Fishing Leaders 101: This Is Why, When And How They’re Used

Fishing Leaders 101: This Is Why, When And How They’re Used 2

When it comes to fishing, every last bit of equipment and gear plays an important role, and depending on what you use, your chances of being successful in fishing will increase or decrease.

Of course, skill and technique plays an equally important part, but having the right tools certainly makes it easier! 

You might have heard of some anglers that are big fans of using fishing leaders, and when used in the right circumstances, they can certainly be incredibly handy. But what are fishing leaders?

How do you use them? And when should you be using them? 

Don’t worry, we can tell you everything you need to know about fishing leaders in this 101 guide, so that you have all of the basics covered and can try them out to become more familiar with them.

Does that sound good? Then let’s get right into it! 

What is a fishing leader?

Trout leader

Let’s start with the most simple and basic of all questions: what is a fishing leader? 

Well, it is essentially just a piece of line, which you then tie between your hook and your main fishing line on the rod. If you have a fly fishing setup, then having a fishing leader is mandatory.

For other fishing setups, you don’t necessarily need a fishing leader, but some anglers find them very useful, and there are certain situations in which they can give you an advantage. 

As for what the fishing leader is for…it has two main purposes:

  • It serves as protection to your main fishing line so that it doesn’t break or become damaged, as what is directly linked to the hook is the fishing leader and not the line itself. 
  • It provides a better bait presentation, so it can help you attract more fish!

Should you use a fishing leader?

The next question you might be asking yourself, now that you know what a fishing leader is, and what it is usually for, is whether you should be using one yourself or not.

Or rather, what are the exact advantages of actually using a fishing leader within your fishing setup?

Well, there are many advantages to using a fishing leader. In fact, here are some of the main ones that you need to know about: 

  • The fishing leader will conceal the fishing line, improving the overall presentation of the bait. If the fish can’t see the fishing line, and instead only see the very subtle shimmer of the fishing leader, they are less likely to get suspicious or spooked, and far more likely to actually take the bait so that you can catch them. So off the bat, using a fishing leader will massively increase your chances of success, so that you catch many more fish, with far more ease. 
  • If you use lures that tend to move about and twist the fishing line, having a fishing leader will decrease this, so that the fishing line remains straight and untangled, which is always a great bonus. 
  • If you are trying to catch a fish that has very sharp teeth or scales, the risk is always that the fishing line might snap. But if you use the right type of fishing leader, like for example a wire leader, then the fishing line is completely protected and you’ll be able to win the battle! 
  • Fishing leaders can also save you money, which is definitely a good thing. Basically, instead of having to use a full spool of fluorocarbon (which is pretty expensive), you simply add a few inches at the end of the fishing line, and then you add the fishing leader. 

There are many more advantages, and at the end of the day, some anglers simply prefer them because they find that it overall improves their setup and that it suits their preferences.

But on top of that, there are some situations in which having a fishing leader can be the difference between success and defeat, so regardless of whether you want them as a constant tool in your setup or not, you should become familiar with them on a basic level, just in case they are ever needed. 

When do you use a fishing leader?

Advantages of leader line and  when to use it

Okay, so when exactly should you be using a fishing leader? 

The truth is, you can use a fishing leader whenever you want, and it is always okay to add it to your setup. So if you wanted, you could use a fishing leader every single time you go fishing!

It has many advantages, and no real disadvantages that we can think of, so why wouldn’t you use it?

Also, it is borderline a necessity when you are baitcasting or using spinning gear because otherwise, your fishing line will start twisting, will be super visible, and everything will pretty much go wrong.

The fishing leader saves you from all that! 

Also, if you ever need extra strength at the end of your fishing line, whether it’s to catch bigger and heavier fish, or fish with dangerous teeth or scales, then the fishing leader is pretty much the only reasonable solution.

If you don’t use one, the chances of your fishing line breaking are pretty high, and then you will have caught absolutely nothing.

Materials out of which fishing leaders are made of

Fishing leaders are pretty strong, and incredibly useful, providing many advantages to your overall fishing setup, so that you are more successful. But what exactly are they made out of? 

Well, as a general rule, fishing leaders are made out of one of two main materials:


Monofilament leader type

Monofilament fishing leaders are incredibly popular, and probably the most commonly used amongst anglers.

They are the cheapest option when it comes to fishing leaders, so they are pretty much the budget go-to material for them. 

But apart from being more affordable, monofilament leaders are less dense than the other option, which means they don’t sink into the water as fast.

Therefore, you can use dry flies with ease, and they will be able to float about in the water

It does need to be said, however, that monofilament absorbs quite a lot of water, so in time they will stop floating as much, and you will have to change them.

But since they are cheap, changing them isn’t really that much of an issue!


Fluorocarbon leader type

Fluorocarbon fishing leaders are a lot more recent, so they aren’t quite as popular or widespread as of yet. However, they are the favorite option of many anglers for one main reason: they are practically invisible.

This is because fluorocarbon has almost the same refractive index as water, and it helps completely conceal the fishing line so that difficult fish is a lot easier to catch. 

And that’s not all. Fluorocarbon leaders stretch less than the monofilament ones, which in turn means they have a higher sensitivity, allowing you to pick up on even the lightest of bites!

Plus, you can control the lure or bait a lot better. 

The downside of fluorocarbon is that it is slightly pricier, and it’s harder to tie knots with it making it a bit more of a hassle to use. 

But out of these two materials…which one is the best? Or which one should you be using? 

That completely depends on your needs and your personal preferences.

Some anglers stick to one type, and others switch between them depending on the circumstance and the fishing needs of that moment.

Both types of fishing leaders have their own pros and cons, and it is about weighing these against the location and fish that you are after so that you have the best combination and chance of success! 

Choosing the right fishing leader size

Different fishing leader purpose

Another thing that you need to know about fishing leaders, is that they come in all sorts of sizes, and you need to be able to choose the right length so that they are useful to your setup.

But how on earth are you supposed to choose the right size? Again, we’ve got you covered. 

As a general rule, fishing leaders tend to be between 13 inches to 30 inches in length.

However, the exact size of the fishing leader that you use should depend on the fish that you are after, your personal fishing style, and the layout of the water (aka the location in which you are fishing). 

Fishing leaders that are on the longer side are usually best for long casts, as they will prevent the fishing line from getting tangled.

They are also suitable for catching fish with a stronger sense of eyesight, as longer fishing leaders will be better at concealing the fishing line so that it is hidden from the fish and the fish bites. 

Fishing leaders that are on the shorter side, on the other hand, are better for shorter casts that are more precise and controlled, like when you are fishing from a small boat.

This is because you will control the lure a lot better, and it prevents you from accidentally hooking yourself!

Shorter fishing leaders are also great for fishing in areas that are heavily covered, as they will not be as likely to get tangled or stuck in seaweeds or any other items floating about in the water. 

If you’re not quite sure of what length you need your fishing leader to be, then we recommend you go for one that is around 30 inches long.

The truth is, it is better to go too long than too short because you can always shorten a long fishing leader if need be, but you can’t exactly make a shorter one longer! 

How to make your own fishing leader?

If you’re a fan of trying out DIY methods, and you don’t really want to have to buy a fishing leader…then why not make your own?

Yup, you can make your own fishing leader, and it isn’t really that hard! In fact, we’ll give you two different methods that you can try out for making your own fishing line, with everything that you need along with step-by-step instructions. 

Let’s get into them! 

Method 1

DIY leader line advice

You will need a spool of line and some clippers. 

Here is how you do it: 

  1. Start by cutting the leader to the desired length, out of the spool of line. (Make sure that you are leaving some spare length, in order to be able to tie the knots!) 
  2. Tie the leader to your main fishing line, by using a line-to-line knot. You can do a double uni, or alternatively, a blood knot. 
  3. Use the knot of your choice to tie the hook or lure to the leader, instead of tying it to the main fishing line, and you’re good to go! 

This is a super simple method, straightforward and effective. However, as the leader is tied to the fishing line with a knot, they will twist together if the lure twists.

So it isn’t that professional of a result. Also, it means that if the fishing leader breaks, or needs to be replaced, you will have to cut a small bit of the main fishing line (as they are connected through a knot), and this is less than ideal. 

But if you’re a beginner, or you want a quick method to have a fishing leader as an emergency of sorts, then this method is very practical and effective. 

Method 2

DIY leader line

You will need a spool of line, some clippers, some connectors, swivels, and a set of crimpers. 

Here is how to do it: 

  1. Start by cutting the line to the length of your choosing, out of the spool of line. (Again, make sure you are leaving some spare length for tying knots!)
  2. Pass one end of the leader through the connector. 
  3. Next, add a swivel to the end of the leader that you just passed through the connector. Then, pass the end through the connector again, so that you have a loop with the swivel inside. 
  4. Grab the crimpers and squeeze the connector. However, be careful of the pressure you are applying, as you don’t want to accidentally cut the line! 
  5. Repeat all of the above steps (from 2 to 4), on the other end of the line. This should end up being a leader with a swivel inside a loop at both ends. 
  6. To finish off, tie the leader to the main fishing line with the use of a knot of your choosing. And you’re good to go! 

This method, as you can see, is slightly more complicated than the first, so a beginner might struggle a little.

However, the main advantage of using this method, is that if the leader snaps or needs replacing, you simply replace it, no need to cut the main fishing line at all, which is something that should always be avoided if possible.

This method also prevents the line from twisting, and it allows the leader to be a lot stronger and a lot more useful. 

So sure, it’s a little more complicated, but if you practice it a few times you’ll master it in no time, and it really is the better method! 


Hopefully, this guide will help you understand all of the basics of fishing leaders: what they are, what they are for, how to choose the right one, and even how to make your own!

Fishing leaders have many advantages, and can always be used as part of your fishing setup, and to many anglers, they are an essential part of the gear.

Especially because they protect the fishing line, and they help conceal it to improve your success of actually catching some fish!


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