The Lure Of Bream

Choosing Lines

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Fine braid is especially good for detecting tentative bites when working soft plastics.

In part three of his tell-all on one of the nation’s most sought after species, Steve ‘Starlo’ Starling continues his in-depth study on lure fishing for bream with a detailed look at line selection when targeting these wily customers. Selection of a main line when lure fishing for bream boils down to a choice between two quite different materials: monofilament (either nylon or fluorocarbon) versus gel-spun polyethylene (either braided or fused). While both line types have their fans, I, like many, firmly believe the advent of gel-spun polyethylene (GSP) represents the largest single advance in finesse fishing over the past three decades. Further to this it is widely acknowledged the use of these so-called “super lines” has completely revolutionised this style of fishing, along with many others. Having said that it should be noted that a small number of very skilled lure fishers are nowadays actually reverting back to the use of monofilament main lines for at least some of their bream luring, running these lines straight through to their jig head or lure, without adding a leader of any sort. These anglers cite advantages of a little extra line stretch to help keep small, fine gauge hooks in active fish, and the convenience of being able to re-rig or swap lures easily and quickly by simply tying another one to the end of their lines (without needing a leader). On one level, it’s hard to argue with their logic. Yet, the majority of serious Australian anglers (myself included) stick doggedly to our braided line and leaders for most of our lure fishing… Why? There are several reasons for favouring the so called super lines when lure fishing for bream, but first a brief explanation of what these lines actually are.

What exactly is GSP?

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While Starlo will occasionally revert to mono line under some circumstances, he generally prefers fine braid (rated at 1 or 2 kg breaking strain) as his main line, whether throwing hard-bodied lures or soft plastics for bream.

Gel-spun polyethylene or GSP lines are made by realigning the molecules of a form of plastic known as polyethylene to create very fine micro-strands, sometimes referred to as ‘angel hair’. These hair-like fibres are then either braided and woven tightly together to form thicker strands, or simply twisted together and fused or melted into a thicker strand using heat. The first GSP fishing lines to hit the Australian market over 20 years ago were all braids, with the thermo-fused form emerging a few years later. The two styles have slightly different handling characteristics, with braided lines generally being softer or more limp than their slightly stiffer, fused counterparts. Most anglers agree that braids are generally more sophisticated and classy to use than fused gel-spun lines, although the excessive limpness of some braids can present tangle problems, especially when casting fixed-spool reels like the threadlines (eggbeaters) preferred when bream luring. For these reasons, thermo-fused gel-spuns have tended to dominate the light line/spinning reel market, while braids rule in heavier applications and when used on baitcasters and overheads. However, even this distinction is changing and blurring as newer generations of braids with different construction methods and handling characteristics come along.

Why Choose GSP?

Delicate presentations with lightly-weighted lures demand the use of fine lines and skinny leaders.

Delicate presentations with lightly-weighted lures demand the use of fine lines and skinny leaders.

Why make the switch to braided or fused GSP? To begin with, the strength-for-thickness or ‘tensile strength’ of GSP is exceptional; as much as three four times that of nylon monofilament. In other words, when choosing GSP lines, it’s often possible to end up with a line that’s half as thick yet twice as strong as traditional mono! In fishing terms, this means an angler can either use a lot thinner line for a specific job by switching to GSP, or choose a line of a similar thickness to their old mono and enjoy the benefits of a much higher breaking strain. In practice, many lure fishos split the difference; opting for a gel-spun line that’s both thinner and stronger than their old monofilament. The benefits are twofold. Thinner line casts further and is less susceptible to wind and water drag, while stronger line allows more pressure to be exerted when muscling fish away from snags and other line-cutting obstructions. The difference in stretch or elongation between GSP and mono is also dramatic. Most nylon and fluorocarbon mono lines will elongate anywhere from 15 to 30 per cent under strain before breaking. In other words, 100 metres of nylon could stretch to 120 or 125 metres (or even more) under load before snapping. By contrast, braided and fused gel-spun lines have single-digit stretch factors, so 100 metres of gel-spun will only stretch a couple of additional metres (at most) under load before breaking. In fishing terms, reduced stretch results in greatly enhanced sensitivity or ‘feel’. If something happens to your lure, you’ll know about it immediately when using gel-spun, whether it’s a light tap from a reluctant fish, or the hook picking up a strand of weed. Equally, when you move the rod or crank the reel, this action is telegraphed very positively through a length of gel-spun. These are obviously significant benefits when it comes to manipulating lures, setting hooks and fighting fish. To summarise this the major attributes of gel-spun line are its great strength-for-thickness and its low stretch. But what about the drawbacks?

The downsides of using GSP

Braided GSP is Starlo’s pick as a main line for bream luring, although he suggests a much finer gauge than this.

Braided GSP is Starlo’s pick as a main line for bream luring, although he suggests a much finer gauge than this.

On the minus side of the equation, braided and fused GSP lines are relatively expensive to purchase. They are susceptible to being cut under tension by sharp edges or rough surfaces, they’re not transparent (potentially possibly more visible to fish), and are a little harder to tie good, strong knots as compered to mono lines. They are also very slow to break down or decay if discarded in the environment (thus posing entangling threats to wildlife and people). Let’s look more closely at these four downsides: Cost: There’s no question that most GSP lines are more expensive per metre than monofilament line. However, GSP is also more durable than mono, meaning you’ll end up buying less of it over time. You can also reverse it or join and top-shot lengths of GSP to extend its life. Abrasion resistance: Under tension, GSP is prone to being more easily cut than nylon by contact with sharp or rough surfaces such as rocks, fish teeth and boat propellers. The greater the tension or weight on the line, the higher this risk. One of the best ways to address the problem is to always use a nylon or fluorocarbon leader when fishing with GSP main lines (more on that in the next instalment). Visibility: Although it’s thinner than monofilament of an equivalent strength, GSP is non-transparent and therefore a little more visible to fish in some situations than nylon or fluorocarbon. Adding a suitable leader of monofilament, to separate the lure from the GSP line easily circumvents this drawback. Knots: GSP line actually ties very good knots, but because it’s so slick, it is prone to slipping under pressure. For this reason, always use good, proven knots, increase the number of wraps or turns to approximately double the number you’d use in monofilament, and test every knot you tie with steady pressure before fishing. Environmental Factors: Lost or discarded gel-spun line lasts a long time and poses tangling threats to birds and other fauna, as well as to human swimmers. We owe it to ourselves as anglers, and to the aquatic environment we enjoy, to minimise the amount of gel-spun line we lose to snags or fish, and to avoid discarding even short tag ends and off-cuts of this material. Wrap them up, bring them home, bag them and bin them!

With all that in the balance

I truly believe you’ll catch more fish and have a lot more fun doing it when lure fishing in fresh or salt water for most species if you choose fine-for-strength GSP main lines instead of mono. This is especially true when chasing bream on lures, where the selection of a GSP line will allow you to use ultra skinny but surprisingly strong braided or fused main line with a rated breaking strain of, say, one to three kilos (which is the strength range I’d recommend for this task). Think about it: With GSP you can use thinner, stronger line and get more of it onto smaller reels. You’ll have dramatically increased feel and control when fishing, striking and fighting fish. If you troll, your lures will run deeper and track straighter on shorter lengths of line. If you fish on or near the bottom in deeper water or strong currents, you’ll get by with far lighter weights or jigs, and detect a lot more bites. Finally, when the crunch comes and that big fish blue-nosed bream smashes your lure and heads straight for a snag or oyster lease post, you’ll have the reserves of power to really put the brakes on. Who could ask for any more than that from a fishing line? Yes, you can certainly stick with monofilament lines when using lures (and, as I said earlier, many anglers do), but I honestly believe that in the vast majority of instances, you’ll do much better by switching to braided or fused gel-spun polyethylene. If you still haven’t tried this amazing stuff, it might be time you bit the bullet and gave it a crack. For me, these lines are one of the key ingredients in modern, finesse lure fishing. However, because of a couple of the downsides of GSP described in this article, it’s essential to employ a leader of some sort at all times when using these lines. That’s something we’ll look at next time round. Next Edition: Choosing and tying leaders when luring for bream.
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A clear mono leader reduces the visibility of an angler’s line, as well as resisting abrasion and providing some stretch for cushioning shocks.

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Note how the fine fluorocarbon monofilament leader is almost invisible in this underwater view of a hooked bream.

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Bream often live in very gnarly country!

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Starlo’s favourite main line for bream luring is 3 pound PowerPro Bite Motion braid.

 

About Steve Starling

Steve Starling is one of Australia’s most prolific and widely recognisable fishing communicators. With four-decades of experience as a specialist angling writer and on-screen presenter Starlo, as he’s better known these days, draws on a rich wealth of knowledge that runs the full angling spectrum -from ultra-light tackle fly fishing to big game fishing for the giants of the ocean.

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