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Should Leaders Be Stronger than Your Main Line: Know the Facts

“Should leaders be stronger than main line?” This is a common question asked both by amateur, as well as experienced anglers. There are many factors that one must consider and so there is no straightforward answer to this question.

In fact, you cannot follow a one-size-fits-all approach to this situation and you need to find a solution according to the specific requirement.

Before we go on to answering the question of should leaders be stronger than main line, it’s a good idea to understand the basics of why the leader is important and what role it plays.

A leader is very important in fishing and the chances of you catching fish are greatly increased by attaching a leader to the end of the main line.

Leaders come in varying weights and depend on the fishing line you are using. Picking the right leader can be tricky and to be a successful angler, it is essential to understand how to use one properly.

In this guide, we will attempt to discuss leaders and how to pick the right one and when should leaders be stronger than the main line.

Should Leaders Be Stronger than Main Line?

While there are various types of leaders, the vital role all of them play is to help you pick the fish. So, should leaders be stronger than the main line or lighter?

Author Note: Well, the leader line can be lighter or stronger compared to your fishing line and this essentially is subject to the type of fishing line you’re using and what kind of fish you’re targeting.

The leader should not be too light or heavy, and an important consideration is the weight of the fishing line.

In most cases, the leader line must be much lighter compared to the main fishing line and a light leader allows the bait to float naturally in the water. If the concern is castability and the visibility of the line, then opt for a lighter leader line. Also, the leader should be lighter than the main line if you’re using a braided line.

It is only when you’re using fluorocarbon or monofilament, planning to catch fish with sharp teeth or are fishing by a bridge, dock or rocks should the leader be stronger than the main line.

Also, a stronger leader is a better option if the water you’re fishing in has heavy waves or strong currents or you are worried about abrasion.

There is no hard and fast rule of how to choose the appropriate strength of a leader and this is usually done by trial and error, which essentially means that you simply try a certain kind of leader and use another one if you don’t like the performance of the line or if it snaps.

Also, the choice of the leader line depends on various factors such as the environment i.e., if the floor is rocky or sandy, the species of fish, your fishing style, the waves or current, surrounding debris and vegetation and your personal preference.

What Role Does the Leader Line Play?

Fisherman in action

As mentioned earlier, a leader is a string of a certain length, which is attached to the end of the fishing line. This adds extra length to your fishing line to which you can attach your lure or rig.

Author Note: The kind of leader you choose is important and should be one that is difficult for the fish to detect, which helps to increase the chances of capturing them.

  • Length of the Leader Line: Commonly, leader lines are around 24-30 inches in length and selecting the appropriate length depends on the fish species you are targeting, your fishing line and the kind of bait you will be using. For instance, if you’re using live bait, you can opt for a longer leader line, which enables your bait to swim more, move around and attract fish.
  • Material of the Leader Line: Leader lines are made of various types of materials such as stainless steel wire, single strand wire, 7 strand wire, fluorocarbon and monofilament and you must select one according to your use.

Advantages of Leader Lines

Leader lines are essential and can determine the success of your fishing and offer the following benefits:

  • Prevents the Line from Breaking: Often the presence of sharp objects in the water like shells, rocks, reefs, barnacles, etc. can cause the main fishing line to break. A proper leader can help to prevent such breakages. Also, a thicker leader offers the fish more they can cut through. Anglers prefer to use monofilament leaders because they offer better resistance to abrasion i.e. they can withstand the resistance against any sharp and rough surfaces better.
  • Prevents Snags: You may experience frequent snags when fishing in rocky terrains if your hook catches on any rock or growth, leaders can aid in preventing such snags.
  • Reduces Line Visibility: When you’re fishing, the greater the invisibility of your main line in the water, the better it is, because then the fish can’t see the line, the better chances you have catching it. A leader can help to make your main line more invisible and natural and also helps to present the bait better. And, using a fluorocarbon leader helps in presenting the bait best because when the light passes through the fluorocarbon, it makes the line practically invisible to the fish.
  • Prevents Line Twists: When you hook a fish and it thrashes around in the water, it can cause line twists causing the line to weaken and snap. So, using a leader attached to a swivel before attaching it to the main line enables your leader to rotate easily without twisting and damaging the fishing line.

When to Use a Leader Stronger than the Mainline?

Fishing on the river

Often, anglers use a stronger leader line than the main fishing line to prevent it from being cut off by rocks having very sharp edges, when the line rubs against the sharp teeth or the body of the fish, by barnacles on the rocks and other debris in the water.

Limitations of Using a Stronger Leader

There can be some limitations of using a stronger leader including:

  • The behavior of the bait in water depends on both the thickness of the leader line and the type of leader you use. And in general, the thicker the line, the greater the propensity to float instead of sinking.
  • The thicker the leader line, the more visible it will be in the water, making the presentation of the bait unnatural, which the fish may notice; however, this will depend on the type of fish that you plan to catch.
  • If the area is very rocky, which is why you’re using a stronger leader, then there are greater chances of the line getting snagged on the rocks too. If the leader is stronger than the mainline and it gets snagged on a rock, which you pull, then there are chances of the line breaking at the knot which attaches the mainline and the leader.

    However, if the knot is solid, then the line may break anywhere along the mainline and if this occurs several times, then you could end up losing a lot of your main line, causing your entire fishing trip to be ruined.

When to Use a Leader Weaker than Mainline?

If you want to enhance the presentation of the bait and protect your fishing rod, as well as your main line from any damage, then it is better to use a leader that is weaker than the mainline.

  • A weaker leader means that the main line is also thinner, which helps to reduce the visibility of the leader when the fish approaches the bait. This enhances your catch rate because when the line is invisible to the fish, there are lesser chances of them getting spooked.
  • Typically, a thinner leader moves very differently in the water and will float compared to a thicker leader of the same material. Thinner lines are typically more flexible than thicker lines and so they tend to move more naturally in the water.
  • If your leader is weaker than the main line and it gets snagged on a rock and it breaks while you’re trying to un-snag it. Then the line is likely to break at the leader rather than somewhere along the main line.

    And, if you have caught a large fish and are fighting it and the drag is set very high, then it is likely that your leader will break instead of the rod, thus helping to keep your fishing rod and main line protected and safe.

Limitations of Using a Weaker Leader

A man with a beard is fishing

A weaker leader essentially means that it is thin too, which means that it can be cut easily by fish with sharp teeth, barnacles and rocks.

Author Note: A weaker leader is also at higher risk of abrasion. However, you can reduce the chances of this occurring by inspecting your leader before casting by running your fingers along it to figure out how rocky the terrain is.

A new leader typically will be very smooth, while a damaged line will be rough in many areas, which are essentially caused by micro-cuts in the line. And, depending on the roughness of the line, you can determine if the leader requires replacement.

Parting Words

Leaders are often overlooked by amateur anglers; however, the best and most appropriate leader can make a world of difference to your fishing experience. So, should leaders be stronger than main line?

Well, as we have already discussed, leader lines can be lighter or stronger compared to the fishing line; however, this purely depends on the type of fish you’re targeting and your fishing line.

So, it always pays to remember that the leader can make or break your fishing setup and you should take time to choose the appropriate leader for a successful fish catching experience.

Happy Hunting!


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