A recent conversation with a fellow ‘angling professional’ brought to light the fact that there are lots of different opinions out there when it comes to backing and flats fishing.
Some overriding backing philosophies that come to mind are
- Use whatever you can fit more of on the reel
- Use whatever is simplest
- Use whatever is strongest
- Use a combination of materials, for various and sundry reasons.
What Kind of Backing Do You Use for Bonefish? Why?
We’re curious as to how you rig your bonefishing reels with backing, and we want you to leave us a comment and let the world know.
We’ll start. Your humble editor prefers plain old boring 30# dacron backing, preferably in a hi-vis color like yellow. It’s plenty strong, and its simplicity gives some peace of mind. It’s nice to be able to see the backing easily if the light is funky.
OK, now it’s your turn. Leave us a comment and let us know what kind (or kinds) of backing you use when you’re bonefishing and why! NOTE: If you’ve viewing this in a newsletter or a reader, click here to leave a comment on our web site.
I use 30# gelspun backing on my bonefish reels. Come to think of it I use the same on my spring creek trout reels too.
Besides getting more backing on the reel, the 30# gelspun (I get mine from Worldwide Sportsman) has a waxy coating that repels water. I can dunk my reels over and over, and don’t have to worry about drying spools as thoroughly as I would with Dacron because it the stuff doesn’t hold water. I’ve had plenty of Dacron-laden spools show up moldy down the road, but gelspun…never.
Finally, the stuff is yellow, so my medium weight rigs (including that for bones and carp) have a 10-15ft piece of high-vis orange Amnesia between the backing and the line. It’s my “your lazy ass is finally making progress” marker.
I use 30# Dacron as well but use
20# on 6&7 wt reels. I prefer Cortland Micron because it is the easiest to put a blind splice loop in which is tough to beat for both strength and low profile. Like the Editor I use yellow for visibility in all light conditions. Lastly I black out a 5ft section when I reach the 25yds point when spooling the backing on the reel. This mark tells me when to be stingy with my backing.
Louis Cahill says
I’m a Dacron guy as well. Bright orange because it looks awesome on my blue Nautalus reel but mostly because my local shop spools me up for free! I love those guys. Pick something you like because when you get to South Andros you’re going to see plenty of it.
Pete McDonald says
I too like the gel spun. I find it easier to unwrap from the mangrove roots where the fish inevitably take me.
(For the sake of it, I still like using an albright knot for backing to line and line to leader.)
I typically use 20lb Dacron on my mid-weight reels. Gives you lot’s of capacity, goes through the guides easily and keeps your fingers intact. Simple albright knot to the flyline, or double bimini if the reel was spooled by Charlie Craven. Makes it easy to switch lines if they get gummy during the week.
Bjorn Stromsness says
I’m also a Dacron guy, 20 pound. I’m sure there are deep passions on backing choices out there. I don’t have such profound feelings one way or another. From one experience swinging flies for salmon, I can tell you if you have 25 pound Maxima as tippet, you best not have 20 pound backing on the other side of your fly line. That is bad math. That particular mistake cost me a sink tip fly line.
Kirk Deeter says
I use 20-pound high-vis (orange or yellow) Dacron backing on my bonefish reels. I’ve dabbled with gel spun, but just haven’t made friends with it.
After trying just about every backing option known to man, I’ve settled on orange. It compliments my blue bonefish line better than anything else I’ve tried. Oh, and the guy at the shop told me it was 20lb.
Agree with Gracie on all counts. Gel spun won’t hold water and you can get a lot more 30# on your reel (if you need it).
20 pound dacron up to 8wt, 30 lb for 10-12 wt…. with a doubled bimini twist, loop to loop to fly line… with the amount of coral, rocks, and mangroves out there, it is far cheaper to replace dacron than gell spun, which I do every year on salty reels, 6-10 wt. losing a fly line because your backing nicked a rock is no excuse, replace often.
Gordon Morse says
I used to use 30lb gelspun because when I started out flats fishing I really believed I would need to wind in 300+ meters…in fact (unlike GTs and tuna) I have never run a bonefish more than 100 metres – not least because you don’t want to exhaust it and dont want it to be sharked/cut you off on coral/get wrapped around a mangrove shoot etc….but most of all, gelspun will cut your finger when its running like cheesewire….20lb Dacron is brighter, cheaper, more practical and kinder on your flesh….but both are excellent of course.
Gordon Morse says
PS! and I DEFINITELY agree about the bimini twist….since Don Sappington gave me that tip, all my spooled backing has a bimini twist on the end – you can swap a line over in a minute…it’s the only way…
Like Kirk I use 20-pound high-vis yellow Dacron backing.
Tom Larimer says
I’m a big fan of 30lb orange dacron… It’s easy to see when a fish runs to distance. I also like the insurance policy of 30lb. just in case Mr. Permit shows up. -And, it looks cool. I tie a Bimini into the backing and loop it to my Airflo Bonefish line. As a side note, I fish larger reels than most because it increases line pick up. -Todays reels are so light you can get away with it. However, I might jump down to 20lb. on a smaller reel depending on the capacity.
Bruce Chard says
I love Dacron backing. 20# for bonefishing rocks! Its nice and doesnt cut your fingers when either tying knots or when a fish is running. The biggest problem I have with the super slim gelspun or spectra backing is its so thin it cuts into its self on the spool and creates knots that are very hard to get out. I just has a Bonefish School Student that had to retire his reel for the trip because his gelspun cut into itself on the spool and made a big mess. We worked on it for a long time and finnaly gave up. We figured out how it happened. He has a bonefish on the day before that ran him into the gelspun but then got off. When he reeled the gelspun back in he could not wind the gelspun back on the reel with enough tention for two reasons. One the gelspun was so slick from the wax and from being wet that it was impossible to grip tightly enough. And two if grabbed it to tight it cut our fingers. So he had to reel it on as tight as he could but that was not tight enough and the next fish he hooked again went into his gelspun and then that line cut into itself creating a mess. I like the good old dacron backing. Anyone that needs more then 250 yards of backing or gelspun on there bonefish reel simply doesnt know how how to use there drag setting. No bonefish should take you that far.
Doug Jett says
I’m not sure there is a right or wrong, but certainly there are preferences. Problem is proponents of both sides are happy, and the fish don’t care! Depending on the reel and water I use Dacron – #20 – #30. I do have one small 6wt rig with Gelspun in case a wild runner needs more line, but BEWARE! Gelspun will cut you like a razor blade if you get a hot fish and your hand in the way.
If you like what your doing stay with it – if not play around. Play with splices, knots. All lines behave differently – I tried some of these braided wire lines that the bass fishermen use. It has a small diameter vs tensil strength so it will pack lots onto a reel, but like gelspun you don’t want it running wildly through your hands as it will cut you fast like gelspun. Braid will burn usually before it will cut you so maybe that is why I prefer it.
Frank Dalziel says
For bones, I prefer around 200 yds. of plain old 20 lb Dacron backing. Thirty pound is fine, but I can put more 20# on the reels I use. I like bright orange or yellow, but white is fine too. I’m used to tying knots in Dacron. I won’t use gel spun for the same reason as many, it cuts.
60lb Powerpro backing. Not only can I fit a ton of it on the spool, it doesnt stretch and it’s plenty strong.
Chris goldmark says
fly line to 50 ft of 25# mono to 20# dacron
Ian Davis says
I have spent most of my fishing “life” loaning my personal gear to friends, guests, and clients. Dacron is the only way to go for me and our whole Yellow Dog arsenal of demo Hatch reels and Winston rods. Dacron seems more manageable, where gel spun seems to eventually eat down into itself (less surface area), thus resulting reels where you find spagetti backing hiding under your fly line. Yum. This is never a good sight, especially when it is the first bone of a fresh trip, so always pre-check all your gear before a trip. Hint hint.
I use both, and have never had a problem with either. For the GelSpun I just make sure to criss-cross the line a lot when I’m reeling back in—although that can be very hard to do when a fish is running back at you and you’re reeling like mad to keep up. Still, never had a problem, YET. (Knock on wood, or whatever.) I’m fine w/ dacron: 20# is great, however, if the reel has a small capacity I’d definitely go for GS instead.
Anything under 200 yds. might seem to be enough, until you hook that monster bone (or you just happen to use the same reel for a permit that you hook while wading, or you [foolishly] convince yourself that lighter tippet is the answer and then have a jack cravelle rush in and grab your little bonefish fly and spool you). I’ve definitely had bones go farther than 200 yds, and I wasn’t using light drag or tippets either. Drag cranked and 20-lb tippet. Just big bones, that’s all. Doesn’t happen a lot (or often enough) but having enough backing is a good thing. I’ve been completely spooled 3 times: 2 tarpon, 1 jack crevalle. Both tarpon took the works from a large arbor Able Super 8, 30# Dacron, (200+ yds I think) and the jack crevalle went about 175, I think.
As for the problem Mr. Chard refered too, I’ve had the same issue and simply use my sock to squeeze the backing. They’re cotton and won’t melt (like your buff will) and I usually wear them on deck instead of shoes or lathering my feet w/ slippering sunscreen.
For knots: doubled Bimini “x-ed” into the loop in my flyline.
Likkoe Himself says
I use whatever gets around 200 yards on my reel.
When it fits, I’ll use dacron, if not gelspun. I prefer dacron because it doesn’t cut and it is better for your rod rings.
And I use PINK backing, cause I love the look of that.
Wayne Walts says
I switched to spectron backing more than 15 years ago. Never has it pulled down in side. Any backing will pull down into itself if you don’t keep tension on it. I like at least 50 -65 lb power pro or cortland 50 lb master braid because of the diameter. Bimini connections .
Spectron will hold up to more abrasion and has a lot less drag in the water. You can never tell what is going to show up when you have your 8wt.in hand. Having caught tarpon over 100lbs and permit over 30 lbs I was glad to have 250 yards of spectron.
Lawrence Snyder says
I use dracon but upon experiencing with rust, I will be switching periodicaly to gel spun for it’s properties as stated by MG.
I use plain old Dacron, only because that’s what I bought on a very large spool. All my reels have the same Dacron, except my Tarpon reels which have 50lb Dacron. The reason I guess is simplicity and I have never had to consider anything else. I have never had any fish, other than a Tarpon, ever take me more than 100 yards into my backing. 100 yards is a long distance and it may seem like a 100 yards a lot of the time, but I honestly don’t think I have ever had a Permit or Bonefish take me 100 yards out.
On my older reels I use 30 lb dacron. Whenever I have a new reel or have to put new backing on I put down a bit or 50 lb or 60 lb with a top shot of dacron say 100 yards or so. From reel arbor out. I have some mono or dacron to prevent the gel spun from slipping, then gel spun, then top shot of dacron. I do the same for my tarpon and big game reels also. I feel this is very important on the big game reels for things like sharks and tuna. For instance I have a Tibor Gulf Stream that has about 800 yards total on it, 100 yards dacron, 500 gel spun, 200 dacron. I have never had a tarpon get close to the gel spun but I have had a 70 lb spinner shark get 100 yards into the gel spun. The gel spun keeps the diameter larger for longer while winding, does not rot like dacron and provides insurance if something happens and I loose some backing on a trip.
Chris Helm says
I have used 20 pound backing for years and it works just fine. The longest run I’ve ever had out of a bonefish (9 lbs.) was just under a 100 yards. Any bonefish that runs more than that will certainly attract either a shark or barracuda. Most of the time the average bone will run 20 to 30 yards into the backing on the first run.
Gel spun material is the thread of choice for deer hair bass bugs, but the problems mentioned above make me leery of using it.
Dennis Poulin says
Well I’m in the minority but I really like PowerPro 50lb or 40lb. It’s smaller diameter than Dacron 20lb but isn’t “too fine” like gelspun which can get caught in itself under tension as others have reported. I’ve had a 9lb bonefish run me to just a couple wraps left on the spool with 200 yards backing… that’s when I switched from Dacron to PowerPro so I could get more backing on a reel.
Anyone tried Hatch backing? Thoughts?
Kyle Shea says
We have! The stuff is incredible! Its 68 lb. test but of thinner diameter than 20 lb. test Dacron! However, it still has a similar FEEL of Dacron, so it doesn’t ‘cut in’ as much like gel spun or other thin diameter backing materials. Here’s our review of it if you’re interested. https://deneki.wpengine.com/2013/01/hatch-backing-review/
Its a bit pricey compared to traditional Dacron, but we highly recommend it.. after all, its the last line of defense before the bonefish takes the whole kit and kaboodle! Thanks for reading!
tom reilly says
One thing going on here is inflation…….distance inflation! This same thing happens with hunters. Those 300 yd. Shots end up being 175 yds. if that. 500yds of backing??? That fish is damn near over the horizon. Even 200 yds is FAR! Think about it …2 football fields away. One problem on the water is there usually isn’t anything around to use to judge distances, just a lot of featureless (compared to land) H20.
***This is important if using gel spun backing;
I use 30lb GS on my Billy Pate anti reverse bonefish reel. I made the fatal mistake of connecting it directly to the reel arbor a few years ago and hooked up numerous bonefish only to see each fish make a good run and then suddenly break off the 12 lb tippet. No matter what drag setting I used the same thing would happen which each hookup, as though my drag acted digitally (either off or on) as opposed to analog (varying tension). I sent the reel back to Tibor with the line and backing still loaded and got a very quick phone call from the Tibor techies. The reel drag was in good working order but: apparently when the fish would make a run, the entire gelspun backing would rotate around the arbor until the heat from the slipping would create sufficient friction to have the gel spun finally grab on the arbor producing an immediate increase in drag and thus causing the tippet to snap. On an anti-reverse reel this problem is amplified as one would not notice this happening at all as the handle never turns so you are unaware of the entire backing sporadically slipping. Solution is to simply use a layer of mono backing to the arbor before loading the gel spun, or just a piece of electrical friction tape on the arbor first. Having subsequently making this correction I have had great success with hookups on this great reel. I admit I may not be the brightest bulb on the tree, but I am certainly not the dimmest, and had no idea that dealing with gel spun requires more care than a simple arbor (or other) knot when loading a reel. Hope this will prevent someone else from making this uniformed fatal mistake costing numerous fish !!!
Kyle Shea says
Great advice Joey! This is a great tip, one that some of our conventional fishing friends that prefer to fish braid on spinning reels swear by as well! Thanks for sharing!
tom reilly says
Don’t beat yourself up about this……something like this is almost impossible to diagnose…..good news is it won’t happen again. Experience is not necessarily the best teacher but it is the surest.
Tom R says
Just make sure that the backing is not the weak link in the chain. You don’t want the backing to break first and watch a very expensive fly line heading out to sea!
John amabile says
If using 16 or 20 tippet make sure your backing is 30. And please go barbless for the fish.
John amabile says
30 30and more 30. Get a reel big enough to hold what you need. Besides maybe losing you fly line the poor lost fish towing around 100 foot fly line and the backing. Help save the fish also no barbs and no stainless hooks.
Ryan C says
3 years after the last post!………….20 lb dacron breaks around 10-11 lbs of force at the knot (per my testing). 30 lb breaks around 17-18 lbs per my testing and sometimes up to 21 lbs with bimini twists (I usually just use triple surgeon’s knot). Using 16 lb leaders and 4 lbs of max drag on the spool, both should be fine. If you are going for Hawaiian bones with 20 lb test and cranking the drag down to 5-6 lbs and horsing them off of the coral then I would definitely step up from 20, but I know people have been catching them with 20 lb for decades so if that is your thing, I’m sure it is fine.
I use 60 lb hollow core braid on anything 9 weight and up, which won’t cut you or fray as easily on structure and has a diameter somewhere between 20 and 30 lb dacron. People crank up yellowfin tuna on this line, so I know it will never break and get carried off with the fly line.
For 8 weight, I use 30 dacron or the hollow core.
Anything 7 weight and down where I only use 2 lbs of drag max, I just go with the 20 lb dacron.
My max drag settings are as follows:
8 weight: 2-2.5 lbs
9 weight: 4 lbs
10 weight: 5-6.5 lbs (Only for big fish offshore otherwise 4)