May 16, 2011
Our exclusive comparison of seven popular braided lines.
They're modern marvels. In fact, few technological advances have impacted sportfishing more dramatically than the recent introduction of superbraids. These super-lines feature incredible strength, matched with unparalleled stretch-resistance and long-lasting wear-ability. Remarkably, all are woven from the same plastic material used to make dry cleaning bags.
The superbraid story begins with advancements in the polymer, or plastics industry. To better understand it, I contacted Dave Burch of BBS Technologies in Tennessee. BBS weaves “high tenacity” fabrics, which according to Dave, include the gel-spun polyethylene strands used to make these lines of the future.
As it turns out, the actual GSP fibers are created elsewhere according to two proprietary processes. Each produces a slightly different product, as distinguished by such factors as stiffness or feel. The first, a fiber known as “Dyneema,” belongs to the Dutch State Mining Company, while a second fiber known as “Spectra” is a registered trademark of Honeywell International.
To create the GSP fibers, liquid polyethylene is passed through tiny jets known as spinnerets in a process that's similar to how spiders weave their webs. The actual details remain a secret. However, it's easy to see where one of the original superlines got its name. You're probably more interested in fishing information than a science lecture, so let's get back to the superbraid revolution.
These lines no doubt resulted from someone's desire to create a stronger space-age fabric. But regardless of its motivation, research ultimately led to the discovery of a fiber that, when measured on the basis of its diameter, is ten times stronger than steel.
Superbraids are so strong that you can always count on them to exceed the manufacturer's rating. As a case in point, FS Editor Jeff Weakley and Capt. Ed Zyak recently went fishing and Zyak caught a very large seatrout (featured on the September cover of this magazine). It was a respectable fish and possibly even a line-class record, but it was taken on an outfit spooled with superbraid. That alone limited any reasonable chance of recognition.
Of course, that led to this assignment, so I enlisted the aid of International Game Fish Association (IGFA) records clerk Rebecca Reynolds and world record-holder Marty Arostegui. Together, we evaluated seven popular superbraid products on the basis of wet and dry strength. One (the Rapala brand name) is actually a new product, but we tested all seven products in three line classes, before arriving at the following conclusions:
Marty Arostegui, of Miami, helped compute the results, which showed line-class rating far above the stated tests.
First of all, every superbraid we evaluated did exceed the manufacturer's rating, by a significant amount. In some cases the actual pound-test was more than twice what was listed. We also noted variations among the samples that suggested a lack of uniformity (for example, one section might test 50 pounds and the next, 43), but these never dipped close to the published rating.
It's interesting to note that the differences between wet and dry tests were minimal, possibly because superbraids don't absorb water. We did, however, note at least one variation of nearly 12 percent.
I should add that each sample came from new spools recently provided by the manufacturer. All were tested between three and five times on the same computerized apparatus used by the IGFA to verify records. Becky Reynolds, who has authenticated more than 1,000 of these, personally supervised each phase of the operation.
The one Dyneema product we tested (Berkley FireLine) scored highest on the basis of both wet and dry strength. Of course, there are other variables to consider, such as knot strength and abrasion-resistance, which we didn't test for.
The vagaries continue. However, it's worth mentioning that each manufacturing process produces fibers with a different denier per filament (DPF) rating. Dyneema's DPF is one, which identifies it as being softer and also means that it frays easier and is more prone to knotting.
The author marvels at the variety of gel-spun polymer braided lines, but wonders about breaking strength ratings.
Spectra has a DPF of three, since the fibers are three times the diameter of Dyneema. In layman's terms, that means it's stiffer and has a “wiry” feel, which contributes to how it behaves on spinning reels.
One final consideration is based on how anglers knot superbraids to a short length of monofilament in order to provide a measure of shock resistance, along with decreased visibility. I know this from experience, and make my connections with a double-surgeon's knot. We acknowledge that you may do it differently, so we didn't bother to test this knot. Some anglers insist on tying a Bimini twist to first double the braid, before tying a uni- or some other knot to the shock leader. This seems to ensure a 100 percent connection.
Superbraids have literally become an overnight success. You'll find them on everything from fly reels to deep-drop rigs, since their amazing strength-to-diameter ratios, coupled with low stretch and abrasion-resistance, makes them a natural for a variety of situations.
Still, they're not exactly a cure-all. With a 400-yard spool of 20-pound going for as much as $50, GSP isn't used for tying up tomato plants. I doubt it will replace monofilament, but while a few fly fishermen may worry about being sliced, and a plug caster or two might complain t
hat the lack of stretch works against them, the message comes through loud and clear:
Superbraids are here to stay. What's more, each proprietary type or brand name will continue to attract its share of adherents who base their choice more on actual fishing conditions than on any empirical chart.
Using International Game Fish Association testing equipment in Dania, samples were tested dry and wet (shown here soaking).
In Dave Burch's words: “I've spoken to thousands of anglers. One thing I know for sure is that no one product is right for everyone.”
He's right. In fact, that's why we're running this article.