Lure Leaders

Like many people in the UK I have now adopted the American term 'leader' when refering to the wire trace used for lure fishing. This seems a sensible move as it differentiates them from the hooked traces we use for fishing natural baits. I frequently get asked about leader choice by people new to jerkbait fishing, and the subject also crops up regularly on internet forums. Are solid, single strand, wire leaders best or multistrand ones? I have used both types - catching good fish on each, and to be perfectly honest can't tell if the choice affects lure action as some people claim. I seem to get as much glide out of my jerkbaits with 90lb multistrand leaders as I do using a solid leader. It has to be said that these are fairly stiff when compared to lighter multistrand wire. I have never found that solid leaders tangle with lure hooks any less frequently than do multistrand leaders - as is also claimed at times. So, I use the ones I find most convenient to use - multistrand.

Both types of leader have their drawbacks and advantages. Solid leaders are tricky to straighten out if they get a bad bend or kink in them through fouling with the lure, or during a fight with a pike - and leader straightness does seem to affect lure action. They are also a nuisance to transport without getting accidentally bent, while multistrand leaders can be kept coiled up in grip seal bags and take up very little room. However, reliable solid leaders are easy to make using just a pair of round nosed pliers and a pair of side cutters. Multistrand leaders need either crimping (not everyone trusts crimped traces, but in heavy wire I find it okay) or they have to be twisted - which is not easy in heavy multistrand.

Single strand steel leaders are thinner than multistrand leaders of the same breaking strain - so if you think that matters it might be a factor to consider. However, I don't recommend that you do away with the swivel if choosing solid leader. The swivel may be superfluous as an anti kink device when using lures that don't impart line twist, but it is important as an attachment point for the braid. There are two reasons for this. The one I think has most bearing is that 80lb single strand wire is a lot thinner than the eye of the size of swivel fitted to jerkbait traces and I am convinced that this affects knot strength. I am sure that knots are stronger when tied to a wire of a diameter at least equal to that of the line, and thicker wire than the line is better still - if not taken to extremes, of course. I have heard it suggested that tying a knot direct to the wire of the leader might weaken the knot through repeated flexing too. Either way, keep the swivel as a safety net.

For jerkbait fishing the choice is yours, solid or multistrand. Try both and use the type you get on with best. I find that I can fish all my large lures (not just jerkbaits) using 90lb multistrand leaders. However, solid leaders do seem to tangle less frequently with spinnerbaits - for some reason that I don't understand!

Multistrand steel leaders have served me so well for many years that I have never felt the need to use any other type...... until I tried single-strand titanium wire. Titanium wire is lighter than steel, more flexible and kink resistant, but is also thicker for a given breaking strain - and it is more expensive than steel. All these properties suggest a leader material that will revolutionise pike fishing. Unfortunatley, titanium wire is more difficult to work with than either solid or multistrand steel leader wire. Titanium wire cannot be twisted to connect swivels and snaps, it has to be crimped in the heavier strains while light wire can be knotted (with practice). Unfortunately, because titanium is also hard it is difficult to crimp - and there is a risk that the wire will pull out of the crimp under pressure. Multistrand titanium wire is also available, but the titanium multistrand leaders I have seen so far are just too supple for my liking as lure leaders.

Solid titanium wire offers everything you could want in a leader. Although stiff in use, single-strand titanium wire is also supple - if that makes any sense! The first solid titanium leaders I used were rated at 100lb and were very thick in diameter. They were good though! However, these leaders were also fitted with large ball bearing swivels, which added weight to the leader making them heavier than my standard steel leaders!

Thanks to Seb Shelton I now have the crimping of single strand titanium wire under control and am using a much finer wire than the leaders I had tried before. These leaders are made from 100lb wire and are stronger than my 90lb multistrand leaders - which I always though were indestructible! One field tester has landed over fifty pike on one titanium leader - inculding a good few double figure fish to over eighteen pounds. Because the wire is so kink resistant there is every chance that the snap link will fatigue before the leader, so this is a point to note with titanium leaders - in fact it is worth watching on all heavy leaders.

For the time being the titanium leaders I am now using serve me for all my needs. They offer the anti-tangle properties of solid leaders with the kink resistance of multistrand, while being lighter than both. Once you have used titanium leaders steel seems crude and primitive. That is not to say that steel won't always have a place as a leader material. Owing to the expense of titanium wire its use where snags abound is not good for the bank balance! So on snaggy rivers, and for deep trolling in rocky environments, for example, steel will still find favour.

I predict that, over the next five years, titanium wire will do to steel what superbraids have done to nylon monofilament over the last five years. We used to hear people saying there was no need for overpriced braids, but now just about everyone is using braid for most of their lure fishing! The same will happen with titanium wire once enough people have seen the advantages it offers and it becomes more widely available. I can already see how a finer wire, say fifty or sixty pound test, will have benefits for minnowbait and jig fishing.

One thing that is worth considering with all leader types is sleeving the connections (twists or crimps) with shrink tubing. This covers the sharp tag ends of the wire which can save you from pain when handling the leader - with or without a fish attached - and also removes the chances of the line being damaged if it wraps around the connection. I also like to sleeve the lower part of the snap link, in order to hold it in line with the leader as I feel this reduces the incidence of tangles of leader with lure.

Length of leader is another topic that is often raised. My preference is for a minimum of ten inches (25cm) and a maximum of eighteen (46cm). Any shorter is foolhardy and increases the chances of a pike's teeth encountering your line, any longer makes casting a pain. Even with a long leader pike can get wrapped up in line and leader to such an extent that the line crosses the teeth. No matter how long your leader it is possble. I have even had a pike bite through the line between the rings on my rod - but that's another story!

(This article first appeared on this website - June 4th 2002)