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Opinions will always vary on leader length

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - Fishing | Sep 21, 2023

Capt. George Tunison

Opinions about leader length for inshore saltwater angling are like bananas, there’s a bunch. On spinning equipment I’m a use the longest castable and fishable leader that I can accurately cast guy, and I also don’t like leader knots pinging through my guides on every cast.

Most people picking up my typical spinning outfit find it uncastable because of my long leader choice. Typically my leader almost touches the reel before the lure goes on but I’ve learned to accurately cast that way and it also allows me use it to underhand flip and pitch when I’m in a closer shoreline situation.

Most lure anglers seem to fall in the 24 to 30-inch leader length category and do well. As Southwest Florida fishing pressure continues to increase yearly and many fish are caught and these days thankfully released, putting the odds in your favor by adding another foot or so of leader material may up your game.

On the other hand, I’ve a set-in-his-ways friend that laughs at my long leaders and fishes 20-pound test dark green Power Pro straight to the lure which I always laughed at till he caught that 41-inch snook about a hundred yards from Bert’s Bar at 4 in the afternoon on a bright, nearly cloudless day. Go figure.

Remember most fluorocarbon compounds sink while mono generally floats which is a consideration when choosing leaders for particular applications like when using topwater plugs or using fly rod-casted bass bugs or saltwater poppers, especially with cupped or dished out faces. Fluorocarbon sinking or pulling down will interfere with the lure’s intended action and hinder picking up the bug on your fly cast so go monofilament for better results. For most underwater presentations, I believe flour produces better results in reasonably to very clear waters and also has added abrasion resistance which comes in handy when fishing unforgiving mangroves, docks and other rough structure that big snook or red calls home.

Although there are times when a straight length of leader material will work when using your fly rod, you’ll usually get much better performance using a pre-made or self-tied tapered leader. I’m cheap and build my own from sections of different pound test materials creating that all-important taper that transfers the energy of the casted fly line down the leader with enough power to turn over that bulky fly or highly wind-resistant big bug or popper.

A typical home-tied fly leader for general saltwater might start with 3 feet butt section of 50 pound then 2.5 feet of 25 pound, 2 feet of 15, and end with 2 feet of 12. For tarpon or other rough mouthed fish, you might add a 1-foot shock tippet of much heavier mono. Build your leader for the proper application and lure weight and type. Mixing flour and mono isn’t a good leader building plan. For those with six thumbs, simply buy perfectly constructed one-piece tapered leaders at your tackle store.

When it comes to fly rod leader length, I’m still the long leader guy using up to 13-foot leaders in clear flats water, especially when fishing skittish highly pressured fish like Keys bonefish, skinny water permit or a Burnt Store Bar redfish. Up close to the mangroves I may go as short as 6 feet making quick short accurate shots looking for reaction strikes.

Generally a leader as long as your rod will do the trick for most fly applications.

With our local redfish poking around the flats looking to eat almost anything that moves, picking the proper fly rod presentation is easy. Reds love crabs/shrimp so any crab/shrimp imitator crawled slowly along the bottom is always a sure bet. Probably the number one redfish spinning rod lure is a spoon, so gold spoon flies are deadly. Any weighted streamer with the hook riding upwards is bottom candy to a redfish.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. You can contact him at 239-282-9434 or via email at captgeorget3@aol.com.