Yes. Bass can see fishing line. The question is, does it matter that bass can see fishing line?
This discussion comes up quite frequently, so I’ve put together a guide that will help you make better line choices for bass, relative to circumstances.
Most of the time, the visibility of your line (to the fish) is not critical. There are other times, however, when you’ll want to go stealth mode.
All fish species perceive fishing line differently, and I would argue that line visibility is a more important consideration in certain freshwater conditions.
As bass inhabit the fresh, line visibility is something you should consider, just as you would your lure, hook type, or bait.
Let’s take a closer look at line vis, and its impact on catching bass.
What if I said that knowing what vis line to use could make the difference between catching a 2-pound bass and a trophy PB?
Can Bass See Fishing Line
As I mentioned before, yes. Bass can see fishing line. And they can see it better or hardly at all depending on what type of line you’re using.
Clear fluoro is, by and large, the best line for stealth. Quality fluoro is virtually invisible to fish of all species.
This is why fluoro is the go-to for leaders – it’s so hard to see when submerged, and highly abrasion resistant.
Braid is the opposite, it’s highly visible when submerged depending on the color of the line.
So having fluoro leader between the braid and your lure ensures you always have the element of stealth.
This begs the question. Why not use fluoro mainline all the time?
If you use the lowest vis line whenever you fish bass, then there are no worries, right? It’s also a slow sinker and has excellent abrasion resistance.
If only it were that simple – and many would argue it is.
But when we spool up for bass, we generally consider all aspects of line performance, not just its visibility to the fish.
Depending on the application/circumstances and location, fluoro might not be the ideal fishing line for the job.
Many anglers fishing the top water will opt for mono.
The neutral buoyancy of mono and its propensity to sink at a snail’s pace is great for topwater, fishing high in the water column, and fishing the shallows.
And if you have clear mono, you also have a line that is very difficult for fish to detect.
Many anglers also will opt for mono when they desire the forgiveness of mono’s stretchy constitution.
However, as mono lacks the sensitivity of braid, many lure anglers will opt for the strength and sensitivity of braid.
Even the colored braids must be considered far easier for a fish to see than fluoro and clear mono.
So when we select strength and sensitivity first, we may compromise our capacity for stealth.
Braid also has a tiny diameter relative to mono and fluoro, cuts through foliage, and sinks, making it ideal for working deeper running lures.
Moreover, you’ll have a fluoro leader at the business end of a braid rig, so the bass won’t see the braid mainline anyway. Confused yet?
If you are, I understand. Because it can get confusing, especially if you want to do everything you can to maximize the performance of your rig.
To simplify the line visibility equation, we need to know if and when bass will become line shy.
So what does line shy mean in practice?
Are Bass Fishing Line Shy?
This is the key issue to address. Under the majority of conditions, most bass are not line-shy or spooked when they perceive fishing line.
However, there are some situations where bass will be spooked by not just the fishing line, but the perception of unnatural noises, movements, and intrusions.
Understanding when a bass might be line shy is the key to making the right line selection. It can also mean the difference between a prize bass and no fish at all.
Still Clear Conditions
Crystal clear water and a calm water surface should prompt a stealth approach.
It is far easier for a fish to perceive unnatural intrusions such as fishing line when there isn’t a hint of a ripple on the surface.
They can see through the water surface, and your fishing line stands out far more when there’s no scattered light refraction from ripples or camouflage from stirred sediment.
In these conditions, I recommend fluoro or clear low-vis mono.
Heavily Fished Locations
You may have noticed that you only seem to catch a smaller class of bass, and perhaps fewer numbers when you fish popular areas.
Catch and release has ensured bass numbers are still good, even in heavily fished areas. However, fish become more ‘aware’ in these locations.
They’re onto us…and approach with greater caution – more likely to reject a bait because they see your fishing line which is perceived as unnatural.
In truth, the science on this is pretty sketchy. And I have to be honest, I’ve had big days in heavily fished areas, without relying on stealth.
However, if I fish in a popular location, I will usually fish fluoro or clear mono.
I’ll fish as light as I can unless I’m targeting heavy cover, which will prompt a boost in line class.
Targeting Trophy Bass
If I’m targeting trophy bass, I will often fish fluoro. Generally speaking, a big bass got big for a reason, and part of that reason, you can assume, is caution and awareness.
Again, finding scientific proof of this is very hard.
But you will find plenty of anecdotal evidence from experienced anglers who have failed to entice monster bass, only to succeed when using clear fishing lines and focusing on stealth.
It should be noted that this includes using braids, but with a longer, very low vis fluoro leader.
Having said that, my default will always be a fluoro mainline, as the slow sinking, low stretch, and high abrasion resistance suits my regular applications.
Targeting Trophy Bass in Heavily Fished Locations in Still Clear Conditions
I think you can guess that this is when you pull out all stops, and go the clearest, most invisible line you can, assuming that the bass will almost certainly be line shy.
Again. This is a wise approach, not a rule. Going full stealth does not guarantee anything, but it’s best practice and should increase your chances.
It’s important to note that I have tested these scenarios with my fishing buddies.
At different times, we have fished high vis and low vis lines concurrently in the same location using identical rigs and lures.
While perhaps not frequently, but definitely consistently, the angler fishing low visibility has come out on top. Sometimes, it has been the difference between trophy fish and no fish.
This ‘research’ was only loosely scientific. But the correlation was so strong that it informed my line selection for these specific conditions.
Are bass line shy? Usually not, but in some circumstances, such as those above, it certainly appears that they can be.
What Line is Best for Bass Fishing?
For casting, running lures deeper in the water column, strength, and sensitivity, it’s very hard to go past a green or bluish braid with a low vis fluoro leader.
It’s brilliant through foliage, efficient, robust and you’re best friend when you hook something big.
Mono is a great all-rounder. I remain a fan of mono for all types of bass fishing, and it’s often my first choice when I’m fishing high in the shallows or fishing the top water.
It’s a good option for smallmouth, as mono is quite forgiving on the strike, ensuring more strikes turn into hook-ups.
Fluoro mainline is ideal for applications such as casting into cover in the shallows. A slow sink plus excellent abrasion resistance adds to the stealth qualities of fluoro.
For fishing the shallows on a still, clear water day, mono is a brilliant option.
What Color Line is Best for Bass?
I have a default setting for fishing line and bass fishing – indeed all fishing. It’s because I couldn’t be bothered overthinking fishing line and second-guessing.
With braids, I like darker bluish colors and greens and greys. It offers a reasonable low vis option but remains visible to the angler.
With mono and fluoro, I see no reason at all to go with another color than clear. And I’m yet to be convinced by an argument against my position.
My exception to this is when the angler needs to see the line for spot fishing and night fishing. In which case, I’ll go for the brightest colors I can find.
Final Words On Bass and Fishing line
Bass can see fishing line, but it’s only in certain circumstances that they might become line shy.
Across all line types, it is possible to fish stealth with little compromise.
If you choose stealth as a default setting, you needn’t worry about re-spooling whenever you have a gut feeling that stealth might be a necessity.