Synthetic fishing line like nylon has been around for just under a century now. In that time, manufacturers have invested plenty of time and money in finding ways to improve it. The line we use today is thinner, more flexible, and performs better than the line our grandparents used. These days, both monofilament and fluorocarbon lines come in a range of colors. You can even find camo and “stealth” colored lines. But, does the color of your line really make a difference?
Fishing Line Color Guide
There are two main reasons anglers use colored line: to make the line more visible to themselves above water and to make it less visible to the fish under the water. Therefore, the best line color is one you can see, but the fish can’t. You probably already know which colors stand out to you, but what about what the fish can see?
Science tells us that fish can, indeed, see color. By studying the structures in their eyes, we know they have rods and cones in their retinas as we do. Some fish can even see the ultraviolet end of the light spectrum, something that we humans can’t do. So, it stands to reason that a fish, given the right conditions, can see which color line you’re using and tell the difference between a red line and a blue one. But, how often is the water clear enough, the sun bright enough, and the surface still enough to provide the right conditions for various colors to shine through?
The clarity of the water is an obvious factor that needs to be considered when determining your line’s visibility to the fish. In muddy water, everything is going to be less visible, not just your line. For our (and the fish’s) eyes to pick up color, there has to be light. The deeper you descend below the water’s surface, the harder it is for light to penetrate. If your line could reach the bottom of the ocean, it wouldn’t matter what color it was. That’s why so many deepwater creatures are eyeless. What would be the point in having eyes if there’s never enough light to see by?
When water meets sunlight, you get rainbows. This happens because the light is refracted into its different wavelengths. Different wavelengths can travel further in the water than others.
Red Line – Red light travels the shortest distance in the water, meaning that a red-colored line will appear black not long after it passes the surface. So, remember when fishing in shallow water, the fish can likely see the red color of your line. Is that good or bad? It depends. If you’re in crystal clear water with a light sandy bottom, that line is going to stand out. But, if you’re in a clear lake with iron-rich soil, like the red clay in Georgia, your red line will blend right in.
Green Line – Green is an interesting color. In clear water and tinted water, it starts to appear black at a depth of 35 to 40 feet. That’s about midway between red and violet. However, in muddy water, it’s visible deeper than any other colored line is. Under those conditions, light has a hard time penetrating very far, so the green becomes black at around seven feet. That will depend, of course, on how muddy “muddy” is. Light will not penetrate far into mud.
Violet Line – In the visible light spectrum, violet has the highest energy of all the colors. That means it has the energy to penetrate deeper than any other color into clear and tinted waters. For deep water fishing, a violet line will stay visible the longest when all other colors have gone black.
Fishing line comes in all the colors in-between: oranges, yellows, blues, and neons. But, they follow the same general trend. The more toward the red end of the spectrum the color is, the sooner it will fade out. The closer to violet the color is, the deeper it will last.
The Truth About Fishing Line Color
As much as I’d like to give you a concrete answer to which line color is the best, the truth is, there isn’t one color choice that stands above the rest. Just like your rod, your line, and your bait, the decision you make should be influenced by the conditions you’re fishing. That means you need to consider the light conditions, the water conditions, and the kind of fish you’re aiming for. The information above should make you better equipped to make a decision, but ultimately it comes down to your personal preference.
When it comes to line, there are far more important factors to consider. Thickness, tensile strength, flexibility, and abrasion resistance all have an effect on your success out on the water and likely more so than the color of your line does.
Thickness is the diameter of your line, measured by a tenth of a millimeter or a thousandth of an inch. The thinnest mono line diameter is around 0.004 inches (0.10 mm) and the thickest is about 0.047 inches (1.19 mm). Thinner line is harder to see, both for the angler and the fish.
Tensile strength is measured in pounds and it’s defined as breaking resistance under tension. You’ll hear that this means how heavy a fish has to be before it breaks your line, but that’s not entirely accurate. You might have a 30 lb. tuna on the line, but it’s going to put up a fight. It’s able to create more tension in your line than if it were a limp fish. So, if you’re fishing for 30 lb tuna, make sure you use a line tested for 40.
Flexibility is important when it comes to tying your line. A more flexible line will form a tighter knot than a stiff line will. Flexibility is also related to resilience. Think of it this way: which is more likely to break in your lunchbox, a piece of string cheese or a pretzel stick?
Abrasion resistance comes into play when you’re fishing for sharp-toothed fish or in a rocky area with lots of debris. It determines how much wear and tear your line can take before it snaps.
Now that you’re equipped with all you need to know about colored fishing line, try a few out and see how you feel. Just remember the line that blends into the background the best is the line they won’t see. As always, be safe and have fun!