PE ratings, breaking strains, diameters - I am confused !!

Before you start reading this blog post, you need to know that it's long, fairly rambling and I'm not sure I even come to any conclusions - it's the result of waking up very early with my brain buzzing away and then drinking entirely too much coffee. If fishing line floats your boat then please read on, but I understand completely if you stop right now and get on with your day or night. Sometimes I think my brain has it in for me............

Is it just me or are any of you out there becoming increasingly confused by the way in which these braids that so many of us use for our fishing are labelled ? No doubt we fish with any manner of different lines here, but recently I have found my brain coming under some serious strain as I have tried to make logical sense of all the different numbers and figures you might find on something as simple as a spool of braid. If anybody out there has the definitive answers to my problems then please, please leave it in the comments section at the bottom of this post, but I suspect that the ways in which braids are rated are increasingly like mono lines - open to different interpretations to put it mildly. I can only talk here about the braids that I have actual experience with in my fishing, but even then you're going to see why I'm a little bit confused....................

Now as far as I can understand, the PE ratings applied to many of the braids that come out of Japan are designed around a number that corresponds to a specific diameter instead of a breaking strain. Each manufacturer then might or might not actually put a breaking strain and/or diameter on the label as well, and I must assume that a percentage of anglers in Japan especially are buying these modern braids via a PE rating, e.g. "today I was fishing with so and braid rated PE6". Many people also say that you can multiply the PE rating by 10 to get to a very approximate breaking strain............so PE2 should be around a 20lb breaking strain with a diameter of 0.235mm. These are the some of the "standard" PE ratings I believe :

PE 0.6 - 0.128mm
PE 0.8 - 0.148mm
PE 1 - 0.165mm
PE 1.2 - 0.185mm
PE 1.5 - 0.205mm
PE 1.7 - 0.218mm
PE 2 - 0.235mm
PE 2.5 - 0.260mm
PE 3 - 0.285mm
PE 3.5 - 0.310mm
PE 4 - 0.330mm
PE 5 - 0.370mm
etc. (search PE ratings online)

Anyway, because I come from a time when I used to fish almost exclusively with monofilament mainlines, I can't help but be used to buying by breaking strain. It matters not what strength mainline you choose to lure fish with yourself, but for me I favour a 20lb 8-strand braid for bass fishing (and I'm not remotely interested here whether you think this is too light or too heavy) - the first 8-strand braid that I had experience of was that grey 20lb Varivas Avani Sea Bass Max Power PE which has a PE 1.5 rating, and from my chart this equates to a diameter of 0.205mm, so for the purposes of this blog post I am going to take this as my "standard braid" because I have fished with it so much and I think I know the line pretty well - please don't give me any "so and so braid breaks" or "a friend of friend of a friend heard that so and so had problems with his braid" etc., indeed I still firmly believe that most problems with braid come from dodgy knots (and not understanding that different braids might require slightly different knots for example), overloading spools, abrasion/nicks, and catching leader knots in increasingly smaller rings.

So what do I know about my "standard braid" ? I do not have a micrometer and I don't attach any importance to tying a knot and pulling for a break say on a set of scales and then taking a reading - what's that got to do with actually going out and fishing with the stuff in a real situation ? When you see a real line testing machine then you quickly get to see how a line can actually be "properly" dry-tested. I know that my standard braid is as strong as hell when I'm fishing and also it feels incredibly thin. Plenty of times I have pulled for a break on this 20lb Avani stuff and what has happened is that my 20lb fluoro leader has actually snapped - which makes me feel pretty good about my knots and of course the line itself. Confidence (or should my next coffee-fuelled early morning be spent thinking about fluorocarbon ?). All good so far then, but I have always believed that this 20lb Varivas Avani 8-strand has to be somewhat thinner than the PE 1.5 rating of 0.205mm. Call it a hunch because I can't prove it, but that is what I reckon..........

I have also fished a lot with the 20lb Daiwa Tournament 8-braid in the 20lb bright green especially. I love this stuff, but it's not as strong as my "standard braid" when pulling to try and get a lure back for example. But when you go looking at the packaging on the Daiwa braid you see a quoted diameter of 0.12mm for the 20lb. The line has always felt almost stupidly thin to me, but if that diameter versus breaking strain is true then it's one serious mainline. A lot thinner than my standard braid by a big factor if you think only about stated figures and not speculation. But my feeling is that the 20lb Daiwa is not as strong as the 20lb Varivas. I have not been bust up by fish on it, indeed it's plenty strong enough for bass fishing, but in a straight pull from a snag I know which line is easier to break. Again, I can't prove it and it's just my own personal opinion after using these lines a lot, but does it in fact mean that one line is better than the other ? Surely 20lb is 20lb on any line - as if !! Look at PowerPro as an example. See what I mean about my brain hurting now ??!!

I have also fished a fair bit with the excellent bright yellow 20lb Sunline Momentum 4x4 which has a PE rating of 1.2 and a quoted diameter of 0.20mm on the label. It's a very different feeling braid to the Varivas for example, and my feeling is that the Momentum 4x4 offers better abrasion resistance over something like the Daiwa or Varivas - the trade-off through seems to be a slight loss of distance and more "knock down" in the wind (do you like my new casting phrase ? Knock down. Not had eh ?), but does that really matter in most situations when you're getting that increased resistance to abrasions ? The Sunline is another very strong braid that works well for me, but once again the diameters, PE ratings and breaking strain are different from the Varivas and Daiwa stuff I use. And I thought PE ratings were meant to be some kind of standardisation for braids ?

So from the above there has to be something wrong about the figures for these braids. As I said, I can only talk about the braids that I have actual fishing experience of, but how can three supposedly 20lb braids have diameters of 0.205mm (as per the PE 1.5 quoted on the Varivas), 0.12mm (says so on the Daiwa packaging but no PE rating given, might well be because it's a braid sold into non-Japanese markets ?) and 0.20mm (Sunline says it is a PE 1.2 which should in fact be 0.185mm via the PE rating system, but the company has put 0.20mm on the label which I am going to assume is correct). I don't know if you can do this, but if you go back to a PE rating from the diameter then that would make the 20lb Daiwa a very roughly 6lb breaking strain braid (0.12mm on the PE chart above is around a PE 0.6, then multiply this by 10 and you get a 6lb line). It very obviously is not a 6lb line, but my gut is that the 20lb Daiwa is not as strong overall as the Varivas or indeed the Sunline..............I love the Daiwa braid, but could it in fact be the case that their 20lb rating is perhaps a little bit "generous" ?

By the way, the knot I use to attach my braid to a fluoro leader is always the Improved Albright with a 3-turn locking knot (see here for an older blog post with links to the knots I use), but I do know for example that the Varivas and Sunline braids will not slip with only an Improved Albright and no locking knot afterward, but that the Daiwa can sometimes start to slip if you don't put that 3-turn locking knot in there. Lines are different just as fishing rods are, and the onus seems to be on us these days to learn how to use them properly - which I might well not be at the end of the day !!

One could speculate that the Daiwa might perhaps be the "real" 20lb braid and that the Varivas and Sunline braids are actually the ones who are being "generous". You also have to factor in what a 20lb breaking strain actually means - are we talking a straight pull on a proper line testing machine, with no knots and in dry conditions, or are we talking a quoted breaking strain after a knot (which knot ?) has been created to a leader ? These are the same kinds of problems you tend to find with mono lines as well, and to me all this confusion confuses the hell out of anglers !! Like it's confused the hell out of me................

When I have fished/photographed with rock and surf anglers in Namibia and South Africa, almost to a man they have spoken only of line (monofilament) diameters, e.g. "I've got 0.40mm on my reels" instead of us perhaps saying "I'm using 20lb line". I am guessing it's just the way they are used to talking about lines, and perhaps when one goes into diameters versus breaking strains and now versus PE ratings it actually makes a bit more sense - if that is one can actually believe the stated line diameters on the spools or packaging.

So if I choose a braid to use based purely on the quoted diameter it throws up a bit of a question mark with the Daiwa does it not ? Somebody on my Facebook page said he'd seen the Varivas diameter quoted as 0.15mm somewhere online, and while that does feel a bit more realistic to me as against the supposed PE 1.5 diameter of 0.205mm one gets off the "standard PE ratings chart", does it now explain why the 20lb Daiwa does not feel quite as strong to me as the 20lb Varivas ? You should also know that I have fished a lot with that bright green Daiwa Tournament 8 braid in the 25lb breaking strain, and although my feelings are of course not remotely scientific (except perhaps after an early morning and an overdose of coffee), I know that the 25lb Daiwa is as strong as rope and feels in strength much closer to my "standard braid", the 20lb Varivas. If indeed that 0.15mm diameter is true for the Varivas, then perhaps it starts to make sense that the Daiwa in 25lb has a diameter stated at 0.14mm. We can't help but going back to breaking strains, but look at the diameters and ignore the PE ratings and I am starting to think that things are starting to become a bit clearer. Should I be looking at the 25lb Daiwa as in fact being more akin to a "true" 20lb 8-strand braid, and then work down with the 20lb perhaps being more like a "true" 15lb braid etc. ? If I do this in my head then it explains away why I feel that the 20lb Daiwa is not quite as strong as the 20lb Varivas - it's not as if I've got massive fish charging off all the time and snapping me off here in the UK, and none of these braids I've mentioned have ever given me a single problem (I would not be fishing with them if they had), but I want to try and get my head a bit straighter. If any of you can explain how the PE system is in fact meant to work then that would be more than kind, for I can't help but believe it's flawed - as indeed all line ratings seem to be until there is a global standard agreed upon and then implemented..................which has about as much chance of happening as mankind deciding not to empty the oceans of their fish stocks or Napalm Death releasing an album of ballads. Also bear in mind that many of us come from "older style" braids and perhaps mono lines that sometimes hugely underrated their breaking strains, with 20lb lines for example sometimes breaking way, way above it (I can think of a few I have used) - so because some of us have almost a built in expectation, does this mean we are then unrealistically disappointed when a 20lb line into which you then put a knot or two goes and breaks below the 20lb mark ? As indeed a "true" 20lb line should, unless that is the breaking strain is perhaps quoted as a wet knot strength. More confusion.

But where does that leave the excellent Sunline Momentum 4x4 braid that for a quoted 20lb breaking strain has a slightly thicker diameter of 0.20mm ? Perhaps it proves that as lure anglers get more and more into it that more are going to have to think about the qualities they want from a mainline. Charge in blindly on price or hearsay alone and you could end up losing out, because it's pretty obvious that specific lines are designed to do specific things. My feelings on the Momentum line was that the extra little bit of thickness (tiny I grant you) is because the line has been specifically designed to have more abrasion resistance than your more "regular" 8-strands. It sure feels that way and I am hearing of a number of anglers using the 16lb and even the 12lb breaking strains very effectively for their wrasse fishing - which of course speaks volumes for the abrasion resistance.

So what does this all prove ? Not much except that we continue to be confused and quite possibly misled about fishing lines - this is speculation mind you, and I don't do hearsay. Different knots break differently, anglers tie the same knots often in different ways, lines may well be tested and then labelled in many different ways in different countries, lines may react differently say to pulling from a snag against a very fast crash-dive from a fish, some lines might need to be properly looked after to remain in prime condition etc. I could go on, but for one thing I am not about to start talking about lines in conjunction with their PE ratings because even if it's a "standard" (albeit open to debate), I feel that it confuses the hell out of many anglers even more than breaking strains and diameters. It doesn't feel to me as if we are anywhere close to adopting this PE rating thing here in the UK. I will do what I always do and only adopt the use of a fishing line if it has proved itself to me over and over again. The lines I use myself might not work out well for you though, so please take that on board. I would really welcome comments based on the lines you have experience with rather than any speculative or "I heard this" stuff please. And to put it all into perspective, my friend Ger Carey over in southern Ireland does not even use braid for all those bass he catches on lures because he believes it has lost him too many big fish. I quote him - "braid is sh$t". Nice and concise and very much to the point - unlike this somewhat rambling, coffee-fuelled blog post !! As I said, it hurts my brain......................