Using a small-diameter, gel-spun braided line as backing beneath the main fishing line, or beneath a top-shot is a great way to add capacity to any fishing reel; spinning, baitcasting or offshore big game. It’s become the norm for inshore anglers to use 50-pound braid beneath a top shot of 20-pound mono, or 80-pound beneath a top shot of 30- to 50-pound mono for offshore marlin, tuna and mako sharks.
There was a glitch, however, with this practice when submitting an application to the International Game Fishing Association for recognition of a potential world-record catch. The old rule said” If the fishing line is attached to the backing, the catch shall be classified under the heavier of the lines.”
That rule was contested in cases where the pound-test rating of the top shot tested at less than the underlying braided line. In the real-world of hooking, battling and bringing a fish to the boat for gaffing or tagging, the lighter top-shot will break before the underlying backing. The reel-drag setting would always be set based on the strength of the top-shot, not the underlying line. Using the same logic that the IGFA uses for fly fishing where the catch is categorized based on the breaking class of the tippet, the Association has now updated its rules and regulations in two ways.
First, IGFA now says, “The use of backing is permissible.” And second, “The catch shall be classified under the breaking strength of the first 15.5 feet (5 meters) of the line directly preceding the double line, leader or hook. This section must be comprised of a single, homogenous piece of line.” These changes were made effective as of April 1, 2017.
Although most fishermen don’t specifically fish for world records, many fishing tournaments do specify that anglers registered in the event must comply with IGFA’s rules and regulations. That keeps everyone entered in the tournament on a level playing field, and promotes the ethics of good sportsmanship. Under the new IGFA rules, a white marlin tournament entrant fishing compact lever-drag reels filled with (let’s say) 50-pound gel-spun backing and a top-shot of 20-pound mono will be in compliance with tournament rules and also IGFA’s rules, so long as the top line is at least 15-1/2 feet in length. It can be longer, but not shorter.
An angler trolling for striped bass with a 30-pound mono spooled on top of 65-pound braid would be considered in IGFA’s 30-pound class. That same tackle set-up for a party-boat bluefish or tog angler would also be compliant in 30-pound class. A surf angler with 50-pound braid beneath a 20-pound top-shot would be considered in the 20-pound class. So long as the top-shot is at least 15-1/2 feet, the tackle is considered at the breaking strength of the top-shot, not the backing.
You can still fish double lines if you wish and add a leader. The Fisherman readers can get all the IGFA rules and regulations by visiting the Association’s comprehensive website; www.IGFA.org. Anyone with specific questions can get email info from Jack Vitek at firstname.lastname@example.org, IGFA Outreach and Education Manager.