When someone talks about fishing lines, most of us will think about monofilament fishing lines. Monofilament fishing lines have been on the fishing scene for nearly a century! But have you ever stopped to wonder about the history of monofilament? Well, ponder no more because we’ll look at the complete history of monofilament fishing lines!
In the 1930s, Dr.Wallace Carothers from Dupont invented nylon. By 1939, it was used to produce monofilament fishing lines. However, it was not until 1959 that monofilament gained enough popularity making it the preferred choice of fishing line for many anglers.
There is much to learn about the history of this famous fishing line. Was mono invented specifically for fishing?
What was Dr.Wallace Carothers trying to achieve if nylon was invented accidentally?
Monofilament Fishing Lines Timeline
What Was Used As A Fishing Line Before Monofilament?
Our early ancestors depended on fish from rivers and oceans as a food source and used numerous methods to catch said fish.
The materials used for fishing lines are difficult to trace. Many scholars assume that one of the earliest materials used was vines.
There is evidence from ancient Egypt of anglers using nets and rods with lines as early as 2000 BCE. Although we are unsure what materials the Egyptians used, the Chinese have used silk to make fishing lines from 400 – 300 BCE.
In the 17th century, in England, anglers began sinews made from the guts of animals (called catgut, generally from sheep or goats) that were dried and fashioned into usable lines.
Before this sinew line, horsehair was also used. This hair needed to be carefully selected and braided with a specialized hand tool.
During the 1800s, Europe started using silk, linen, and cotton instead of horsehair. These new materials allowed for improved casting distances and overall better fishing performance.
Although these materials were improvements, there were still many drawbacks. Manufacturers added a waterproof coating to extend the usability of these fibres. But due to wear and tear and U.V exposure, these materials did not last long.
Before monofilament lines hit the markets, the most popular fishing lines were braided lines. These lines were first braided from natural fibres. Then in the 1950s, braided lines were made from polyester, called dacron. Using dacron was not easy. Knots often came undone, lacked stretching capabilities, and easily snapped from abrasion.
Leading Up To The Invention Of The First Monofilament Line
During the 20th-century, chemical producer and manufacturing company DuPont rose to prominence.
Their claim to fame was developing polymers, including Corian, Corfam, Kapton, Kevlar, Lycra, M5 fibre, Mylar, neoprene, Nomex, Sorona, Teflon, Tyvek, Vespel, Zemdrain, and, important to us, nylon.
During his tenure at DuPont, Dr. Wallace Carothers discovered nylon in the 1930s. In 1935, Carothers discovered a polyamide that possessed the desired heat and solvent resistance qualities and decided on what we call nylon.
Once further developed, nylon was commercialized in 1939 and marketed to women’s fashion producers. During this time, nylon gained swift popularity. The term “nylon” became synonymous with “stockings,” the primary product produced from nylon.
Nylon found new uses during the second world war, as manufacturers began using the material to produce parachutes, tires, and other war-related goods.
During the 1950s, nylon became popular in manufacturing tires and belts for the automobile industry.
Although monofilament fishing lines were available in 1939, it wasn’t very popular. It was too stiff, awkward to use, and inferior to Dracon.
During the 1950s, mono saw a comeback after DuPont made some adaptations and improvements to soften the line, making it user-friendly.
The History Of Dr. Wallace Carothers
Dr. Wallace Carothers, the highly accredited inventor of nylon, was a doctor in organic chemistry. Born on 27 April 1896, he accomplished many breakthroughs and set the groundwork in the field of organic chemistry, in particular polymers.
Before becoming the head (director) of DuPont’s research center, he lectured at numerous universities in the states (including Harvard). In 1928, he became the director of the scientific research laboratory at the DuPont Corporation in Wilmington, Delaware.
Before joining DuPont, Carothers already had a keen interest in polymers. So when Charles Sine recruited him to Dupont, Carothers was just continuing his work into polymerization. Upon his arrival, Wallace was tasked with investigating the potential of an acetylene polymer in producing synthetic rubber by his supervisor Elmer Bolton.
This synthetic rubber was discovered in April of 1930 and was named “neoprene.” Arnold Collins, an assistant of Carothers, discovered chloroprene, which formed into a polymer of its own accord, and chemically resembled natural rubber.
Julian Hill discovered a precursor to polyester from this highlight by combining glycols with dibasic acid. The result was an elastic synthetic fibre that was relatively strong. But had a low melting point, high solubility, and was not economically viable to produce.
This discovery, however, gave Carothers the nudge in the right direction, although it did take some time to get there. In 1934, Carothers and his team tried similar experiments with amines. These compounds resulted in more stable end products (polyamides). Nylon was eventually discovered after pursuing this line of research.
This discovery opened the doors to synthetic materials for various industries, including monofilament fishing lines. Unfortunately, Wallace Carothers passed away before seeing the full potential of nylon.
The Life And Times Of Wallace Carothers
Other interesting facts about Wallace Hume Carothers include:
- He was an Alma mater at the University of Illinois for his doctorate in organic chemistry in 1924, under the supervision of Carl Marvel and Roger Adams. However, Wallace began his studies in accounting and secretarial administration.
Wallace later moved on to a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, which he completed at Tarkio College in Missouri.
- Between receiving his doctorate and completing his bachelor’s, Carothers taught at the University of South Dakota.
- In 1936, Carothers married Helen Sweetman on 21 February.
- Wallace’s daughter (Jane) was born on 27 November 1937, around seven months after his death on 28 April 1937.
- Although recognized and well-known for his work within the organic chemistry field, Carothers suffered from depression. After the death of his sister, he committed suicide by drinking potassium cyanide.
- Wallace Carothers had no definitive connection to angling that we could find. The development of monofilament lines from nylon was more of a by-product of the invention than a driving force to better the industry.
The First Monofilament Line Used For Fishing Applications
During the 1950s, monofilament fishing lines gained exponential popularity. They were strong, lightweight, and inexpensive. These early lines could float or sink as needed by adding a simple plastic covering.
However, they were not perfect and had a lot of line memory issues.
Fortunately for the monoline, it had already amassed a small but dedicated following of anglers to its side, making it viable for the company to improve and enhance the newer line.
DuPont released a new line of mono fishing lines under the name of “Stren.” These improved fishing lines were made of softer and thinner nylon to counteract this memory issue.
Aside from the reduced line memory, these fishing lines were compatible with various reels, including the newly developed “spinning” and “spin-caster” reels.
Monofilament fishing lines grew in popularity among all water body types angler proprietors. Freshwater anglers gave the most support because of the improved line sensitivity, stretch, and overall performance.
It was not long before anglers switched from dacron to mono with mono’s benefits.
Monofilament Development In Recent Years
Research and development were not stagnant over the past almost 100 years. Although the process of manufacturing mono remains largely the same, the materials used have grown from nylon to include other plastic polymers, such as:
- HDPE (high-density polyethylene)
Each of these materials brings a different dynamic to the monofilament line, altering the line’s use/overall performance.
Happy Fishing & Tight Lines