Multi-species leaders
  |  First Published: October 2005

Variety may be the spice of life but it sure creates some problems when it comes to selecting the right terminal tackle.

The southeast Queensland coast takes in a highly productive zone where popular angling targets from southern and northern waters overlap. As a result, there is a staggering list of species available to the region’s anglers. Depending on the time of year, anglers can effectively target anything from snapper to coral trout, or queenfish to tailor. Even the mighty barra can be found here, haunting the same creeks and estuaries as the humble bream, flathead and whiting.

This means that anglers in the region are never short of a species to chase throughout the year. It also means that you are never quite sure what you’ve hooked until you get a look at it, and ultimately, makes selecting the best leaders, traces and terminal tackle very hard.

This dilemma is made even more difficult by the numerous members of the mackerel clan that live around this area. From the smaller school and spotted mackerel, right up to the bigger narrow barred or Spanish mackerel, they can all be found in our coastal waters. As most anglers know, mackerel come armed with a mouthful of sharp teeth and have no trouble biting through mono traces. Therefore, serious mackerel anglers must employ some form of wire trace.

Unfortunately, while wire is a necessary evil for mackerel, using it really does seem to reduce the number of strikes from other sharp-eyed species like tuna and trevally. Because of this, many anglers stick with mono trace material and cop the lure losses on the chin. Luckily, the favoured metal lures for our pelagic species are fairly cheap, so the odd bite off is no more than an annoyance and not too severe on the hip pocket. Nevertheless, with the availability of new trace materials on the market, there are now ways around the problem.

Trace Construction

Before we examine the new bite-proof trace options, let’s look at different types of leader construction. When dealing with big fish and harsh conditions, the easiest form of protection is to simply add a length of heavier mono on the business end. If you have no interest in records, this can be as long as you like.

The next step up the leader ladder includes doubling the main line before joining on the heavier mono. With a double and wind on leader, you have a very functional set-up that helps prevent bust-offs and gives you great control once you get the fish boat side.

Anglers looking for an even higher level of leader performance have taken to using twisted leaders like Rod Harrison’s popular Knotted Dogs. The principle behind the twisted leader is that the two strands twisted together provide a greater surface area than one single strand and are therefore more resistant to abrasion. They also provide a degree of stretch as the leader can unroll slightly when the pressure comes on. The disadvantages mainly relate to the cost, because most are commercially made. Of course they can be constructed at home, however, it is a fiddly procedure and not all types of mono are suitable for this process.

Woven leaders

There is, however, a cheaper way to enjoy the advantages of twisted leader construction, and that is to plait up your own leaders. Woven or plaited leaders are surprisingly easy to make and provide the same advantages as twisted leaders, only more so. This is because there are three strands, so you get three, rather than two, times the surface area to cope with abrasion.

Making them is as simple as cutting three strands of mono (the same breaking strain as your main line is a good starting point) and then weaving them together in a right over left, left over right fashion. A simple overhand knot at each end will stop them unravelling. By tying them to your mainline with double uni knots, you get a wind on leader that works a treat and is ideal for non-stretch braided lines.

They take a little while to make, but I normally tie mine at home while sitting in front of the telly. If you make one or two each night and keep them in zip lock bags, they will be ready to go when you need to re-rig on the water. Because I want the best leaders I can get, I use top quality mono like Platypus Platinum. This is a skinny line with good knot strength and while it doesn’t work that well when twisted, it performs perfectly when plaited.

Although woven leaders are great on their own, I have found a way to turn them into an even better multi-species leader, which will work as well on school mackerel as it does on tuna, trevally and queenfish. On the end of my twisted leaders I simply add a 30cm length of Knottable Steel Trace. The stuff I have been using is called Graphite Metal Tresse and it is distributed by Shipton Trading. Graphite Metal Tresse is basically a braid with steel fibres woven over the top of it and it is surprisingly bite resistant. While not really intended for XOS Spaniards, it does a surprisingly good job on the smaller macks and other bities like tailor.

The best part about this stuff is that it doesn’t seem to put off other species that normally shy away from wire. I have spun up tuna and golden trevally on it, as well as some nice barra. I have even caught whiting and bream while baitfishing with it in the lighter breaking strains. When combined with the woven trace it makes a perfect combination for most inshore sportfishing situations in this region, as it stands up to sharp teeth and gill plates nicely.

The ultimate test

The ultimate test for my new leader set-up will hopefully come with the warmer weather. I intend to tie up some extra heavy versions for use on impoundment barra in Monduran and Awoonga. These big barra in the timber are notoriously tough on leaders and if they can stand up to this sort of test, they should cope with almost anything.

While my search for the ultimate leader still goes on, this set-up is as close as I have come so far. With this leader and trace, you can effectively fish for wire-shy species, yet still have the protection you need when the bities come along. It also provides the extra stretch that helps prevent pulled hooks when fishing with braid. So why don’t you sit down and weave up a couple of multi-species leaders tonight? That way, you’ll be ready for whatever comes along the next time you’re on the water in southeast Queensland.


Leader to main line ratio

While the strength of the leader will vary depending on the location and species being targeted, a good starting point is to construct your woven leaders from the same breaking strain as your main line.

For example, when using 6kg mainline, try a leader made from three strands of 6kg mono. When woven together this should theoretically give you a leader with a breaking strain of 18kg. Of course this is not completely accurate, but can be considered close enough for most purposes.

To make your woven leader into a multi-species leader, add a 30cm length of Knottable Steel Trace to the working end. This could be either a single strand of 15kg trace, or three strands of 4kg trace, woven together in the same fashion as the rest of the leader.

Plaited Leader

Tying your own plaited leaders is as simple as weaving three strands of mono together in a right over left, left over right fashion.

Double Uni Knot

Tie your plaited leader to your main line with a double uni knot: that way you will have a wind on leader that passes easily through your guides.

Golden trevally close-up

Goldens have sharp eyes as this picture clearly shows, but that didn’t deter this solid fish from slurping down a Spanyid Maniac on the end of a multi-species leader. The plaited construction and length of Knottable Steel Trace on the business end can clearly be seen.

While they don’t have the teeth of the mackerel clan, trevally will quickly make a mess of substandard leaders and traces. The multi-species leader copes with these sorts of fish easily.

Fight pic

When fishing with non-stretch braid like this pink Platypus Platinum, a bit of give in the leader can make all the difference between pulled hooks and fish in the boat.

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