Fishing Leader Basics

After PE line is loaded onto the reel, next comes tying on the Fishing Leader which is a must-have for all fishing application.

I emphasize all information shared in this blog is just my personal opinion & experience which some may beg to differ 🙂 If you have any thoughts or questions please leave them at the end of this post.

Reasons for a Leader

  • To absorb shock from the fish when crushing your lure, shock from the setting of hook (since braided line has almost no stretch), shock from a sudden fish run, etc. That’s exactly why it’s also called a Shock Leader.
  • To provide abrasion resistance against rocks, corals, gill covers, etc since braided line has low abrasion resistance.
  • To avoid visual detection by fish as braided line is opaque & can be easily seen by fish in the water without a leader.
  • To provide a hand-hold when lifting up your catch if a landing net is not available.

Criteria for a Leader

There are actually no hard & fast rules on leader; it all depends on your application, fishing conditions, terrains, etc. As you gather experience, you’ll adjust your leader to suit different application. Following are just some basic guidelines on leader.

  • KG/LB rating – most will use 1.5-2x the main line rating; it can be reduced if target fish is easily spooked, if you want to increase casting distance or if you want the leader to break first when snagged (kg/lb has to be below main line rating in this case). It can also be increased due to rocky terrain your target fish is hiding in.
  • Length – a rough guide is 1-1.5x rod length; too short…it defeats the purpose of having one, too long…makes it difficult to cast & handle.
  • Color – has to be clear, colorless & transparent; obviously to avoid detection by wary fish. So don’t just grab any monofilament to use as leader; buy proper ones from the tackle shops.

Hint: I tested with different color coated wire leader when fishing for snakehead. We got away with green color & managed to catch a few fish but was caught with zero hits after we changed to black wire leader. So I can conclude fish can see your line or leader in the water!

Fluorocarbon (FC)

Want to set this aside as a separate paragraph as it’s an important discussion. Go with fluorocarbon (FC) leader as often as possible as it does make a big difference between catching 1 fish to your buddy’s 5 during the same duration.

Fluorocarbon material has a refractive index close to that of water. Refractive index is a ratio (without unit) that measures the bending of light as it passes from one medium (eg. water) to another medium (eg. leader). What this means is FC material is almost invisible to the fish in water.

We’ve seen cases of one angler using FC leader out-fishing another side by side using normal nylon monofilament leader. So go for FC leader whenever possible in all your fishing application. Do note there is also FC fishing line which is to be loaded onto your reel. Please DO NOT use FC line as leader as it’s softer, has more stretch & less abrasion resistance as compared to FC leader.

Though it may seems FC has more disadvantages than nylon leader, it’s worth every single cent due to its invisibility in water. FC leader as compared to nylon leader:


  • Almost invisible in water
  • Stiffer & tougher ie. higher abrasion resistance
  • Minimal stretch…better hook set


  • More expensive than monofilament…but worth every cent
  • Has stronger memory…so may be difficult to handle
  • Braid to leader knot may slip if not tied properly or tight enough due to stiffer material. FG knot is the best with criss cross wrapping biting into the leader
  • If FC leader is nicked or bruised, replace it immediately as the surface damage may affect its refractive index making it more visible in water. Moreover the damaged leader could be weakened.

Having said the above, there are instances when normal nylon monofilament leader is good enough:

  • When in a hot bite or feeding frenzy
  • When water condition is murky
  • When using Sabiki for catching bait fish

Braid to Leader Knot

Since the braid to leader knot ie. my favourite FG knot is mentioned above, I want to list an important point here regarding the position where this knot should be. The FG knot will be covered in details in another post.

Every time before I cast, I always like to position the knot out of the reel above my right hand (I’m a right hander). This way the knot will shoot out of the blocks smoothly through the guides resulting in greater distance. If knot is wound inside spool before cast, lowest part of leader & knot have to unravel themselves from the spool in a circular manner before entering the lowest guide. This will likely cause some degree of hindrance or resistance resulting in poorer cast.

After positioning knot above your hand, you need to ensure lure attached to the end of line is not too long which will be too cumbersome to cast comfortably. As mentioned above, a rough guide will be 1-1.5 rod length. Once you get the correct length of leader for that rod, take note of it in terms of single arm’s length or open arm’s length for you to set the length correctly when tying the next one.

Brands I’m Using & Recommending

  • Fluorocarbon FC leader – Unitika Silver Thread ( eBay )…this 100% FC leader is not as hard as other FC leader & is thus easier to tie a secured non-slip braid to leader knot with wrappings biting easier into leader
  • Nylon monofilament leader – Sunline Saltwater Special Nylon ( eBay )…what I like about this leader is its smaller diameter as compared to other brands with the same LB rating.
  • Popping leader – Sunline Big Game ( eBay )…I’ve been trying other brands until I settled on this nylon monofilament leader. What I like is its durability enabling you to fish longer period before re-tying new leader. After popping, lay out leader on the floor & notice the lesser curls produced versus other brands.

In most big game popping leader, you’ll notice most brands are nylon monofilament leaders (instead of fluorocarbon). I guess since your leader is most of the time on the surface or sub-surface (just below surface) working the stickbait & popper, it will not make a big difference if your leader is FC.

All the best,

PS: Please leave a comment if any information in this site is inaccurate or incorrect…I’m learning too 🙂

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