Which Lines Have the Most Classic Wins?

This week, we’ve looked at the winning lures of the Bassmaster Classic. Yesterday we reviewed the rods and reels that have won bass fishing’s best-known title. Today, we’re all about line.

Fishing line in the Classic era (1971-2018) has probably undergone as much evolution as any component in the angler’s hands — rods, reels, lines and lures. Yes, rods have gone from fiberglass to graphite in that time, reels have gotten faster, and more art and science have been dedicated to lures than at any other time in history.

But lines have been completely transformed.

For the first 30 years of the Classic (1971-2000), it was all about monofilament. Even though superlines made their appearance in 1993 with “Lynch Line,” mono ruled the Classic for one good reason. For most of that time there simply were no viable alternatives. Then, even after the superlines came along, most of the Classics were not held on heavy-cover fisheries where braid was required.

The biggest change came about in the late ’90s and early 2000s with the advent of viable fluorocarbon that was more than merely leader material. The first angler to attribute part of his Classic winning catch to something other than monofilament or a copolymer was Kevin VanDam in 2001. He won his first championship on the Louisiana Delta using 25-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XPS Fluorocarbon to fish a jig and craw combo around shallow vegetation.

Classic contender James Elam at the 2018 event. Photo: Seigo Saito, BASS.

After being the only winning line for 30 years, monofilament has been almost no factor at all among Classic champions in the past two decades. Just four winners used mono since 2001, and only one (Chris Lane in 2012) in the past dozen years.

Fluorocarbon has been the dominant line for Classic winners since 2001, being the line of choice in 13 of 16 championships. Braid has been credited four times. Obviously, some winners were using more than one type of line. All have been tallied here.

So, fluorocarbon is making a charge and braid is coming on. Here’s how the three line types stack through Classic history.

Wins by Type

  • 34— monofilament
  • 14— fluorocarbon
  • 4— braid

One reason that monofilament has not been much of a factor in the past 15 years is that the Classic has moved from the summer to the late winter and early spring. Mono is the choice for floating topwater baits, but they’re rarely in play at a wintertime event. No topwater, no monofilament. The trends are driven as much by circumstance and conditions as by marketplace and user preference.

Will fluorocarbon ever catch monofilament in the great line race? Maybe, but it’s also possible that technological advances will bring us a new line type that we haven’t conceived of yet. Imagine a super-strong line that’s clear and comes in floating, slow sinking and fast sinking versions — a little like fly lines have been offered for decades.

Here are the fishing line brands that have factored in the most Classic wins:

Wins by Brand

  • 14— Stren
  • 12— Trilene
  • 5— Bass Pro Shops

Eight other brands have been credited, but none have more than three wins.

Perhaps the most interesting fishing line story to come out of the Bassmaster Classic occurred in 1981. That was an historic Classic for a few reasons. It was the first in B.A.S.S.’s birthplace — Montgomery, Alabama — the first with an indoor weigh-in and the first with a consumer outdoors show. The winner — Stanley Mitchell — remains the youngest champion in history at 21, and he used 10-pound-test Stren (monofilament) to win the tournament.

What was odd was that Du Pont Stren was the “official line” of that “BASS Masters Classic,” and competitors were required to use Stren in competition.

(Note: the first two minutes of this video are the most gloriously vintage thing you’ll see today:)

Can you imagine that rule today, when most of the pros have line sponsors?

Here’s a line we’d hear from the stage:

“I would’ve won but I busted off a couple of good fish on that XYZ Brand line. I’d be lifting that trophy right now if I hadn’t been required to use that cheap sewing thread! That line’s not fit to floss my teeth.”

It was almost that bad in 1981. After Mitchell won the Classic, Berkley took out an ad in Bassmaster Magazine notifying the bass fishing world that he was a Trilene user. They even included a photo of Mitchell in a Trilene-branded cowboy hat. Three other Classic qualifiers — Harold Allen, Don Doty and Greg Hines — also appeared in the ad. But the kicker was in the text, which said that these four anglers “did not fish their preferred Trilene at the Classic, because tournament regulations required them to use a lower tensile strength line.”