The Braid Fishing Encyclopaedia

I have been on a feeder fishing mission for close to three years now and one of the most common questions I get asked (and indeed I ask myself!) is whether to use braid or mono. And it’s a question that takes some serious consideration, because it certainly isn’t black and white in terms of an answer.

You see there are advantages and disadvantages to both materials that I could write a book on (well certainly more than the 2,500 words the editor will allow me) and it isn’t as clear-cut as: “Oh I use braid because it has no stretch”. As we learn more about feeder fishing we are also learning more about every fine detail of our setup, and the main line has to come under scrutiny.

When I say “learn more about feeder fishing”, don’t by any means think feeder fishing is a new method or approach that we have just discovered and that I am trying to teach the “old dogs new tricks”! Far from it in fact, but since it is now our primary approach in feeder-only competitions, gone are the days of simply casting out at the start before inevitably fishing the pole for four of the five hours. Because it is the primary attack we must refine, and refinement is what modern feeder fishing is all about.

Every one of the top feeder guys works tirelessly on their rigs, for example. Now bear in mind please that they can usually only use a simple running rig, yet almost 10 years since the World Feeder Champs became a thing, that simple running rig is still being tweaked by the top level guys. The quest for perfection never stops and using the correct reel line is a huge part in being a successful feeder angler. Right, enough waffling, let’s talk fishing!

Braid is such an awesome material to use as a reel line; quite simply, I love it! You can read the swim well, cast further, spot everything and it lasts ages, and in fact looking from the outside in you could be forgiven for thinking that braid is the be-all and end-all, but you would be wrong, in my opinion.
But before we go down the rabbit hole of comparing the two (braid and mono) let’s look at the benefits and positives of braid in some detail, because for natural-water fishing I use it 90 per cent of the time.

•Accuracy –The ultimate benefit, as far as I am concerned, is the accuracy when using braid. The material has zero stretch so the feeder travels the same distance every time, providing your casting technique remains consistent (more of that later). Being thinner too I find the feeder less likely to be affected by crosswinds; a thick mono can be a nightmare for drag in a crosswind, almost acting like a kite and dragging your feeder off line. Accuracy is great with braid, quite simply.

•Bite Detection – The main advantage of braid for many is the bite detection it offers. It can be remarkable in fact how well bites show up when braid fishing, even at a good distance. Even small fish will register positively, while bream and carp can give you ‘rod nicking’ style bites! It doesn’t stop there though, and braid can help you read the swim in terms of line bites. It’s like being plugged into your swim at times and you can almost visualise what’s going on down there. This can be a drawback too, by the way, but again we will discuss that later.

•Distance – If you have never used braid before you will be staggered by the difference it can make to your casting. The obvious benefit is the increase in distance and where allowed, braid is a must for distance fishing scenarios. Of course, there are times when it can’t be used, or should I say isn’t recommended: Barston and Boddington spring to mind. But on the whole if you are fishing a conventional feeder past 40 yards then it really is a must, essential in fact. The rod compression you can achieve when using braid is amazing as you are putting all of the casting energy through the rod rather than through the stretchy monofilament. You never know what a rod is capable of until you try braid direct.

•Braid For Life – I say this a little tongue in cheek of course, but braid lasts… well, ages! I have had braid on some reels for over eight years and my dad still has a spool of braid on his reels from our trips to Ireland (we haven’t been since 2008!). It’s a well-known fact that braid gets better with use and I tend to agree. Once the ‘newness’ has worn off and it’s bedded in, it’s a tremendous material. It’s great from the packet of course, but nothing beats braid that has been well used. Keep an eye on it of course, but you should get plenty of years of service out of it. Which should perk everyone up who takes one look at the £24.99 price tag of Absolute Feeder Braid and scoffs! Look after it (I can’t believe I’m saying that, because I don’t) and it will last yonks!

•Strength – The breaking strain of braid is remarkable for its diameter. Our 0.08mm, for example, is 13.2lb! When you consider 0.08mm Accu Power has a breaking strain of 1lb 4oz you can see where I am going with this. I have had tangles with braid but I can honestly say I have never broken it when fishing!

•Cost – I have already covered this in the positives but it is a fair point; braid is a decent investment cost-wise, especially when spooling a few reels. It’s not uncommon to see anglers on feeder-only matches setting up four rods and that could be over £100 of braid!
But as I said it last years, so please don’t let the initial cost put you off.

•Bite Detection – “Wait, what? Joe’s gone mad, he just told us how great the bite detection is!” and you would be right, it’s fantastic. But there are times, and I have found this a lot, particularly with skimmers, where you can see ‘too much’. I learnt this the hard way on some venues where you only get a handful of ‘visits’ from the fish in a match. When that is the case I fully believe only a handful of fish are in your swim and picking up too soon or at a liner can send the fish packing to matey next door before you have even had the chance to nail one!
Roy Marlow coined a great phrase: “Rodney Rest never strikes too soon”, and in some cases he is bang on when it comes to bream on hard days. Often with braid small movements around the feeder can look like nailed-on bites and even the most patient anglers can’t help but have a little dig! Mono, due to its stretch, deadens this and you often only see the proper bites. Liken it to using a thin float bristle for big margin carp when really you should be on a lifebuoy-esque float!

In fact I believe this cost me Feeder Masters qualification in 2019 on the Gloucester Canal! I waited patiently for my ‘visit’ and sure enough after two hours they landed. Two in two chucks was fantastic before two nailed-on ‘the best bream bites you will ever see yet it’s not on’ indications! This inevitably moved the fish on and despite a late surge, I fell a couple of fish short – d’oh! I am convinced if I had used mono, I would have been enjoying the fishing at Tamar Lakes!

•It Floats – Of course as manufacturers we do our best to create sinking braids, but to be honest there are many days where it just will not sink! I believe a lot of this is due to air pressure (often the braid floating days are the worst for bream in my experience), but that doesn’t stop it being annoying! I have given up trying to use it on many shallow venues (yes Barston, I am looking at you) because I get fed up with Graham Swan wiping my floating braid out!
Also, a lot of my winter skimmer fishing means I am expecting a bite within a minute, and 30-second bites are not uncommon despite the cold. Now if I am faffing about trying to get my braid sunk, the likelihood of me spotting the bite is somewhat diminished.

•Tangles – Good god have you ever had a braid tangle? I have been there, filling my spool up to the brim with my beautiful braid only for me to cast it out DRY and end up with a career ending tangle! The wind knots you can get with braid are some of the worst and sadly they come with inexperience of using it. You MUST wet your braid before casting out. Get yourself a sprayer and soak the braid several times while setting up, it’s essential. The problem is dry braid wants to stick together, which in turn pulls off multiple coils of braid during the cast. The result? Those match ending tangles that just make you want to go home – wet your braid is my point! Secondly, underfill your spools slightly. It may look pants, but it reduces the speed at which the braid leaves the spool when casting and will further reduce the tangles of doom. I’ve been there, it sucks!

It’s really good is monofilament – good old mono just does its job. Yes, it isn’t fancy but it is effective, and the more feeder fishing I do on natural waters, the more I choose it in certain circumstances over braid. Actually, that needs some clarification: there are certain scenarios where I would choose it over braid on natural waters.
I only use one mono for feeder fishing and it is the bulletproof Sinking Feeder Mono. It has some stretch without being like pole elastic, but ultimately it’s hard wearing, sinks well and lasts for months. Exactly what I need from a mono. My go-to size is 5lb to be honest; I tend to use a 10lb shockleader on all of my setups nowadays so I see no need to use a heavier main line.

•The Stretch – Okay, so this is where things get a bit muddled. When fishing for large fish the stretch factor of braid can mean more lost fish and it is generally accepted that mono is the only choice for carp fishing situations. I would say that for 95 per cent of Method feeder fishing for instance, mono and its stretch is perfect. The stretch also gives the fish a bit more ‘time’ when taking the bait; I’ll explain what I mean in more detail later but on some days you need to give the fish (roach and skimmers) a bit of rope to hang themselves, so to speak, and mono can be great for this and I have a few examples.

•Durability – Mono is super durable! It lasts well, is cheap and is easy to use.

•Sink Factor – Mono, especially feeder-specific lines, are designed to sink and that can be a huge advantage. At venues such as Barston, many bites come quickly so getting the line under and the tip set quickly can really help. Likewise when fishing the Method to islands, getting the line under can prevent the feeder from moving, especially in strong winds.