If you’re fishing from the shore anywhere, one of the most critical decisions you'll need to make about your setup is choosing the best line for surf fishing and knowing what pound test to use...
With a massive variety of options available - such as monofilament (mono), fluorocarbon, braided (braid), and wire lines or leaders - it can be pretty overwhelming trying to pick the best line for your style of beach casting and target species.
In this article, written by a professional guide, we'll break down the pros and cons of each type of line for every form of fishing from the shore, and provide insights on when and how to use them, ensuring you have the upper hand on your next surf fishing adventures. Let's start with a look at the different types of line, plus tips and best uses.
Best Lines and Leaders for Surf Fishing Article Index
Mono (Monofilament) Fishing Line For Surf Fishing
Monofilament fishing line, often referred to simply as "mono," is a versatile type of fishing line that is widely used by surf anglers for various surf fishing applications. The reels below are spooled with clear mono line.
This type of line is called "monofilament" because it's made from a single strand of synthetic material, typically nylon or a similar polymer.
It's the most common form of main line and leader (the length of line between the main line and hook or sinker) and is often clear in color, like the mono in the photo below, but bright and solid colors are available.
Like most main lines, mono is usually purchased on a 150m to 1500m spools (sometimes also measured in weight of line being purchased, like a 1/4lb or 1lb spool), in 2lb to 1000lb breaking strains.
This is then wound onto the reel at the tackle shop (recommended for beginners), or at home if you know how to spool a reel correctly, to form the main line of your setup.
Pros of using mono for surf fishing
Shock Absorption (Stretch): Monofilament lines have excellent shock absorption properties with 10-30% stretch depending on the brand, making them ideal for main lines and leaders for handling hard-hitting fish that might strike, shake their head a lot, or run suddenly. This makes mono particularly useful for beginners who aren't experienced in handling larger fish
Cost-Effective: Mono lines are generally more budget-friendly to buy per spool than other options, making them a great choice for beginners who may need to re-spool a few times a season
Knot-Friendly: They are forgiving when it comes to knot tying, making them suitable for anglers still mastering their knot skills. Generally, mono has great knot strength
Buoyancy Some mono lines float or sink slower than fluorocarbon, which can be beneficial when using topwater lures or baits for species like striped bass, trout and game species
Abrasion resistance: Mono has outstanding resistance to rubbing on rough shark skin and hard structure like reef, pier pilings or rocks
Cons of using mono for surf fishing
Visibility: Monofilament line can be highly visible underwater in brighter and solid shades, potentially spooking wary fish in clear water conditions even in clear versions compared to fluorocarbon lines
Stretch: They have more stretch compared to other lines, which can result in reduced sensitivity when detecting subtle bites from smaller fish and at long distances
Thickness: Mono, per pound of breaking strain, is far thicker than braid main line, meaning you'll fit less on the spool and you'll have to use a bigger sinker
Memory: Mono line often has what's called "memory", which means the line retains the shape of the spool it was stored on to some degree when laid out loose. Some brands have less memory than others; often the better-regarded mono main line brands (e.g. Izorline XXX Super Co-polymer) have little memory, making them much easier to handle and cast.
Cheaper mono lines are often much wirier and retain lots of the spool shape when left to hang loose. Aim for a mono with as little memory as possible for most applications - and a stiffer, wirier mono when more abrasion resistance is required.
Needs changing: Unlike most braid main lines, most monofilament lines will degrade over time, especially if exposed to saltwater and used regularly, and will need changing every few months
Prone to twisting: Mono can be prone to developing twists and kinks that makes it hard to handle, especially if spooled incorrectly or used for lure fishing with a spinning bait. Always use a good quality swivel in your rig if using long sections of mono for surf fishing and get your reel professionally spooled at a tackle shop
When to use mono for surf fishing
Mono lines are excellent for beginners who want an easy-to-use, versatile main and leader line for light to medium-weight spinning setups for general surf fishing with bait or lures in most surf fishing spots
Mono is also ideal for situations where you need shock more stretch and resistance in the setup - like when targeting larger, hard-hitting species such as sharks, tuna, striped bass or redfish
Great for rubbing and abrasion leaders for shark fishing - mono will withstand rough shark skin far better than braid line. We use the ultra-reliable 80lb mono below for abrasion and casting leaders
Useful for casting leaders when you need a heavy mono length of line between braid main line and your sinker to withstand for the force of the cast. You need ten pounds of breaking strain for every ounce you're casting; so a 2oz sinker needs 20lb line, and so on...
Good for topwater lure fishing or when you need buoyancy and stretch for your crankbait, jigs, swimbaits or lures
How to use mono for surf fishing
Choose a monofilament main line or leader with a test strength appropriate for your target species, and matched to the rating on your rod and reel combo. These in-depth surf fishing setup guides have lots of tips on this subject to help you match your mono line to your setup
Use heavy monofilament leaders and braid main lines for casting distance and shock absorption when dealing with big fish in the surf, like sharks and game species
Change your main and leader line regularly to prevent abrasion and maintain its strength and sensitivity, trash anything that's damaged, discoloured or not smooth to the touch
For an awesome all-round mono main line and leader, we use and highly recommend Izorline XXX Super Co-Cpolymer in our guiding service to land lots of the fish pictured on our social media and article pages.
Fluorocarbon Fishing Line for Surf Fishing
Fluorocarbon fishing line is a clear type of fishing line for leaders and main line that has gained popularity among surf anglers in recent years due to its unique set of properties. It's an important part of any surf angler's leader collection.
Fluorocarbon line (fluoro) is made from a synthetic material, often polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) or a similar polymer, extruded into a single thin strand of line that has some refractive index as water, making it hard for fish to see. This is a great attribute.
To us humans, it usually looks just like clear mono, like the line in the photo below (actually this is 6lb fluorocarbon) but it has the edge over other leader materials for fishing in lots of surf fishing situations.
Pros of using fluorocarbon line for surf fishing
Invisibility: Fluorocarbon lines, due to their refractive index, are nearly invisible underwater, making them an excellent choice for clear water and finicky fish in the shallow surf
Low Stretch: They have less stretch compared to mono, offering increased sensitivity for detecting subtle bites and fast hits
UV Resistance: A good quality fluorocarbon line is more UV resistant than a mono line, meaning it won't degrade as fast and will perform consistently for longer. This is a consideration in warm, sunny climates such as a beach
Abrasion Resistance: Fluorocarbon lines are highly resistant to abrasion, like mono, making them suitable for fishing around rocks and rough underwater structures
Fluorocarbon's abrasion resistance has been tested by Sunline, a classic American fishing line brand, and the results are interesting. See the table below for a summary of mono vs fluorocarbon line when exposed to the same amount of abrasion - one is clearly less damaged than the other. Fluorocarbon wins.
This resistance to abrasion is one of the reasons why we like fluorocarbon leaders for lots of surf fishing applications, especially for light line fishing.
Cons of using fluorocarbon for surf fishing
Stiffness: Fluorocarbon lines are stiffer than mono, which can affect casting distance and lure action if used as a main line or leader
Cost: They tend to be more expensive than monofilament lines
Knot strength: Fluorocarbon lines sometimes have lower knot strength than equivalent mono lines
When and how to use fluorocarbon for surf fishing
Use light fluorocarbon leaders and main lines when fishing in clear water or when targeting surf and inshore species with keen eyesight, or wary behavior
Opt for fluorocarbon when finesse fishing with light line or working with smaller lures, as it offers increased sensitivity due to the low stretch. Use fluorocarbon leaders when you need the invisibility factor at the bait or lure level
Fluoro is a great choice for lots of rigs designed for use with fresh bait in the surf, like the one below
Choose a strength of fluorocarbon leader or mainline depending on the line rating of your rod and reel (it's written on the side of the rod near the handle, and it'll be a line rating like 10-20lb)
Consider fluorocarbon mainlines for applications requiring abrasion resistance, such as fishing around rocky areas with lures or dropshot rigs for fluke and halibut
Fluorocarbon line is a go-to leader material for most surf species that don't have teeth, and is often combined with a braid main line to benefit from braid's the lack of stretch and low diameter, with a few feet of fluorocarbon leader (sometimes also called a "top shot") to add some stretch and stealth to the final part of the setup
Braided (Braid) Fishing Line for Surf Fishing
Braided fishing line, often referred to simply as "braid," is a type of fishing line known for its exceptional strength and great diameter-to-strength ratio.
Braid main line is made by braiding together multiple synthetic fibers (often in 4, 8 or 12-strand configurations), such as Spectra, Dyneema, or other high-strength materials, and is usually solid in color, like the braid main line in the image below.
Braided fishing lines have become increasingly popular among surf anglers for various fishing applications due to their unique properties, with many shore-based anglers now using braid as their go-to main line.
The spinning reel below is spooled with 8-strand braid main line - a common choice for all-round surf fishing.
Pros of braided (braid) fishing line for surf fishing
Strength: Braid offers superior strength-to-diameter ratios, allowing you to use thinner lines with higher test strengths, and cast further due to the lower diameter line
Low Stretch: Braided lines have almost zero stretch, providing excellent sensitivity for lure fishing, bite detection and long casting
Longevity: Braid is highly durable and resistant to UV rays and water absorption, meaning it’ll last for several years if looked after and checked regularly for damage
Cons of braided (braid) fishing line for surf fishing
Visibility: Braid is highly visible in clear water, which can spook fish. Braid is not a suitable leader material for use between the hook and sinker or swivel part of any surf fishing rig
Knot Sensitivity: Some braided lines can be challenging to knot properly, requiring specific knots for best results
Cost: Braid main line can be expensive to buy initially, but because it often lasts several seasons - far longer than mono or fluorocarbon - it's often more economical in the long term
Tangles: If not spooled correctly, and managed properly in the casting process, braid does tend to tangle more frequently than mono main lines. For this reason, they're sometimes not the best choice of main line for beginners (mono is, though)
When to use braid fishing line for surf fishing
Choose braid for its incredible strength-to-diameter as a main line when targeting any sort of powerful fish - from surf perch, corbina, bonito and trout, to sharks or tarpon
Use it in situations where you need maximum sensitivity, such as finesse fishing for small or subtle-biting species on lures on light tackle
When you need to cast a long way out, braid main line is the best choice compared to mono. For example, when you want to cast a fresh bait a long way out in the surf and fish it bait-and-wait style, or blast a lure into the surf for a striper, 15-30lb braid is the best main line
How to use braid fishing line for surf fishing
Always combine braid with a fluorocarbon or mono leader to address visibility concerns in clear water, and add a degree of stretch
Use a longer leader for finesse fishing to add stealth and sensitivity to your setup for line-shy species
Be cautious when setting the hook with braid, as it lacks the shock-absorbing properties of mono. A quick flick of the wrist is often all that's needed
If casting any sort of big sinker or lure with braid main line, to absorb the extra pressure and weight, use a mono casting leader appropriate to the size of weight you're casting (remember the rule: ten pounds of breaking strain for every ounce you're casting)
Wire Leaders for Surf Fishing
Using wire leaders made from woven strands of stainless for surf fishing is essential when targeting toothy predatory species like bluefish, barracuda, and sharks. Wire leaders provide bite protection and help prevent your line from being severed.
The bait below is mounted on a rig made from wire (the thick black line) for shark fishing from the beach. This is a typical surf shark setup with the wire leader (usually in 130-800lb breaking strain depending on the size of fish) able to withstand far more abrasion than any mono or fluorocarbon line.
Pros of wire leaders for shark and surf fishing
Strength and bite resistance: Wire lines are incredibly strong and resistant to abrasion, making them suitable for toothy predators like sharks, Spanish mackerel and barracuda
Durability: They can withstand harsh saltwater conditions and the sharp teeth of multiple aggressive fish
Cons of using wire leaders for for surf fishing
Rigidity: Wire leaders are rigid and stiff, which can make them unappealing to some species and challenging to handle, especially for beginners. They do not have the flexibility of other leader materials like monofilament or fluorocarbon. Some species will not easily eat a bait on a wire leader
Lack of Stretch: Wire leaders have minimal stretch, which can be a disadvantage when fighting fish, especially if they make sudden runs or powerful strikes. The lack of stretch can put extra stress on your tackle and may lead to hook pulls or snapped lines, which is why a heavy and stretchy mono top shot is often used with a wire leader
Knot Sensitivity: Tying knots, haywire twists and crimping wire leaders can be more challenging compared to tying other leader materials. Specialized knots, like the haywire twist, or crimps, are often required for secure connections. We recommend buying professionally-tied shark and surf fishing rigs as the best way to access setups that will really work for you straight out of the packet
Limited Applications: Wire leaders are primarily used when targeting specific toothy predator species in the surf. They may not be suitable for all surf fishing scenarios or species
When to use wire leaders for surf fishing
Wire leaders between the hook or lure and main line are an invaluable tool for surf anglers who are targeting toothy predator species like bluefish, barracuda, and any shark species. They provide essential bite protection and durability in situations where monofilament or fluorocarbon leaders might fail.
The leopard shark pictured below was caught on a wire leader from the beach on spinning tackle in a situation where a mono leader would've likely failed.
The simple lesson is this: if it has teeth, or you're fishing for any sort of shark or ray, use a wire leader between the hook and sinker part of the rig.
To sum up, the choice of fishing line can significantly impact your success on the water.
Consider the type of fishing you plan to do, the species you're targeting, and the water conditions when selecting your surf fishing line.
While monofilament, fluorocarbon, braided, and wire lines each have their advantages and disadvantages, knowing when and how to use them will help you become a more successful surf angler.
So, pick the right line and leader, hit the beach, and get ready to reel in those trophy catches!
If you'd like to learn more about surf fishing lines and leaders, we run in-depth tuition and coaching sessions in Southern California - we'd love to help you so get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org