Wire Fishing Leader - Buyer's Guide

Saltwater Fishing - Helping you catch that fish of a lifetime

Wire Fishing Leader - Buyer's Guide

by Capt. Terry Rand

As I was motoring up towards a rip line on top of a reef in Long Island Sound, I noticed dozens of gulls and terns swirling and diving into the choppy water. Baitfish were scattering across the surface like raindrops. Suddenly, the surface of the water erupted as striped bass began to smash the bait sending water flying everywhere.

I always keep a rod rigged with a topwater lure for such an occasion. I shut down the engine as I drifted within casting distance of the breaking fish and I loaded up the rod and let my lure fly. It landed right in the middle of the school and I started a moderately fast retrieve.

Chug, chug, chug....Blam! The fish exploded on the lure and I reared back hard to set the hook. Nothing. Nothing at all. Not even my lure! They’re not stripers. They’re bluefish. And this one sheared my monofilament line and got away with my lure in his jaws. Oh well. I guess it’s time to tie on a steel leader.

Make sure your wire leader has quality crimps for strength and swivels for non restricting movement.
This is the type of occasion where you need to have some steel leaders in your tackle box if you want to put some fish in the boat. In the salt waters of the Northeast, bluefish are numerous and voracious predators with razor sharp teeth and the bite of a pit bull. They are extremely hard fighters for the sport fisherman and considered great table fare for those who enjoy a slightly oily and gamey taste in their fillets. Choosing a steel leader that will stand up to the abuse of their chompers will make your fishing experience much less frustrating and get the fish out of the water and into your boat.

For starters, you need a steel leader that is no less than 20 lb. of breaking strength. You also need a leader that is built with quality swivels and snaps. Not all packaged leaders are constructed with good quality components so choose your leaders wisely. Rely on brand names that are known for using high quality hardware.

Another option is to construct your own steel leaders. For those who use steel leaders frequently, this is probably the best choice as you can select the best hardware and the highest quality leader materials. Knowing that you built the leaders to your own exact specifications with the best materials for your application will give you the confidence you need in your leader system.

Most steel leaders are built with a section of steel leader material anywhere from 6” – 18” with a ball bearing swivel on one end and a ball bearing snap swivel attached to the other end. Your lure of choice is attached to the snap and the opposite end with the ball bearing swivel is attached to your main line. The swivels are attached to the leader by using some sort of a metal crimping sleeve. To construct your own steel leaders you will need the following components and tools:

Crimp sleeves, wire and a wire snip crimping tool will get you started. Then all you'll need is a good swivel and snap.

  • A spool of leader material
  • snap swivels
  • bearing swivels
  • crimping sleeves
  • a pair of crimping pliers

    Get yourself a good pair of crimping pliers that will allow you to crimp various size crimping sleeves. First, cut the leader to the length that you desire and slide a crimping sleeve on to one end. Then, add the ball bearing swivel. Now, slide the tag end of the leader back into the crimping sleeve and crimp it securely with the crimping pliers. Repeat this process on the other end of the leader using the snap swivel. Clip the tag ends off and you have a completed steel leader that is ready to fish.

    Another option is to use what is known as knottable steel leader material. This leader is made from many strands of steel weaved together and then coated with nylon to create a more supple version of the steel leader that can actually be tied with knots. Most anglers will attach a small but strong ball bearing swivel to their main line and then tie the knottable wire to the swivel. After cutting the leader to the desired length the leader can then be tied directly to the lure. This can be a very handy product when trying to use a light or stealthy presentation without the additional hardware of the bearing swivels and snaps.

    One other tip in choosing the proper length of your leader is to choose a leader that is slightly longer than the lure that you are casting. A large lure attached to a short steel leader has a tendency of wrapping back around the leader on the cast and then fouling up on the main line. Using a leader that is longer than the lure will prevent this from happening.

    There are a multitude of fish in saltwater and freshwater that have the ability to shear monofilament lines with one swipe of their jaws. Northern pike, muskellunge, sharks, barracuda and kingfish are just a few of them but the basic lessons taught above will give you a perfect starting place for being able to choose the correct leader systems for the task at hand. Choose your leaders and components wisely and you will be putting these toothy critters in the boat!

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