How to Stack Braid and Why?Ben Secrest
With the introduction of braid by Russ Izor in the 80’s, fishing as we know it changed drastically. With the diameter of the braided line being reduced significantly, many anglers started to realize the larger reels of yesteryear could either hold a ton of braid, or they could start looking for alternative reels to fish. Once braid was accepted by a few peer group leaders its popularity with the west coast anglers surged, sparking reel manufacturers to design smaller reels that would put out more drag and handle more pressure internally.
The revolution was started with new, smaller reels being designed for cranking power plus drag, and rods that had a more forgiving action for the non stretch in the braided line to effectively fight fish of considerable size. The phrase “Small Reels, Big Fish” came to light which changed the way anglers had fished since the beginning of time. Guys are using reels a little bigger than your fist and landing fish over 100 lbs regularly with the adoption of lever drags on these reels, the angler knows exactly where his drag setting is during the battle.
As anglers became more familiar with braid and its properties, new knots were developed and people took time to experiment with setting up line on their reels. On the west coast there is a group of anglers we refer to as “Long Rangers” that get on a bigger boat (100′ to 130′) and travel down to the islands and banks outside Cabo San Lucas and mainland Mexico for up to 21 days at a time. These anglers are fishing from dead boats for trophy Yellowfin tuna upto 400 lbs and its critical to have the most line capacity possible on a reel. A group of these anglers who are always looking for a better way to skin a cat came up with the idea of stacking braid and perfected the connections to increase their catch rate percentages.
The reasons to stack braid on smaller reels is to gain maximum line capacity. Manufacturers give line capacities that is with one line pound test meaning one diameter line. When stacking braid you want to understand exactly what you will be using the tackle for species wise. There are a lot of gamefish that have enough power to spool reels so capacity is key. When stacking braid we put a smaller(test) diameter on the bottom, maybe 200 yards and the higher test on top. The rationale behind this is its very difficult to break braid on a dead pull unless its been frayed. The rod will likely break before the line would. So on a 400 size reel that holds 325 yards of 50Lb braid I will take 40 lb braid and put 300 yds on the bottom with another 75 to 100 yards of 65 lb braid on top. It gives me a little more line capacity but the key is with the heavier line on top I can actually put the drag up on the fish and pull harder at the end of the battle. Most fish are lost coming to the boat and the ability to have enough capacity to handle a good run then once he is close to the boat being able to tighten the drag on him getting him within gaffing distance. This is a common practice with a lot of anglers fishing smaller tackle for bigger fish. The thought behind it is not to fight the big bulky tackle but have more comfortable tackle that is easy to handle over the duration of the fight. The is no set combination of line sizes to stack but lines within 20 to 30 lb differences work well. Putting the capacity line size on the bottom(smaller Diameter) and the heavier on top seems to be what most anglers do. One example we have been doing the last couple years is taking our Dauntless DX2-600N and putting 65 lb braid on the bottom and putting one hundred yards of 80 lb on top with a shot fluorocarbon leader. The 65 lb will handle 20 to 25 lbs of drag no problem then once we get a couple wraps on the spool of 80 lb we can increase the drag pressure to the Bluefin tuna as they approach the boat into gaffing distance. This setup is used primarily for casting surface iron or poppers to foaming fish with an 8 ft heavy rod that will go directly to the rail once the fish is settled in. Stacking braid is a more specialized thing to do when targeting bigger gamefish but will also work when fishing bottom fish in deeper water.
Stacking the braid on the reel is a fairly easy process and there are a couple ways to do it. One of the easier ways to do this is to tie a 25 turn Bimini Twist for the line on the reel and that line coming off the spool. Put both loops together and pass the spool through them three times. Make sure the line is even as you pull them apart holding the bimni knots on each end. Slowly pull them making sure as they get taut the line is straight. Once the line is straight you can pull them tight. This will leave you with a cats paw knot in the middle of the connection which I have never seen one break yet. The cool part of this connection is it will go through the guides the same way a solid line would.( hit link above for BiminiTwist)
The other way of connecting braid is by using hollow core line and splicing lines into each other. They are held together similar to a Chinese finger puzzle. The harder they are pulled the tighter they hold. This takes needles and practice to get good at doing it. Very important here to test all your connections. Last year I had one fail on a fish that was a real trophy on another persons tackle that had a spliced leader. Its up to the angler which connections to use when stacking braid. One thing that is important is whichever one you use, you must be very proficient doing. Only way to become good is to practice and the perfect place is in front of the TV or kicking it in the back yard. Super important to test everyone and put your weight into it for maximum results. Don’t get discouraged if your first few fail you will get the hang of it. Personally I stay with the double bimini connection which works great but it is not as clean as the splice.(hit link above for splicing info)
There are two schools of thought when you are fishing braid .
One way is fishing enough drag on a reel so its more like hand to hand combat which lets the rod wear the fish out with the main objective of getting his head coming up. This way you continue to put pressure on the fish without letting him get his head down bringing him to gaff. More experienced anglers will do this and line capacity is usually not a factor. They are dealing with using the power of the rod and stopping power of the drag. Need to know what you are doing and be in some kind of shape to exert that much energy on those larger fish. The rail is extremely important too as your fulcrum while using your rod to gain maximum action and power out of the rod.
The other way anglers tend to fish is rely on the line capacity of the reel and fishing a little lighter rod with less drag and “play” the fish. This technique lets the fish wear it’s self out versus exerting all your energy trying to break his spirit. The down sides to each technique is if you are going to fish heavier drag it wears on you so stamina is important. Its extremely important to have all connections solid so knots, crimps, splices all should be tested by pulling on them with some weight. Its important to make sure you stay clear of the boat and other anglers hooked up. Deckhands will be there to assist or on a private boat someone will drive you away from the fish. Trying to play out the fish with lighter drag with more line out means the fish is on longer and with big fish on the line, time is not your friend. Always use the maximum test leader wise that will still get bit. Its a nightmare when a good fish wears through the leader. The other possible scenario with playing out a fish is they are harder to control and you can end up with tangles. You have to figure out what is best for you or maybe a combination of both.
Hope this helps you in your fishing adventures.
Wishing you tight lines and safe trips.