You’ve heard that adding a leader to your main fishing line can significantly increase your fishing success. But, do you know exactly which type of leader to use and what length is ideal for your situation?
The length of a leader you should use for surf fishing depends on various factors. These include the seabed terrain, the current, your targeted species, among other factors. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. But generally, the length will vary between 12 to 30 inches.
In this article, I’ll guide you through the essential things you need to know about a leader line. We’ll look at the types of leaders, discuss how to determine the length of a leader line, and finally highlight the factors that dictate leader length. Let’s go.
What Is a Leader Line?
Most often than not, surf casters normally add a short length of line to the very end of their main fishing line? That is what is known as the leader line.
It’s usually about 1-2 feet long (30.48-60.96 cm). And this is the line to which baits or lures and rigs are tied.
So why is it necessary to add this strand to an already-long-enough fishing line? There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, a leader can provide increased protection for the main fishing line.
The line you use as a leader most often has better abrasion resistance. That means they can withstand the rubbing or scraping by rocks, reefs, shells, or even sharp fish teeth.
Another reason for using a leader is for the sake of creating a natural bait presentation. Some fishing lines are pretty visible underwater.
If you use a less visible leader, the fish won’t notice the fishing line and are more likely to take the bait. That means more fish for you.
Basic Types of Leaders
Different types of leaders have varied characteristics and are used in different situations. The most common types of leaders are monofilament and fluorocarbon.
Monofilament Leader Line
As the name suggests, this leader is made of a single strand of line.
Monofilaments are the cheaper type of leader in the market. But that doesn’t mean it’s of poor quality.
There are certain characteristics of this leader that makes it ideal for surf fishing or bait fishing.
Here are a few unique properties of monofilament leader:
- Abrasion resistance. If you’re fishing in rocky areas or reefy territories, this is a quality you’ll want your leader to have. It means the line cannot easily cut when rubbed against abrasive structures underwater.
- High stretch capability. Stretchy monofilament acts like a shock absorber when fighting with a baited fish. This makes it harder for your line to snap and prevents you from losing your catch.
- Monofilaments absorb water. As a result, they are heavier once underwater.
- Monofilaments come in various colors. The most common are clear and light green. Though this may be a disadvantage, monofilaments can still come in handy when fishing dirty waters with poor visibility.
Both are quite tough and abrasion-resistant, so they have fewer chances of snapping when fishing rough seabeds.
Fluorocarbon Leader Line
Fluorocarbon leader is the expensive type of leader lines. Though this can put you off, admittedly, it’s probably the best fishing leader to use if you can afford it.
Let’s look at the characteristics of fluorocarbons:
- Invisibility underwater. Fluorocarbon makes for a more natural bait presentation and comes in handy when fishing clear waters. Fish are, therefore, more likely to take your bait.
- Little to no stretch. Unlike monofilaments, fluorocarbons do not stretch. This helps you to notice smaller bites.
- More abrasion resistance. This makes fluorocarbons more sturdy against rough water environments with snags or pylons.
- Fluorocarbon line sinks. Thus, it’s the ideal leader line to use when you aim to catch fish at deeper water levels.
So, which brand of fluorocarbon should you go for?
A great place to begin is with the Seaguar Blue Label Fluorocarbon Leader. This line has high tensile strength and the least stretch so you can sense even the tiny bites. Another great option is the Yo-Zuri H.D. Carbon Fluorocarbon Leader.
What Length of Leader Line Should You Use for Surf Fishing?
Honestly, there is no one perfect length of leader line for surf fishing. It all depends on several factors (which we’ll discuss in a bit).
But generally speaking, the length often ranges between 12 to 30 inches
That said, with some experience, you’ll come across more downsides of using a long leader. For example:
- Higher chances of snapping due to abrasion
- Increased vulnerability to snags and tangles
- Reduced sensitivity to bites
- Baits can be taken too low or too high and thus affect your efficiency
- Reduced stability during strong currents
- Reduced casting distance
This means that generally, the shorter the leader, the better. For some anglers, the standard length is 12 inches (30.48 cm). Others start at 24 inches (60.96 cm).
Justifiable reasons should back, all in all, any need to add the length of your leader. And even then, the increment should be done gradually.
Factors That Dictate Leader Length
If the underwater territory is rough with many rocks, reefs, or kelp, you are better off using a short leader. This is because it decreases the chances of getting caught in these structures.
There’s also less risk of abrasion if you have a shorter leader exposed to the rough seabed.
On the other hand, if the seabed is very weedy, your leader should be longer than the weeds’ actual length. You want your bait to float freely over the grass and be more visible to the fish.
Visibility in the Water
As a general rule, the clearer the water, the longer the leader ought to be.
Fish in clear waters are keener and more suspicious since they can see everything around them.
So, if your leader is not long enough, the fish are likely to spot your terminal tackle close to the bait and get “spooked.”
But if the waters are muddy and cloudy, you can use a shorter leader since visibility is poor and so the fish won’t see anything out of the ordinary.
Your leader line is affected by the pressure of currents in the waters. The longer the leader, the more it’s affected. This causes instability and risks your bait being pulled to areas with little or no bites.
This is why shorter leader lines are preferred, especially when fishing in strong currents.
Your leader will be exposed to less current pressure and can easily remain stable in the ideal strike zone where you cast your line.
Depth of the Surf Zone
There is generally an ideal water depth where fish are more likely to bite. This is usually a few inches above the seabed but not too close to the water surface.
With this in mind, you should always aim to place your bait at this strike zone.
Therefore, adjusting your leader length with the depth of the surf zone is vital. Also, remember to factor in the type of rig you’ll be using.
The Targeted Species
Your leader length should be longer than the average length of your targeted fish species. This way, the fish is less likely to tangle your terminal tackle and spit the hook and escape.
A leader, correctly used, can significantly boost your surf fishing success. And with the two basic types of leader lines available (standard monofilament and fluorocarbon), you can choose to stick to the one that gives you the best results. No matter your budget, always go for a good quality leader line.
And finally, to answer the question of how much length of a leader you should use for surf fishing, the best answer is that it depends on a range of factors, from the landscape and depth of the surf zone to the current, underwater visibility, and target species.
As a standard, shorter is better, unless you’re fishing crystal clear waters. But all in all, find the leader length that suits your situation.