This is a great question. Sometimes I am inclined to think the pretty fishing line colors are designed for catching more anglers than fish – much like lures.
So, does fishing line color matter? In some instances, I think it does. In many others, I think it plays no role at all.
My grandfather was an accomplished angler. He caught fish in prolific numbers – salt and fresh.
He used the same green color fishing line and never varied except for the braid he used for game fishing, which I remember from photos as being off-white.
My grandfather and his contemporaries certainly didn’t obsess about fishing line color, because they never had much of an option – clear and green.
But they caught countless fish.
His success with old-school colors makes me question the need for the rainbow of options we have today.
The question is, will a specific line color help you catch more fish and better fish? Let’s take a look.
Can Fish See Fishing Line
While fish may not perceive fishing line the way we do, they can see it. Interestingly, visual perception varies between fish species.
But it’s difficult to ascertain if differing perceptions play a role in the line color question.
We’d need exacting scientific testing, as simply asking the fish is not an option – many have tried, nonetheless.
For all intent and purpose, we can assume that fish can see fishing lines. The important question is does it matter?
I have had countless experiences where it doesn’t matter at all, and I’ve had other experiences where I’m sure my line color has been a problem.
I’ve caught fish on rusty ganged hooks with no bait. I’ve caught fish using brown packaging string, and cheap non-colorfast wool, with blue dye leaching into the water.
In some (maybe all) circumstances, the impact of fishing line color is circumstantial, environmental, and variable.
When salties such as bluefish or tuna are in a feeding frenzy, and the water’s on the boil, fish attack first and ask questions later.
Line color, and even bait type, are by and large irrelevant.
However, targeting trout in a heavily fished, still, clear pond with bright yellow braid will likely result in nothing. And certainly no trophy trout.
So, the more cautious or circumspect the fish are likely to be the more your line color will play into it.
Does Fishing Line Color Matter?
It depends on the circumstance. Sometimes it is yes, sometimes it is no. As I mentioned above, it’s circumstantial. Here are a couple of my experiences to illustrate.
My buddy Patrick and I fished the surf one night for whiting. Conditions weren’t great, the seas a little heavy with a strong-ish lateral sweep to the south.
I was using clear mono and Patrick was using yellow braid. The bite was only OK, we both had a similar bite rate and hook-up rate.
I caught 6 whitings and Patrick caught 8, all of a similar size.
Catch results showed that line color and type made little to no difference to the catch. Or did it?
We were fishing with headlamps because it was particularly dark. The lateral sweep meant we had to continually reel in and cast again to get back in the strike zone.
Patrick was far more efficient at this than me, as he could see his line very easily as it drifted from the strike zone.
Even with a strong lamp, it was very hard for me to see when my clear mono had drifted well away from the strike zone. I was looking at his line to gauge the speed of the drift.
So, based on a similar catch, I don’t think the fish cared about the line color.
However, I think Patrick could fish more efficiently because he could see what his line was doing far better than I could.
Was this the reason he caught a couple more fish than me? Because he could get his line in the strike zone more efficiently, keeping it there longer? I would argue yes.
High Vis vs Low Vis Fishing Line?
And this brings us to the core component of fishing line color. Fishing line color can go into two categories, hi-vis, and low-vis.
If it’s highly viable to you, you can assume the fish can see it as well. But there are plenty of times where it’s very helpful to be able to see your line, as illustrated above.
And in the example above, the hi-vis line didn’t seem to bother the fish in any way.
This has been my experience in all saltwater conditions. The color of the line didn’t ever seem to impact the bite.
Importantly, however, there are many circumstances where the ability of the angler to see the line has significant advantages.
My first experience where visible line mattered to the fish was fishing for trout in a lake in NSW, Australia.
I rocked up with a pink braid on a 2000-size spinning reel. We were using Powerbait, and fishing very light.
The guys I was fishing with said I’d struggle with my line color – so much so that I could use one of their reels spooled with clear 6-pound fluorocarbon.
I said I would try my line color, and I persisted. Each of the group caught a couple of fish, with one specimen very impressive. I caught nothing in the morning session.
I changed to the clear fluoro for the late afternoon session and landed 3 huge browns that even surprised the locals.
For both sessions, the water was crystal clear, and there wasn’t a breath of air.
It was like fishing in a mill pond. It was a very popular area for land-based trout fishing and heavily fished.
On the local’s advice, we took great care not to make noise, even moving to a rocky outcrop to avoid crunching leaves and undergrowth on the bank.
While not definitive evidence, it seemed very obvious to me that in these conditions absolute stealth was a must, and line color played a significant role in catch rates.
The trout could see my pink line, and they didn’t like it. In this instance, fishing clear line was an absolute must.
These examples are two, quite definitive situations where line color was important. And not so much line color as visibility.
My default setting is to use clear mono and fluoro, and muted greens or blues with braid. Interestingly, I defer to stealth every time.
However, If I need to be able to see the fishing line, I go with a color I can see in the darkest of conditions, under artificial light.
In this case, my color choice is purely based on my being able to see it. And if I can see it, I know the fish can too.
However, it’s important to note that most times I will be using a very low-vis fluoro leader, usually between 2 and 4 feet.
With a fluoro leader, you still maintain a reasonable level of stealth as the highly visible braid is a few feet away from where the fish is focussed…which is hopefully your lure.
Also Read: Are Fish Line Shy?
What Color Fishing Line Should I Use?
If you want a go-to fishing line color, I will always recommend clear fishing lines for fluoro and mono.
This is an easy default and they’re ideal for both fresh and saltwater species and all conditions.
For braids, I tend to go for greens and blues in the fresh stuff, and the same for saltwater. For the most part, I’m relying on my leader for stealth.
If I want hi-vis, I’ll go with whatever color I can see well in the dark. Orange and pink are great for hi-vis.
Nevertheless, if you wish to refine your line choice based on certain situations, there are some standards that you can consider.
Yellow Line For Murky Water
This is a very common suggestion, however, I’m not at all convinced and have no evidence that it increases performance.
If you are fishing flesh baits and worried that the fish will see the fishing line, I would fish clear mono or fluoro.
Green Line For Numerous Conditions
I believe this is very good advice. Green fishing line is a standard in mono and braided lines.
If you’re fishing an area that has a greenish color to it, all the better.
However, I would fish green fishing lines pretty well everywhere. It’s not a bad option when you want to see your line as well.
If you’re looking for a combination of low vis for the fish and reasonable visibility to the angler, green fishing lines are great. I like green braids.
Transparent Line For Clear conditions
Again, this is very good advice, and I will always fish clear (transparent) mono or fluoro when the conditions are clear and still.
A clear fishing line becomes even more important when you’re targeting heavily fished closed waters…especially fresh water.
This is where stealth is a must, and my preference for these conditions is always fluoro main line.
Blue Line For Saltwater Fishing
While it might seem obvious, in my experience I am yet to see a blue fishing line in saltwater making any difference to the catch.
Yes, it seems a logical choice, and there’s no good reason not to fish blue. However, I also believe there’s no compelling reason to fish blue fishing line in saltwater.
Good Choices For Bass
Go clear when you’re fishing clear still waters in popular areas. I’d generally choose fluoro, as it has less stretch than mono, making it a better line for lighter lures.
If you’re fishing braids, and will only fish braids, select a color that blends into the environment.
Good Choices For Carp
For carp, it will depend on the conditions. I would go with clear mono or green braids. However, my understanding is that a little local knowledge is best when rigging for carp.
Good Choices For Trout
My preference for trout will always be clear fluoro. If I’m fishing the top water, I will go for the clearest mono I can find, but I’m rarely fishing the top for trout.
In my experience, lake and pond trout seem to be the most sensitive to fishing line colors.
Fly anglers will often be quite particular about their leader choice for fishing streams. But that’s a story for another day.
Good Choices For Catfish
This is not a fish I target. I only ever pick them up as by-catch. I have no evidence to suggest that line color makes any difference.
However, having said that, the wily old catfish, especially the monster class of fish, didn’t get huge from snapping at just anything.
I’d tend to go as stealthily as possible fishing transparent monos and fluoros with catfish.
Match the water color as best possible with braids, or go a yellow for murky waters, or a default green.
Other Things To Consider When Choosing Your Fishing Line
The Type of Line
There are three line types, monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braid. Mono is universal, the easiest to use, and the most forgiving fishing line available.
It has neutral buoyancy and a lot of stretch. If you’re ever in doubt as to what line to use, you will always be fine with mono. It performs well in all applications.
Braided lines are very thin and exceptionally strong for their diameter. They have virtually no stretch making them exceptional for extracting peak action from lures.
Braid is not a forgiving line and requires excellent knot tying skills and the ability to adjust your strike technique to the absence of stretch.
Braid is brilliant for putting large amounts of high-breaking strain line onto reels.
It also allows for superior casting distance. Braid is not recommended for those new to angling.
Fluorocarbon as main line can be an ideal choice when fishing heavy, gnarly structure. Fluoro is a harder compound than mono and has outstanding abrasion resistance.
Fluoro main line is great for all types of fishing; however, it is very expensive and doesn’t have the same variety of breaking strains as mono and braid.
Fluoro is the most popular leader material and is usually used in concert with braids.
When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with clear mono. Whatever location you’re fishing, a clear/transparent line is a great default.
I like mono for fishing fresh and live baits in the surf.
I like fluoro for casting any bait or lure into heavy cover, and I like braids for casting lures everywhere from the surf and ocean rocks to the rivers and estuaries.
I will always fish mono or fluoro when fishing clear still waters in the fresh.
- No stretch
- Biggest color range
- Strongest test weight to diameter ratio
- Harder to tie knots
- Adequate to good abrasion resistance
- Sinks very slowly
- Hard compound
- Good knot strength
- Outstanding abrasion resistance
- Some stretch
- Selection of colors
- Excellent abrasion resistance
- A lot of stretch
- Low breaking strain to diameter ratio ( takes a lot of room on the spool)
- Neutral buoyancy
- Brilliant general-purpose fishing line