strips of rubber taken from a car brake pedal. The formed the anchor point for the line.
Illustration 2. This is what it looks like after a sample has been tested. This picture was taken after the actual testing was complete. Normally only leader rolls are on the table, and not marked spools of line. Note the line as it winds around the padded spindle of the roller brush.
Some Words on the Math
Listed below on table T1 is the list of measured line diameters. This was necessary because the diameter stated on the spool was frequently inaccurate, and when it was inaccurate it was always understated.
Comparing line diameters doesn’t give a full and fair estimate of strength versus thickness. In order to give a fair comparison, apples to apples, we need to find the tensile strength. We need the diameter in order to find strength as measured by the total area in the cross section of line. From that we use an ancient formula to find the area, πr2 (pi times radius squared). Small increases in diameter of a circle (the cross section of our fishing line), leads to increases in total area that grow at a faster rate. In other words a 10% increase in line diameter may lead to a 15% increase in total surface area. More surface area means more nylon with which to resist tension. What we want to know is when comparing equal amounts of monofilament, which brands are strongest.
T-1 Table of Measured Line Diameters, all lines are marketed as “10 pound test” unless noted.
Brand and Model Avg Diameter
The Really Important Results
A Couple More Words on Reliability
I tossed in a couple of safety checks to ensure reliability. One of those was an extra leader roll with a sample of line of Stren Magnathin. During the testing I would come across those two leader rolls randomly. If the tests were ‘good’, the results should be expected to match fairly close. The result? The averages of the two samples were within 99.9% of each other. I looked at my raw numbers over and over, still not believing. The numbers stayed the same.
In order to test the idea that tensile strength would account for varying line diameters I also tested “8 pound” samples of Maxima UG, and Maxima Chameleon. What I found was that the smaller diameter lines had HIGHER! Tensile strengths than the “10 pound test”. After discussing this with Don Newman of P Line, he explained that those results are not inconsistent with monofilament lines. That as line diameter increases, tensile strength decreases.
What this means to our results is that if I tested lines of equal diameter, then some of the thicker lines in my samples would actually bump upwards in the rankings. However P Line CXX would be expected to stay right up at the top, since even at the thicker line diameters it still has powerful tensile strength.
How to Apply the Results to Your Fishing
Frequently I hear the complaint that an angler tried a new line and was disappointed when it didn’t perform like his familiar mono. What generally happens is that instead of using a new line with a similar diameter, an angler chooses a line with a similar ‘pound test’. Don’t do that. Just don’t. Instead use similar line diameters. Be aware that certain brands like Maxima do not accurately label their lines. However in general most do accurately state the line diameters. Compare line diameters…I can’t stress this enough, that when a spool of line is marketed as “10 pound test”, it means absolutely nothing! When trialing out new lines always use a line of the same diameter.
The Authors Recommendation
At the time of testing, P Line’s monofilament products were consistent in their superior performance. Currently I use CXX, and Evolution on my bait casting reels. If an angler is familiar with any of the lines with a tensile strength of greater than 120,000 psi as listed, and has developed a confidence in their product, they may not see a reason to change. If an angler finds that his/her favorite line falls below the 120,000 psi threshold, they should seriously consider trialing out one of the better performing lines.
For my spinning reels I currently use Sufix Elite, and Sufix Siege, depending on availability. There is little difference between the two lines as far as strength is concerned. This is a definite change in the findings from last years test, and one of the reasons I changed the procedure for testing.
Also, something not captured in the tables I presented was how close to the average the lines broke, or better known as deviation from the mean. One line in particular was especially consistent, Seaguar Fluorocarbon leader. It was the thinnest of all the 10 pound lines tested, and averaged 9.88 pounds breaking strength. However, it also tended to break at about 2 ounces on either side of its average. If I was chasing world records, I’d have to consider paying the extra cash for the Seaguar.
Illustration 3. Little Fish forgive your weaker lines, Big Fish don’t.
Procedures for the
Generic distilled water was used to soak a 3 foot section of line for approximately 30 minutes, just prior to testing. Distilled water being used to avoid problems with chlorine affecting the lines. After soaking each end of the line was tied to a 10/0 octopus style hook, using a Palomar knot. One hook was attached to a static point; the other hook was attached to a hand held/hand pulled digital scale. Rate of tension was increased by about one pound for each 3 second count; constant observation of meter was made until line broke. Highest recorded weight prior to line failure was recorded. Test was repeated 3 times per line.
The author’s fingers prevented a full battery of testing at -18 degrees Celsius. We knew we had enough chill in the walk in freezer when the water on the scale would freeze up within a minute or so of standing under the blower. The results we found among the premium brands were surprising in their ability to retain almost 100% of their room temperature strength. The bargain brand, Danielson Pro 7 which tested at an average break strength of 9 pounds at room temp broke at average of 3.6 pounds at 0 degree’s F.
The author attempted to find some consumer testing of mono in subfreezing temperatures but none were available. I did not publish the actual results since I found the procedure I used to be relatively inconsistent during the larger room temperature tensile strength trials. I included this however because it was noted that premium lines did reliably hold up better than the discount line.
Thanks to Gamefishin.com for supporting the testing. Because GF doesn’t need to fear a backlash from advertisers, they have been able to bring you this information. Also thanks to Dave Vedder for his encouragement throughout the process. And thanks to Greg Wagner for his help with the math. And finally thanks to my wife Jess for not having a break down from finding clippings of fishing line everywhere in the kitchen.
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