What Is A Fishing Leader?

So, you’ve got a rod, a reel, a tackle box and some bait and you’re ready to go fishing.

Are you planning to take a fishing leader with you? They are easily overlooked and yet, they are one of the most important pieces of equipment you can take with you to increase your chances of landing something nice.

They are useful for a number of reasons, not least of which because they can help prevent snapping your ordinary line and decrease the visibility of your set-up in the water so that your lure or hook is not so easily avoided.

Knowing exactly what a fishing leader is, and the best way to attach them to your set-up can make the difference between landing something nice or leaving without a prize.

In this post I’m going to tell you exactly what a fishing leader is, what different types are available, and discuss whether you should actually use them.

I’ll also tell you exactly how to make your own, so if that sounds interesting, read on!

Firstly, What Exactly Is A Fishing Leader?

In a nutshell, it is a little piece of strong fishing line that you attach to your ordinary line somewhere above the lure.

Typically, fishing leaders are anywhere between twelve inches and twenty inches long. It will be far less visible to any fish in the vicinity of your lure and is much less likely to break than your ordinary line.

There are also several other benefits of using a leader.

How Many Types of Fishing Leaders Are There?

You have several different types of leader to choose from:

Wire Fishing Leader

wire fishing leaders

One simple version is the wire leader. They come in different sizes, lengths and strengths. The strength is increased not simply by using a stronger line but also by weaving multiple strands together.

One drawback with wire leaders is that they are not quite as invisible as the other types of leaders on our list. However, they more than make up for that shortcoming in sheer strength.

If you are going after some big fish, they’re a good choice.

Standard Monofilament Leader

Standard Monofilament Leader

As the name implies, this is the most common type of leader using just a single strand of strong but near-invisible line. The line absorbs water and sunlight and is quite stretchy making it very durable.

They are not an expensive bit of kit but they can often make a big difference to your daily tally by helping you land big aggressive fish.

The way they accomplish that is by absorbing a lot of the inevitable impact from the fish fighting against you trying to reel them in.

On the downside, their stretchiness sometimes numbs your alertness to smaller bites and nibbles that you would have otherwise been able to feel.

Fluorocarbon Monofilament Leader

Fluorocarbon Monofilament Leader

Now we’re talking technology at its best. Fluorocarbon leaders are even less visible and significantly less porous, meaning they absorb less sunlight and water and therefore last longer.

One other thing to note is that they’re not quite as stretchy, meaning you’ll still feel the smaller bites.

Fluorocarbon monofilament leaders also have a downside, they tend to cost a bit more, whether you buy them pre-made or just buy the line to make your own at home.

We’re not talking significant amounts but it all adds up over time.

Why Should You Use A Fishing Leader?

There are a number of benefits to using a leader over an ordinary line with a hook on the end. The benefits vary from leader to leader and depend on what your goals are, what types of water you are fishing, and what you are hoping to catch.

All said and done, though, there are two main reasons you should consider using a leader.

The Invisibility Factor

Fish see much better than humans underwater and they’re not stupid. If they spot your line, they will simply avoid your bait and swim straight past.

For that reason, the presentation of your bait is very important. Using a leader can make your line almost invisible to fish meaning they will be much more likely to stop and try nibbling on your bait.

If you are fishing in clear water, the visibility of your line can become a crucial factor in determining whether you will catch or not.

To make your line as invisible as possible go for a fluorocarbon monofilament leader, particularly if you are fishing in clearer waters.

The Strength Factor

As any keen angler knows, strength is important, particularly if you are fishing near sharp rocks, reeds, or other potential obstacles that could get you all tangled up and end up snapping your line.

Even standard monofilament leaders are much stronger than your ordinary line and help offset this risk. That’s because they are quite stretchy and engineered to be resistant to the types of abrasion your line is typically up against on a fishing trip.

How To Attach Them

The main two ways to attach a fishing leader to your ordinary line are:

  • Knots
  • Swivels

Which of these methods you choose will be based on which one works best for you and that will largely depend on where you are fishing, what the conditions are like, and what you are trying to catch.


There are a million different knots to choose from and every angler has their own preferred knots. Actually you can use any knot that you feel comfortable with to attach your fishing leader to your main line. Whatever works for you really.

One thing to bear in mind, however, is that a fishing leader is only as strong as its weakest link. Learning how to tie new knots will help you become a better angler equipped for any situation and any location.

An easy way to learn new knots is to watch YouTube. Try to learn one or two knots a week and, before you know it, you’ll have dozens of knots to choose from.


Most anglers will be familiar with swivels. They are small devices that have a loop on either side of a pivoting joint.

Swivels are used to attach any two pieces of line together by tying one line to the loop on one side of the pivoting joint and the other line to the loop on the other side of the pivoting joint.

Thanks to the pivoting joint, swivels help stop your line from getting all twisted up which is important if you are going to be using heavy tackle and bait that will perhaps make tangling more likely.

It’s really not necessary to use pivots unless you are likely to get your line tangled up. However small and well-designed some swivels may be, they are often visible to fish and therefore can put them off of going for your bait.

If you do use a swivel, try to keep it at the very top of your leader, away from the lure and bait.

How To Make Your Own Leader

Pre-made fishing leaders are widely available but it is also quite simple to make your own at home.

  • Simply purchase some suitable leader line.
  • Cut it to the length you require, then attach the lure or hook to one end and, if necessary, the swivel to the other end.
  • If you are planning to use weights to help sink your line, attach them to the leader at a suitable distance from your lure or hook.
  • The length you choose to make your leader is largely based on your own personal preferences. As mentioned earlier, leaders are commonly anywhere between twelve and twenty inches long.
  • If you intend to use live bait, it might be worth going a bit longer to give the bait plenty of room to swirl around and attract any nearby hungry fish.

Should I Use A Leader When Fishing?

We have already established that the main two benefits of using a fishing leader are to help prevent line breakages and make your set-up less visible in the water thus increasing your chances of catching.

These are the two factors that you need to take into consideration when determining whether you should actually use a leader.

  • If you are going after some big fish, consider using a leader
  • If you are fishing in clear waters, consider using a leader
  • If you just want to see what difference they make, consider using a leader

Go Fishing!

When it comes to the best way to catch, every angler has their own ideas but, ultimately, you will never know how effective a particular strategy is or whether you will like it until you give it a try.

If you have never tried using leaders, give it a go and see what you think. Experiment with different types of leaders, different lengths, and different baits.

There are no hard and fast rules.

What works for one person may not work for another. The only way you will really know if you like using a leader is to give it a try!

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Nathan Barker

My wife and I are huge adventure seekers! We've traveled and explored over 40 countries and want to share what we have learned on our journey. We'll be talking about everything from hiking and camping, to guides, reviews and tips that we're sure will help any avid adventurer no matter what walk of life. So relax, grab a cup of coffee and we hope you enjoy the read!