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Lining up your Lures

When guys ask what lure I'm using, they never ask what line I have matched with it...they should! Line diameter, stretch and strength are critical factors affecting the depth, action and control of all lures and techniques. Line is part of a system along with the rod, reel and bait selection.

Fortunately for fisherman (not necessarily for the fish) line quality and variety have improved. I've fished lines from Berkley since I was a kid. There are other companies making quality products including Stren, Bass Pro Shops, Rapala, Maxima, P-Line, Ande and more. For me, I am more demanding now than ever before and one manufacturer is making the line that does a lot for my techniques. GAMMA makes a very strong Co-POLY, and the best Fluorocarbon I've ever used. These lines match the characteristics to fine-tune my systems. Lines vary in strength, diameter, stretch and color. Water clarity determines line color.

As a general rule, 10-pound test is the cutoff for reel selection. (4 to 10-pound test on spinning reels; 10-pound test to 20 on casting reels) For a fast or deeper dive, use a thinner line. This can mean a lower pound test or a line that provides strength at a smaller diameter than conventional line, like the GAMMA lines. Heavier, larger diameter lines offer more resistance to keep lures from diving deep and they slow the descent of baits like plastic worms and jigs.

For topwater baits, use line that casts far, has relatively low stretch and floats. I'm not concerned about visibility, just power to pull fish from grass beds. I don't cast popping baits far, which reduces the amount of line being stretched, because the Potomac is not always crystal clear. For this application, use the new 12-pound CoPoly line from GAMMA that has some stretch. Stretch allows baits to pop while not advancing, producing plenty of action while staying in the strike zone longer. For longer casts, I go to 10-pound test. The lower stretch is important on long casts to be able to "walk" baits like the Lucky Craft Sammy and "pop" baits like the G-Splash. GAMMA Torque braid also works well! Braids allow you to cast a mile, a necessity in very clear water, and give you immediate feedback to work walking baits. They also slice through grass better. I have some spooled for clients.

For moving topwaters like Mann's Classic buzzbait, use 20-pound test GAMMA Fluorocarbon. This line casts well, has the strength to pull fish out of grass, and is amazingly abrasion resistant. When making long casts to cover a lot of water, some stretch won't pull the bait away from a striking fish.

To work just below the surface with Mann's Baby 1-minus, the Baby 4-minus and Classic spinnerbait in water less than 4 feet deep, use 16-pound test GAMMA EDGE Fluorocarbon. The thicker line actually helps baits stay up over grass. The same applies to spinnerbaits. A bit of stretch is not a bad thing especially when making shorter casts. To make longer and deeper casts covering water as in the spring when grass is just emerging, go to 12-pound test GAMMA Edge Fluorocarbon for less stretch.

Line is the key to controlling the depth of lipless crankbaits like the LV-100 and LVR D-7. To run deeper, drop down to 12-pound test. For shallow applications, use 16-pound test. Again, GAMMA Copoly has the appropriate amount of stretch for short casts, and for longer casts. The smaller lipless crankbaits require thinner line to get them deeper, while 1/2-ounce baits require heavier line to stay above.

The size and angle of the diving bill, the length of the cast and the line tie position control crankbait depth. After that, rod position and line diameter are the most critical factors in reaching maximum depth, faster. To slowly crank small tight-wiggle deep-diving baits in winter, like the Loudmouth III, or U.S. Shad 65F, use 10-pound test. GAMMA Copoly has just the right amount of stretch to allow fish to suck in the bait. It is abrasion resistant to allow working through heavy cover. Otherwise, use 12-pound test GAMMA Copoly. I like the extra stretch when cranking deep and can go up to 12 or even 14 pound test when using the bigger, deeper crankbaits and Silver Buddy jigging lures. In addition, the extra stretch makes it easier for me to "spring" snagged baits free.

The largest range of line choice comes with fishing the bottom with plastics. Use 8-20 pound test for Texas, Carolina, drop shot and split shot rigs. GAMMA Fluorocarbon sensitivity and low stretch on spinning tackle is ideal, especially for longer casts. I use the lightest line in the coldest weather or when the bite is very subtle. This allows fish to pick up baits without the drag of large diameter line. Small diameter line also allows baits to drop in wind or current without having to increase weight size. When I pitch targets in the summer and that are only 2-6 feet away, I go to 17 or 20-pound GAMMA Fluorocarbon to fish in heavy cover. The stretch here keeps me from breaking line on the hookset. With the right rod and reel drag, super-sensitive no-stretch braided lines will also work.

Just as lures are tools to catch fish, lines are also a critical link to perfect and fine-tune every fishing system according to depth, action and lure control. Then next time you see me catching fish, find out, "What's my line".

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