I have been float fishing with spinning reels and Centerpin reels for over 30 years, and as a river guide, I know from experience that some float fishing lines work better than others. After testing out just about every line that guys use for float fishing, I will discuss the best float fishing lines and why some are good and some are not.
- There are only a few lines that excel as float fishing lines. Those lines include Raven Mainline, Suffix Elite, Sufix 832 Braid, and Sunline Fine Float.
- I discuss the best line colors because specific colors such as high-viz lines have advantages but only if you set up your leader properly.
- The best size of line depends on the species like steelhead, salmon, and trout, and the size and speed of the river. I always recommend using the lightest line possible.
- Float fishing mainlines that are more buoyant are better for presentation, mending, and hook sets. But only some fishing lines are buoyant, and I will tell you which ones are best for float fishing.
- Line diameter matters. In my testing, thinner lines cast better and further, they come off the reel better, they tangle less, and they have less line sag between the rod tip and the float, which is a good thing.
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Our Quick Picks For Best Float Fishing Line
- Raven Main Line – Best monofilament line for Centerpin reels
- Sufix 832 – Best braided line for float fishing
- Sufix Elite – Most popular and best for spinning reels.
What Is The Best Float Fishing Line?
The best float fishing line that I like and use on all my steelhead float rods is 8lb Raven Mainline in the high-viz yellow color. The best float fishing line for trout is 6 pound Raven Mainline, and the best line for salmon is 12 pounds. However, bigger rivers, faster rivers, and bigger fish require heavier lines.
Something else to consider is what species you are fishing for. While 8-pound line might be great for steelhead and trout in smaller rivers, it’s too light if you plan to fish for salmon in larger rivers.
Using a great float fishing line that is actually designed for float fishing like the Raven Mainline will improve your drifts and prevent some of the problems that can occur when using the wrong line or the wrong size of line.
A good mono line for float fishing line should be buoyant, lightweight, thin, strong, have low memory, and cast easily. Not all mono lines that I have tested do this well.
Braided lines are also a good option since they are strong, super thin, lightweight, and often buoyant. However, braided lines have some disadvantages which I’ll discuss below.
Fluorocarbon lines and Copolymer lines are not good mainlines for float fishing.
As a float fishing guide and instructor who does classes on float fishing, I highly recommend float fishing lines that are brightly colored. This is so you and others around you can see the line easily, they can also aid in your presentation; however, float fishing lines can also be clear or green.
I’ve had my hands on probably over 300 float reels and I have used just about all the different lines that anglers use when float fishing, and trust me, there is a performance difference between lines. I will discuss this all below.
The Best Line For Centerpin Fishing
Centerpin fishing is one of my specialties and I like lines that are not stiff. The best float fishing line for centerpin fishing will need to have low memory, be thin but still strong, be supple, and be buoyant.
The best line for Centerpin fishing for steelhead is the Raven 8-pound or 10-pound Mono Mainline. Upsize to 10 to 12 pounds for salmon in the Great Lakes region and 12 to 14 pounds for the bigger faster rivers on the West Coast.
Another great line that anglers like is Sufix Elite. It is a great line for spinning reels too.
If you are a trout angler in smaller trout streams the best centerpin fishing line is 6-pound Raven Mainline.
The float fishing line is also known as the mainline to differentiate between the line on the reel and the leader line.
The Best Line For Float Fishing With A Spinning Reel
I have used a few good lines for float fishing with a spinning reel but I have narrowed it down to only 2 lines. The best line for float fishing with a spinning reel is the Sufix Elite Premium Monofilament Line in an 8-pound test, or use the appropriate size for salmon and steelhead in larger rivers. Another great line is the Sufix 832 Braided line.
For Float Fishing Line Color
Float fishing lines come in many different colors, and many anglers will have different opinions on which color they prefer. There are advantages to a brightly colored line, and I prefer bright colors like yellow and orange.
Clear or green lines are also popular with a lot of anglers, and they use them because they believe that colored lines can spook the fish. But do they?
Colored Lines For Float Fishing Are Better
I believe that bright colored lines have more advantages than clear or green lines, especially as a beginner. The main advantage of a bright-colored float fishing line is that it makes it easy for you to see the line so you can manage and adjust it better when needed.
- Bright lines are also much easier for other anglers around you to see so they are less likely to cast near or over your line, and they and you can follow your line down to find your float easier.
- Bright colored lines to help teach anglers about proper line positions as well as mending. I always struggle to teach anglers how to float fish well when I can’t see their clear line.
Can Fish See Colored Lines?
Fish can see colored lines, especially in clear water with slow-moving baits, so it is always best to use a leader that is long enough to keep the colored line far enough away from the bait that the fish don’t see it.
When float fishing, I always use a colored mainline, and I highly recommend them, but I also use a leader with a shot line so the fish DO NOT see the mainline.
If you do not set up the leader properly, then yes, bright-colored lines will spook more fish; however, many anglers do not set up their line and leader properly, even when using clear lines.
Float Fishing Setup For Colored Lines
One of the reasons anglers do not set up the leader properly is that many older and some popular float fishing sites have leader diagrams that recommend putting the split shots on the colored mainline which runs down to a short leader that your bait goes on.
This is not the ideal way to set up a leader for float fishing.
If you make the mistake of putting your weights on the colored mainline with only a short fluorocarbon leader, then the colored line is too close to the fish and will likely spook them. This can even happen with clear lines.
If you use what I call a shot line on your leader you can use bright colored lines without spooking the fish because it keeps the colored line far enough away from the fish that they will never see it.
With the proper leader setup, you will get all the benefits of the colored line without spooking the fish.
Whether you use a colored line or not, you should use a leader that is 3 feet or longer and made from fluorocarbon.
Click the link to see the shot line and the leader setups that I use when guiding for trout, steelhead, and salmon. These are proven to be the most effective leader setups that you can use.
Float Fishing Lines That Are Buoyant Are Best
Some float fishing lines are heavier than others and should not be used or you will have problems. Fluorocarbon as an example is known to be a denser line and it sinks, as do some copolymer lines, and even some heavier monofilament lines sink.
The best float fishing lines should be strong but also as thin as possible and they should float or be neutral buoyancy. Thicker, heavier lines sink!
When the line floats it can easily be mended if needed, it doesn’t get dragged around by the current which can pull the float in an unwanted direction, and your hook sets are easier because your line lifts up off the water better with a floating line.
What Pound Test Mainline Should You Use For Centerpin Fishing?
Your line size or diameter matters a lot. I have seen guys come out with heavy lines that affected their ability to get proper drift and they struggled to catch fish.
I have been testing lines and line sizes for over 35 years, and I always recommend going with as light a pound test for your mainline as possible.
- Thick and heavy lines do not cast as well or as far.
- Thicker lines are stiffer, and don’t come off the reel as smoothly.
- Thick lines sag between the float and rod tip, and you don’t want this.
- Thick lines will sink more.
- I have also noticed that thicker lines tend to tangle more often.
You do not need a heavy line if you run light leaders. There is no point running 16 pound mainline for steelhead if you need to use an 8-pound leader just to get them to bite consistently. Your mainline should be one or two sizes bigger than your normal leader diameter
Many of my hardcore steelhead buddies will actually use a float fishing mainline of 6lb test because it casts better and tangles less. See the chart below for a guide on what pound test line you should buy.
Why does the leader matter? The leader is a critical part of your setup. If you use a leader that is too thick the fish will see it, and if you use a leader too thin, the steelhead will just keep breaking you off.
I have also tested leaders for over 35 years so I know exactly what works for me in all conditions.
I discuss line sizes in more detail on my page, What Pound Line Is Best For Centerpin Fishing.
Float Fishing Line Sizing Table
Type Of River
Trout - Under 5lb
Large - Fast and Slow
Medium sized rivers
Pier / River Mouth
How Much Line To Put On A Centerpin Reel
How much line goes on a Centerpin reel depends on the reel. Some reels have different size diameters and hold more or less line.
This picture shows one of my guide reels that is just slightly below the full amount. You can see the gap between the spool and the base is a little over an 1/8 of an inch to the line.
The first thing you want to do is fill the Centerpin reel about halfway with a fly line backing. Then add the mainline to about 1/8 inch from the inside gap of the spool and the base of the reel.
Depending on your reel, this will be about 200 yards of backing and about 200 yards of mainline. See the backing that I prefer to use below.
The backing I use is the Cortland backing from FishUSA.com
5 Best Float Fishing Lines
Guides Top Choice
Raven Main Line
The Raven Main Line is made by a company that specializes in Centerpin fishing and float fishing, and this line is actually made for float fishing. This line has been my preferred line for the last 12 years and it is by far my favorite float fishing line to use.
The Raven Mainline floats well, has a thin diameter, and comes off the reel easily with minimal line twist. The line casts great which makes it a good line for anglers that are learning to Centerpin fish but it’s also great for more advanced anglers.
The Raven Main Line is also much cheaper than most other similar lines considering the spool size is 985 yards for less than $13.00 at some stores. Most other brands are less than 350 yards for almost the same price or more.
I have tested this line in all weather conditions, even in weather as low as 7f / -14c degrees and it held up very well. I have also had the same line on my reels for 4 years before I needed to change the line and that says something considering that my Centerpin reels get a lot more use than the average angler Centerpin reel would.
I have also used this on spinning reels when float fishing, and it worked great for me with no issues.
Sufix Elite Line
Sufix Elite is a Premium Monofilament Line that many Centerpin and spin fishing float anglers use and like.
It has good strength, good handling, and durability. It also has three good colors to choose from. It is a popular and proven line and I recommend it especially if you are using spinning reels or baitcasting reels.
Sunline Iso Special Fine Float Line
Long Time Favorite
Sunline has been a favorite of many float fishing anglers for a long time because it’s buoyant. This new upgraded version uses a special technology that really helps it float which is a big reason why many good Centerpin anglers use it.
P-Ion technology gives the floating line slickness, water repellency, color, and hydrophilic properties.
It has good strength, good handling, and durability. It also has three good colors to choose from.
Sufix Promix Fishing Line
This is another line that many float anglers love. It’s supple and sits well on the reel. In online forums, this is recommended by many guys as a good Centerpin reel and spinning reel line that works great for float fishing.
Some of my clients have had good success using this line on a Centerpin reel if they use the 8-pound or 10-pound line sizes. It floats well and casts nice and is a good choice for Centerpin fishing.
Check Price At These Retailers:
Backing For Centerpin Reels
If you’re setting up your Centerpin reel for the first time you will need backing to fill the bottom of the spool. Generally, about 200 yards of backing and about 200 yards of mono around 8lb should fill up your Centerpin reel nicely.
Is Braided Line Good For Float Fishing?
Braided line is good for float fishing because it’s buoyant, it is very thin, it’s strong, and it’s abrasion-resistant, and it has little to no stretch which is great when setting the hook at a long distance.
The primary advantage to using braided lines when float fishing is that it is very strong while still being very thin.
Another great advantage of using braided lines for float fishing is that it’s the best line I have ever used when setting the hook on a float that is 100 feet or more down the river because the line doesn’t stretch and that gives you a solid hookset.
Braided line does take some getting used to and it can be a problem for less experienced anglers.
Braided line does have a few disadvantages.
- Anglers tend to break off more fish on the hookset when in close simply because it has no stretch to cushion the hook set.
- Some anglers will break more fish off during the fight for the same reason.
- Another issue that is common with braided lines is tip wrap. Tip wrap is when the line gets wrapped around the tip of your rod and this can happen when you reel the line in if wiggle the tip a lot. It can also happen on hook sets which is a big problem if you have a big steelhead on the end of the line.
- Braided line will freeze solid if it gets wet when winter fishing in below-freezing temperatures, especially if you submerge your reel for some reason. Once it freezes sold you will have problems with your drifts all day.
- Some braided lines tend to absorb more water which can make them sink, which is not good for hook sets and for the presentation of your bait. A line that absorbs water is more likely to freeze or it will cause more ice build-up on the rod guides when fishing in below-freezing temperatures.
I have an article on winter fishing which talks about how to keep the guides from freezing if this is ever an issue for you. I also provide tips on how to stay warmer and comfortable even in the coldest conditions.
Use Float Fishing Lines That Experts Use
Whatever line you use for float fishing make sure you use one that has been used and tested by other anglers that actually know what they are doing. I have a lot of buddies and I know other guides that all float fish and they all tend to use these same lines and you should too.
Got A Question Or Comment About The Best Line For Float Fishing
If you have a question or comment or suggestion about what float fishing line works for you, let me know in the comment section below.