When Main Line Isn’t Enough: How, When, and Why to Use Fishing Leaders Explained

When the Main Line isn’t Enough: Why, How and When to Use Fishing Leaders

While a braided mainline is the best option for serious bass fishing (as we have discussed previously), superfine has its own set of disadvantages. As many largemouth anglers know, these weaknesses require the use of leaders.

No matter whether you use braid, fluorocarbon, or nylon monofilament when you are after sharp-toothed fish such as pike, mackerel or barracuda, or wahoo, or sharks, a strong leader is vital.

This may leave you confused and perhaps even in tears.

Are you unsure which option is best for you?

We are here to help. Below, we will explain the intricacies of leaders, discuss how and when to use them, as well as offer suggestions to protect and augment your mainline.

Keep reading!

Why use a leader?

Two reasons are there to be a leader.

1. To enhance the main line’s characteristics

Braided super lines can be simply amazing. Braided superlines are a great choice for serious bass anglers because they offer a winning combination: very high strength, a very little stretch, amazing sensitivity, virtually no memory, and almost no memory.

Braid also has its weaknesses. Because it is multi-stranded, its inability to stretch can lead to line failures under sudden loads. Braid is not able to be made in clear colors and doesn’t take dyes well. This results in very high visibility in the water.

A length of nylon monofilament or fluorocarbon leader is an easy solution. These options offer just enough flexibility to prevent line failures and significantly improve abrasion resistance at your line’s working end. They also come in very low visibility options.

2. Protect your line from sharp-toothed fish or gill plates

Your mainline won’t withstand the abuse that can be thrown at it when you fish for species with sharp teeth, such as pike, gar, and shark. Even sharp gill plates, rough skin or scales, can chew through the heavy line much faster than you might think. You really shouldn’t try to tie and cast super-heavy fluorocarbon main lines rather than running a leader.

A length of ultra-tough lead is the best way to ensure that your mainline stays intact. It allows you to cast well and can be run for a long time. A metal leader is the best choice for these applications.

Leader Options and Attaching Leaders To Your Main Line

No matter what your reason for attaching your leader with your mainline, if that connection isn’t made well, it can cripple your tackle. It is important to choose the right leader material for your situation since different materials can solve completely different problems.

Braided Main Line to Fluorocarbon Leaders and Monofilament Leaders

We have written before about mainline connections to leaders. This tricky bit of angling knowledge is easy to make mistakes. You could get in trouble if you tie the wrong knot or make the wrong choice.

Line choice is the first step in making a secure connection. You may not be able to secure your leader if your braid is too tight. This fluorocarbon leader is a favorite of ours, but it can be very bad if you don’t tie the right mainline to it.

Seaguar Invizx 100% Fluorocarbon 1000 Yard Fishing Line (15-Pound)

Our suggestion? It’s easy to do at home. Use the braid that you prefer to fish. Take your time and tie the best knot. Line choice is a problem if you can’t stop it from sliding.

The right knot is crucial. The Alberto Knot is a favorite of many bass anglers. We’ve also discussed its strengths and limitations in detail. The 5-Turn Surgeon’s Knot, (Double), Double Uni, and FG Knot are also worth a look. These are all excellent ways to attach fluorocarbon braided mainline, and they work even better with mono.

There are many options available for mono and fluoro leaders. These include both main and secondary lines. Seaguar Blue Label is my favorite leader material. Yo-Zuri H.D. is also a good choice. Carbon–both are strong and can be purchased in heavyweights. The Blue Label is limited to 80 pounds. The Yo-Zuri, however, is a 200-pounder!

Seaguar Blue Label 100% Fluorocarbon Leader (DSF) 25yd 20lb

This is enough to keep the worst pike at bay!

The main line, no matter how good your leader material, is still a great option. It can also save you some money. Our favorites are worth a closer look. Seaguar Invizx is a strong and secure hook connection. Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon Professional grade is another great option.

They are also available in weights up to 25 pounds making them excellent leader options for bass fishing. Professionals recommend an 18-inch leader with 50- to 80-pound fluorocarbon for pike or muskie.

After much research and experience, heavy nylon monofilament is a better choice than fluoro.

Mono is a leader material that you should not discount, no matter what. Mono is as invisible as fluorocarbon, very abrasion resistant, and extremely shock-absorbing. It’s almost as good as fluorocarbon for most applications and much cheaper.

Our top choice for leaders is Trilene Big Game. Although it isn’t the most versatile mono, it is extremely strong and available in heavyweights such as 40, 50, 60, and 80. 100 and 130-pound versions.

If I was a leader for pike and muskies from mono mainline, I would start with Trilene Big Game 80 pounds. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Berkley Trilene Big Game Monofilament Custom Spool, Clear, 30 PoundBraid, Fluoro, and Mono to Metal Leaders

Many anglers use metal leaders to protect their teeth. They’re the best choice for large, dangerous saltwater fish such as sharks. Although you can use extremely heavy mono or fluorocarbon, they are not as strong as single-strand wire. It’s worth it if you are hunting monster pike or muskies.

There are many options available. These range from rigid stainless leaders such as Croch Stainless Steel Wire Leader, to flexible and tileable wire-like Rio Powerflex Wire Bite.

Croch Stainless Steel Wire Leader for Fishing with Swivels and Snaps 30LB (30LB 72PCS) They are an old-fashioned choice and very tough. They are affordable and can be purchased by anyone with a limited budget. They can be paired with sturdy clips and are easy to rig. These Croch leaders are great for testing 30, 100, and 150-pound lines. They’d be my first choice if I have to deal with sharp teeth, extreme abrasion, or other rough conditions.

This steel leader is the most affordable in the world. It can withstand a beating from mono and fluoro, as well as being 6-9 inches lighter than the heavier versions and 19 more. The larger sizes are just what you need to keep pike and muskie happy.

The single-strand wire is the best choice if you need more length and visibility than a stiff leader. While multi-strand options are available–especially as you step up to really heavy grade leaders–they’re comparably weaker than single-strand because of their woven construction. The leader’s strength will be affected if one of the strands is weak. These strands are the super lines that run leaders’ lives.

Do yourself a favor, stick with single-strand.

American Fishing Wire’s Tooth Proof Single Strand Lead Wire in Stainless Steel is a great option. It comes in a wide range of weights and is easy to tie. It’s possible to get more than 400 yards, or you can stick with 30-foot lengths.

It’s the only thing I would take with me if I were fishing offshore or dealing with massive pike and monster muskie.

American Fishing Wire Tooth Proof Stainless Steel Single Strand Leader Wire, Size 9, Camo Brown Color, 105 Pound Test, 30-FeetThe Haywire Knot is a simple-to-tie connector between your leader and hook. This leader is the most economical, and it comes with a barrel swivel that connects to your mainline.

This tutorial will teach you how to tie the Haywire if you don’t have any experience.

The AFW is far more advanced than truly table wires like the Rio Wire Bite and Terminator Titanium Single Strand Leader. It’s essentially a very thin wire with a strong core. You can make a tight connection with this material in seconds using a pair of fishing pliers.

These products have one problem: they are expensive. Compared to other metal options, it is quite expensive per foot.

Last Thoughts

This is it. If you are fishing bass with braided main lines, a length of fluorocarbon leader or nylon monofilament leader will be enough to lure them into eating and to keep them attached to your hook throughout a tough fight.

A leader 18 inches in diameter of thick fluoro, or mono depends on the size of the pike or muskie you are after.

A stout leader in metal is the best choice if you want to chase gear, blues, and barracuda or wahoo sharks, or any other animal with skin that rivals sandpaper, teeth to match, and skin as beautiful as sandpaper.

We hope you found this article helpful and that it has helped you to make the most out of your time on the water. We’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment.

Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.