Published: Friday, September 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Roland Martin couldn't have realized the extent of what he had stumbled upon when he introduced the sport of bass fishing to fluorocarbon line in the early 1990s.
The all-time BASS tournament winner and nine-time BASS Angler of the Year had long seemed to be at the forefront of most fishing innovations - either as the inventor, the angler who help refine it or a pro who quickly adapted its potential to the bass-fishing scene.
So it was hardly surprising when the now-retired Florida pro came up with an adaptation that he borrowed from his saltwater compatriots.
Martin had long incorporated leaders into his bass tackle more extensively than his tournament competition. And that was where fluorocarbon first came in.
"I use a leader for everything from cranking to worming," Martin said at the time. "I've found a leader material that is even better than monofilament. I'm using a fluorocarbon, which is a very high-priced, fly-fishing leader that's made in Japan.
"It sinks three times faster than monofilament because it's heavier - which is a big plus for most crankbait fishing. And it has the same light-refraction as water. So for all intents and purposes, it is less visible than monofilament. The good side is that 20-pound test fluorocarbon just doesn't show up in the water. The bad side is that it is expensive - as much as $1 a foot for some pound tests."
Martin had discovered that polyvinylidene fluoride (the official name for the fluorocarbon material) was indeed less visible to fish. Measured via a refractive index that gauges the light refraction of water at 1.33, that early fluorocarbon line was gauged at 1.41 or so, while monofilament line is 1.55 and greater. That translucent quality allows fishermen to get away with using heavier test leaders than usual, according to Martin.
In addition to sinking faster than monofilament, Martin realized that fluorocarbon had an inherent abrasion resistance, didn't absorb water (which robs monofilament of its strength) and was unaffected by ultraviolet rays.
It was partly at his urging that Stren began offering its High Impact Fluorocarbon line, which was the first major brand of fluorocarbon on the freshwater market.
From there, the lines have kept getting better as fluorocarbon continued to become a bigger part of the Bassmaster scene with each passing year.
In the last couple of years, fluorocarbon has made arguably the biggest impact of any fairly new technology among professional anglers.
Today, fluorocarbon is not limited to leader material. The most successful anglers are filling their spools with the remarkable line for a variety of uses.
"A couple years ago I used 95 percent mono and a little bit of braid," two-time Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam said. "Now I'm probably using 75 fluorocarbon, 20 percent mono, and five percent of super lines.
"I think what the anglers really have done is that we've learned that with not only fluorocarbon but with the braids and the monos what techniques the properties of the lines really excel at. The great thing about fluorocarbon is that it is a superior line for a lot of the techniques that we use on a regular basis."
VanDam depends on Bass Pro Shops' XPS, which he calls a premium grade of fluorocarbon still made in Japan, for a variety of lures.
"For me, I use it anytime I throw any kind of bottom-bouncing bait, spinning equipment with tubes, jigs, finesse, Carolina rigs, casting a jig with a worm, anything like that," he noted. "Since it sinks fast, in deep water you don't get that bow that you get with the mono or with braid. You get direct contact. The extra sensitivity due to a lower stretch in it means you get better hook-sets and better action when you're shaking baits and things.
"It has a lot of attributes. I'm even flipping and pitching with it. It's one of those things that in the beginning we learned how to adjust our rods to match the line. I'm using rods with a little bit softer tip, which enhances my presentation and other things too, just to make fluorocarbon the most effective that it can be. Plus, I like the durability of fluorocarbon."
In North Central Florida, fluorocarbon line is not limited to bass fishermen in terms of popularity.
Steinhatchee guide Capt. Rick Bouley has long relied on fluorocarbon as leader material, as well as his main line when fishing crystal clear conditions.
Veteran Gainesville pro Shaw Grigsby utilizes it for most of his spinning tackle applications and about 40 percent of the time when using a baitcaster.
In his mind, it has become a must in clear-water situations.
"I got hooked on it in saltwater where fish can get line sensitive," Grigsby said. "Using fluorocarbon leaders in saltwater and having transferred that into my freshwater. I have found that fluorocarbon definitely helps you in clear water.
"So if it helps you in a clear-water situation there's no reason not to use it in other situations. I tend to use Vanish fluorocarbon a lot more than what I did five years ago and every year it's getting a little bit bigger niche in my fishing repertoire."
Grigsby was asked to name the single biggest attribute about fluorocarbon.
"The single best is the clarity of the line," he replied. "Immediately, I have the confidence that the fish are not going to be line shy, and I'm going to get more bites. That's the mindset when I throw fluorocarbon, I know I'll get more bites."
Tim Tucker's e-mail address is email@example.com
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