Anglers seldom give leaders much thought.
Consider this an important decision. Other than deciding whether or not to use one, a surprising number of anglers seldom give leaders much thought. As long as there is some type of buffer against the deadly dentures of some species or the abrasive hide of others, fishermen tend to be satisfied. Their attention shifts to other aspects of the sport.
Choosing the right material and proper construction for an effective leader are some of the most overlooked challenges in rigging. The ultimate, of course, centers on fishing a light line without a leader. That seldom is possible on the saltwater scene. Experience will prove to you that the fish you hook has teeth, abrasive skin, or the bottom is rugged. Any of these factors will end the battle almost before it starts.
The general rule is that the heavier the leader material, the fewer strikes you will get. The solution demands a compromise. You want the strongest leader possible without sacrificing too many strikes. Monofilament leader invariably produces more strikes than single strand wire or nylon coated wire. Sometimes you have to use wire or every fish of a given species will cut you off. When you do use wire, rely on the shortest length that will produce favorable results. For offshore trolling, a short length of wire makes it easier to rig a bait. Some anglers even insist that a skipping offering being trolled works better if there is a short length of wire in front of it.
The length of the leader is equally significant.
From a protective standpoint, if the species you seek has an abrasive body, the leader should be longer than the average fish you might catch. Then, when the fish is moving away from you and the line streams over its back, you have the protective advantage of a leader. This part of the leader does not have to be as heavy as the short length around its mouth and gills, but it should be stronger than the line.
Fly fishermen become aware of a leader’s importance very quickly. In that type of fishing, the leader helps to turn over the fly properly so it lands on the water delicately. In very clear and shallow water, a longer leader enables the caster to enjoy a more delicate presentation where the fly line lands farther from the fish. This is particularly important on the saltwater flats for a variety of species including bonefish, permit, tarpon and redfish. Fly leaders take many basic forms, but the most important thing to remember is that each succeeding section should be shorter than the one before.
The majority of tournaments and all record-keeping organizations establish specific leader requirements. It makes sense to study them before you decide to compete or fish for a record. Leaders are a critical part of rigging each outfit you use. Cutting corners or ignoring details can be a serious mistake.
If you lose a trophy fish because of a faulty leader, you’ll have a hard time forgiving yourself.
By Mark Sosin