Why Do Fish Keep Breaking My Line?

Let’s face it, we have all been there. We feel the bite, and we try to set the hook and BAM, our line snaps. Or we have a fish on and it starts to surge and jump, and BAM! Our line snaps. This is a very frustrating thing to have happen for a few reasons. The first of course is that we never want to lose a fish on our line because it could be the epic whopper of our fishing career and we will never know.

On the other hand, now we have a fish that has a hook stuck in its mouth, or throat, and we have no way of ever helping it again, and that is just bad news for the fish, and our environment. The third reason, of course, is that we now have to tie a new rig setup, and that can take some time depending on what type of rig you have. So what’s the deal?

Why do fish keep snapping my line off? I am going to try and give you some pointers that might help you on your way to resolving all of your line snapping issues, and help you catch more fish in the process.

Why Fish Keep Breaking Your Line Off

There are a few bold things that stick out when trying to figure out why fish keep breaking your line off when you are trying to land them. Depending on what type of line and how old it is will play a huge part in trying to narrow down what is happening when you hook a fish. Here is a brief list of issues that could be happening:

  • Drag set to tight
  • Too old of Line
  • Your line test is too light
  • You aren’t playing the fish right

See more in-depth details below.


Having the right drag set on your reel is extremely important. If you set it too tight, you do not give the fish any wiggle room to play, so if it tries desperately to surge away, and it cannot take at least a little line out, it’s going to snap and take your setup with it. If the drag is set too loose, then you will never get the line reeled back in because it will always be taking line.

Drag is one of those things where you have to set it just right where there is always enough pressure so that you can keep reeling your line in, and also loose enough to where when a fish does try and surge, it can take a little bit of line out. Like any creature, when faced with fear, it is going to try and run, so you have to be prepared for a fish to try and run away at least a few times before you get it to shore, or your boat.

fishing off the lake

I like to set my drag to where I can pull it out from my reel with some pressure applied. If you can grab your line and easily pull some out, start twisting the dial back a few clicks at a time until the line will only come out when some pressure is applied. Depending on what fish you are going after will depend on how much drag you should have set.

A bass for instance is a heavier fish, so it can have a tighter drag set. A trout however, is usually a smaller fish, so you might need to lighten the drag. It may take some practice, but once you find the sweet spot, you will have less line snaps.

Old Line

Fishing line does get old and will start to get brittle, so you do have to replace it depending on how much you fish. If you have five year old line on your reel, and you keep snapping fish off, I would think about replacing your line soon. Mono and Fluorocarbon Line gets brittle over time, and it also has some stretching that occurs after long periods of use, so it is really good to change out your line every season or two depending on how much you fish.

Another thing that no one really thinks about are that fish can try and bite the line get off of it, so it can make the strength of the line degrade. Have you ever looked at your thumb after a day of bass fishing? If you have, then you know that they can easily start to saw through small mono line. This causes little chunks of line to go missing and it will be much easier for a fish to try and surge to snap it off. Line plays an important factor when landing a fish.

Line Test

When you go to buy fishing line, there is a ton of different weight and pound test options out there for you to choose from. If you are fishing for trout on a line that is only two pound test, and land a whopper, you cannot just start reeling in like a mad man.

If you are out fishing for bass on a six pound test, and land a ten pounder, you really have to work to get the fish in. If you are constantly snapping your line on heavier fish, you might want to think about upping your line weight by a few pounds and see if that helps. Here is a small breakdown on the types of line and fish you could catch with it.

  • 2 Pound Test: Small fish, bluegill, sunfish, smaller trout.
  • 4 Pound Test: Typical ultra light trout line. Works with bluegill, crappie, and sun fish.
  • 6 Pound Test: Another typical trout line for medium sized fish. Crappie and sun fish, and smaller small mouth bass.
  • 8 Pound Test: Small and Large mouth bass.
  • 10 Pound Test: Large mouth bass, catfish, and carp.

These are the most popular sizes to use when fishing lakes and rivers, so if you are going after anything bigger than 10-pound test, you may want to look into braided line, with a leader if you are having line snapping issues. Also note that just because it is a 6-pound test, does not mean you cannot land a 8 to 10 pound fish. It just means you might have to play it more.

Play The Fish

When it comes to landing a fish, it is not always a race, and you want to have some fun with it. Let the fish take some line every once in a while so that it can tire itself out. The more tired a fish gets, the easier it is going to be to land it on the shore or boat. Take it slow when you are reeling in a fish, and get to know your drag better so that they are not just going to take a hard left and snap the line.

two men caught fish

You want to keep the fish underwater as well, so tilt the tip of your rod towards the surface of the water instead of straight up to keep them low. Fish will have bursts of energy and want to get squirely and run, and you need to let them have a little bit of a chance to get tired. If all you did was reel the fish in as fast as you can, the fish would get even more freaked out, and try to run from side to side and start trying to shake the bait out of its mouth which leads to lost fish.

The whole thing about fishing is to have some fun when you actually set a hook, and feel the movement of them under the water. Be careful not to let too much line out, or they could try to dive deep and take you into the weeds, or around a structure, and you will have a heck of a time trying to get them up and out of it.


There are several reasons why your line could be snapping as soon as you set the hook, and we have covered the most common reasons why a line will snap and break off. You paid good money for your rod and reel, so it is best to keep track of the maintenance on it, and if you do forget how long ago you put that line on, it might be a good time to get some new stuff.

Fishing tackle manufacturers come up with new product lines all the time, so you might find that there are lighter lines with more strength and durability than they had the last time you re-strung your line. Play the fish and let them tire out before you just reeling as fast as you can, and have a little fun with landing that fish.

All in all, check your line after catching fish and make sure there are no serious issues with your line and there is nothing that compromises the structural integrity of it. Follow these simple tips, and I guarantee you will lose a lot less fish when you are out there, and will come home a much happier angler at the end of the day.

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