The modern landbased angler has many choices when it comes to leader material, but there are four basic materials that come to mind when considering leader material: Fluorocarbon, Monofilament, Single Strand Wire, and Cable. Each of these materials has their place, and each has their downsides. The following article will address the positives and negatives of each of these materials and their utility for landbased shark and landbased game fishing.
Monofilament is perhaps the most versatile of the leader materials, being available in numerous breaking strains and colors, easy to work with, and possessing incredible durability. Despite all of these wonderful features monofilament is also low cost when compared to other materials available. Monofilament leader material can either be crimped or tied, the ease of either method will be determined by the breaking strain and stiffness of the material in question. As a general rule, we prefer to crimp the material when using breaking strains over 300lb. Under 300lb it is faster, cheaper, and more effective to tie the material using a knot such as the nail knot or uni-knot. Always use aluminum crimps when crimping mono.
One of the positive aspects of monofilament leader material is its wide array of color selections. This means the angler can chose a color that best fits their needs. Clear for low visibility, or darker colors for stained water.
Another plus to working with monofilament leader material is its flexibility and stretch. This provides a lot of forgiveness when fighting and leadering a fish, it also prevents the leader from kinking and becoming unruly over time. Mono leaders can usually be used for several fish before they begin to show signs of wear. This makes mono leader material even cheaper than it already is.
Monofilament isn’t the toughest of the leader materials available to the landbased angler. Most toothy fish will sever a monofilament leader in one or two head shakes. It is also only moderately abrasion resistant. This can be countered by using heavier breaking strain materials, but that comes at a cost of more visible rigs in the water as well as lower flexibility and higher cost.
Monofilament also has a memory, meaning that when coiled for long periods of time it may retain that shape and perform poorly as a leader material.
Where monofilament really shines as a leader material is when cost is a consideration. When fishing in and around structure that can result in frequent lost rigs mono often shines by reducing the cost of the fishing session considerably. Monofilament is also a good choice for rub leader material as it is available in large sizes that can take abuse from rough bottom structure and shark skin. Mono is also relatively low visibility and as such can be useful when fish are line shy. Mono should never be used as a bite leader or in applications where it is likely to come in contact with teeth. This will only result in lost fish and heartbreak for the angler.
Fluorocarbon leader material can be a fantastic leader material for landbased fishing. Fluorocarbon is stiff, abrasion resistant, and thinner in diameter than mono of the same strength. Fluoro does not stretch or compress well, and as a result should never be crimped, only tied. This can be hard given its stiffness, but since fluoro carbon is not available in as wide an array of diameters as monofilament, it is generally thinner and easier to work with that mono of the same strength. Fluoro is also generally only available in clear, with a few exceptions designed for specific markets that do not really apply to landbased angling.
Fluorocarbon line is far more abrasion resistant than monofilament. This means thinner diameter leader can be used for the same strength of connection. Fluorocarbon is also memory free, meaning that if pulled tight it will return to a limp straight section of line even after being stored.
Fluoro is also the lowest visibility of all the leader materials. This is a huge bonus when fishing in clear or tropical conditions. Fluorocarbon is also more dense than mono, making it sink. A huge bonus when used to present live baits, as they will not have to drag down a length of buoyant leader to get down to the fish.
As a leader material Fluorocarbon is very low stretch. This can be a negative when leadering a fish or applying large amounts of drag. Pulled hooks and low forgiveness can make this a tricky material in the end game.
Another negative of Fluoro is cost. This is by far the most expensive leader material commonly used, and has the lowest longevity of any of the materials hen exposed to hostile fishing conditions.
This leader material, with its low visibility, high abrasion resistance and low stretch make it optimum for certain applications. Landbased fishing in clear water for line shy fish, this is the best choice. Also due to its high abrasion resistance, fluoro can be considered as a leader material for live bait shark fishing, especially when used with circle hooks and for small toothed species like Thresher Sharks. Baits will live longer and tangle less on fluoro leaders.
Single Strand Wire:
Single Strand Wire is the most tooth-proof leader material available to anglers. It is usually made of a single piece of stainless steel wire. Single strand is available in various breaking strengths and diameters, from fairly light tackle stuff all the way up to 300+lb material. Single Strand wire must be tied, never crimped, and this can only be done with a special connection called a Haywire Twist. Rigs are not usually made entirely of single strand, but rather tipped with a short 1-3’ section of the bite-proof material and made the rest of the way with a softer leader material like mono or flouro.
Single Strand Wire is the most tooth resistant material available. If sized appropriately, no shark or gamefish will be able to bite through single strand. This can lead to very positive connections and confidence on the angler’s part to pull hard and land fish faster and safer.
Another positive of single strand is its relatively low cost. Since not very much single strand is used for each leader, cost stays down.
Single strand wire is a very stiff material. This can mean that if kinked, it will break much easier. This kinking can happen when a fish jumps, or rolls on the leader in a way that allows it to bend dramatically. This is a sure fire way to lose the fish.
Another negative of single strand is its high visibility and high electromagnetic signature in the water. This material will definitely reduce the amount of strikes received. When fishing in tropical areas, or for line shy fish, single strand may not be the best choice.
Single strand wire is used almost exclusively when fishing for very toothy fish, such as sharks and members of the mackerel and barracuda families. In this application a short section of single strand bite leader can be used to ensure the fish stays buttoned to the line rather than sheared off. However, for fish that jump, twist, or head shake violently, single strand may not be the best choice, as the leader can kink or twist and become dramatically weaker.
Multi-strand fishing cable is a splendid leader material. With a high resistance to teeth, abrasion, and low memory, cable is a fantastic choice when a durable material is needed. Cable is available in a wide array of sizes, coatings and colors for each application. The more strands the cable has the easier it is to work with, but the less bite resistant the material will be. Depending on the carrier count and diameter, cable can be tied or crimped. Always use brass/bronze crimps when crimping cable, aluminum will create a galvanic reaction that corrodes the materials.
Cable is flexible, durable, and immune to many of the issues that plague single strand wire. Kinking or twisting will not significantly weaken cable leaders.
Cable leaders also have low memory, and low stretch. This can mean long lives of multiple fish and a low cost for use for this leader material despite the higher cost initially.
Cable has a high electromagnetic presence in the water as well as relatively high visibility given its opaque nature. This can lead to reduced strikes.
Cable is also made up of numerous smaller strands of wire, which can mean that given enough time, large sharks with serrated teeth can and will eventually saw through the material. Mako, White, and Tiger shark in particular are known for getting through the cable on prolonged fights.
Cable is an excellent landbased shark fishing leader, especially for jumping/twisting species like Threshers, Makos, Cow and White Sharks. Cable can excel where single strand does not in this regard. However, when faced with long fight times, single strand may be a better choice (ie: Giant Tiger Sharks). Despite these drawbacks, cable is probably the single most versatile tooth-resistant leader material available for Land Based Shark Fishing (LBSF).
Thanks for taking the time to read this article, for more information and details on thee leader materials and landbased angling in general, please visit our own website at TerraFirmaTackle.com.