Chip Timm asks:
I mainly fish with a swim jig and plastics for walleye and crappies in Wisconsin. Could you simply explain the pluses and minuses for using braided line? I have never used it but have heard from others that it is the way to go.
Thanks for the question Chip - I think what you're hearing out there is a sentiment echoed by a good number of anglers that switch from mono to braid for a host of applications. The benefits are many, and immediately noticed. First and foremost, braid is much more sensitive, transmitting a great dose of extra vibration in the form of "feel" to your bait, bottom, structure, and/or a fish that eats. Also importantly, braid stretches very little, increasing the ability of many to drive hooks into fish, especially on long ends of casts. Because of its construction, your average braid is more durable in terms of abrasion resistance, so it fishes well in a number of snaggy environments from trees, to rocks, and even zebra mussel infested areas of bottom.
Downsides would be some of the upsides. Because of the lack of stretch in the line, some applications like pulling cranks, leads to people pulling hooks out of fish's mouths. A softer rod with a more moderate action helps to diminish this effect while still getting all the benefits of braid. Another downside would be the fact that braid is a "hard-line" and is not semi-transparent. These opaque lines are then more visible in the water, but this effect can be nullified by simply tying in a section of fluorocarbon. Sometimes in river current, I'll have a mono-rod that I fish to test the effect of current on the line, as each type cuts through water differently.
All in all, I'm a huge braid guy, and think the benefits far outweigh the downsides. Not all braids are created equal however, and depending on what you're doing, you may want to consider a few different options. I'm a fan of Sufix 832 Advanced Superline in 10-20lb. test. You can fish lighter line for sure, but I like the stiffness and performance of the slightly heavier line. This is especially true with casting crankbaits that tumble and can potentially tangle in your line. Braid that is too soft or supple can create issues with tangles and wind-knots.
For light-jigs, clear water and long casts, I prefer the Sufix Nanobraid. The stuff casts a mile and really performs better than mono varieties on small reels.