When enjoying a day of surf fishing, it’s incredibly important to learn how to prepare your shock leader properly. This essential skill will prevent the line from snapping and ensuring the safety of others around you while you fish.
As such, learning is critical to a successful day of surf fishing. When preparing your shock leader, it is important to consider its length. So, how long should a shock leader be for surf fishing?
A shock leader should measure around 25-30 feet. An excellent way to remember this is; it should be about twice the length of your surf rod and wrap around the reel spool about 5 to 6 times.
As stated, preventing the line from snapping can protect your expensive equipment and the people around you. As such, it is essential to learn how to prepare the shock lead effectively, and what doesn’t work when preparing one.
The length of the shock leader is essential, but so is the shock leader itself, and how it’s tied to the main line.
Ideally, the shock leader knot should be as small as possible to avoid interfering with the casting distance, but it should also be incredibly strong.
The Albright Knot
The Albright knot is preferred by many professionals because of its strength against a strong surf cast, and it’s a small size to pass through the rod guides.
The Albright knot is made by:
- Starting with a loop with the heavier line, and running about 10″ of the lighter line through the loop.
- After that, it comes down to wrapping the lighter line back up over itself and both sides of the loop tightly ten times.
- Finally, feed the tag end through the loop and exit the loop through the same side as it entered. Then, pull the lighter line to tighten the knot and clip the loose ends.
For a visual aid, the following video does a slow-paced detailed step by step through making the Albright knot. I’ve been following SaltStrong for quite a while now, and I’ve learned a lot from them.
Some tips for making the knot easier to tie is to dampen the lines with some water. That way, the strands will tie easily and snuggly without much resistance.
Additionally, this knot is by no means the only option when it comes to a shock leader knot. Every surf fishermen have their own preferred knot that works best for them, and they often find it through serious trial and error.
As such, the Albright knot is a great place to start, but experimenting with different compact, small, but mighty knots is strongly advised when learning to make a shock leader.
The Uni Knot
Another option to consider is the uni knot. This knot, also known as the Hangman’s knot, is regarded as a go-to for monofilament lines and is incredibly versatile.
This would be by tieing a uni, leaving it open, slipping the main line through that loop, and then just tie another uni and clinch them down.
This video is an excellent place to start on how to create a uni-to-uni knot for a shock leader: Thanks for PENNfishing I’ve learned how to tie a uni knot.
A shock leader for surf fishing should be made with a heavy line extension that is about 25 – 40 lb monofilament depending on what kind of fish you are after. This stronger, thicker line is tied to the main fishing line to absorb the stress created when casting.
A weaker line runs the risk of snapping, break-offs, and tackle loss, as well as potential injury.
This additional line is meant to strengthen your main line, and as such, it should generally be around two or three times the breaking strength of your main line.
Why does the standard 12-15lb surf fishing line break? When you tie apply incredible force onto the line, with a 3-5 oz sinker, it can become too much for the line to handle.
If you create a force larger than most fish can, the line was not designed to handle it and thus will snap.
There are multiple potential materials you could use for creating a shock leader, but a few are detailed here.
- Fluorocarbon — To the human eye, this line is nearly invisible in the water. It is a single strand fishing line and is best for clearer waters as it offers that lower visibility in the water.
- Monofilament — This option is the least expensive and is often considered the easiest one to work with. If you are looking to catch smaller fish, this material may be the right one to start with.
The breaking strain of a line is exactly what it sounds like. It is the amount of strain a lead can handle before breaking, and it is directly connected to the weight of the lead.
Essentially, if the lead weight is 6oz, then it’s strength is about 60 lbs. The heavier the line, the stronger is, and by extension, the greater the breaking strain is for that line.
Additionally, the actual breaking strain of the mainline is irrelevant, as it is entirely related to the weight of the lead.
Can You Just Use A Main Line Of A High Pound Test Instead Of A Heavy Extension?
The simple answer to that is that you can, but it’s not advised as it could directly impact your productivity. This solution may be sufficient in avoiding the potential break-offs, but it could reduce your catch count.
Basically, a thicker line has a harder time when cast at a large diameter. This is because it receives harder resistance in the air and wind, which lowers casting distance.
Additionally, this would cause the line to be under more pressure in the current and more affected by the tidal changes or movements of the water. The thicker line would also reduce the amount of line you could fit into your reel.
As such, if you need to cast at further distances, this would cause a significant hindrance in your ability to reach the distances a shock lead could get you to.
This is why the shock leader is much more preferred over just getting a main line that is thicker and stronger on its own. A shock leader can directly improve your productivity and catch for the day, and make the experience a lot less frustrating.
Choosing a heavier mainline would just hinder yourself, whereas a shock lead is a relatively easy way to make sure you’re not bogged down by your line.
When Do You Need A Shock Leader?
You do not always need a shock leader, as it is meant to absorb the stress of heavy sinkers when throwing bait; as such, it’s not necessary if you’re not using much weight.
There is a balancing act in using a heavier sinker and using a lighter when surf fishing, so knowing what you need is important.
Additionally, if you are using a braid for your main line, you won’t need a shock lead as it strengthens your main line.
However, this high breaking strength and low diameter created by the braid on the main line, does come with the off-balance of the cost.
It is less cost-effective to braid your main line than it is to just us a shock lead. Also, the braid option doesn’t stretch as much as mono, and thus doesn’t absorb the shock when throwing the bait.
Even though the braid raises the breaking strength, it’s payoff is lesser than just using a shock lead.
A shock leader is incredibly essential when surf fishing. To make sure that you are protecting yourself, others, and your gear, making sure that you create a strong shock lead that has a high breaking strength is important when absorbing shock.
Though not always necessary, learning how to make one and when you need one is incredibly important. This skill comes with practice and experience and is incredibly valuable to surf anglers.