This is our review for the Best Fishing Line For Trout in 2021.
Ask a hundred trout anglers which line is best and you’ll likely get a hundred different answers. The choice of the best fishing line for trout has many levels to it when deciding which to buy.
Can Trout See Fishing Line?
I was fishing the Warm Springs drainage above Union Pass in Western Wyoming one summer and learned just how aggressive trout can be. After a quick passing summer shower, at around 9,500 feet in altitude, the trout began to hit everything we threw at them.
I was using a Pflueger President, with an eight-pound test monofilament line, and tossing a 1/8th ounce yellow body, with red dots Panther Martin spinner into a bend in the stream.
The hit was tremendous, the big rainbow did a spectacular tail dance, but after about two minutes I had the fish ashore.
There was a strange bulge in the belly of the three-pound rainbow. We were subsistence fishing that weekend, eating what we caught, and not eating if we didn’t catch anything.
I gutted the fish and to my amazement, the remains of a ground squirrel, we call them picket pins out here, was partially decomposed inside the stomach. No, the trout didn’t show any indication of stubby fins or walking on land, but the squirrel made a bad choice in trying to swim across the stream.
Best Fishing Line For Trout
Rainbows are the blitzing linebackers of the trout family, but browns, cutthroat, golden, and brook trout don’t always strike like that. The extra sensitivity that comes with braided line is great if the trout don’t see it.
The top choice in braided line, and our overall top choice goes to Berkley FireLine Crystal. This new product blends the sensitivity, strength, and durability of braided line, with the camouflaging capability of fluorocarbon. It does this with a weave of spun fiberglass.
A close second is any tinted monofilament that matches water color. Trout can easily spot a rodent swimming on the surface, they can see a line in the water as well. Monofilament in blue, or green tint blends well with most water. Using blue-tinted monofilament provides an almost perfect match with the color of the water reflecting the bright blue summer sky.
There are three main types of line for spinning, spincasting, and baitcasting reels, monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided.
This is the most familiar line and the line of choice for most trout fishermen. It is made of extruded nylon. It comes in a dazzling array of colors, test weight, and packaging. There are hundreds of manufactures offering monofilament line in two-pound to 150-pound test and in a rainbow of colors.
Monofilament has good and not-so-good aspects:
- Ties great knots
- All colors
- Not UV resistant
- Lower sensitivity
- Loses strength over time in the water
Take a step back to high school chemistry class and you’ll find single-strand polyvinylidene difluoride hanging out in your tackle box. No, it’s not that smelly stuff you mixed up when you had a substitute teacher, it is the chemical composition of fluorocarbon line. The selling point of this style of line is visibility, it is the most transparent of the three types. That virtual invisibility comes at a price.
- Nearly invisible
- Holds knots
- Great sensitivity
- Doesn’t float
- Prone to wind knots and snarls
Braided lines are as the name implies, fibers braided together. They are tiny little ropes of synthetic fibers spun together. Braid is the smallest diameter of the three, the strongest per ounce and available in strength up to 300-pound test, and larger. You can horse up very large fish with this line.
- No stretch
- Sinks well for bottom bouncing
- No memory
- Long casts
- Costs more than monofilament
- Poor knots
- Very visible
How to Use the Three Line Types for Trout Fishing
If you’re a novice, the best thing to start your adventure with trout is to spool some six-pound monofilament on a spincast, or spinning reel and head to the water. You will catch trout if they’re interested in the spinners you’re throwing at them, the worms dangling below the surface, or the minnow enticing a strike at the end of your line.
If you’re a bit more advanced, you’ll still find monofilament works well, but a combination of braided line, tied with a fluorocarbon leader might be the greatest innovation in trout fishing in a long time.
Trout have arguably the best vision of any game fish. Depending on the aquatic ecosystem trout can be a feed species for larger predatory fish or the apex predator of the area. Brown trout are especially aggressive and territorial.
Braided line, with a fluorocarbon leader, is a much better option than straight monofilament. You can feel the action much better with braided line, it casts farther, is stronger, and in the event you enter an epic struggle with a monster rainbow in heavy river current, you can put a lot more line on your reel since it has a much smaller diameter. The problem is, trout can see braided line.
Fluorocarbon is a much better option for a leader than straight braid. It is invisible, or nearly so to trout. Tying it to braid is a challenge since braided line is slippery and doesn’t hold a knot well, but practice a few new knots and you’ll have a deadly trout combination.
The Best Fishing Line For Trout Reviews
Now that you know the difference in line, which one is best for your style of trout fishing? We’ll review 10 brands, offer their pros and cons, and let you decide. We’ll begin with the top three brands of braided line, then cover the top three brands of fluorocarbon line before finishing our review with the best four brands of monofilament for trout fishing.
Spiderwire has been the industry standard in nearly unbreakable braided line for a long time. As many anglers have discovered, you can’t break this line, and you can’t bite it in half either as you can with monofilament.
Buy a 1900 to a 3000-yard spool of P-Line CXX Xtra, store it indoors, away from sunlight and this inexpensive product will last a long time.
Best Braided Line for Trout
1. Berkley FireLine Crystal
This line is available in six, eight, and 10-pound test, with larger sizes, also produced, but you won’t need anything beyond 10-pounds unless you’re trolling for trophy lake trout in areas such as Flaming Gorge.
Quick action when setting a hook, along with durability and strength are all good factors for selecting this line.
Braided line without a clear leader isn’t a favorite for trout, but FireLine isn’t your run-of-the-mill braided line. It is a weave of clear fiberglass, and as a bonus, it holds a knot well.
FireLine works in clear mountain streams filled with rainbow, cutthroat, or brook trout. Wary browns will strike this line without a leader.
A complaint with braided line is that knots often slip. You’ll need something beyond an overhand knot with other braided line to attach a fluorocarbon leader.
Because of the fiberglass fibers, FireLine grabs more firmly than competing models when it comes to tying a knot.
2. Power Pro Spectra Fiber Braided Fishing Line
Spectra Fiber is the thinnest braided line on the market today, Thin is in with this compact design while retaining the strength of larger, competing brands.
Spectra Fiber is popular with professional guides, who are looking for a relative braid that spools easily on a spinning or baitcasting reel.
This line is a little heavier, starting in 10-pound test and available in spools up to 1500-yards long, so you’ll have enough line to fill every reel in your lineup.
The line is abrasion resistant, so fishing for trout in heavy, rocky structure won’t cut your line as easily. The round fibers are among the smoothest on the market, allowing for longer casts.
If you’re trolling for lake trout that can reach 40-pounds, the heavier 14 or 20-pound test might fit your reel a little better.
A solid reel full of high-strength Spectra Fiber, with a heavy test fluorocarbon leader, is more than a match for most big lake trout.
3. Spiderwire DURA-4
Spiderwire has been around for a long time. It has become the defacto standard in nearly unbreakable braided line. Carry a knife or clippers with you when you’re fishing with Spiderwire. You won’t be able to bite through it as you can with monofilament.
Strength and durability make Spiderwire a favorite of commercial fishing guides.
The standard moss green color is a universal shade that works well in almost every type of water that might hold a wily trout.
The commercial-sized spool offers 10,15, 20, and big 65-pound test versions, with the consumer size spools of 125 and 300-yards come in big sizes, from 40 to 80-pound test for lake trolling applications.
Zero stretch is an important feature of Spiderwire since it allows more sensitivity and the ability to set a hood quickly when a big rainbow takes a swipe at your lure. The slick outer coating makes it an industry leader for trolling.
Best Fluorocarbon Line for Trout
1. Seaguar Red Label
If presenting a suspended bait, or having a lure mimic fish with an invisible line connected to it, this is the product for you. Seaguar is a growing force in the fluorocarbon line market with their Red Label product line.
The clear line is nearly invisible in the water. You’ll have to pull in your line to create movement on the water to find it if you’re fishing with straight fluorocarbon. Great tensile and impact strength, Red Label is also abrasion-resistant.
Red Label is available in sizes from four-pound test to 20-pounds, making a great product for leaders with braided line.
2. Berkley Vanish
It might be a play on words, but Vanish is so effective as a fluorocarbon fishing line because of the varnish on the line. The varnish enhances the light reflectivity of the Vanish line, making it reflect light just like the surrounding water.
The result is a product that fish, especially well sighted trout, can’t see in the water.
It’s clear, handles rough structure well, and sinks evenly in the water.
Vanish is available in strength from four to 20-pound test, but the eight-pound test is the favorite among trout anglers.
3. Kastking Flourokote
Released in 2016 by KastKing this fluorocarbon composite line is high strength, low stretch, and a slightly higher density than competing brands.
Flourocote isn’t full fluorocarbon, but a copolymer, with a fluorocarbon coating. The result is a stronger, more abrasive resistant product, with the light reflecting invisibility of fluorocarbon.
It is the least expensive fluorocarbon style line you can buy.
Designed to sink faster, with no water absorption it’s a great product to use as a leader tied to braid or even fly line.
Available from four-pound test to a heavy-duty 30-pound size, its versatility, and low cost make it a favorite among professional trout fishing guides.
Best Monofilament for Trout
1. P-Line CXX-Xtra Strong Moss Green Fishing Line
Buy a 1900 to a 3000-yard spool of P-Line CXX Xtra, store it indoors, away from sunlight and this inexpensive product will last a long time.
It’s a good idea to replace monofilament line every season. When it’s inexpensive and available in spools almost two miles long, you can add new line to every spool in your fishing arsenal at a very reasonable price.
This product comes in very small two-pound test for ultralight enthusiasts, but the line extends up to heavyweight 100-pound test for saltwater applications. You’re not going to need anything as strong as 100-pound rated line for trout, but that two-pound test, on a low-power rod might be blast catching brook trout.
Thin, strong, with a low memory, Cxx Xtra is a favorite among trout anglers.
2. 10lb Test Omniflex Monofilament Fishing Line
Zebco, you’ve fished their reels for decades, why not match that quality with a monofilament line designed specifically for the sport of fishing?
The 10-pound Zebco Ominflex is a favorite among anglers pursuing heavier trout. The stiffness of 10-pound test line isn’t good for brook trout, or small rainbows, but it’s perfect for browns, lake trout, and the larger, hard fighting rainbow trout you find in western rivers and lakes.
Omniflex comes in 700-yard spools, enough to fill three or four 4000 series spinning reels.
It is inexpensive, wears well, and best of all, Zebco products have landed a lot of fish.
Clear, this is a product you should keep in your tackle box when you head to the water.
3. Stren Original Monofilament Fishing Line
Clear blue, fluorescent Stren monofilament line has been the industry standard for a long time. You won’t find many trout fishermen who didn’t have at least one 330-yard spool of 10-pound test line hidden in a corner of the tackle box.
Stren is renowned for its knot strength. Lures tied directly to 10-pound test Stren don’t lose knots, neither do snap swivels or snelled hooks. The only way they come loose is if you’ve wedged them on some underwater rocks, in a tree limb high above your, or you’ve hooked a submerged tree.
Abrasion-resistant, easy to handle, and hard for fish to spot with a florescent blue tint, it’s not as invisible as fluorocarbon line, but it does a great job of concealing itself in the water.
Stren has been a leader in monofilament for a long time. Their standard 10-pound test line is as flexible and easy to handle as competitor’s six-pound variety.
Casts are not as far as with braided line, but they’re respectable on spincast or open-faced spinning reels.
4. Trout Magnet S.O.S. Fishing Line
No, it’s not made of rare earth magnets, it’s just a marketing scheme in the name of the product, but Trout Magnet S.O.S. is a rising player among trout fishing line.
Unlike the competition who offers monofilament in a broad spectrum that can be used with dozens of styles of fishing, Trout S.O.S (Strong, Obscure, Small) is specifically designed for catching trout.
The small strength rating indicates this line is specifically for smaller trout. Available in green only, and in two, four, and six-pound test this product is made for catching cutthroat, golden, small rainbows, and brook trout.
The green color, small 16mm diameter and light feel of the line is perfect for trout anglers. It has the strength to set a hook, and the sensitivity to feel light hits from most trout species. You won’t have to worry about light hits from rainbows who will take the rod right out of your hands if you’re not ready.
Affordably priced, designed specifically for trout, this line might be just the ticket for the trout enthusiast.
It’s great to have options, but sometimes too many options can cloud the decision-making process. Which of the products reviewed here will work best for you?
The first step in deciding which line to buy is to consider the type of fishing you’re about to do. There are lots of ways to catch trout, and trout can inhabit a variety of different aquatic ecosystems.
Here are a few guidelines to follow:
- What type of water are you fishing?
- Which trout are you after?
- What type of live bait are you going to use?
- Are you fishing with lures?
- How big are the fish going to be?
- Is there any submerged structure to worry about?
- What time of the year will you be fishing?
Type of Water
Lakes, rivers, streams…that’s the area you’ll find trout. These three types of water offer different challenges to the angler. Lakes are fished from shore, or from a boat. You can toss jigs, lures, slow retrieve live bait, or toss out a bobber and hook. You can also troll, bottom bounce a jig from a boat. Each of these applications is best with a fluorescent leader tied to braided line.
Monofilament works best in streams where the trout are hiding in pools and pockets.
For rivers, it depends on the current. Big water demands big line, as in braided line with a fluorocarbon leader.
Trout are colored differently and they feed differently as well from species to species.
Brook trout are small, aggressive, and lightweight. Two or four-pound test monofilament does the trick.
River and lake rainbows hit like bass, battle better than any other fish aside from a carp, and in heavy current, they’re great at snapping lines and pulling out knots. Braided line with a solid fluorocarbon leader is the best way to go.
Browns, cutthroats, Goldens and those hybrid Palomino trout you find back east can get big, but don’t have the slashing, battle instincts of rainbows. Straight monofilament, in eight to 10-pound test, is a good choice.
Worms, wax worms, and leeches are all good trout bait. Minnows are awesome for lake trout and big, predatory rainbows.
Live bait fishing requires more concealment than fishing with lures or trolling. Trout have great vision and can see braided line, but braid is what you need for longer casts, sensitivity to strikes, and strength with big fish. The solution is to tie an eight or 10-pound test fluorocarbon leader to your braided line.
Lures work because they flash, create sonic vibrations in the water, and are attractive to fish. Don’t ever tie one directly to braided line, because you’ll lower your effectiveness.
With lures, it’s hard to beat monofilament tied to a snap swivel and then hooked to your Blue Fox, Panther Martin, or Roostertail spinner.
How Big Are Those Trout?
Rainbows put a demand on reel and line more than any other species, when they get above six-pounds they can really exert some force. Heavy monofilament in 10 to 14-pound test works okay with rainbow trout, but the best bet is still a clear leader on braided line.
Browns and lake trout can be huge fish, but they’re often like pulling up a log rather than the frenzied fight you’ll get with a rainbow. Take your pick when lake fishing for these bigger fish. Monofilament in 14-pound test size is a safe bet, but so is smaller-sized 14-pound braided line with an equally strong fluorocarbon leader.
If you’re going to be dragging lures or bait across sharp rocks, put on some 10-pound test Spiderwire and fish all day without a worry. Attached to a strong fluorocarbon leader, this stuff is nearly indestructible.
It will wear a lot longer than any other line as you rake it across the rocks.
What Time of Year?
Weather plays a big role in trout fishing. You’ll catch your limit during an afternoon rainstorm in the summer months, and sometimes the best stream fishing you’ll ever experience is in the middle of winter during a snow storm.
The key is visibility. On a clear blue, cloudless day, a blue tint monofilament line, or any light reflective fluorocarbon line tied to a braided main line provides that invisibility.
Early spring and late autumn are great times to fish. The shorter days, lower sun, and longer shadows create a need for green-tinted line, or perhaps monofilament with a shellac finish on it to reflect the changing colors of light.
With three types of reels, three types of line, and five major species of trout to choose from the choice of which is the best fishing line for trout starts to look like one of those standardized test questions, “If a train leaves Memphis at…”
It doesn’t have to be that difficult.
Take a look at the water, decide the type of trout you’re after, which time of year it is, what type of bait you’ll be presenting and what type of reel you’ll be using and you’ll find your answer.
Braid for lakes, monofilament for rivers, and streams is a good general rule, but remember those invisible leaders and the size of the fish you may encounter.
It’s a lot better story around the campfire to describe that 27-inch rainbow than it is to talk about how hard your line snapped when the first strike hit.
A line that isn’t strong enough for the challenge, is vastly worse than fishing with line that may seem a little too heavy.
Be sure to check out our guide for choosing the best rod for trout fishing and find out our top picks.