With the advert of superlines such as fluorocarbon (fluoro for short) or braid, monofilament line (mono for short) is pretty much put in the bad seat. It doesn't have the invisibility of fluoro, nor the strength of braid. It's also not as durable as the other two, either. It's heyday on the tournament trail seem to be over; the pros only seem to use mono on topwater baits because it floats. But is there another practical use for mono?
Above: Is good old mono extinct with the advert of fluoro and braid?
Mono is a very good "all-around" line. While fluoro and braid have their advantages, they also have their drawbacks. Fluoro can be stiff and hard to handle; good fluoro also costs a lot. Braid is very visible underwater, and can spook fish easily, especially on highly pressured town lakes. Braid also is easily "cut" on sharp structure, such as rock, and can damage the guides of old rods. There are a bunch of smaller drawbacks to both I won't mention. Both also aren't nearly as cheap as mono.
Mono for one, is cheap. Good mono, which easily can be had for cheap on bulk spools, or even smaller spools, is easily produced and is founded everywhere. Price may be a factor if you are fishing around cover; your line can be nicked, and thus you need to replace it regularly to prevent the loss of that 5 lb from straining weak line.
Mono also isn't as visible as braid, although it isn't as invisible as fluoro. In any case, it's still hard for fish to see. You can get all these color-tinted lines to match your water, but I just like clear line.
Above: Braid and fluoro have some very obvious drawbacks, especially for the budget angler.
Mono is often touted for not being "strong enough." While braid and fluoro have more strength per diameter, there aren't many applications in which 60 lb braid comes in handy. You don't need aircraft cable to winch in a 2lb bass from a pond. Here in Maryland, I rarely catch any fish over 3 lbs. So why the high strength line?
Mono is often decried for not being durable. However, recent advances in line technology has made mono quite durable. I have often winched 4lb+ bass out of weeds and sticks easily. Mono is also very cheap, so it can be easily replaced if it is worn.
In addition, some may say that mono isn't sensitive. While it may not as sensitive as the superlines are, it's good enough for me. I can easily feel small bluegill nipping at my worm while feeling the bottom with a texas rig.
While mono has it's drawbacks, for most "weekend warriors," I think it's good enough as an all around line.
Ultralight fishing is fun. There's no denying that. However, for most of us, our main quarry is bass, and ultralight fishing is something we do occasionally. We don't obsess over the length or other specifications about it like we do with conventional bass fishing. For most of us, ultralight fishing is just passing by a creek on the way home and stopping to grab the ultralight from the trunk of car. Or it's going to the old farm pond with grandpa and catchin' a bucketful of bluegill for grandma to fry. We all like doing it, but don't focus on it like we do with bass fishing. We want to make one purchase, and one purchase only, to head down to the creek to have some fun. What's a good all around length for an ultralight rod?
Above: Ultralight rod for most people: 4'6" fiberglass rod.
While most people fish 4'6" length rods to go ultralight fishing, I personally think that 6'6" or 7' rods are the way to go. It is a good length for both lakes and streams. It even works well for those little forest creeks. I know that some of you ultralight gurus out there will probably balk at this mere suggestion, but hear me out.
The long the rod, the further the casting distance. That makes lake and pond fishing a lot easier; no one can really cast well with a 4'6" stick. While the tradeoff is less casting accuracy, the difference isn't that bad. And when you consider that setting the hook is a lot easier with a longer rod, that really seals the deal at this point for me. I don't want to have a beautiful stream-bred smallmouth swallowing my mealworm ever other cast.
In addition, you can "dab" in smaller waters. In those common forest creeks that everyone likes to fish in, you really can't cast. But you can use flip the bail on your spinning reel and drop your bait into the water, sort of like cane pole fishing, or not even flip the bail at all and just put the bit into the water. "Dabbing" is a lot easier with longer rods than short ones, and you can easier sneak up on fish better.
Above: Here's a better all around ultralight rod: 6'6" graphite composite.
So there you have it. The ideal length for an ultralight rod. If you really want an extra edge, get a graphite or graphite composite rod for added sensitivity. Pure graphite may be expensive, but graphite composite is quite affordable.
If you had to choose one bait to fish for in an unknown lake, at an unknown time with unknown conditions, what bait would it be?
There's a lot of debate on this question. But in the end, it's going to be narrowed down to two or three baits: The 6-ish" straight tailed soft plastic worm, the 5" stickbait, and maybe the 5" soft jerk bait. All of these baits are good producers that work well in many conditions. They are old favorites, and tried and true. Every fishermen has used them before. But for me, it's going to be the 6" straight tailed soft plastic worm. Here's why.
Above: Nice bass caught in terrible cold-front conditions. Freezing water, fish on lock-jaw, and a pond with seemingly no source of structure whatsoever. But the old 6" straight tail saved the day.
The 6-ish" straight tail has proven itself time and time again. It just straight out catches fish. When conditions get hard, tournament fishermen pull them out, for finesse applications, such as a shakey head. You can also easy shorten it and put it on a drop shot rig. If you want to fish it during the summer for a bigger presentation, rig it on a texas rig. You can drag the depths of large lakes with it on a carolina fish, and rig it wacky style in the heat of the summer. Many of these 6-ish" worms have similar shimmying to popular stickbaits, and provide a smaller profile forever more bites. You can twitch it around, weightless or with a small split shot, by twiching it around underwater like a jerk bait You can even do a topwater presentation by rigging them weightless, texas style, and twitching them on the surface. The possibilities are almost endless with this bait.
Above: 6-ish" straight tailed worms work in many situations and structure, from the reeds to the right and the submerged logs in the middle of the pond.
5" Stickbaits are a common contender for this. However, they simply aren't as versatile, or have the same fish catching properties as 6-ish" straight tails. The good ones also aren't cheap at all. They have a larger profile, which drives away the smaller fish, and that profile isn't finesse at fall. During cold water or frontal conditions, you won't get those bites. The most common application of these baits, and what most people fish, is a wacky rig. While that is a great rig for the summer months, it doesn't work well when it gets colder. It also easily gets hung up. The texas rig (weightless) version of this bait, isn't bad, it just doesn't work well in the cold as the 6-ish" straight tailed worm. This bait doesn't have the same range of presentations that the straight tail has.
5" soft jerk baits, while easy to use, don't work well in muddy or otherwise unclear water. That seriously limits your fishing. In addition, the only real and effective way to fish them is rigging one texas-style (weightless) or two in tandem, and slowly twitching them. Sometimes, that isn't what the fish wants. These baits also have thick plastic, and setting the hook on them isn't easy.
Thus, the 6-ish" straight tail soft plastic worm is the best option. Notice that I say 6-ish", not just 6". That is because many manufacturers make 7", or 6.5" straight tail worms that have the same ways to fish and are effective. Just use a worm in that size range for your fishing.
Note: This is not an invitation for anyone to go to their local grocery store, steal a bunch of shopping carts, and sink them.
We all know that bass love structure. Fish naturally gravitate towards objects in the water because they contain food or habitat. When we think of structure, we usually think of rocks, logs, or mats of vegetation. But what about shopping carts?
Above: Here's a washed up shopping cart. In many city and suburban ponds, these are a common site. It's more common, though, to snag on one underwater.
You must think that this is a joke or something, but shopping carts actually make great structure for fishing. The baskets provide a platform for algae and other vegetation to grow, which in turn attract small fish and other critters. The presence of prey attracts animals higher up in the food chain, such as snapping turtles, pickerel, and of course, bass. Sticks and other debris get caught on the baskets, too, providing habitat and ambush sites for predators. Shopping carts make great structure. If you go to a pond with shopping carts on a day with clear water, you can see shoals of bluegill darting around, with bass cruising nearby. I have had great success in the past fishing shopping carts, but the key to fishing these snag-fests is to use the right baits and rigs.
Of course, you can take deflecting square bills off of them immediately. The mesh-like baskets have created a lot of open space in my hard-bait box. However, swimming a square bill or a lipless crank bait near some shopping carts isn't a bad idea, especially if you are trying to find where the fish are hiding at.
Above: Small, one acre-ish ponds near shopping centers or large parking lots often have shopping carts. This one here has quite a few of them.
Crawling a worm (ribs and larger profiles are preferred) or lizard on or next to shopping carts is also ideal, and can catch you large numbers of bass (mostly small, though) quickly. However, the way to get the bigger ones is to flip/pitch a larger profiled creature bait, such as a craw, on the cart, especially if you can see lots of vegetation. Make a quiet entrance into the water, and hold on to your rod. The bass hammer them.
A unique situation that I sometimes see in lakes or larger ponds is a shallow area with shopping carts and other structure almost jutting out. These sources of structure almost always are coated with algae, and almost always have bass lurking around. My favorite technique to use in this situation is to throw topwater baits. Work a topwater toad or a buzz bait around the structure to get the reaction bites. Then, finesse a frog or a popper around to get the other fish. This kind of technique works well in the summer. During the spawn, bass often make nests in these flats. Enrage the fish with lizards or craws during that time.
Shopping carts are an interesting, but often forgotten, piece of structure to fish. Don't rule them out the next time you head to an urban/suburban lake.
Hi. I am Ian, an extremely avid bass fisherman living in Howard County, MD. I like to bank fish and fish at local ponds and small creeks. I will explore budget friendly options for people to use in this blog. I hope I can teach you something.