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Fishermen's Journal

FLUOROCARBON LEADER COMPARISON
08/28/09 - REVISED

by Mark Smith

Caveats on Comparisons and Claims -  Blowing-up Some Hype and Hot Air

New Testing Performed 08/27/09

When we first began carrying fluorocarbon leader there were few suppliers, and all shared some similar characteristics. We only supported 100% fluorocarbon leader, never a coated product. All proved to be nearly invisible in water. When folks would ask for a recommendation I'd simply say, "just make sure it's 100% FL, beyond that they're all pretty much equal." All manufacturer's products were stiff, and all absorbed a bit of water. Most importantly, all proved very effective when it came time to go fishing. When the bite was picky, fluorocarbon leader could make a difference - a big difference. I've seen days when you couldn't buy a bite unless you were using the stuff, and I've also seen days when it made absolutely no difference since the fish were eating everything that touched the water...including cigarette butts!

As time passed, more manufacturers entered the field. As a result we've seen some competition between manufacturers each trying to gain some marketing advantage. Sometimes marketing claims are made that exceed proven results, sometimes the hype is only hot air blown by an over-reaching sales/marketing department. As a fishing tackle retailer I share some common concerns with our clients. We can't stock everything, and the stuff we stock had better work or I've blown dollars that should be used elsewhere. So, we do some testing here as a regular course of business. We have invested in test equipment and try to look beyond the hype to sort out facts.

So, let's get down to business. I have been of the opinion that all fluorocarbon leaders are pretty much equal, so long as they are 100% fluorocarbon. That's been my opinion, but based upon this testing it looks like I'll need to revise my thinking a bit. We are hearing some claims from certain manufacturers about strength, softness, diameter and stretch... various properties beyond pure fishing effectiveness. It was our intent to do some simple testing to see if there really are any differences between products. We chose to evaluate Seaguar Blue Label and their new Premier, P-Line, Hi Seas Quattro, and Blackwater in this testing. We omitted some manufacturers, may revisit this exercise at a later date to add their statistics to the mix. In the case of Seaguar, we chose their best two lines and omitted their older and less expensive Red Label - which was a first generation line. The Blue Label is the second generation, and probably the most popular saltwater fluorocarbon line on the market, with many big fish in the bag already. It was an update of the Red Label in terms of adding specialized  saltwater characteristics such as increased test performance and abrasion resistance. The Premier is a third generation product, with claims of increased softness, increased stretch and lower diameter. Hi Seas Quattro is a relatively new entrant to the scene, the product we tested was introduced at the 2009 ICAST show.  It's the least expensive of the lines tested, and is uniquely tinted. Blackwater's line came on the market in 2007, with much promotion on the West Coast, boosting it's use as a "shock leader" offering greater stretch and better for applications requiring direct ties to Spectra. This line was heavily promoted by some of the San Diego based landings, and may have had some tie-in in that regard. P-Line's fluorocarbon was one of the earliest products on the market, following Seaguar's first offerings of this type of leader material. It has some very loyal followers and is quite popular nationally. The P-Line product has been a very good value in terms of pricing and quality over the years, offering lines in all tests with some strong loyalty among the long range crowd. P-Line has been promoted as a line that is the most conservatively rated in terms of test performance. We'll check the hype through testing of the line's diameter, breaking strength, stretch and feel.

TEST EQUIPMENT

We used a $2.6K line tester made by Scale Master. The Black Max is IGFA certified, used in many tournaments, and VERY RELIABLE. We also used a couple different micrometers to arrive at line diameter measurements.

PROBLEMS WITH STUDY

Our sample was not huge, only 10 tries per line test/per manufacturer. We only used one spool of line (pulled from our shelf) for testing purposes. The lines were not wet, they were dry and this could result in different findings in the field. While we tried to treat all measures consistently, this does not mean that we mimicked the way a fish would run and pull on the line. We were consistent with the pressure, not jerky, so real world conditions were not met.

METHOD

First, I used a 3' section of leader and checked the line diameter in a minimum of three different locations on the line and arrived at an average measurement. Usually there were very small variances, insignificant.  Then, I cut a 4' section and put it in the Black Max tester. The "jaws" were closed allowing only a 1" gap of line. Then the jaws were moved apart at a steady rate until the line snapped. At that point we'd check the breaking test and also measure how much stretch was achieved prior to breaking. This was repeated 10 times for each line, I dropped the top and bottom scores and only recorded four measures from each supplier for this evaluation allowing for a greater cluster at or near the median. Those numbers provided the  mean measurement which is what we'll examine for comparison. Then we also compared standard deviations of the break strength and stretch rate. The lower the deviation the better - indicating higher consistency of product. We also measured the correlation between line diameter and breaking strength, and as assumed this would reflect a high correlation - which it certainly did. There is no way for us to measure the line's stiffness, but stretch can prove indicative of this quality: stiffer lines typically have less stretch. But, we did employ a subjective Leiter scale to this task. We asked employees and shop customers to rank the five different lines in terms of limpness, with 1 being most limp and 5 being the stiffest - by feel.

Comparisons were made with 20#, 40# and 60# lines, all tested on the same date and under the same conditions.

 

OBSERVATIONS & OPINIONS

Line diameter is an important consideration when comparing performance. We've seen many claims by mono manufacturers about how strong their line is, without reference to diameter. [For what it's worth, Izor based their line on diameter, using Ande as a reference. Ande's 20# line measured a certain size, Izor's line of the same diameter was marketed as a 20# line, when in reality it would test far higher based upon newer copolymer manufacturing.] In our testing, we did find that fluorocarbon leader does indeed stretch less than mono, however we were surprised to see that in general it does stretch more than we initially thought possible.

As one would expect, we found a positive correlation between line diameter and break strength, and a positive relationship between break strength and stretch. 

In our testing, we did find that fluorocarbon leader does indeed stretch less than mono, however we were surprised to see that in general it does stretch more than we initially thought possible. Products from ALL manufacturers allowed some degree of stretch. Products from ALL manufacturers strength tested well, most at or beyond their claimed rating in the 20-40# rating. However, once we started looking at 60# lines things changed. At that test many lines did not perform up to stated spec using our methods. Please look over the findings for the 60# category if you are a long range fisherman. Those results may make one go back to their old favorite line in a heart beat. Seaguar's Blue Label, long a favorite, tested the best at the higher rating. In terms of stretch, Seaguar's Premier (a third generation product from the folks that first brought FL lines to fishermen) offered the best stretch and consistency (lowest standard deviations between tests) and lowest diameters. (More about the "stretch and shock leader" fact and fantasy in the next paragraph.) Hi Seas Quattro brand also performed very well in the lower tests of 40# and down. However, I noticed that at the higher test their line broke in strange ways and less than desired test. It appeared that the line would separate and almost splinter. Not sure why, but will ask the manufacturer about this. Their 40-20# line appeared very good, and with the unique tinting, represents something I'll be fishing in strong sunlight conditions. For long range fishing, I'm most positive about Seaguar's Premier and their Blue Label lines. For big fish, 200# or better, I'm inclined to go with them.

Blackwater 60# Testing P-Line 20# Tests Seaguar Blue Label 60# Test

What's the point of the stretch and shock leader consideration? Well, if you were trying to run a short topshot of fluorocarbon leader into your spectra backing, having some stretch would be a good thing. Perhaps you might chose your fluorocarbon based upon stated stretch measurements. From the limited research we did, under the conditions we used, I'd be hard pressed to recommend one FL line over another from the standpoint of stretch alone, but there was a clear winner in this regard. I'd also look at other properties beyond stretch, many of which are beyond the scope of this writing. For instance, limpness, ability to maintain strength after being in water for 30 minutes... These are important real world considerations, I feel. From the standpoint of breaking strength and stretch, I will make no claims regarding one manufacturer or another based only upon the results from this comparison. That's something you might do for yourself... You should also couple this consideration with the line diameter spec. It's fairly easy to offer a thicker line, under rate it's test rating, and then claim to have the strongest line in a particular line test class. It's simple, and it's a bit bogus in my opinion. So, look at the diameter as well as the breaking strength. One thing I can certainly state quite clearly, there's a great deal of hype surrounding one particular manufacturer's claim to have better "shock leader" qualities based upon stretch. Without naming names, I will simply state that their claims are a fantasy and represent nothing more than hype. It's easy to go over the numbers below to see which line has the thinnest diameter, which line has the highest breaking strength and which line does in fact offer the best elongation or stretch aiding in shock/snap line breakage. It's easy for a manufacturer to claim higher breaking strengths simply by increasing the line's diameter size. We found one example of that in our evaluation, a technique often used on the mono side of things. With respect to "stretch" or shock leader claims, well, I think we burst one bubble of hype that's been on the boards for a couple years now. That particular line carried a high price, too high a price to pay for it's hype alone. Testing did NOT back up their claims in the area of stretch - and that's something we also proved in the testing we did in 2007. One name I will state clearly that impressed me was Seaguar's Premier and their Blue Label lines. The Premier has a very thin diameter, lower variation in performance (smaller standard deviation scores in testing) higher stretch... Their Blue Label offshore line also tested very well in terms of conservative test ratings. It combines strength, conservative line test ratings (what you expect to get, you do) and reasonable diameter. 

 

Data Set Used for Evaluation - Diameter, Break Strength & Deviation
  mnfg           mean   correlation ratio
  claimed diameter tested diameter break strength 1 break strength 2 break strength 3 break strength 4 break strength standard deviation diameter:break break/diameter
Hi Seas Quatro               1:1 expected  
20# 0.4 0.39 28 28 27.7 29.7 28.35 0.911043358 0.998691 72.692308
40# 0.6 0.57 41 37 43 44 41.25 3.095695937   72.368421
60# 0.75 0.71 56 49 52 56 53.25 3.403429643   75.000000
                     
Seaguar Blue                  
20# 0.405 0.39 31 30 30 31 30.50 0.577350269 0.996531 78.205128
40# 0.6 0.61 51 51 50 50 50.50 0.577350269   82.786885
60# 0.74 0.74 65 68 66 67 66.50 1.290994449   89.864865
                     
Seaguar Premier - Top Performing based upon diameter and breaking strength consideration
20# 0.37 0.34 27 29 30 29 28.75 1.258305739 0.996255 84.558824
40# 0.57 0.55 41 46 47 45 44.75 2.62995564   81.363636
60# 0.7 0.69 60 57 59 61 59.25 1.707825128   85.869565
                     
Blackwater                  
20# not stated 0.4 30 31 29 29 29.75 0.957427108 0.997472 74.375000
40# not stated 0.62 50 45 42 45 45.50 3.31662479   73.387097
60# not stated 0.75 50 54 54 52 52.50 1.914854216   70.000000
                     
P-Line                    
20# 0.42 0.4 32 29 28 29 29.50 1.732050808 0.999932 73.750000
40# 0.6 0.62 44 46 45 45 45.00 0.816496581   72.580645
60# 0.73 0.78 59 52 58 58 56.75 3.201562119   72.756410
                     
Yo-Zuri                    
20# 0.34 0.43 19 21 22 27 22.25 3.403429643 0.997915

65.441176

40# 0.59 0.62 36 40 40 44 40.00 3.265986324  

67.796610

60# 0.68 0.77 57 40 44 53 48.50 7.85281266  

71.323529

                     

 

Things to consider: line diameter is one important consideration, especially important when testing breaking strength so that we're comparing apples to apples. The lower the number, for a given line test, the better. Mean or average breaking strength is also a quality to focus on in this evaluation, as is the standard deviation (which points to variance in this quality). A lower standard deviation score is desirable. The ratio between breaking strength and diameter is also an important consideration. It's easy to play games with higher break strength, based on fatter lines.

 
Data Set Used for Evaluation - Stretch, Deviation and Feel - limpness/stiffness
  stretch 1 stretch 2 stretch 3 stretch 4 mean stretch standard deviation feel-limpness rank
Hi Seas Quatro         (lower the better) Subjective Leighter Scale 1=limpest
20# 7.5 4.75 3.4 4.5 5.22 1.743261 3.25 #3
40# 3.4 2.7 4 3.6 3.37 0.543906 3 #3
60# 4 4.2 4.4 4.2 4.20 0.163299 2.5 #2
                 
Seaguar Blue              
20# 3.4 3.4 3.4 3.3 3.40 0.050000 3 #2
40# 4.2 4.25 4.3 4.3 4.25 0.047871 1.75 #2
60# 4.6 4.25 4.3 4.4 4.38 0.154785 3.5 #4
                 
Seaguar Premier - Top Performing Brand based upon stretch - used as shock leader
20# 4.25 4.25 4.25 4.3 4.25 0.025000 1 #1
40# 4 4.75 4.75 4.6 4.50 0.357071 1.25 #1
60# 5.25 4.75 4.75 4.8 4.92 0.242813 2 #1
                 
Blackwater              
20# 3.5 3 3.3 3.2 3.27 0.208167 4.5 #4
40# 4 3.6 3.5 3.6 3.70 0.221736 4.25 #4
60# 3.8 4 3.8 3.6 3.87 0.163299 3 #3
                 
P-Line                
20# 4 3 3.3 3.4 3.43 0.419325 3.25 #3
40# 4.5 3.25 3.25 3.6 3.67 0.590198 4.75 #5
60# 4 3 3.5 3.4 3.50 0.411299 4 #5
          0.00      
Yo-Zuri         0.00      
20# 4.5 4 4.25 3.75 4.25 0.322749    
40# 4 3.6 4.15 4.25 3.92 0.285774    
60# 4.25 4.75 3.75 4.25 4.25 0.408248    

 

Line stretch is a quality of worthy of increasing consideration given the use of Spectra, especially if we are attempting to use a short leader or topshot. So, pay attention to the Mean Stretch value. Again, the standard deviation points towards the consistency of product, the lower this number the better. We also subjectively tested the limpness of the various lines using a 1-5 Leiter scale. The lower the number the better.

 
Stretch measurements were made in inches, the higher the number the better for most applications. Seaguar Premier's line scored the best in this regard in all tests, with one exception. However, that one exception also had much higher standard deviation scores which indicate the amount of variance or inconsistency of performance.
 
The Soft/Hard rating was made using a Leiter scale, a subjective measure by more than 10 respondents at our shop. The lower the number the softer the line. People rated the feel of the line from 1 to 5, with 1 limpest, 5 the hardest or stiffest. Seaguar's Premier scored the best in this category for all line tests. Line diameter can play a part in this evaluation, thicker lines are stiffer. So, the diameter measures provide some backing for the evaluation made by shop patrons and staff in this measure. In that regard, the results were pretty consistent in terms of diameter and subjective stiffness ratings. We did not rank the Yo-Zuri product since it's testing was done later than the rest of the lines. By feel...not sure. Feels pretty consistent with Blackwater and Hi Seas...at least to me. Not as limp as Premier, a little less stiff than Seaguar Blue Label. Subjective, and I wouldn't want to be held to those comments.
 
 

The purpose of this study was not to promote or denigrate any manufacturer's product. We carry all the products listed, and consider them all good products from reputable firms - otherwise I wouldn't stock them. But, I personally like to fish, and since I've got the stuff here to compare, and have the equipment to evaluate the goods, I figured it was worth an evening's time to check out the products. What I found confirmed some personal opinions and also resulted in a re-evaluation of some thoughts about lines we carried and which lines I'll be spending my own money fishing. You can go over the information, and make your own more informed opinion based upon what we learned, and what you experience yourself. Without doubt, I'd suggest that some of the hype I've seen and heard over the past couple years time is pure bunk, and some of the "new and improved, third generation Fluorocarbon" claims made by one of the lines tested was in fact very, very true. Not to name names, but Blackwater's claim "shock-leader with stretch" is a bit of bolderdash coupled with poppycock and marketing hype. Seaguar's Premier is the best fluorocarbon line on the market, based upon our evaluation. And, the Quatro colored fluorocarbon leader is a real up and comer in the field. This is no definitive study or comparison, just a fairly quick evaluation of some basic properties. There's room for more study, wet strength testing being of prime importance in my estimation. There's also room for confirmation of what I found, more depth to the evaluation, as well. But, this is a good beginning, and hopefully cuts through a bit of the smoke and mirrors, hot air and fog of sales hype.

 



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