In this section I'm going to help you with lines and leaders. Choose a link above to get some reviews but read down below for a comprehensive look at what lines and leaders are all about.
This is a very interesting topic to me but I fear it escapes most newcomers to our sport. In this day and age of technology, there’s an abundance of choices when you buy a fishing line but choosing the correct one for you is not as easy as it seems.
I’m sure most of us have wandered into a tackle store or K-Mart, picked up some line and walked out again without paying too much attention to its line class or properties.
So what exactly is a line class?
These days, lines are rated according to the amount of force that will cause them to break under normal conditions. This is known as their “line class” and it’s where we get the 2kg, 4kg, 15kg etc ratings from. However, it pays to keep in mind that this is how it breaks before a knot is added into the equation. Knots ALWAYS reduce the force a line will break .. at but that’s a topic for a different article.
So why would you not just buy the heaviest line you can to avoid anything breaking you off? Not a bad thought but there’s more to it than that. For starters, sometimes we need to cast some distance to reach fish or a likely fish habitat. Heavier line tends to cause a lot of friction on the spool and reduce your casting distance.
More important, however, is the fact that fish actually have quite keen eyesight and the heavier line you use, they will be more likely to see it and shy away from biting. Just go for a snorkel while your mate is casting a lure and see for yourself, fishing line is VERY visible underwater.
This causes me to think about a day I had at the FADs fishing for dolphinfish with some relatively inexperienced friends. They’d heard about the hard fighting qualities of the dolphinfish and they certainly didn’t want any to get away.
As a result, they loaded up with 15kg outfits and away we went. We turned up at the first FAD and I started with 4kg to see if any of the big ones were about. Immediately I hooked up and played my fish to the boat after a magnificent struggle.
For some time, the rest of my companions remained fishless and grumpy. I suggested that they were fishing too heavy and the fish could see the line. The consensus amongst them was that I was just a more experienced angler and they’d stick to the heavy gear, thanks for asking.
Fair enough. I turned the boat around and headed back to the FAD yet again. Within seconds I was hooked up, yet again. I was using the same lure and general rig as my friends but still they could attract no piscatorial interest whatsoever.
Another fish landed in my column and now they weren’t happy.
“What are we doing wrong?”
I could only repeat myself, “You’re fishing too heavy. I swear to you that not only can the fish see the line, they are scared of it and not as stupid as you think they are.”
They were still worried about losing fish but I explained how a drag works (see the reels section) and grabbed the 2 kilo outfit I’d brought along for some fun. Out went my lure again and this time I locked horns with a hard fighting fish on tiny tackle. Great fun but he was never getting away.
They now had to admit defeat. Having seen the 2 kilo line work, they changed to 6 kilo and started catching fish too. All of a sudden, line class selection made a lot more sense to them and I had answered, in part, one of the most often asked questions by anglers with an empty bucket – “Why is that guy catching all the fish?” Perhaps he’s using lighter mainline or leaders and the fish can see yours.
That tip alone can drastically improve some anglers’ catches once they take more time to consider the selection of the line used on the reel and at the terminal end. To finish, I’ll give you my overview of correct line class selections for different types of fishing. Keep in mind, also, that braided lines are not “pretested” in any way. This means they generally break well above the rated line class on the spool but certain knots can dramatically reduce the breaking strain as well.
As a rule, my favourite knot is the uni knot in mono, with the double uni knot used to join two lines (or leaders) together. It’s a strong knot and, while not being as elegant as some, it’s the only one NEVER to have let me down.
If you’re tying doubles or using braid, the bimini twist is perfect. It’s a hard not to tie but I can easily show you how to do it during a lesson. Always remember, though, expect any knot to reduce the line’s breaking strength by at least 20% (except the bimini twist). Knots such as the bimini twist are exceptions and offer extremely good line strength retention. It is for this reason that I strongly recommend that you learn this knot.
Here’s a guide to choosing the right line for your type of fishing:
You will be casting heavy sinkers and baits, plus you’ll have clumps of weed to deal with so I’d say no less than 8-10kg of thin mono. Braid is also a good idea, especially if you want to fish heavier, as casting distance can be an important factor.
Groyne / Rock Fishing
Unless you’re targeting mulloway or snapper, 4-6kg will be plenty and even lighter is possible if you want to have more fun. A medium thickness mono is quite suitable.
Once again, 4-6kg is plenty and I’d err on the lighter side for less visibility in the water.
Inshore Boat Fishing
I almost always use 6kg Fireline for all my tailor fishing and 2kg braid for whiting, herring and other fish around the shallow banks. For deep water, I always use 15-24kg braids such as Fireline XDS.
Bream, flathead and other river fish are quite shy at times so 4kg is probably as heavy as you want to go unless you’re always getting blown away by huge bream. Mulloway fishers will stick to 8kg but you can get as high as 15kg. If you can’t get them on 15, you’re doing something wrong. Braid is always a good idea in the river.
Your fishing line is one of the most important weapons in your arsenal. How many times do I see people with quality gear choosing the wrong, or worse – poor quality fishing lines! This is the one part that must never let you down because it’s what connects you to possibly the best fish of your life.
I can’t recall ever just “breaking off”. It may be human error for the newcomer to the game but to a wily veteran such as myself I have no excuse for mistakes. If I lose a fish due to the line breaking then it means that it’s most likely the line has made contact with the pylons / reef / oysters, the fish was too big for the line class I was fishing or I’ve made a bad line choice.
Yes, you will always lose fish to line breakages for many different reasons but a lot of these instances can be avoided by the correct choice at the tackle store counter. Just as importantly, the right line can help you hook fish as well.
Nylon monofilament lines have been around for many, many years now and although there have been all sorts of new developments (some good and some bad), mono is still the king of lines and suitable for 90% of all fishing.
Its best characteristic is stretch which can work for you in many situations. The most important aspect of stretch is when a fish hits hard or is running you will get a bit of a buffer between each head shake and surge.
With small fish this isn’t so important, but with large fish it can be essential. Bottom fishers using braid who’ve hooked large samsonfish and sharks regret their mono choice briefly as their back muscles are tested. I clearly remember hooking a 50 kilo plus tuna on braid while trolling and learned my lesson there.
That buffer while the line stretches can help you save the fight and turn it in your favour and even small fish have more trouble throwing the hooks with mono than braid. However, the stretch can also work against you in deep water, meaning you can feel less of the bites and there’s a delay from the terminal end to your hand.
Situations that I’ve found work best with monofilament lines include trolling, rock fishing for small fish, samsonfish on shallow wrecks, sharks, ballooning for mackerel and casting lures for big fish in the Kimberley and Pilbara.
My favourite monos are Stren Tournament Gold, Platypus Pretest and Super 100, Tortue Super Control and some Berkley lines.
I went through a period where I put braid on every reel I owned. Big mistake. Braided lines are awesome for some purposes but I soon cut back my braid use to about 70% of my reels.
This was due to two factors. The first involved the lack of stretch on big fish where I kept either losing or busting off fish that never should have been lost and wouldn’t have been with a low stretch mono like Stren Gold.
The second problem was jerky runs and lack of control in a battle. Mono with a small amount of stretch gives you a nice buffer between the running fish and your reel, making them less prone to freaking out and you also tend to lose less line during the fight.
But I’ve found the mono won’t cast as far with spinning reels, even though it actually increased my casting distance on baitcasters! That I didn’t expect and I’ve now got a good mix of braid and mono on all my reels, regardless of the type.
I prefer Fireline to all other braids. It’s not perfect but it suits more situations more often than the others. Situations that work best for braids include bottom fishing deep water, bream fishing with lures, casting poppers off the beach into the wind, fishing around weed from the beach and jigging deep water, sometimes. I say that because samsonfish will flip out much more often when you hook them on braid than mono. If they’re feeding, I’ll use mono but if I really need to work that lure hard, I’ll use braid.
Leaders can be a bit of a mystery to people but they really are quite simple.
Living and fishing in Perth, the only time most people will ever use a leader is for tailor fishing to avoid teeth, bream on lures or bottom fishing. But, heading into the northwest for the first time, sorting out your leaders for toothy fish is extremely important but can be a bit of a nightmare. So what is the purpose of a leader?
For the most part, leaders are used to stop fish biting through your line but they can also be used to avoid rocks and reef, the sharp gill plates of fish, or even to fool a fish in clear water with a lighter piece of line than your mainline. Firstly, let’s look at different leaders and what they do.
Wire can be bought as either single strand or coated. Single strand is usually what I’d use for trolling or live-baiting and it’s very stiff. It’s also near on impossible for even sharks to bite through and I always have it in my tackle box. Its downside, however, is the stiffness and while that makes it good for trolling baits, it’s not so flash for trolling lures all the time as it has a memory and tends to kink.
This is when you might need coated wire. This type of leader is made from multiple strands (usually 7) and is quite supple to use. Unlike single strand, you need to use crimps for joining and looping but it makes an excellent leader for mackerel trolling in particular. The suppleness keeps the lure swimming well and, once again, very few fish will ever bite it through. Wire of some kind is a must for any trip into the northwest.
These days I use coated mono much more than wire and that says a lot for the quality of mono leaders these days. Much like normal mono, these coated monos are hard on the outside and this makes them more resistant to teeth and abrasions.
Mostly I’ll use Penn 10x 40lb, 60lb, 80lb or 100lb and the advantages of this type of leader certainly helps me catch more fish. Years ago I’d never consider using coated mono as a leader for tailor but these days I wouldn’t use wire unless huge fish are swallowing whole baits or lures. This means my bait or lure is presented in a way that’s more natural and I know I catch more fish as a result.
Another great advantage of mono leaders is that you can tie it onto your mainline using a double uni knot and avoid swivels. This makes it great for a “wind on” leader which is a 5m plus length of line designed to give you greater control over a fish at the last minute of the fight. Coated mono in 60-80lb is also very useful for making rigs for bottom fishing.
This space age leader material is what they make bullet proof vests out of so you can imagine how strong it is. Fluorocarbon has two properties which make it ideal as a leader material (unfortunately it’s also very expensive for 100% fluorocarbon).
The first is its resistance to abrasion. Unlike mono, it’s not easy to rub or bite through and this also adds to the enormous strength compared to its relative diameter. The second is its light absorption capacity. Fluorocarbon has the same light absorption properties as water so this makes it more invisible to fish. Advertising says “completely invisible” but that’s a loads of cods. I’ve watched it work while diving and I can certainly see it. Less than mono, but it’s still visible.
Fluorocarbon is excellent as a light tackle leader in clear water, especially for fly and trout fishing but I now use 20lb for tailor and dolphinfish regularly. Spooling your reel with “fluorocarbon” that’s really a cheap fluorocarbon and mono composite is not only a waste of time, it’s not usually fluorocarbon at all.