Updated: May 2020
With so many lines to choose from these days, how do you choose the right one for you? With manufacturers claiming so many different characteristics that sound amazing (96% knot strength, HD, low stretch, low memory, high abrasion resistance, invisible), it’s easy to get lost in the maze.
What are the best carp lines out there?
I’ve used many different lines as an angler. Over the last ten years as a fishery manager of Beausoleil Carp and Cats, I’ve seen customers use an even greater variety. With carp to 50lbs and multiple 100lbs+ catfish, our small but rocky estate lake is an incredible test bed for mainline.
Here, I’m going to go through what, for me, are the best lines available and give my personal view on how they are to fish with.
If you want to know about things like abrasion resistance, sinkability and knot strength, check out my other post on how to choose the right line.
Find out the damage the lakebed of an estate lake can do on your mainline in this video:
What are the types of carp fishing line?
There are 3 types of carp fishing lines: monofilament, fluorocarbon and braid. They each have their own characteristics and uses and there’s a lot of information on this out there. Here’s what you really need to know when you’re fishing with these lines.
Mono is a great choice as a carp fishing mainline and you can also use it for catfishing. As long as you choose the right diameter, it’s strong enough to absorb the lunges of even the most powerful of specimens.
● You get a good fight with mono. The stretch allows the fish to gain a little momentum and actually swim away so you can get a good game of tug-of-war going.
● Mono is the safest type of line to fish with because if you get cut off or bust up, the mono line is unlikely to become a cut hazard to the fish.
● It’s also relatively tolerant of mistakes, perfect for anglers that are a little rusty or inexperienced.
● Mono is very easy to fish with and relatively cheap
As with everything in life, there is good line and bad line.
No matter what you buy, ignore what it says on the tin in terms of poundage and test it yourself. Anyone with a rock or a paving slab can test abrasion resistance. For knot strength, all you need is a weight and a glove. If you don’t have a weight then fill a bucket with water, weigh the bucket and adjust accordingly. This will give you real data on how strong a particular line/knot combination is.
● Fluorocarbon is popular for all sorts of reasons (many of them bogus in my opinion). For example the fact that its refractive index is virtually the same as water is of no interest to me whatsoever.
● All lines attract suspended debris and no matter what it’s made from or how clear it is, when it’s off the bottom, it’s visible within a short period of time. It is higher maintenance than mono. It requires regular cleaning and stretching to keep it in good condition. It’s also insanely expensive, and picks up damage easily. There’s not one fluorocarbon line that I can recommend.
My experience with it?
● I used it for a winter and had to strip off 30 yards every 48hrs. After 30 nights I’d used so much line, I had to change it and no, I didn’t blow another £60 on more fluorocarbon. Another valuable lesson learned.
Braid is awesome stuff: low diameter, super strong and abrasion resistant.
● It’s got it all really but in the wrong hands it can be dangerous as it poses a cut hazard to fish and it’s certainly not one for the novice angler. Because of this, it’s banned on many venues such as my own.
● It can be cast very far when used in combination with a shock leader. It’s really important not to over fill the spool when loading braid, it’s best to actually underfill it. Over filling can lead to wind knots which can really ruin your day’s fishing.
● Essential for any marker float or leading rod setup. It’s also great for spodding or spombing.
Yes, you need to wet the spool before each cast.
It’s very important to wet the spool before each cast. Braid repels water and is usually neutral in buoyancy. Dry braid is more prone to wind knots even if it’s loaded correctly.
How to fish with braided mainline?
● For fishing big carp waters where bait boats or rowing boats were allowed, then braid is the only choice.
● If used straight down to a leadless leader, they can be unforgiving on the cast. This problem can be solved with the addition of 10m of monofilament leader. This enables you to cushion the impact onto the clip and feel the lead down better.
Braid is expensive but it does last a long time, many seasons in fact. You’ll also need to master the correct knots for braid. You won’t get very far if you stick to the same knots that you use for monofilament. You need to be very careful when tightening down braid as it can cut your hand very easily.
What is the best line strength for carp fishing?
Over the years, I’ve used every strength of mainline from 10lbs to 30lbs. Actually when I started as a boy, I used 4lb maxima straight through!
Line strength is not what matters.
In match fishing, anglers talk in terms of line diameter. I think us carp anglers have some catching up to do in this regard. It’s not the line strength that counts, it’s the knot strength, and knot strength depends on line diameter.
As a rule of thumb, fish with the thickest line that can be cast the distance you’re fishing
In the rest of this blog, I’m going to refer to line diameter and knot strength more than rated pound strength. I’ve learnt this lesson the hard way. Beausoleil is a mixed species lake, we have both large carp and catfish. As the catfish grew bigger and reached the 100lbs mark, we started to see too many mainline failures. I decided to do my own line testing and that’s when I realised that:
- The poundage indicated on the packaging rarely translates in real life (with the exception of Berkley Big Game)
- Mainline will fail at different strains depending on which knot you use.
1. Use 10lbs line (0.20 – 0.30) for distance work
Nowadays, 10lb is probably the lightest weight of mainline you’ll see anyone use. 10lbs mainline is usually only used in combination with a shock leader when fishing at maximum range.
There is a modern trend with supposedly high tech monos that claim 10lbs rating at 0.20 diameter. The trouble is it’s just not true. As soon as you introduce a knot, in many cases, that number is at least halved. So your 10lbs line becomes 5lb line at 0.20. Even in the hands of an expert angler, fishing at range with mainline than can only take 5lb of force is dangerous.
For distance work, I’d go for 0.25 to 0.28. As long as the venue is open water and snag free, this should be perfectly capable of banking anything that you hook.
2. Choose 15lbs to 20lbs line (0.28 – 0.45) for general carp fishing
For many years now, 15lbs has been the accepted norm for carp fishing mainline for the majority of situations. Fishing 15lbs line straight through at 100 yards is commonplace.
The only time you need to go heavier would be due to the nature of the lake bed. For many years I fished 0.40 mainline that was rated at 15lbs but was actually good for 20lbs. I certainly couldn’t cast 100 yards with it of course but it never let me down. Again I’d be highly suspicious of any line rated at 15lbs that was only 0.28 diameter. For me 0.35 to 0.38 is the number that I’d be looking at for general carp fishing work.
3. Go to 25lbs line (0.35 to 0.50) for carp and catfish fishing in an ultra rugged environment
On paper, carp fishing with 25lbs mono might seem complete madness but it’s what I’ve done for years now at Beausoleil. After reports of multiple losses from customers using mono rated at 25lbs but was only 0.35 in diameter, we changed our rules to Berkley Big Game in 25lbs which is 0.48.
Overnight, virtually all the losses were eliminated. Our own knot testing revealed the problem. Knot strength has got everything to do with line diameter and nothing to do with the rated poundage on the spool. If you’re fishing a venue with massive cats and carp then lines of 0.45 to 0.50 are what you really need.
Find out why Beausoleil is a fishing heaven for specimen anglers
What is the best colour line for carp fishing?
I’ve fished loads of different types of waters. From gin clear gravel pits that were as weedy as hell to small estates lake with a high level of cloudiness and I’ve used clear, green and brown coloured mainline in all of them.
The honest truth is that I’ve never not caught because the mainline colour was wrong and I’ve never caught more because the mainline colour was right.
Nowadays, I tend to stick to clear mainline but that’s because it’s easier to see when a clear line is dirty and needs cleaning. For me, line colour has zero impact on your carp fishing.
Best Mono Carp Lines
Choosing mainline is a very personal thing. Everyone fishes different waters and lakes and what suits one angler may not suit another.
With that said, here are my favourite mono carp lines. It’s a list that I put together originally in 2014 and that I’ve updated this month (May 2020) based on the fishing I’ve done since.
1. Berkley Trilene Big Game
I discovered the Berkley Big Game a few years ago when I was looking for a stronger mono for Beausoleil. We used to have problems with mainline failure on branded carp lines and I decided to do my own line testing.We tested lines that were rated at 30lbs that broke at 10lbs… repeatedly, no matter what knot I tried.
The Big Game was the only line that consistently achieved the lbs printed on the label.
For many carp anglers of a certain age, Berkley Trilene Big Game was the original carp mono. Across the world, its reputation for strength, shock absorption and abrasion resistance is legendary.
Why is it the best mono carp line?
- First, it’s actually as strong as what it says on the tin. As long as you properly wet and cinch down your knots, you’ll get 25lb out of the 25lb version and that can be said right across the range.
- Big Game was designed and developed to absorb powerful lunges from massive fish and that makes it an excellent choice for carp fishing. It’s easy to fish with too and it doesn’t suffer too badly from memory issues. On paper it might seem thicker than lines of supposedly comparable strength but out in the real world, Big Game will actually do what it says it can. Abrasion resistance is also excellent. The 25lbs version can take an absolute caning!
- If you need to cast a long way, then go for the 10lb version and put a 25lb (Big Game) leader on the end of it. For general work, the 15lbs or 20lbs versions are great.
- Not only is it a great mainline, it also makes great hooklink.
- Big Game responds really well to being given a good stretch. Stretch the last 20m on a regular basis and it will lay flat as you like when slack line fishing.
The other great thing about Big Game is the price. A standard 600m spool is under £10 and you can buy big bulk spools of 2500m+ for £25. That’s enough line to keep even the busiest of anglers fishing hard and trouble free for a couple of years.
I don’t see the point in going for any, more expensive, branded carp line nowadays. This one has been around for a long time and there’s a good reason for it.
If you want to see the Big Game in action, check out my vlog below where I also talk mono rigs and lead system.
2. Insight – GR60x in 15lb
The original GR60 in 15lb was the line I used and loved the most. Then the GR60x came out and it cast better and was even tougher than the original with excellent knot strength. After using it for a couple of seasons, I did think it suffered from higher memory than the regular stuff.
The GR60x is not the best casting line on the market but it sinks very well and is very tough. It’s limp and supple, and hangs nice and limp through the rings. For general all round use up to ranges of 90 yards, it’s been very good to me.
3. GLT Pro-Clear in 16lb
A few years ago, I did some weeks on the Abbey lakes complex in France. I used Pro-Clear both as mainline (16lb) and as zig hook link (8lb). I fished Fox lake which is chocked full of weed and being able to cast a long way was essential.
The Pro-Clear was awesome.
I only had one hook link fail and landed 27 carp including 3 x 40s. If you’re fishing at range in gin clear water then it’s definitely worth looking at. It casts very well but it doesn’t sink so well though so it’s not a line I’d recommend for Beausoleil. I’ve used it but had to change it after a few sessions.
Best braided mainlines
1. Spiderwire Stealth Smooth
I’ve been fishing with Spiderwire Stealth Smooth on large French public venues and rivers for the last few years and I’ve also been using it as hooklink.
It’s a joy to fish with.
It’s good for long range fishing, abrasion resistance is excellent and it’s helped me bank some incredible specimens from swims where other materials have failed me.
Spiderwire holds its colour well and doesn’t fray. I’ve not had any issues with the dreaded wind knots even when fishing at max range in a cross wind.
The 0.25mm version can be cast for a very long way. Again I would kind of ignore what the pound rating says or at least halve it, especially if you buy it in the UK/Europe. It’s an American line and the rating system in the states is different but actually much more relevant in the real world. As mainline, the strongest I’ve used is 90lbs (0.35) for certain swims.
2. Suffix 832
I had no real reason to look beyond Spiderwire for my braid needs but Suffix 832 caught my eye so I bought some spools to test.
It’s very close to the Spiderwire braid. On paper, the 39lbs 832 is thicker than the 40lbs Spiderwire but you can’t really tell the difference. Both can be cast a very long way. I haven’t tried the Sufix 832 in the heavier grades so can’t comment on abrasion resistance etc. but I’d expect it to perform similarly to the Spiderwire. You won’t go far wrong with either of these for long range carp fishing.
PowerPro was one of the first materials I tried as a braided mainline and I must admit that I hated it! I think that was more down to my inexperience at the time. It’s very easy to overload braid and the resulting wind knots will make you hate braid and the brand!
PowerPro is on the list as it’s a great choice as a heavy duty leader material. I’ve not had the chance to test and fish with this yet but I know a lot of top guys that swear by the stuff.
Once upon a time the strongest and toughest leader that was available to the pioneering carp angler was Kryston’s Ton Up. It’s still used today although it’s insanely expensive and very difficult to get hold of. Ton Up is rated at 85lbs and labeled as a catfish braid. The baby version of Ton up was Kryston’s Quicksilver. I used Quicksilver quite a lot, both as a hooklink and as a leader. Sure it can just about cope when the going gets tough but when faced with some real man’s fishing it will get shredded!
This is where the PowerPro comes in. It’s available in some very heavy grades. The strongest version I can find is 75kg (165lbs or 0.56). As it’s available in 275m spools, it makes it much better value for money than any carp branded product. At the end of the day, it’s virtually the same stuff in a similar thickness. I will update this when I’ve had the chance to put it through its paces.
I hope this gives you food for thought when considering your next mainline.
For many waters, the choice of mainline will make very little difference to your level of success but on harder venues, it really can be the difference between success and failure.
Personally I wouldn’t believe any manufacturers’ blurb that you read or watch. These guys will tell you exactly what you want to hear to sell product. At the end of the day you can’t beat personal experience but being objective and going through a logical process can save you time and money. The golden rule is to test it yourself before you even put in on a reel. It should take a considerable amount of effort to break the line, knotted or not.
For the record I have no affiliations or deal with anyone or any company. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.