How to Make Fishing Leaders?

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Making your own fishing leaders can save you heaps of cash and once you get the technique down, you can build leaders that are much better than the pre-tied leaders you find in the tackle shop. When you tie your own leaders, you can customize them to your specific needs as well. You will be in control of the breaking strains of line or wire used, the quality of linkage used, and the overall length of the leader. This alone is a huge benefit and an excellent reason to learn and start tying your own leaders as soon as possible!

Tying your own leaders is not difficult and once you have mastered it you will be knocking them up quickly and efficiently. You don’t have to stop at making your own leaders either. Chances are, you have some angling friends that re too busy or lazy to make their own fishing leaders. You can start making them for your friends, sell them for less than they are in the shops, and provide them with a quality product that is tailored to their fishing needs. You may even make enough cash to support your tackle consumption – bonus!

So, where do you start, what do you need, and how do you make high-quality fishing leaders at home? In this article, we will be going over all the essentials from tools to materials and showing you exactly how to make these. By the end of this read, you will have enough knowledge to head out to the tackle shop and get everything you need and start tying leaders today. Enjoy!

What Should You Make Your Leader From?

There are a few materials you can make your leader from and what you use will ultimately depend on your fishing circumstances and the species you are targeting. You can use monofilament line, fluorocarbon line, or wire trace for your leaders. Mono and fluoro are ideal for most forms of coarse fishing but if you are targeting toothy predators you will need wire trace for your leaders.

Monofilament is strong with stretching qualities that provide shock-absorption during a fight. It is cheap and easy to acquire in a variety of different breaking strains. It is abrasion-resistant but can fray and snap when under tension against abrasive objects on the lake or riverbed. It is hard to see in the water, but it is not completely invisible like fluorocarbon.

Fluorocarbon has good strength and is almost invisible in the water. It has no stretch, is more abrasion-resistant than monofilament, and does not absorb water. It doesn’t degrade from the sun’s UV rays and become brittle over time like mono either, but it does cost a bit more than mono.

Wire trace has outstanding strength and is extremely abrasion-resistant. This is the strongest material you can make a leader from however it isn’t good to use for all species. Wire is your only option for toothy predators because it will not sever when bitten, but it will damage the mouths of toothless rubber-mouthed fish such as bass, carp, and crappie. Wire is highly visible in the water and will degrade eventually through oxidization.

How Long Should Your Fishing Leader Be?

The length of your leader will depend on the species you are targeting and how snaggy the water you are fishing is. As a general rule, your leader will not be longer than 18 inches or shorter than 8 inches. For smaller species, you are better off with a shorter leader and for larger species, you are better off with a longer leader.

If you are offshore sea fishing, your leader will far exceed 18 inches and can sometimes be as long as 30-feet when fishing for big game! We won’t go into detail about long-length sea fishing shock leaders in this article, but a leader of 8 to 18 inches will suffice for freshwater and inshore fishing applications.

When you are tying a leader, you should figure out how long of a leader you need and then add another 8 to 12 inches to the line length. This extra length gives you appropriate excess for tying knots and crimping. Once the leader is tied, the line’s tag end can be cut and removed for neatness.

Useful Tools for Making Fishing Leaders

There are a few tools you will need to construct your leaders that are essential in the construction process. Having a good quality toolset for this purpose is better than buying cheap because the quality of your tools will affect the quality of your leaders. If you are crimping with a poor-quality knock-off crimper then your connections will be poor and are destined to fail under strain. This is not ideal when the leader is the difference between a fish on the bank or an empty net and a frustrated angler.

Crimpers are essential for making high-quality leaders. When you are making leaders from line with a large gauge or wire, they are necessary in place of knots to attach connections. Even with a thinner gauge of line, they can be a great help and personally I prefer to crimp my leaders at the connections rather than tie them. Make sure you purchase a high-quality pair of crimpers. The best pairs are suitable for saltwater, but make sure they are suited to the gauge of line you are making your leaders from. You may need a few different pairs if you are making many different sizes of leaders.

Scissors are essential when you are constructing leaders from monofilament or fluorocarbon line. You will of course need to cut your line to length before you even start to put your leader together, so these are a must-have tool. You don’t need to go too crazy on a pair of scissors for making your leaders but a specialized pair with a notch cutter will make things easier. A pair of strong sharp scissors will suffice though.

Wire cutters are essential when you are making leaders from wire. Before you start constructing your wire traces you will need to cut a length of wire and you certainly cannot use scissors to do this. Get yourself a good-quality pair of wire cutters that are rated to the wire you plan on using so you get a neat clean cut with no fraying or sharp edges.

Rig pullers/ knot tensioners are an essential addition to your kit if you plan on tying lighter leaders using knots. Rig pullers are basically a small handle with a metal hook that can be inserted into the swivel ring or connection loop. You will need two tensioners to hook each end of the leader. These will help you bed down your knots effectively so you can make sure your leader is strong and ready to use. Buy a half-decent set of these from a reputable brand, I have broken countless pairs of cheap ones when trying to tension strong leaders and rigs.

What Parts Do You Need to Make Fishing Leaders?

Making leaders is pretty simple and you don’t need many parts to get started however you will need matching parts for each different gauge and type of leader you make. Crimp connectors will have to suit the gauge of line or wire you are using, and swivels and other connectors should be balanced to the leader. You don’t want a light leader with extra-large swivels on, just as you don’t want a heavy leader with tiny swivels on. You are best buying and storing line/wire, crimp connectors, swivels, and clip connectors together in their specific gauges so you have a build kit ready for each leader size you make.

Parts List

  • Crimp Connectors (unless you are tying your leaders)
  • Swivels
  • Clip Connectors
  • Fishing Wire (for toothy predators)
  • Fluorocarbon Line (in desired gauge and breaking strain)
  • Monofilament Line (in desired gauge and breaking strain)

The Method

Now, let’s get down to it. This is the method to create your basic leaders for all kinds of fishing. They resemble a synthetic line leader or wire leader with a connection clip for a lure, spinner, or bait rig on one end and a swivel on the other end to tie your mainline too. It is surprisingly easy to make your own leaders and it doesn’t take much time at all once you’ve got the hang of it. The main thing is to make sure you have the right tools and the right parts to hand before you start.

  • Step One: You want to cut your line or wire to the length you desire. Remember to cut more than you need to give you excess for knots or loops if you are crimping.
  • Step Two: Straighten out your line using friction or steam. This will make things much easier when it comes to assembling your leader and saves you fiddling around with curled up line. If you are using wire, putting it under a bit of tension is usually enough to straighten it out.
  • Step Three: Slide two crimp connectors down the length of the line ready for later (skip this step if you are tying your leader).
  • Step Four: Feed your line through your swivel and loop it around, then slide your crimp connector over with around an inch of excess line poking out. You will then need to crimp your connector (this is a bit of an art and you will get a feel for it over time). You want to crimp the connector hard but not so hard it damages or weakens the line. *If you are tying, skip to step 4.5.
  • Step 4.5: This step is for those that want to tie their leaders. Feed your line while it is doubled over through the swivel with three or four inches of line spare for the knot. Using a Palomar knot, tie your swivel loop on to your line. If you don’t know how to tie a Palomar, check out this handy video. 
  • Step Five: Now you want to repeat step 4 or 4.5 (depending on what technique you are using) with your clip connector. At this point, it is handy to measure your total leader length before you crimp or tie it. Doing this will help you make sure the finished product is the exact length you desire.
  • Step Six: Now it is time to bed down your knots or make sure your crimp connectors are holding firm. Using your rig pullers, put tension on the leader from each end. Be firm but do not pull so hard that the line stretches or weakens. If you are tensioning knots, make sure to wet your knots to bed them in fully.
  • Step Seven: Finally, cut any excess line away from the leader, leaving 50 to 100mm of excess for security. You can now take your leader out on the water to catch some fish. Tight lines!

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