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Your Guide to Fishing Leaders and When to Use Them

Some anglers think that fishing leaders are simply an added piece of security to keep your line from being broken or bitten off at the hook.

Fishing leaders, however, covers a much more wide array of uses. In this article, I am going to cover some of the different types of fishing leaders how to use them and how to tie them.

trout caught on flurocarbon leader
Adam caught this jumbo 7lb trout on a 6lb fluorocarbon leader Source


A leader is a length of line attached to the end of your main fishing line before the eye of the hook.

It is a separate length to which a rig or lure is tied. Connecting the two lines is usually done by tying the two pieces together with a knot or by tying each line to the separate ends of a swivel with that acting as the joining mechanism between the two.

There are two main reasons for using a leader line. First, it can be used to provide increased protection against the sharp edges of teeth, rocks, reef or rubbing against pylons.

Fishing Leader Line Visibility

The other main reason is that some fishing lines are highly visible underwater. Using specific types of leader can make it difficult for fish to see the line connected to your bait or lure. This can especially be beneficial when fishing for keen-eyed fish such as bass.

Fishing leaders are usually made of monofilament, much stronger than the fishing line they are tied to. In cases of saltwater fishing or fishing for “toothy” fish, wire leaders are used.

When targeting species with more of a finesse approach, fluorocarbon line is used as leader material.

The reason for using fluorocarbon in finesse approaches is due to the fact that fluorocarbon essentially disappears underwater, causing the bait to be the only thing the fish is seeing.

What is a Fishing Leader?

There are many times a leader can be used to ensure a successful catch in any given situation, but that does not always mean leaders are the best choice.

The best time to use a wire leader is when you have the chance to catch a fish with sharp teeth that could possibly cut through your line.

Braid to Flouro

When fishing with braided fishing line, it is a good idea to use a fluorocarbon leader when using any approach other than topwater for freshwater fish.

If you are throwing anything finesse you need to use a 2-3 foot fluorocarbon leader. This will give you the anti-stretch attribute of the braid but also give you the invisibility factor of the fluorocarbon.

Carolina Rigging

Leaders work great if you are fishing a Carolina rig. This gives the easiest method of tying a leader due to the barrel swivel you have to go to use in order to make the Carolina rig correctly.

Monofilament is a good leader material due to the fact that it is fairly transparent underwater. Also, you can use a very heavy line on your leader to ensure you do not lose your bait or fish due to fraying of your line.

Monofilament Leader Suggestions

Here are some recommendations for the proper fishing leader line length for a few situations.

Type of FishingLeader LengthLeader Test (Pounds)
Most freshwater2-3 feetNone to 20
Bonefish, permit2-3 feetNone to 15
All-around inshore2 feet to rod length30 – 40
Snook, TarponRod length30 – 50
Deep jigging, reef bottom fishingRod length50 – 60
Surf fishing leader (ocean casting, surface, mid-deep, shock leader for surf fishing)Rod length30 – 60

Note: Add a short tippet of 80 or 100-pound mono to your basic leader when fishing big tarpon. If you’re going to get strikes from bluefish, mackerel, kings, barracuda, or shark, then add a short tippet of wire as well. The tippet should be around a foot long.

Wire Leader Fishing Suggestions

Type of FishingWire LengthWire Size
Inshore spinning, trolling, drifting light bottom fishing6″ to 3′2 – 5
Offshore trolling and drifting (all-purpose)6′ to 10′6 – 8
Offshore trolling (billfish, yellowfin tuna) with lines of 50-pound-test and under12′ to 15′9 – 12
Offshore trolling (billfish, giant tuna) with lines over 50-pound15′  to 30′10 – 19
Bottom fishing and deep reef trolling3′ to 9′7 – 9
Jewfish Fishing3′ to 9′9 and up
Shark fishing (large shark)12′ to 15′9 and up
steel fishing leader
A small wire leader. Source

How to Tie a Leader

The best knot to use for tying a leader is the Basic Uni to Uni knot.

In order to tie a Uni to Uni knot follow these steps!

  1. Overlap the end of the leader material and mainline by about six inches.
  2. Bring the tag end of the mainline toward the middle and form a loop.
  3. Using the same tag end, make six to eight turns through the loop and tighten by tugging the tag end.
  4. Repeat steps two and three with the leader material.
  5. After moistening the line, pull the standing lines in opposite directions to bring the knots together.

Pro tip: When you are joining lines with different diameters, make an extra wrap or two with the smaller diameter line to help secure and strengthen the new leader knot.

Different Variety of Fishing Leaders

Wire fishing leaders, titanium fishing leaders, and stainless steel fishing leader wires are a good idea for saltwater fishing when going after fish such as grouper.

man holding a snook
Here’s Jim holding a snook. Snook mono leader suggestion is in the table above. Source

Grouper like to hide in holes around rocks. Once they bite, they will try to rush back in the hole. More often than not these holes have rocky openings that will shear off a line. A wire fishing leader can help prevent this.

Fly Fishing Leaders

Fly fishing leaders can actually help give you more control of fly placement. More than that, fishing leaders will help prevent your line from becoming frayed or cut from fishing around the rocky areas often found around areas where fly fishing.

Paired with the right fly rod and fly reel…a well made tapered leader is dangerous on the water.

Monofilament fishing leaders are the more common type used by freshwater fishermen. These fishing leaders are easy to tie, change and adjust.

Fluorocarbon fishing leaders are more often used when finesse fishing or a more “precise” type of fishing.

There are way more varieties of fishing leaders that an angler has at his disposal. These are a few of the more commonly used.

Fishing Leader Holder

Since you’re likely to be fishing in different situations and fish throughout the day, it’s important to have many leaders at your disposal.

This can lead to a tangled mess if you don’t have the right fishing leader storage holder.

You can make one yourself with standard household items or buy one. They’re usually cheap, so it’s likely worth just picking one up.

SAMSFX Foam Board Fishing Line Accessories Wrapped Wire Leader Winding Pack of 5 pcs
  • Size 14cm/5.5" x 5.5cm/2.1" x 0.7cm/0.27",...
  • Foam material and designed with 5 slots each end,...
  • Come with line retaining pins, great for fly...


Q: Why use a fishing leader?

A: Probably the most important reason for using a fishing leader is to help keep your lure/bait from being bitten off or to keep friction from items under the water from cutting your line. Fishing leaders can also become transparent to fish underwater. This can help you land a more cautious fish that may be able to see a standard line.

Q: Do fishing leaders affect the way you cast?

A: Fishing leaders can change the feel of a cast especially to more sensitive gear. They may make the line feel more “weighted”. This takes a little getting used to but becomes second nature.

Q: What is the best fishing leader?

A: That is a matter of opinion. For me, I prefer wire leaders. This is because they are light yet durable.

Q: Can you make your own fishing leader?

A: Absolutely! Many anglers do make their own fishing leaders. This can be because they want a certain material, size or length.

Insider Advice

Fishing leaders are a topic that is not often discussed and some may say, not used. However, many anglers will find that the use of fishing leaders can cut down the number of lost fish and make changing lures much easier.

Fishing leaders come in a variety of sizes and strengths depending o the type of fishing you are doing.

A couple of points to keep in mind, wire leaders, titanium leaders, and stainless steel leaders are the best to use when saltwater fishing. These can be used in freshwater for fish that are more apt to bite a standard fishing line into.

Mono fishing leaders are the more go-to variety for freshwater fishing.

I hope you have found this article helpful and has given you a reason to try out a fishing leader.

The Anglers Behind This Article:

Johnny Harvill

Jon Stenstrom

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