When to replace fishing line? (and how to prolong its life)

In this guide, I will discuss how often fishing line needs to be replaced and will provide some tips and tricks to prolong, and sometimes double it’s useful life. It is important to replace your line to prevent break off’s and lost tackle.

How often to replace fishing line?

Occasional useHeavy useHeavy use in abrasive environments
Nylon1-3 years3 to 6 months3 months
Fluorocarbon3-4 years1-2 years3 to 6 months
Braid4 years +2 years+1-3 months
A guide to how often to replace your fishing line giving different amounts of use.

How to tell if a line needs to be replaced?

There are three things I look for when trying to decide if I need to replace the line or not.

1) Line strength decreases:

If the line feels weaker, and you start experiencing unexpected breakoffs, for example when tightening knots or randomly snaps during the cast? When that occurs, it is a good indication that it is time to replace the line.

If still in doubt, get out a pair of scales and test several sections of line to determine the actual breaking strain.

2) Abrasion:

Visually check the line for any sign of abrasion or physical damage. Even a small knick, can greatly reduce the breaking strength of the line. If you see abrasion, I suggest stripping the line off your reel and cutting away the damaged portion.

3) Changes in color,

While not a common occurrence if monofilament or fluorocarbon line starts to change color, that is a reason to become concerned. Braided lines do tend to fade with use, because the dyes they colored with are not always watertight.

4) You have lost too much line!

If you have lost too much line, sometimes it is possible to see the bottom of the spool or the backing material. This is a clear sign that you need to respool with new line.

Original breaking strain does make a difference!

A lightweight fishing line like 2lb to 6lb lines typically needs to be replaced more often than heavy line. That is because a little abrasion has a much greater relative impact than it does on a much heavier line.

If you are fishing heavy line, then it tends to be more durable which gives it a longer life expectancy.

I generally have to replace my 2lb trout line every few months, while I usually get a season out of my 6lb. I have been fishing the same monofilament on the same surfcasting reels for close to three years.

Where, and how you fish does influence fishing line longevity.

Some fishing styles and techniques are much more damaging on line than others.

For example, trolling is relatively gentle on line, so is deep water bottom fishing. In such fishing styles the line rarely makes contact with structure.

Contrastly, other techniques like surfcasting can quickly take a toll on line. That is because the line is constantly getting bashed and washed around in the surf zone. Sand, stones and weed rub against it slowly causing abrasion.

When I was seriously into beach fishing, I replaced my line several times every season. Braided line can take a real hammering if used in rough stormy conditions.

How often to replace monofilament or nylon?

The frequency you need to replace the line depends greatly on how much you fish.

If you are fishing every day, you might need to replace monofilament line several times during the season.

On the other hand, if you are only fishing a handful of times then it is possible to go a couple of years before respooling.

If your reel has a very large capacity. Sometimes it can be worthwhile to reverse the line to double its life expectancy. I explain how in the braid section below

How often to replace fluorocarbon line?

The lifespan of fluorocarbon heavily depends on how much it is used. If stored in appropriate conditions it can last for years.

The issue is that fluorocarbon stretches, and unlike mono, it does not bounce back. So the more fish your fight, and snags you pull free the thinner the line becomes, and eventually it will snap.

If you can avoid, overstressing fluorocarbon a spool can last several years before needing to be replaced.

How often to replace braided line?

In general, I find braided line lasts longer than monofilament. It does not suffer from UV breakdown anywhere as much. Braid should last a couple of years with frequent to moderate use. With occasional use, braid can easily last 4 or 5 years.

I know some people like to replace their braid once the color starts to fade, or at the first sign of fraying. In general, I disagree, color fading is just the dye washing out. It does not weaken the raid.

A little fraying or fuzziness is also not of significant concern. By all means, test the breaking strain, but a few fuzzy sections does not seem to reduce line strength by a significant amount.

Fixing memory and line twist in fishing line!

Sometimes, nylon, monofilament and fluorocarbon lines can become difficult to manage because of line twists. The twisting can become so bad that the line twists around and across itself creating all sorts of tangles and wind knows.

These knots and tangles, if not removed, can easily weaken the line strength and even result in breakages.

But, bad line memory is not a reason to replace the line. It can be fixed, and quite simply. For details instructions on how to fix twisted line I have a dedicated guide here.

You can double the lifespan of fishing line by reversing it

To save some money, it is often possible to reverse or flip your line. This simple trick can easily double the lifespan of your line.

I do this more often with braid than with monofilaments. If you still have a lot of good line, but light abrasion on the business end, it can be worthwhile to reverse the line rather than replace it.

The easiest way to reverse the line is to transfer it to a different spool or reel.

If you do not have a spare spool or reel, you can reverse the line in a wide, open area by fully unwinding the entire reel.

Tie your line to a heavy object and travel in a straight line to unwind all of the line. Then disconnect the line from your spool, and tie on a weight.

Walk back to the starting location, and tie the line back onto the reel, keeping it under tension wind the line back on.

I used this technique to use the same Berkley fireline for over 8 years. It has become more supple with age, lost its original color but its strength has not unnoticeably deteriorated. I will replace it one day soon because the backing has started to become visible during long casts.

How to prolong the lifespan of fishing line?

There are a few ways to make your fishing line last longer.

  • Always store your fishing line in a cool, dark and dry location. Fishing line does not like heat, and UV from sunlight quickly degrades it.
  • Store it somewhere with consistent temperature. Extreme heat and cold can damage line over time. That outside shed which reaches 100 degrees might not be the best place to store your reels.
  • Finally, keep your reels somewhere dry. Keeping the line in a moist environment simply does it no good. It is also very bad for your reel.
  • Always maintain your rod and reel. A damage guide, can easily cut or damage your line everytime you cast out or reel back in. Likewise, a seized line roller, can increase abrasion to occur.
  • Store your reel away from animals. A playful puppy, mischievous cat or stray rat can easily damage a line in storage.

When stored in appropriate conditions, fishing line can remain usable for several years without showing obvious signs of decay.

What type of fishing line lasts the longest?

I can not give life expectancy for specifics brands of line, but only the main types of line.

In general, braid lasts the longest. It is naturally tough, and the braided material is very resistant to UV damage.

Fluorocarbon, is more UV resistant than nylon, so in theory it to can survive longer before breaking down.

Monofilament or nylon, generally has the shortest life expectancy of the mainline types.

Need new line for an ultralight reel? Here are some of my suggestions.

If you are in the market for new ultralight monofilament line, under about 6lb I suggest reading my guide here.

If you prefer to fish braid, here is an article where I explain why Fireline is my favorite braid for trout fishing.

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