Fishing Leaders – Why, When and How To Use Them

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Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts and welcome to my post discussing all things fishing leaders. Namely, why do we need them, when do we use them and how do we go about it? I am an avid believer and user of leaders on all of my rods and for every type of fishing that I do.

Sometimes this is just because I have braid on the reel and need a leader to assist with my rigs however for others they are used to assist in casting or hook setting as well. So for those of you wondering about the world of fishing leaders, let’s check it all out below…

What are fishing leaders?

In general terms, a fishing leader is a length of mono or fluorocarbon line that is attached between the end of the line that is spooled on the reel and your hookset or lure. The line used for a leader is generally stronger than that spooled and can be either attached directly to the braid or on the other end of a swivel.

Why use a fishing lure - man tying knots

Why do we use them?

Leaders are in my humble opinion a critical piece of your fishing rig that provides many advantages to us as we chase the big ones. I predominately use braid on my lines and as it has no stretch, can snap when the extra pull and strain of a cast is evident. Leaders give that little bit of stretch meaning they are able to absorb that extra pressure and protect the braid as the line is cast. Other advantages of a leader include:

  • Greater protection against rocks, corals etc.
  • Improved line invisibility (braid can be highly visible to fish).
  • Less susceptible to twisting and tangling than braid.
  • Extra strength at the fish end

And if you are using braid, then a mono leader will make for simpler and easier knot tying as well.

Shock leaders

If you are casting in the surf or other areas where distance can be a factor, a shock leader can also provide extra protection for those using heavy weights on the line as well. The idea here is to use a leader that is quite a bit longer than you may normally use (see below) and also a lot stronger than your spooled line.

This way when you are casting, the leader will take the full strain of the cast whip and protect your spooled line and reel as well.

Wire leaders

If you are chasing fish with particularly sharp teeth such as Mackerel etc., then a wire leader may be necessary as well. As the name suggests, these are made of wire or stainless steel rather than mono or braid and built to stop the fish simply biting through the line.

It should be noted here that wire leaders (a.k.a wire traces) are highly visible and also inhibit bait presentation so are really only worthwhile in a trolling situation for these fast moving and ‘teethy’ species.

Why use a fishing lure - wire trace

What do you need to consider?

As you look to setup your leader, there are a few things to consider when choosing the right line type for your needs.


The first consideration here is strength. You’ll need a leader that is strong enough to handle the biggest fish you might encounter as well as casting strain you might need. When it comes to a normal leader, I personally like to go for a strength one measurement larger than my main line – i.e. 10lb line – 12lb leader. If you are in a high snag area however then some like to go a size under so that if the line snags, the leader will snap and not the main line.


When it comes to general leaders, I usually use around 30 – 40 cm (11 to 15″) from the mainline to either a swivel in a kayak or off the bank or hook if free floating on the open sea.

When it comes to shock leaders however, most recommend an even longer length so that there is definitely still some spooled on the reel as the rod is cast – say 2 – 3 metres (around the same in yards). This provides extra protection for the braid as well as the fact that as there is more distance between you and the fish, a longer leader will assist in reducing tangles and snags as well.

Line type

There are a variety of different materials that can be used for a leader with the man options being mono or fluorocarbon (or wire as above).

Fluorocarbon however tends to be the most common and recommended material for leaders as it is stronger and more abrasive resistant than traditional monofilament line. It is also considered to be nearly invisible to fish making it best in environments where it is important that the fish cannot see the line.

why use a shock leader - surf weights


And finally, as you will need to tie your leader to your mainline, you will need to ensure that the diameter is as close to matching as possible. The issue is that braid is usually a lot thinner than mono line (one of its advantages) however this does make it hard to hold the knot if the leader is too thick.

This is another reason for the use of flouro as a leader as it is also quite thin. They don’t have to be an exact match, but the closer the better.

How do we set them up?

Ok, so finally we need to know how to set them up. As I mentioned above, I use braid on most of my lines so I set mine up as follows:

Kayak or general fishing with live bait

  1. Tie around 30 – 40cm worth of leader line directly to the braid (2 to 3 meters if a shock leader)
  2. Attached a swivel to the end of the first leader
  3. Tie another 30 – 40cm worth of leader line on the other side of the swivel
  4. Attache your hook to the end.

General fishing or trolling with a lure

  1. Tie around 1 metre worth or leader line directly to the braid
  2. Attach the lure to the end of the leader

Deep sea fishing

  1. Tie around 3 metres worth or leader line directly to the braid
  2. Tie paternoster loops into the leader
  3. Make a loop at the end of the leader
  4. Loop your hooks into the paternoster lops
  5. Loop your weight into the bottom loop

Wire trace fishing

  1. Tie around 1 – 2 meters/yards worth of leader line directly to the braid
  2. Attached a swivel to the end of the first leader
  3. Attach your wire trace to the other end of the swivel (some come with pre attached swivel)
  4. Attach your hook or lure to the other end of the trace using the clip provided


And there it is, some general information in regards to the use of a leader whilst fishing. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please do not hesitate to let me know of your experiences or preferences when it comes to leaders below.

Until next time

Have fun


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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.