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Working With Wire
  |  First Published: December 2015



The use of wire trace is one of those necessary evils that anglers must occasionally embrace to target those ‘toothy critters’ that could otherwise easily chop through their lines. Here’s the best way to tackle the need for a little bit of bite insurance.

There are quite a few species of fish equipped with teeth sharp enough to slice, chew, or chop through an angler’s line or leader. Obvious contenders in this category are genuine ‘razor gang’ members such as Spanish and spotted mackerel, wahoo and tropical barracuda. Down south, tailor, barracouta, even pike and snook all have sharp teeth and, of course, most sharks are well-equipped in this department. Big flathead, barramundi, Murray cod, queenfish, mahi-mahi and the like also have hard enough jaws or sufficiently rough scouring pad teeth to damage finer leaders, and billfish like marlin and sailfish have sandpaper bills that do the same thing.

In many instances we can hedge our bets against these fish by upping the diameter and breaking strain of our mono leaders. Moving from 6 to a 10kg nylon or fluorocarbon may be all that’s required to prevent regular chew-offs from big flatties, while a 30-40kg leader or bite tippet will usually cope with all but the very biggest barra. However, tropical mackerel, wahoo, big tailor and many sharks will continue to easily cut such leaders. If this starts to happen on a regular basis, fishers are likely to reach for the wire.

Faced with these chop-off challenges, many anglers choose to buy a couple of factory-made traces. These are usually constructed from 30-40cm lengths of plastic-coated, multi-strand wire with a barrel swivel at one end and a snap clip at the other. Shop-bought traces do a good job of preventing bite-offs, although it can pay to choose more expensive brands fitted with quality hardware over the cheapies.

As useful as pre-made traces are, they rarely display much in the way of finesse. Most are thick and obtrusive, often carrying bright, shiny fittings. There’s absolutely no doubt that the use of any form of wire leader will reduce the number of bites you get, especially when targeting fussy, sharp-eyed species in heavily fished waters. This phenomenon is especially evident when running thick, factory-made traces.

Many tropical and sub-tropical fishers who regularly pursue mackerel and the like make their own wire traces, and this is my preferred approach. Rolling your own allows the use of thin, dull-coloured, single-strand wire and also means you can customise the length and fittings to suit your needs and optimize the end product. Strong connections are created in this material using a combination of haywire twists and barrel rolls. Take a look at my accompanying instructional video, which can be accessed via the QR code on this page, or by going to: https://youtu.be/PIoXIKXUS3I.

Single strand wire is most often sold in 10m coils in a zip lock plastic bag with a cardboard backer enclosed. Opt for well-known brands such as Mason, Malin or American Fishing Wire and always choose dull, non-reflective finishes in brown tones rather than flashy silver.

Single strand wire is very thin for its strength and although it often kinks and coils badly after catching a few fish, it’s cheap enough to be regarded as a disposable item. I’ll usually pre-make a couple of traces, but once you become adept at the technique, it’s easy enough to do it in the field. If you’re new to working with wire, carefully study the illustrations hereabout and closely watch my how-to video on YouTube channel at ‘Starlo Gets Reel’.

As a final couple of tips, keep your home-made traces as short and fine as possible, minimise the number and size of terminal items attached to them, and always choose dark, dull-coloured swivels, clips and the like. You’ll hook a lot more fish as a result!

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