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Stay connected.

Yes, it can take a little luck to hook a nice fish, but staying connected and landing that prize is all about preparing your tackle for battle before you drop a line in the water. One of the most important parts of your groundwork is choosing the right leader style, material and connections.

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There are some basic tenets that apply to all leaders whether they are rigged for livebait fishing, trolling or bottom fishing.

Leader Basics

Choose a material that will catch the fish you are targeting. Yes, catching a wahoo or kingfish on a straight monofilament leader does happen, but counting on it is just not smart fishing. Toothy critters require some type of bite protection; whether it is wire, cable or just a longshank hook or lure will depend on the species.

Your leader also needs to be sized right. Take into account your tackle, bait, hook or lure, the prevailing visibility of the water, the species you are targeting, and the style of fishing you have planned. Going too heavy on the leader may cut down on the number of bites you get, while going too light will cut down on the number offish you land. Neither is good.

The connections you choose are critical not only to maintain line integrity but also to minimize the visibility of the leader in the water. Generally speaking, it's best to use as little hardware in the construction of a leader as possible.

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Knots and Things

You can build just about any type of leader with a few basic knots. Knots you should master are the Bimini twist, no-name (a.k.a. Yucatan) and uni-knot. These three basics will let you build 95 percent of the monofilament or fluorocarbon leaders you'll ever need. Adding the Albright special and haywire twist to your repertoire will let you work with singlestrand wire like a pro. In some cases, a similar knot that you like or tie better can be substituted if you choose. I like the clinch instead of the uni-knot, for instance; to each his own.

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Of those knots, the Bimini twist is by far the most difficult to master, but it's worth the effort. The Bimini allows you to securely double the fishing line, ensuring that the next knot in the system won't compromise the breaking strength of the line.

Large diameter mono, generally anything over 100-pound test, and any size uncoated multistrand wire cable is best "knotted" with appropriate size and style metal crimping sleeves. To properly swage a metal crimping sleeve requires use of a crimping tool with jaws matched to the specific sleeve being crimped. Any kind of mismatch between the line, sleeve and crimper jaw could result in a failed connection at a critical time.

Some of the new exotic leader materials, like coated micro braids, small diameter multi-strands, and titanium based leaders are flexible enough to be secured with a knot, though usually the knot will have fewer turns than when it is tied in monofilament.

Common Leader Materials

The most common leader material in use today is clear monofilament. It is inexpensive, flexible, nearly invisible, easy to handle, simple to knot and is effortless to cut with scissors or fishing pliers. For most species and situations it works well, however any toothy types like kingfish, wahoo or barracuda will make short work of it. It also has significant memory; this can be a tough issue to overcome when a perfectly straight leader is needed or desired. Knots can be tied in mono of 80-pound-test or smaller, while line rated at or over 100 pounds is best crimped for a solid connection.

Next up is fluorocarbon, which is similar to mono in many ways, but can be more difficult to knot. Flourocarbon's chief attribute is that it's even less visible in the water than mono. On the other hand, it's significantly more expensive. Because of its expense most anglers only use it in sizes from ranging from 10- to 50-pound-test when the least visible leader is needed to coax the bite.

Coffee-colored singlestrand stainless steel wire is the most common tooth- proof leader in use today. You'll find American Fishing Wire, Malin Wire and a few in-store brands on the shelves in most tackle stores. Singlestrand is relatively inexpensive and is packaged in several common sizes and strengths. The smallest common size is No. 2 which is rated at around 20 pounds breaking strength; the heaviest readily available is No. 12, rated at nearly 200 pounds. Singlestrand is fastened to a hook or lure with a haywire twist and can be connected directly to monofilament or fluorocarbon by tying an Albright special around a doubled section of the wire.

For shark fishing or bluewater trolling, multi-strand cable is often the best choice. Cable sizes vary widely and should be sized to the fish you're pursuing. In smaller sizes, with 20- to 200-pound ratings, stranded stainless steel cable is built using 7 strands of wire to form a single flexible cable. Larger, heavier cable, such as Duratest rated 175 to 480 pounds, usually uses a 7-by-7 construction pattern for added flexibility as the wire size increases. Light tackle anglers will find hooking and landing small sharks (up to 100 pounds) very doable with either naked or plastic coated multi-strand wire rated between 40 and 60 pounds. This size wire can be secured to a hook or lure with a simple figure eight knot. When the size of the sharks increases, so should the cable size. Loops in a heavy shark leader, for instance, must be made fast with copper or brass sleeves.

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Specialty Leader Materials

There are a number of exotic tooth-proof leader materials available that offer a few advantages over regular singlestrand wire, at a price.

The fact that attaching singlestrand wire to a hook or lure requires the use of a haywire twist is considered by many anglers to be a disadvantage of this particular leader material, as is the fact that singlestrand will kink and break on occasion.

American Fishing Wire has a new product on the market call Titanium Surf-strand 1x7 and as the name implies it is constructed from titanium alloy wire with 7 strands making up the single cable. It has a gun-metal black finish and is corrosion proof. Rapala markets a similar leader branded as Terminator Titanium. The real upsides to this type of leader material and construction method are the corrosion resistance and flexibility of the wire. The latter allows secure connections to hooks and lures using regular knots.

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Another variation of this is TyGer Leader, a stainless steel micro-strand cable that can be knotted using a modified clinch knot. It is available in 2- to 12-pound test in a variety of colors.

You might flinch at the cost of these exotic leader materials when you hit the tackle store looking for them. On average, depending on size, they will cost anywhere from 15 to 25 times as much as singlestrand stainless steel wire.

Working with Singlestrand Wire and the Haywire Twist

Many anglers have some difficulty working with singlestrand wire because they never master the haywire twist. There are a few small gizmos on the market designed to help you properly form the haywire. Once you've done it a number of times with a tool you should try it with fingers only. I find it best to have dry hands when making a haywire, otherwise it gets too hard to hold the wire firmly.

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Singlestrand does curl and kink, but don't throw away a leader just for this reason. Many times it can be straightened and used again. There are several wire straightening tools available at your local tackle center and in a pinch the flat section of your fishing plier jaws will work, too.

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Leader Length

Anglers who troll or livebait fish often determine leader length based on the size of the fish targeted. The reasoning is, you'd want at least six feet of abrasion-resistant leader when fighting a fish of that length, a sailfish for instance. At the same time, a longer leader may be desirable when targeting large fish on light tackle: a 15-foot leader of 60-pound test, tied to 20-pound-test mainline, allows you to wind the leader onto the reel when a big fish is boatside.

For rigging bluewater trolling lures, many Florida anglers prefer to use a rather short piece of leader, no more than 6 feet. The thinking is, keep the lure dose to a hooked fish while if s running away from the boat. If a bright skirt were to slide 10 or 15 feet up to a swivel, it'd be a sure target for wahoo or barracuda.

Bottom fishers often cut a leader to length by how fast or slow the current is moving: longer in strong current, shorter in slow current.

Wire to Mono

The Albright special knot is the ideal low-Profile connection for singlestrand wire to monofilament or fluorocarbon of up to 80-pound test. Some hints: Step 1, make a tight bend in the wire; 2, leave ample length tag end before beginning the wraps; 3, make sure wraps snug up tightly; and 4, finish with a wire wrap and break to complete, as in haywire twist.

Putting the pieces together: For a super-stealthy, toothproof trolling rig, see www.floridasportsman.com/xtra
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Title Annotation:LEADER RIGGING
Author:Herum, Al
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2011
Words:1587
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