Born leaders (Part 2)
  |  First Published: July 2003

Mono and copolymer leaders

SECTION: General

WHEN it comes to selecting a leader, wire should be a last resort. Even sharks bite better without wire, as many jewie anglers know. Monofilament leaders can be used for abrasion resistance as well as concealing visible main lines, and to give fused and braided lines a little stretch. Mono won’t stop a shark or a wahoo biting you off, but in many situations mono leaders are essential.

Mono leaders are a must for anglers spinning with braided or fused lines. If you connect a lure straight onto some Fireline, it will last for about 15 minutes before the Fireline starts to wear. Eventually, the lure will just fall straight from the line as it wears clean through. Fireline and braided lies are highly visible as well, so it's a good idea to have a clear mono leader between the line and the lure anyway.

For abrasion resistance, you can’t go past copolymer monofilament lines. Copolymer nylon is manufactured by mixing different types of nylon together. Tackle manufactures use copolymers that give better abrasion resistance and often a softer, more flexible end product than was previously available with standard monofilament lines. Due to copolymers being a nylon mix, depending on the manufacturer and the nylons used, copolymer line attributes vary.

The best abrasion-resistant nylon leader on the market, in my opinion, is Penn 10X, which has been tested and proven to be the most abrasion-resistant line available. Recently, Penn released a clear 10X in a handy leader application spool. These spools are available in 20lb to 100lb breaking strain.

Stren also makes an excellent copolymer monofilament leader called Stren Super Tough. Super Tough comes in clear as well as green, and has served me very well.

Copolymer monofilament will always eventually wear through and, as I found out in last year’s Flathead Classic, Penn 10X does have a breaking point. However, while you may lose a few fish that you wouldn’t lose on wire, you will defiantly hook into a lot more fish by using a mono leader.

Being kind to your leader

The lesson I learnt from losing a big flathead at the Classic is that the tension you place on a leader is vital in determining the line's breaking point. Try cutting fishing line with a sharp knife but with very little tension on the line. It will be a lot harder to cut through than line that's held tight under a lot of tension.

A trick that Kaj 'Bushy' Busch once wrote about is to back the drag all the way off, and when the flathead wants to run, let him go without any tension on the line. This has worked a charm for me – I've managed some huge flathead on bream gear that has a 6lb fluorocarbon leader. When I can get line back on the fish I just place a finger on the spool and pull the fish in with the rod. When the rod tip is held high, I drop it back down, winding in the slack line as I go. As soon as the fish turns and runs or starts those violent headshakes, the spool is released and the tension on the line is minimized. Surprisingly, it doesn’t take too long to get the fish into the net. I have lost a couple of fish to the technique, but have landed many more.

A little stretch

Lure casting calls for a different approach to leaders. I like to cast lures on small threadline or overhead tackle where I spool up with light braided and fused line. This creates a few requirements for my leader. Firstly, the line I use is highly visible so I need a long leader that the fish won’t see. I can’t have too much line hanging from the end of my rod to cast these lures, so the leader needs to run thought the eyes on the rod without affecting my casting. I also require a little stretch in the line. As my main line has very little stretch, a couple of metres of monofilament can work as a small shock absorber for a struggling fish.

In this situation, the leader has to be a compromise between a line with some stretch and also an ultra-thin diameter. To achieve enough stretch, I require at least two metres of monofilament leader, which will be cast through the rod runners. So that I can still cast small lures and achieve some distance, the knot that joins my leader to the main line has to be as small as possible. When sportfishing with light line, the improved Albright knot is ideal when no double is required, or a Deckie's Knot is used to attach the leader to the double. Both of these knots have very little bulk, and with an ultra-fine diameter line they're even smaller – so you don't get a big lump of nylon caught up in the guides, hindering the cast. The leader also needs to be clear and have good knot strength.

There are many good quality lines on the market that can be used as a thin, stretch leader, but I prefer either Platypus Super 100 or Stren MagnaThin. Stren MagnaThin comes in small leader spools, but the only outlet I know of that sells these is Springwood Marine. These spools are great to slip into the tackle box and are cheep enough to have a few different breaking strains to choose from.

Platypus Super 100 is also a clear mono with great stretch and super-thin diameter. It is available from most tackle outlets but is sold only in large spools. When fishing with 2kg or 3kg main line, I like to use 12lb in the Platypus and 14lb in the Stren. This allows me to tie a super strong knot that's thin enough to cast through the runners.

When using stretch leaders you have to consider what knot you'll be tying your lure or hook on with. Blood knots are quite strong, but most anglers now use a perfection loop to attach lures to the leader. However, while the perfection is awesome for giving a lure some action, it will cause the leader to break at the knot well below the line's breaking strain. All this means is that if you have a main line of 3kg, your leader must be around the 5kg mark to allow for the weaker knots. If I have a 2kg or 3kg main line, my leader will be around the 6kg mark. This gives me some stretch, low visibility as well as some abrasion resistance. This is what I use when spinning in the oyster racks, and I can put some real muscle on fish as well as have a little bit of protection as the line runs across the wooden racks. I regularly manage to pull mangrove jack, trevally, bream, cod and tarpon from the racks with this tackle, so I can vouch for how well it works.

What about Fluorocarbon?

There’s a lot of talk about fluorocarbon in fishing publications, and a few fishing journalists have been questioning their worth. I use fluoro and am sure that it makes a difference.

Standard monofilament line reflects light and therefore becomes visible in shallow water, and the sun shining off the fishing line is sometimes enough to spook timid fish. Fluorocarbon absorbs most light, and manufacturers state that it has a similar refractive index as water. For that reason, fluoro doesn’t get the big shine coming of it that mono can get.

Anglers who cast lures for bream swear by quality fluorocarbon line. A standard breaming rig has become 4lb Fireline and 8lb fluorocarbon leader. I actually prefer a 6lb leader, but whichever way you go, in bright, shallow water, fluorocarbon leaders work.

When it comes buying fluorocarbon, I once again use Stren. I used to use Berkley Vanish but was told by some well-respected anglers that Stren was better, so I changed over. To be honest, I haven’t noticed any difference in the two lines, so I won't recommend one over the other. I will say though that some lines branded as fluorocarbon are copolymers that are a mixture of fluorocarbon and another type of nylon. This changes the line's reflective characteristics, and it will not perform as well as pure fluorocarbon nylon. These days, good manufacturers have caught on and have started to mark their products as 100% fluorocarbon. If you’re not sure, stick with one of these brands.

Almost any fish that likes to feed in bright, shallow water responds well to a fluorocarbon leader. Flathead, whiting, garfish and luderick anglers could all benefit from giving fluorocarbon a try. It won’t make much difference when the fish are on the bite, but when they are a little shy it might be all the help you need.

There are a couple of downfalls to using fluorocarbon. One is the fact that it has very little stretch. Fluorocarbon has around 3% stretch where mono averages around 12% stretch. This means that when fluoro is matched with a main line that has minimal stretch, it's a lot easier for the fish to throw the hooks – and you also lose that shock absorber effect that a stretchy leader can give.

I once spooled up with an ultra-light spool of fluorocarbon as a main line, planning to use it for fishing soft plastics when the fish were shut down. It certainly caught a lot of fish but the line twist and resulting tangles were a nightmare. As a leader, fluoro is great – but as a main line it can be more trouble than the wife with a Myer card.

Compared with some of the monofilament leaders I use for lure casting, fluorocarbon is a lot thicker and therefore doesn’t run through the rod guides as well as MagnaThin or Super 100 – nor does it have the same knot strength. In light, shallow water fishing when a 6lb or 8lb leader is used it's fine, but once you get into the 10lb bracket it starts to get bulky.

Leaders are a necessary evil in modern day sportfishing, but if I can get away without a fancy leader or even no leader at all, that's fine by me. In many fishing situations I have an expensive lure attached to some very light line, and while sometimes it feels as though I'm just giving them, I like to try to hold on to them until they have at least caught me a few fish. That thought alone has justified my collection of leader material.

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