Fishing Line: Untangling Buyer Confusion

No product category in your tackle shop is more basic than fishing line, but some customers are confused about the dazzling parade of items. Learn how to help them untangle the mystery.

Fishing Line: Untangling Buyer Confusion

Understanding what customers need for the local fishing conditions helps reduce the total number of possible line choices and makes it easier for them to pick one or two.

This is the Golden Age of fishing line.

Fluorocarbons and superlines hang beside the monofilaments of old, each category of line subdivided by brand, split further by technique and descriptor — hi-vis, lo-vis, ultra-strong, 8-strand, 12-strand, super-thin, soft, lead core, abrasion-resistant, castable, manageable, impact-resistant, low-stretch, ultra-sensitive, fast-sinking and more — not to mention division by color, line strength and price points.

The segmentation of the market is unprecedented, the signs evident in the expanding wall space, with added varieties promising fresh opportunity each new season.

Fishing lines are no longer mere staples purchased on price or hand-me-down preference. For avid anglers, they have become critical components in rod/reel/line combinations thoughtfully tailored to technique or adopted as solutions to angling challenges and dreaded line maladies.

“A lot of the (category) extensions are going after more abrasion resistance, strength, memory and other niche characteristics,” said Tim Wiedow, senior manager monofilament and research chemistry for Pure Fishing’s Berkley, Stren, and Spiderwire brands. “But we are also seeing more technique-specific lines marketed not just for property-related features, making the line unique to specific applications.”

To date, the advancement of fishing line technology has clearly outpaced angler– and often retailer– awareness.

“A lot of people are trying to educate the fisherman,” Wiedow said. “I don’t know that the consumer is up to speed yet.”

Still, the segmentation of the line market has presented profit opportunity unimagined in generations past. Product development teams freshen their brands regularly by tweaking subtle line qualities. Retailers extract two, three, four or more times the profit from the sale of a spool of premium line.

The risk? The flow of new lines finds customers and dealers facing critical buying decisions.

The customer asks: “Do I invest $15 to $50 dollars in a product long considered a commodity?”

The dealer asks: “Do I tie up capital in boxes of high-ticket fishing lines or settle on a selection of proven sellers from proven brands?”

So, What Do You Do?

Dealer strategies vary widely. Casey O’Donnell embraces a strategy of simplification.

“The simpler we keep our fishing line selection, the better our profit margins stay,” said O’Donnell, who manages Waterfront Bay Grocery & Tackle, Scottsboro, Alabama, on Lake Guntersville. “In my mind, there’s only one braided line: regular PowerPro. My best-selling fluorocarbon is Seaguar Red Label, and we sell some InvizX. The higher-end lines are harder to sell. I don’t tie up a lot of cash in premium braid because it seems anglers are not happy to invest in it. The same with fluorocarbon.”

John Moy, owner of Lee’s Bait & Tackle stores northwest of Chicago, Illinois, stocks less-expensive fishing lines as well as premium and ultra-premium lines, but with emphasis on the latter.

“I try to stock as much high-quality and imported lines as I can because my customers perceive it’s higher quality,” Moy said. “Sure, many buy on price and are comfortable with a Berkley Trilene XL, lines they’ve been buying for years. Those are premium quality, too. But the fisherman who wants Tatsu doesn’t mind paying $25 or even $50 if that line does what it’s supposed to.”

Moy sells a wide array of premium brands in his shops in Elk Grove Village and Carol Stream, Illinois, including YGK and Toray, premium Japanese imports.

“At times I try to bring in other high-quality lines from Japan,” said Moy, noting the risk of tying up inventory and capital in costly spools.  “But with the timing of shipments and the volume of product you’re required to buy, it doesn’t always make sense to stock them.”

PowerPro provides a point-of-purchase tool featuring samples and information on its PowerPro Super 8 Slick V2 braids.
PowerPro provides a point-of-purchase tool featuring samples and information on its PowerPro Super 8 Slick V2 braids.

Maker’s Dilemma

That line R&D and market introductions have outpaced customer awareness is no secret to the leading manufacturers.

Pure Fishing largely has adhered to its tried-and-true Berkley brand strategy, stressing product improvements and upgrades at modestly boosted prices.

“From a product development standpoint, I’m trying to develop products not necessarily technique-specific, though they might work well in a given technique,” said Pure Fishing’s Wiedow. “My job is to develop products that enhance the angler’s experience. I have general fishing lines like Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon, Trilene XL and XT, and Stren Original, but then I also work on enhancing specific physical line properties, too.”

He cites products such as Berkley Sensation, a more sensitive monofilament, and Berkley ProSpec Chrome, a premium monofilament fishing line.

“We designed ProSpec Chrome to work in specific applications for saltwater,” he said. “The captains wanted a better line for kite fishing. With Chrome, we enhanced certain physical properties for added abrasion resistance and strength.”

But line attributes don’t necessarily translate well to perky marketing messages or catchy names. Sometimes it pays to be direct.

Seaguar augments its super-premium Tatsu and premium InvizX fluorocarbon offerings with technique-specific products like its “Finesse” fluorocarbon and fluorocarbon and braid “Flippin” lines.

“Retailers are dedicating sections of their stores to specific techniques,” said Gerry Benedicto of Seaguar. “They may group the flipping rods and the flipping reels together. Line manufacturers are creating fishing lines matched to these techniques, so when the customer buys a flipping rod and flipping reel, he can find a line dedicated to flipping, too.”

Seaguar also has gone species specific, marketing fluorocarbon leader material like AbrazX Musky/Pike Leader and STS Trout/Steelhead Leader for salmon and trout along with Big Game Fluoro Premier for saltwater predators.

Sunline has widened the range of its technique-specific fluorocarbons — Crank FC, Flipping FC, Structure FC, and, new for 2020, Power2C FC —  varying line attributes like strength, sensitivity, knot strength, durability, stretch, suppleness, abrasion resistance and slickness to match performance to application. It also tags its FX2 braid as a Frogging and Flipping line.

Sunline provides web-like “radar charts,” point-of-purchase tools illustrating the properties of each line.

“A good number of retailers have benefitted from the radar charts — embraced the fluorocarbon education and expanded on it,” said Mike Valster of Outdoor Brand Team, rep group for Sunline. “It has really helped us. Companies like Pure Fishing long dominated the market. The general shift to fluorocarbon and to ‘specialty’ everything — hooks, rods — has helped companies like Sunline and Seaguar level the playing field.”

Retailer Matt Meyer of K&K True Value Hardware in Bettendorf, Iowa, uses the radar charts to guide customers through the maze of line options.

“You have to teach them a little about the product,” said Meyer. “The POP (point of purchase) material talks about the different tensile strengths and properties of the line, along with suggested knot tying and ways to fish the product itself. I think Sunline has done the best job of getting information out to the consumer.”

Braids and other superlines have evolved in a similar pattern of differentiation, with lines of varying strength, abrasion resistance, and sink rate. Color matters, too. Anglers can choose lines that blend with water color or provide high visibility for bite detection.

Still, line diameter remains a convenient measure of difference. Power Pro, dominant player in the category, provides retailers with a display tool featuring dangling multi-colored samples of its Super 8 Slick V2 microfilament braid. The guide lists PE rating and diameter measurement of lines ranging from 8- to 80-pound test. 

Braided line is a hot seller in the Southeast, Texas and other regions where anglers target largemouth bass with jigs and plastics in thick, nasty cover. In open-water and clear-water situations, anglers stick with traditional monofilament or fluorocarbon, which costs more. Bass on the line result in happy anglers, though, who don’t think about the cost when the fish are biting.
Braided line is a hot seller in the Southeast, Texas and other regions where anglers target largemouth bass with jigs and plastics in thick, nasty cover. In open-water and clear-water situations, anglers stick with traditional monofilament or fluorocarbon, which costs more. Bass on the line result in happy anglers, though, who don’t think about the cost when the fish are biting.

Leader-Ship

The practice of adding fluorocarbon leader to the front end of superlines opens opportunity for add-on sales. Today, braid lovers increasingly opt for the economy — and perhaps subtle qualitative advantage — of purchasing fluorocarbon leader material.

“The customer might look at the cost of another fluorocarbon main line as unaffordable and puzzle over an even higher price per yard for leader material,” said Moy. “But when you explain they are only using an amount needed for each leader and are buying a product designed exactly for what they are using it for, leader material makes more sense.”

The favorability of premium lines has presented a dilemma for dealers providing line spooling services. Moy continues to spool newly purchased reels with popular monofilament lines as a free service, but he adds a charge for premium line.

Toothy species such as northern pike can cut line like a hot knife through butter. Offering flexible steel leaders near the line selection often is a reminder to anglers to buy both.
Toothy species such as northern pike can cut line like a hot knife through butter. Offering flexible steel leaders near the line selection often is a reminder to anglers to buy both.

Up to You

Clearly, opportunity in this Golden Age of fishing lines is rich. Yet customers seek guidance. Avid anglers of all ages may enter your store with foreknowledge of lines based on their readings and research. But don’t underestimate the value of product knowledge and salesmanship by your staff.

Moy of Lee’s Bait & Tackle finds himself a frequent influence, if not arbiter, in line selection.

“The average consumer is still confused,” he said. “Does he want a line with more castability and less abrasion resistance? He’s not always sure. They rely on you, the dealer, to recommend something to them. You have to ask questions. Sometimes they’re as easy as ‘What are you fishing?’ or ‘Where are you fishing?’ The more you complicate the matter, the more confused they get.

“Talk to them. Keep it simple. Make a good recommendation — they’ll be happy!”  



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