Best Ice Line: Mono, Fluoro or Braid?

by Steve Pennaz

To select the best line for your next ice fishing trip, do two things:

  1. Ask yourself want you need your line to do​
  2. Learn about the key characteristics of each of the three main types of fishing lines: monofilament, braid and fluorocarbon.​

With so many great lines on the market today, What is the best ice line for you?​

There is more to it than simply selecting a line based on targeted species and water depth, so read on to learn more.

Monofilament

Mono is still the best overall line for most types of fishing, both openwater and ice. It offers outstanding strength per diameter, handles well even in extreme cold, ices up less than other lines, and is inherently low-vis.

Mono also has less memory than fluoro, an important consideration if you fish tiny spinning reels with a spool about the diameter of a quarter.

On the down side, mono is neutrally buoyant (doesn’t sink or float) which makes it difficult to efficiently fish small ice jigs at depth over 15 feet.

Mono also stretches 25 percent or more. This provides some shock absorption when hooked up to a big fish, but can make bite detection and hooksets difficult when fishing deeper water.​

My choices when targeting shallow-to-mid-depth panfish and trout are 2-or 3-pound Berkley® Trilene® Micro Ice® or Berkley® Trilene® Cold Weather. Both of these monos are formulated to stay limp when fishing in extremely low temperatures.

I’ll jump to 6-to 10-pound test when targeting walleye at depths down to 30 feet or so, going heavier when fishing waters with large fish available.

Fluorocarbon

Most anglers like fluoro because it virtually disappears underwater, a big help when targeting line-shy fish. I also like that fluoro sinks, making it easier to get baits deeper, faster, and offers good abrasion resistance.​

Like mono, fluoro stretches, but slower than mono, giving fluoro better sensitivity and hooksets, especially in deeper waters.

There is a negative...fluoro has more memory than other line types. For that reason, I usually fish it on a large-arbor in-line reel to minimize coiling and line twist. Fluoro’s stiffness can affect lure action with small baits so fish the lightest fluoro you can.

For panfish, perch and smaller trout applications down to 30 feet or so, I recommend 2-, 3- or 4-pound Berkley® Vanish® or Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon; 5-to 6-pound are superb options for species like walleye.

Braid

Braided lines like Berkley® FireLine® Ultra 8, Berkley® FireLine® Micro Ice® and Berkley® Nanofil®, do many things very well. They are my choice when fishing deep water for species like crappie, walleye or lake trout.

Braids have virtually zero stretch so they offer incredible sensitivity and superb hooksets.

But braids also ice up more than other lines and are more visible to the fish. They also float, reducing sink rates on ultralight weight jigs made of lead, tungsten or tin.

But I still love braids for a number of reasons. For one, their diameter at lighter break-strengths is about half that of fluoro, allowing baits to truly come alive under water. And with its low stretch, I catch more of those fish that inhale a bait, but don’t swim away with it (common for deep-water crappie), making it almost impossible to detect the bite.

Braids also absorb line twist better than other lines, and fishing it on small arbor spinning reels doesn’t affect memory.

If line visibility is a factor, I simply add a 4-foot leader of light mono or fluoro using back-to-back Uni Knots.

So, what’s the best line for ice fishing? Only you can answer that!

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