Why Your Fishing Line Keeps Breaking and How to Prevent It

Ask any angler, and they will have at least one story of how a fish broke their line and got away. Fishing line breaks are pretty common in the angling world. If you are only starting on your fishing journey, you might be wondering why your fishing line keeps breaking and what you can do about it. 

Your fishing line keeps breaking because it’s nicked, overstretched, or too weak for the fish. Sunlight, chemicals, moisture, and heat can also degrade it and increase its odds of breaking. To prevent this, store your lines properly and make sure your rod, reel, drag, and line are set up correctly. 

Read on to find out the various reasons that may cause your fishing line to break and learn how to prevent this. 

Weak Knot

If tied correctly, your knot adds strength to your line, but it is also where your line is most vulnerable. 

When a poorly tied knot comes under pressure, it is more likely to slip than break. To tell the difference, you should look at the end of the leader line. Twisted ends indicate slippage, whereas a straight end is a sign of a break-off. 

To prevent your knot from slipping, make sure you know one or two main knots by heart. Although different knots have different strengths, correctly doing one knot is more important than knowing several knots without mastering any of them. So, practice the type of knot you are most comfortable with, and make sure you get it right. Remember that a weak tie can cut your line strength to half! 

Although braid lines often need special knots, monofilament lines are versatile and tend to work with most types of knots. 

Your knot is going to suffer a few blows after snagging a big fish, especially from fish with strong, sharp teeth. So, each time you catch something, clip your line and do a retie. This way, you will be sure that tiny cuts on the line will not make your line break. 

Overstretched Line 

Unlike fluorocarbon and braid lines, monofilament can stretch by nearly 15 percent of its length during a struggle with a stubborn fish. The stretch factor for high-tech options ranges from 17 to 24 percent. 

The ability to stretch is a good thing since it lets you put more pressure on the fish while absorbing the shocks caused by its sudden movements. Once the pressure comes off, the line will snap back to its normal condition. 

However, if the pressure exceeds a certain amount, the line reaches a point known as the “Non-Recoverable Distortion Point” (NRDP). This is where it is simply too stretched out to return to its previous state as it undergoes molecular changes that may decrease its structural strength and flexibility by as much as 50 percent. 

Unfortunately, it is not easy to determine whether the monofilament line has passed its NRDP. Most anglers prefer to cut a few feet of their line after they experience a break just to be safe. 

Weak Line

Your line may simply be too weak to withstand the pressure you expect it to hold. Obviously, you need a line with as little visibility as possible, and thinner lines tend to be less visible. However, they are also weaker and tend to break more easily. 

Most manufacturers indicate two numbers on their spool labels: “breaking strain” and “wet knot strength.” The first number indicates how much force the line can withstand when it does not have any knots. This is also known as the line’s “linear strength,” and it is most often expressed in pounds. So, for example, an eight-pound test line can handle at least eight pounds (3.6 kgs) of pressure without knots—but more if it has knots. 

The second number shows the amount of pressure the line can handle when it has a knot, and it is submerged in water for more than two hours. As the primary component of monofilament lines, nylon tends to absorb water and lose up to 10 percent of its strength as a result. This reduction in strength can contribute to a break-off. 

Things get more complicated if you are fishing in waters with high salinity. Salt tends to make mono lines more brittle. According to this article, some studies showed that salt particles can reduce up to 20 percent of the line’s flexibility. 

Fluorocarbon and braid lines do not absorb water or salt particles and therefore do not suffer from this problem. 

Nicked Line

Sharp objects such as rocks, logs, or barnacles can damage your line. So can fish bites. A nick creates a weak point in your line and increases the odds of a break-off. 

Monofilament lines get nicked more easily, but that doesn’t mean fluorocarbon and braids are nick-proof. All types of fishing lines are vulnerable to wear and tear, especially braid lines given their composite structure of multiple micro-fibers being woven together. 

Incorrect Set-Up

If your rod, reel, and line aren’t in balance, you might end up breaking your line. A common problem among amateur angles is choosing a heavy rod with a light line—for example, a medium-heavy rod with a six-pound test line. 

Next, setting your reel drag too high because it might put excessive pressure on the line, which can cause breakage. The rod’s test curve and the drag setting are cumulative—i.e., they add up. So, if you set the drag higher than it needs to be, your rod action could become too stiff and apply unnecessary pressure to your line. 

Finally, the lure weight must match the rod action and the line’s pound test to maximize your performance. A small lure around half an ounce, a medium-light rod, and an eight pound-test line are enough for most novice anglers aiming to catch some bass, trout, or walleye. 

Chemical Degradation

Chemical compounds weaken your line. These often include fumes from different products such as bug spray and plastic lure as well as soot, dust, and smoke particles in the air. 

Although monofilament lines don’t rot, they’re vulnerable to chemicals and oxidation. Fluorocarbon lines are more resistant to chemical degradation because they’re denser. Nanofil lines last a couple of years after you open the packaging. Braided lines tend to be even more durable and might last up to four years. 

Temperature and Sunlight Exposure

Ultraviolet (UV) and heat exposure both negatively affect the tensile strength of your lines. Although most anglers aren’t likely to leave their reels under direct sunlight for a long time, they may keep the spool in less-than-ideal conditions. If you notice any discoloration, it’s a sign of too much sunlight exposure. 

Fluorocarbon lines are UV-stable, meaning that they don’t deteriorate when exposed to sunlight. The same is true for braid lines.  

Temperature is also a deciding factor. Monofilament and fluorocarbon lines contract and expand based on temperature. They tend to become more brittle and withstand less pressure in colder areas because the cold reduces their tensile strength. However, their knot strength isn’t affected by temperature. 

Braid lines aren’t affected by the ambient temperature. This is why anglers in colder areas often choose braid lines despite their visibility and thickness. 

How to Prevent Your Fishing Line From Breaking

Have the Right Set-Up

You should choose your rod-line pair based on the type of fish you’re going after. If the two don’t match, you’ll either lose the fish or break your line. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the fish, the lighter your rod and the thinner your line. For example, you probably won’t have any trouble catching trout with a light rod and a four-pound test line. However, the same set-up won’t work if you plan to go after catfish or tuna. 

Check online to see what line strengths your manufacturer recommends for your rod. In most cases, you can also determine the appropriate line rating based on the rod’s test curve—how much weight it takes to bend the rod 90 degrees. 

The general rule is to multiply the rod’s test curve by five and account for 30 percent variation. For example, with a one-pound rod, your line strength can range from four to seven—even eight—pounds. 

Next comes drag, which should be somewhere around 25 to 30 percent of the line strength. So, with an eight pound-test line, your drag should be set to two pounds (0.9 kgs). 

Remember that more drag means more pressure on the fish, which isn’t always a good thing. Novice anglers often think that they should overpower the fish, but most of the time, it’s better to let the fish play around and get tired on its own before you pull it out of the water. This approach is both more energy-efficient and reduces your chances of breaking your line. 

Store Your Line Properly

You can maintain your line’s durability by storing it properly. Put the spool inside a cooler or any type of air-tight container. You can also wrap dark-colored rubber around the spool to tightly seal it and protect the line from heat, oxidation, and sunlight. 

If you live in an area with lots of mosquitoes, you need to store your lines somewhere away from the bug spray fumes. Otherwise, the line will absorb the compounds and lose its tensile strength, forcing you to buy new lines frequently. 

Also, don’t store your line near sunscreen, deodorants, or plastic lure. All these items contain chemicals that end up weakening your line after some time. 

Moisture is another thing you should consider with monofilament lines. These lines tend to absorb the moisture in the atmosphere and become more flexible as a result. However, too much humidity can reduce the line’s strength. So, make sure your line storage area is neither too dry nor too moist, and the ambient temperature should be between 64 and 77°F (18 and 25°C). 

Finally, regardless of the storage conditions, always test your monofilament line before using it to make sure it hasn’t lost its structural integrity. The best way to do this is to have a hook tied to the line since you need to test the knot strength. The knot is usually where the line gets the weakest and breaks. 

Change Your Line Frequently

Changing your fishing line involves both the mainline and the leader. They’re both equally important because each one may have a weak point that causes a split and costs you a fish. 

The Mainline

Fishing lines deteriorate for one reason or another. You can take the best care of your line, but it’ll eventually go bad. So, it’s best to regularly change your line if you don’t want to lose any fish due to a line break. Replace your mainline every six months to make sure it’s in perfect shape. 

Your mainline isn’t likely to rub against anything higher than one foot unless you get snagged in a tree or a dock. In that case, check that part of the line and look for nicks. Run your fingers down the line and if you feel any nicks, clip the line and retie your lure. 

The Leader Line

The leader line is a bit more complex. You need to change your leader line in two different situations: on the water and at home. 

When you’re on the water, you’re going to cut a small piece of the leader line every time you change your lure. Fish with rough mouths like snook or tarpon may also fray your line and reduce its strength. 

So, to avoid breaks, you need to eliminate the weak points by clipping your leader, but make sure you cut as close to the hook as possible to save your leader’s length. However, if the nick or fray is close to your braid knot, it’s better to replace the entire leader. 

Also, when your leader shrinks to about 1.5 feet (45 cm), it’s time to replace it. This is because the leader acts as a shock absorber and gives you more stability to control the fish on the hook. If it’s too short, the hook may just slip out the fish’s mouth, and it’ll get away. 

After you get home from your fishing trip or before going on the next one, replace the leader completely. Even if your current leader looks fine and doesn’t have nicks or frays, it’s likely to have been stretched to its limits. The knot that’s tying your leader to the mainline has become weak after fighting different fish. So, it’s safer just to have a new piece of leader for your next trip. 

Check the Reel and the Guides on Your Rod 

Your reels and line guides might have small microscopic cracks, which may cut your line. These cracks might be so small that you can’t see them, but when your rod starts to flex, they’ll open up and cut or nick the line like a razor blade. 

To avoid this, make sure your reel is smooth, and none of the guides on your rod have any cracks or sharp edges. 

Take a Q tip and rub it on the inside of all the guides on the rod. If little cotton pieces get stuck on any of the guides, your line is bound to get nicked. Replace the cracked guide before your next attempt to catch fish. 

How to Dispose of Your Fishing Line

No matter how much you take care of your fishing line, there will eventually be a time when you have to throw it away. 

Among the three fishing line types, you can only recycle monofilament lines, but you have to make sure the line is not made of organic or plant-based materials since they’re not recyclable. 

Don’t throw your monofilament line in with your household recycling. Regular recycling plants can’t process the nylon in these lines. Search online to see which recycling facilities in your area can handle monofilament fishing lines. 

Of course, recycling isn’t your only option. You can reuse the line by using it to make a necklace or bracelet. You can also cut into small pieces (around six inches long) and leave the pieces outside or in your trash. Birds are probably going to use those pieces to make nests. 


Fishing lines break very often. Monofilament lines are more vulnerable since they’re made of a single type of nylon. However, this isn’t to say that fluorocarbon and braid lines don’t break. 

Your line can break due to multiple reasons: 

  • Being too weak for the fish. 
  • Becoming overstretched and reaching its NRDP. 
  • Getting nicked by sharp objects or fish bites. 
  • Losing its molecular integrity due to chemical changes. 

To prevent your line from breaking, you should: 

  • Pay attention to your set-up to ensure that you don’t put too much pressure on the line. 
  • Keep your line away from sunlight, excessive moisture, and chemical fumes. 
  • Change your line regularly so that you don’t unintentionally use a damaged line. 
  • Inspect the guides on your reel for tiny fractures that may nick the line.

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