The Big Question: What is the difference between tippet and regular fishing line?
Answer: A slight difference in size to strength ratio makes tippet thinner and stronger in some cases. Sure, tippet also comes on a nice spool where you can easily pull off a couple feet when needed. The tippet spools are nice because of their small size and nifty little dispenser system, but good gracious is there a massive price difference! Look at this spool of Berkley vanish for under 6$ for 110 yards (as of 12-09-2017). When was the last time you strolled into a fly shop and bought a 100 yard spool of tippet for anywhere near that price?
When it comes to tippet material vs fishing line, there is a bit of a difference between the lines, but is it significant enough to warrant the huge price gap?
In general, line companies claim that tippet has a higher shock resistance than standard fishing line. I guess we’ll just have to take their word on that. Another thing is that tippet is often thinner than standard fishing line. If you compare the Berkley vanish line mentioned above in #12, to a spool of Orvis AR (abrasion resistant tippet) in 12#, you’ll find that the Orvis tippet is actually thicker than the Berkley fishing line. .013 vs .012. There are plenty of other Orvis tippets that are much thinner than this, but you can see that in this case, there doesn’t seem to be a big difference between line and tippet. That has been my findings overall for the most part. If you take a look at almost all of Seaguar fluorocarbon lines, the difference between the diameter of them to the diameter of Rio tippets are pretty minor.
30 yards fluoro tippet for $15 vs 150 yards fluoro line for $17
That’s pretty extreme! Below you can see that the main difference between tippet and fishing line in this case is the price and a very minor size difference.
Rio Fluoroflex Plus tippet material – 30 yards
8.5lb (3.9kg) Diameter .008in = $14.99
Seaguar Finesse fishing line – 150 yards
8.4lb .0085 in = $17.99
Summary and My Personal Conclusions
In general, tippet material offered by most companies is thinner and stronger than fishing line. This can often help you out if you are fishing for big picky trout on dry flies. Personally I’m not convinced that in most cases the extra cost is worth it. Basically, you should check closely the line diameter and strength ratio and decide for yourself if its worth it in your particular case. For example, if you compare Berkley vanish line to Rio fluoroflex tippet material, there is a massive difference in line size. In that case, you’d be better off paying extra for the tippet to avoid using much thicker line. Overall, if I were strapped for cash, I wouldn’t hesitate to use standard fishing line in the place of tippet. Actually I am strapped for cash and do it all the time.
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