Tied Up With Leaders

I’m fishing in northern pike country. I’ve tried a variety of leaders, but feel like they inhibit my catch of other fish. I don’t really target pike, they are more of a nusance unless I’m just hungry. The outfitter I’m using this year recommends 12" steel leaders, but doesn’t specify color or weight. He also recommends 14 lb. Fireline, which also seems heavy. Any suggestions? I use soft baits and a spinning rod. Thanks.

Well, I’m not a pro at this by any means, but I have some thoughts about it. I personally don’t think super-thin leaders reduce strikes all that much, but I shy away from traditional steel leaders which are quite thick. If you get steel leaders having a strength of about 18 pounds or so, they will be as thin or thinner than your traditional monofilament fishing line. I use dark-colored leaders, mostly because in the super-thin varieties, all choices seem to be dark. I feel pretty safe with that, though, like you, I’ll skip the leader if I’m not going to need it. I don’t think fish have any comprehension of what a fishing line is in the first place, but some are definitely finicky about such things if not actively feeding (big carp are notorious for this), so better safe than sorry. Still, when it comes to artificial lures that are retrieved fairly steadily, I can’t believe the leader makes a bit of difference.

Regarding your idea that 14-pound Fire Line is “heavy”, that makes me wonder if you might be new to using modern super braids. When I used mono, the heaviest I’d ever put on a spinning rig was 8-pound, and my standard baitcasting line was 12-pound. Now I have a few more more spinning and baitcasting rigs than I used to, and the spinning rigs mostly have either 10-pound or 20-pound Power Pro, and the baitcasting rigs mostly have 30-pound Power Pro. In spite of so much extra strength compared to what I used with mono, these modern braided lines are far thinner and cast much farther than my old mono lines ever did. Going much lighter would invite problems with line getting behind the spool of the baitcasting rigs, and with the 10-pound Power Pro already being the same diameter as 2-pound mono (the lightest mono I ever used was 4-pound), I see no reason to go with a lighter line than that. I’m not familiar with Fire Line, but I suspect you’ll find the same thing, that 14-pound line will be as thin as you need, even though it’s apparently stronger than you need.

Finally, I think what I’d do in your situation is see how pesky the pike actually are in the places you are fishing with soft plastic. If the pike are not much of a problem, skip the leader.

Guideboatguy , do you find that the powerpro line has memory and tangle problems . Or is. Smooth casting without much memory or line twist problems on spinning gear

That makes sense. I’m not very familiar with Fireline. Like you, I use 8 lb. mono. What kind of non-steel leaders do you prefer? I recall seeing titanium ones somewhere - didn’t notice their thickness.

@Loon_Watcher said:
That makes sense. I’m not very familiar with Fireline. Like you, I use 8 lb. mono. What kind of non-steel leaders do you prefer? I recall seeing titanium ones somewhere - didn’t notice their thickness.

I don’t use non-steel leaders. If you are still talking about bite-off protection, I don’t know anything about other choices.

All that being said, I remember that extra-heavy-duty mono was sometimes used decades ago instead of steel leaders as protection from pike bite-offs. It might be an option to test out or compare with super-thin steel leaders. I think people used something like 80- or 100-pound mono, which is stiff, ungainly stuff, but tough.

@Ramblinjack said:
Guideboatguy , do you find that the powerpro line has memory and tangle problems . Or is. Smooth casting without much memory or line twist problems on spinning gear

First, no line should give twist problems with spinning tackle as long as you never turn the handle while the drag is slipping. For everything else, the reel will create one full twist in the line for turn onto the spool, but each of those twists will undo itself during the next cast.

Anyway, I love Power Pro line. It is very limp and has no memory at all, and as I mentioned, casting distance beats mono by a long shot. But tangles? On spinning reels, you’ll need to be very sure that you lift your rod to remove slack before reeling or you may get knotted loops that are a bear to unravel (lifting the rod to remove that last bit of slack as you click the bail should be a habit anyway, but Power Pro is more susceptible to tangles from slack than mono, and tight little knots in such fine-diameter line can be just about impossible to undo). With baitcasting equipment, backlashes with Power Pro will sometimes be a nightmare, a real challenge to 50-year-old eyes when working them free. Still, everything else about it is so much better than mono that I’ll never go back (I’m still not sure about abrasion resistance. I think mono may have an advantage there, and I’m sure some online source can give you the answer about that).

One other thing I like about it is the low stretch. It used to be when I hooked a large catfish on baitcasting equipment and it took out line, the drag would operate in a very jerky, erratic fashion due to the stretch in mono line. With Power Pro (and presumably any other modern braided line), the drag operation is as smooth as silk. When it comes to big fish that take out line, re-spooling with modern braided line completely changes the “apparent quality” of your reel’s drag. Of course, low stretch helps with feel and hooksets too.

Pike are a dumb, freshwater barracuda fished for with heavy stuff, hence you don’t need lighter lines/leaders to let the lures swim like the naturals…

FWIW some further comment re pike and steel leaders, cutting off, etc. based on catching a LOT of pike. When I used lead head marabou and soft body jigs, hopped along the bottom when fishing from shore, I almost never had a pike cut the line and used 8-10 lb. mono on a spinning outfit. The fish tended to be hooked in the front of the mouth and I discounted pike cutting line. I think that the approach the lure from behind and pick it up with the tip of their mouth.

Then I started trolling and casting for pike with a friend in his boat. With spoons especially, but any lure, pike would often strike the lure from the side and cut off a phenomenal number of lures. So I examined pike teeth. They are much like small shark teeth, razor sharp along the sides of a sharp pointed triangle. With spoons and a sideways strike, the side of the fish’s mouth often made contact with the line just ahead of the lure, cutting the line. I went to steel leaders for spin fishing pike, and tried a short length of 40 lb. fine aramid braid as leader when fly fishing for pike.

Re fish strikes and small diameter leader: With Chinook salmon in salt water, extensive experiments in my extended family convinced us that salmon hit fine diameter leaders better than heavier, but there comes a point of diminishing returns where too many break off to balance out the extra strikes. For kings, 25-40 lbs. in open salt water, we settled on 15 lb. leader as our minimum and in Alaska where we got into fish in the 50 lb. and more range one summer, we went to 20 lb. in salt, 25 in a river as a bit more abrasion resistant, but we could follow the fish in our boat. Standing on shore in a super swift Alaska river, we broke off 60 lb. leader (and a few heavier leaders) several times on fish that I’m sure were 40 lbs. or smaller. We could not follow them down the bank due to overhanging brush, whitewater swift.

Best of luck on your pike safari!

Thanks. Very interesting. I hadn’t thought about the teeth/strike angle. Food for thought.