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Marrying Braid to Leader Material

By Mark Romanack

Toothy critters like this trophy class northern pike scream out for heavy
fluorocarbon line as leader material. The author normally casts 50-65
 pound test braid and terminates to a 80# test fluorocarbon leader for
 pike and musky fishing.
These days a growing number of anglers are choosing
 super braids as their line of choice. The low stretch and super sensitivity braid
 offers makes sense for a lot of fishing presentations like vertical jigging,
 casting jigs, live bait rigging and structure trolling.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome when fishing braid is figuring out what kind of leader material to use. While a few anglers recommend tying their lures directly to braided line, I typically recommend either a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader. The advantage of using a leader is braid tends to be hard to break should you snag bottom and when braid does break it frays at the end, making it tricky to retie quickly.

What leader material makes the most sense depends on the species being targeted, the specific fishing conditions and also water clarity.

When fishing in ultra clear water it makes sense to use fluorocarbon leader material which is less visible in water than any other leader material. Any time I’m targeting trout, walleye, bass or even pike and musky in clear water I’m reaching for fluorocarbon line as my leader. The best fluorocarbon in this situation is line designed to be leader material and not main-line fluorocarbon. Main-line fluorocarbon tends to be softer and have less abrasion resistance than true fluorocarbon leader material.

A quick check of the package should confirm if the fluorocarbon is designed to be used as main-line or as leader material. Leader material is often sold on smaller spools, but the most economical way to purchase fluorocarbon is on a filler spool. So long as this line is kept out of the sun and stored in a cool place it will maintain it’s integrity for several seasons.

In stained and tannic acid waters like commonly found across Ontario,
 the author recommends using a high abrasion resistant monofilament
 as leader material. Both Maxima’s Ultra Green and Chameleon are tough
 as a tow strap and make for an economical leader material. 
When fishing in weed cover, downed timber or among rocks the leader material of choice needs to be a highly abrasion resistant line. Again, fluorocarbon leader material tends to be tougher than monofilament or main-line fluorocarbon lines.

Toothy critters like northern pike and musky cry out for fluorocarbon leader because these lines are as tough as you can get short of using a wire leader.

Not always is it necessary to terminate a braided line with expensive fluorocarbon line. In fact, quality monofilament lines like Maxima’s Ultra Green can also make great leader material.

When fishing in stained or off color water, it’s not necessary to use fluorocarbon which tends to be more expensive. A low visibility monofilament like Ultra Green (  makes sense from both an economic standpoint and also durability. Ultra Green is one of the most abrasion resistant lines on the market and a favorite of anglers who are constantly fishing around rocks, wood, weeds and other cover.

Maxima sells Ultra Green on filler spools and also on leader spools because so many of their customers use this line for leader material. The unique color and abrasion resistance qualities of this line make it a favorite among stream steelhead, trout and salmon fishermen who demand the toughest lines.

Another great monofilament that functions flawlessly as leader material is Maxima Chameleon. Tough as a tow strap, Chameleon is a dark brown color that blends well in waters that are tannic acid stained.

When targeting trout and other species in gin clear
 waters the author favors fluorocarbon as leader
 material. Nothing is less visible in water than
 a premium quality fluorocarbon leader material.
Attaching braided lines to leader material requires a good knot. My favorite is the Double Uni Knot which is nicely illustrated at and is easy to learn. The Double Uni Knot is tough, small enough to pass through rod and reel guides and can be used to join any combination of line diameters.

The ideal length of a leader depends on the fishing situation. For trolling, I normally use a six to seven foot leader terminated to a snap which is ideal for fishing crankbaits and other hardware.

For vertical jigging, a leader of 18-24 inches is adequate. I normally use a leader material that is one break strength lighter than my main line. For casting jigs where it’s highly likely that jigs will snag and have to be broken off, I favor a little longer 24-36 inch leader.

Live bait rigs require a leader of 36-72 inches. For structure fishing applications a 36-42 inch leader is normally ideal, but for targeting suspended fish a longer 60-72 inch lead is recommended.

With more and more anglers using super braids as their main line, it makes perfect sense to take a closer look at leader materials. Both fluorocarbon and high abrasion type monofilament lines can function nicely for leader.

Giving a little thought to what leader makes the most sense can save you money and also keep you on the fish longer.