In the game (part 21)
  |  First Published: October 2007

Wire is used for quite a few applications in fishing, particularly game fishing. Unfortunately it is often not always required for many of the situations in which anglers use it. Wire should only be used when absolutely necessary as it can deter fish away from your rig, especially as far as demersal species are concerned.

The two main types of wire are single strand and multi-strand. Multi-strand wires are made of several individual strands of wire that are twisted together under tension. The more strands used to make up the wire, the more pliable it becomes. In a previous article I looked at handling and using multi-strand wires and the techniques used for fastening it by swaging with crimps. This month we will have a closer look at uses for single strand wires, and also a fastening technique called the Haywire Twist.

Different Singles

There are several different types of single strand wires. The most common ones used in fishing applications are the soft stainless, titanium and piano wire. Soft stainless is usually used for bait rigging applications, mainly for attaching stinger hooks rather than for leaders. On larger baits, it is sometimes used for fastening gill plates shut and attaching trolling weights to underneath the bait’s chin. It is soft and pliable and can easily be twisted together, much like normal fencing or tie wire. The downside of using it for leaders is that it is relatively thick for its breaking strain and is highly visible with its metallic finish. It is best to be only used for the rigging applications previously detailed.

Titanium single strand wires have a few uses in game fishing, however due to its high price it has not gained popularity with anglers. Titanium wires are mainly available in lighter breaking strains below 30kg, as these are still thin enough to be tied with knots similar to those used in heavy monofilament leaders. Titanium wire can be tied in knots and then untied to reveal straight wire. This ability to be reused helps to offset the high price (a 5m spool often costing in excess of $30). Being available in lighter breaking strains, it is often not suitable for many of the standard game fishing applications. The exception would be for light applications such as lure leaders for targeting smaller toothed critters such as school and spotted mackerel and tailor.

Piano wire achieved its moniker because it is the same type used in pianos. It can be highly tensioned, which helps achieve the sound when the keys are struck. Piano wire’s ability to have such a high breaking strain for such a thin diameter makes it ideal for game fishing applications. Commonly it is used for leaders on rigged baits and lures, with the added advantage that is usually a dark brown or black colour making it less visible to spooky fish. Its high tensile strength creates a very springy wire. Like all things that are highly tensile it doesn’t take well to being bent at sharp angles and then bent back again. Leaders that bend in this manner are best to be replaced, as their strength could be sacrificed at that point. Fortunately it is reasonably priced so replacing damaged leaders is no great drain on the hip pocket.

Piano wire is usually only used in short lengths, as it is less likely that it will bend and kink. It is often used on the front of rigged troll baits, especially those used for sharp-toothed species such as mackerel and wahoo. Bibless and bibbed minnow lures trolled for these species also benefit from a short leader, not only to avoid the risk of being bitten off but also to allow the lure to track true at higher speeds. The thin wire leader allows even water pressure on each side of the lure and therefore it doesn’t gain a preference to track to one side or the other, which would eventually see it surfacing and breaking free from the water.

Doing the twist

Attaching single strand wire to lures and baits is achieved by twisting it. Crimping is not successful with single strand due to the smooth surface of the wire, which doesn’t allow the crimp to grip the wire’s surface that well. Soft, single-strand stainless steel wire can be twisted in tight coils, without effect to the strength of the wire, due to its low tensility. Piano wire however requires a special twisting process called a Haywire Twist to maintain its entire tensile strength. Mostly, anglers just need to tie loops to attach piano wire to lures and baits, or to create a loop on the other end of the leader to attach the snap swivel of the wind-on-leader.

Doing the Haywire Twist by hand is relatively easy with the use of a pair of pliers. There are Haywire Twist tools available which make the job a little easier on your hands. These tools are produced by Du-Bro and The American Fishing Wire companies. I prefer the latter as I find it easier to use. While doing the Haywire Twist by hand does a good job, the Haywire Twist tools make the task a little easier for most anglers. Unfortunately the tools are relatively expensive so most anglers persevere and do it by hand. I will show you how to do the Haywire Twist by hand. If you do decide to buy a Haywire Twist tool then it will come with its own set of instructions for you to follow.


(1) Take the piano wire and fold it over to create a loop. Ensure that you have quite a long tag end to make the twisting process easier on your fingers. If you are attaching the wire to a lure, as I am doing here, then the wire obviously has to pass through the towing eyelet of the lure. Use the tip section of your pliers to hold both strands of the wire to avoid them moving as you twist the wire.

(2) Start by slowly twisting the tag end of the wire around the main length about three to four times as shown.

(3) Bend the tag end of the wire out to around 90 degrees to the main section. Make sure to keep holding the loop of the wire with the pliers as you do this to avoid the previous wraps coming undone due to the springy nature of this wire.

(4) Start wrapping the tag end of the wire around the main section, with each wrap butted against to the last. You will need to securely hold the wire with the pliers during this stage also.

(5) Do around ten wraps with the wire as shown. Take your tag end and fold a 90 degree bend in the wire that is roughly in line with main section of wire as shown.

(6) Rock the wire backwards and forwards, towards the lure and then away until the tag end snaps off where the wraps end. This is much better than cutting the wire as it eliminates the possibility of a sharp finish, which could cause you grief later. The haywire twist is now completed. Do the same in the other end of the lure to create a towing eyelet to which you can attach the snap from your wind-on-leader or main line.

I usually only put a short length of piano wire on my bibbed minnows, bibless lures and some troll baits that are aimed at sharp-toothed species such as wahoo and mackerel. Even a leader of around 20cm is enough to provide the relevant abrasion protection and allow the lure to track better at higher speeds. The short leaders also allow easy storage and reduce the possibility of the leader becoming kinked, which would require is replacement. Also, after hook-up, a short leader means that the snap swivel attaching the main leader to your wire leader is close to the fish. This will decrease the possibility of another fish snapping at the snap swivel or its turbulence, as the swivel will probably be flat to the fish’s flanks as it races away from you.

Once you have done it a few times, it only takes a few minutes to do a haywire twist. It is definitely worth learning if you are a serious game or offshore fisherman.

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