How To Tie The Perfect Fishing Leader for Snook, Redfish, and Seatrout

By: Luke Simonds on April 13, 2018
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how to tie a leader line

FACT: A fishing leader can make or break you when it comes to landing the biggest fish of the day.

Having a good leader line with strong knots is absolutely essential for inshore anglers who want to land big snook, redfish, trout, tarpon, etc.

However, many inshore anglers simply have never been taught how to make their own leaders, or in many cases, they were taught an inferior way to tie leaders.

I know this because I used inferior knots for my personal leaders for 20+ years… even multiple years of tournament fishing when hard-earned money was on the line.

Many questions have come in relating to tying leaders for snook, redfish, and seatrout in the last couple of months, so I wantet to put focus back onto this article that shows how to tie the best fishing leader for inshore fish that I have found so far after many knot tests.

You’ll of course see the overview of why it’s important to use fishing leaders.

And you’ll see the best knots that have proven to outperform the others for the specific connections needed in a proper leader system.

Let’s get started with the basics first:

What is a “Fishing Leader”?

The fishing leader is a short strand of tough fishing line (often stronger and/or less visible than the main line) that is placed in between the main line in the reel and the hook or lure that an angler is using.

There is no maximum or minimum length for leaders, but they are most often in the 1 to 3 ft range… inshore recommendations discussed below.

Why Use A Leader For Saltwater Fishing?

A leader is needed for saltwater fishing because it provides an angler with the ability to keep a big, strong, and often toothy fish from biting through the line near the hook/lure while allowing the angler to have a much thinner line in the reel for maximizing casting distance and performance.

In this article, we’ll focus the examples to leader assemblies designed to catch big snook, redfish, and seatrout.

What Is Needed To Tie A Fishing Leader?

Fortunately, there is not much equipment that is needed… it mostly involves just knowing how to best put it all together.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Main line in spool (10 lb to 20 lb braid)
    • Note: we highly recommend braid because of its better casting performance and stronger breaking strength related to listed strength as compared to mono
  • Leader line (20 lb to 40 lb monofilament)
  • Lure/Hook (whichever lure/hook you plan to use)
  • Pliers/Scissors/Knife to cut line
  • [optional] Swivel… if you plan to use a bait that is prone to twisting up your line, then tying a swivel in between your main line and the leader is smart

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  • Weekly “spot dissection” videos that walk you through all the best spots in certain areas
  • Exclusive fishing tips from the PROS you can’t find anywhere else
  • Everything you need to start catching fish more consistently (regardless if you fish out of a boat, kayak, or land).

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How To Tie A Fishing Leader

Many anglers over-complicate their leader lines and some are very intimidated by them… especially when tying line-to-line.

However, the process only consists of 3 steps, and it is quite simple once the knots are learned.

And after a bit of practice, anyone can complete the full assembly quickly even while out on the water in rough seas.

Here are the 3 core steps:

Step 1: Tie Line to Line Knot

The first step in tying a fishing leader is to connect your main line to your leader line…

This is by far the most important aspect of tying a leader line because it will most often be the weakest link in your assembly since the main line is kept light to increase casting performance, while the leader is the heavier of the two lines to withstand the sharp teeth/mouths of many saltwater fish.

For example, even a 50% knot on the hook/lure end of a 30 lb leader is stronger than a 100% knot on a 10 lb main line… (15 lbs vs. 10 lbs).

Here’s some “must know” line to line knots for those who use braid and/or mono:

Braid to Mono

This FG Knot won our braid to leader knot contest by a considerable margin while also being the thinnest option of them all:

Note: Do not use this knot for a mono to mono connection… it requires braided line making the coils.

Mono to Mono

The Surgeon’s Knot is one of the strongest and quickest knots out there for mono to mono:

Note: The surgeon’s knot can be used to connect braid to mono/fluoro too, but it’s best to use 6 wraps if using braid vs. the 3 for mono to mono.

Step 2: Determine Your Leader Length

There is no right or wrong length for a fishing leader. I typically use leaders in the 2 to 4 ft range depending on what type of fishing I’m doing.

I typically use leaders in the 2 to 4 ft range depending on what type of fishing I’m doing.

For instance, I use a shorter leader when fishing with artificial lures because I do not allow my knots to go through my rod guides because the friction from frequent casts will weaken any knot.

For live bait fishing when the cast count is a fraction of artificial, I’ll increase the length of my leader by 6 to 12 inches.

So I go with a ~24-inch leader for artificials and a 30+ inch leader when live baiting.

Note: Although I start with a minimum 24-inch leader, I’ll, of course, let it get shorter while in use after re-tying due to fish fraying the line or needing to switch lures/baits… I’ll often let it get down to 16 to 20 inches depending on water clarity (clear water = longer leader). 

Step 3: Tie Lure or Hook to Leader

The final step is to connect your lure or hook to your leader.

Although maximizing the breaking strength here is not nearly as important compared to the line-to-line knot in step 1, it’s still, of course, important to have a strong knot.

However, some other factors come into play here that shouldn’t be overlooked… especially when fishing with artificials:

  • Does the knot maximize lure action?
  • Will it snag weeds?

The most important aspect of a leader to lure/hook knot is its ability to allow the bait to have as much action as possible… and to address this factor, I highly recommend using a loop knot because the loop does not constrain the lure/hook nearly as much as a typical knot that hugs the eye.

Much lower on the importance list, but still very important is the knot’s ability to avoid snagging floating weeds/debris… because the debris stuck on the knot will significantly decrease the odds of you getting strike.

If you’re using a leader that is close to the same breaking strength as your main line and your bait doesn’t require much action, then it is smart to use a snug knot because those knots have higher breaking strengths since they generate more friction along the surface area of the hook eye.

See below for the knots that won the respective knot contests:

The Top Loop Knot

Note: This Kreh loop knot won our leader to lure loop knot contest held earlier this year.

The Top Snug Knot

Note: This Orvis knot won our leader to lure snug knot contest held earlier this year.

How To Tie A Swivel Onto A Leader

When fishing with lures like spoons that are prone to cause twists in my line, it is good to tie a swivel in between the main line and the fishing leader line.

This will help decrease the line twists in your line, which will help lessen the chances of getting frustrating wind knots.

Just like before, the most important knot in this setup is the one that connects your main line to the swivel…

Since the FG knot is only for connecting a braided line to a mono leader, a different braid knot is needed.

Braid To Swivel Knot

Note: This modified uni knot for braid won our braid to swivel knot contest we held to evaluate this important connection.

Once this modified uni knot is tied, then use the Orvis knot shown above to connect the swivel to the leader.

If using a mono main line, I like tying the Orvis knot to connect to both sides of the swivel… it’s very simple to tie and has a very impressive hold strength. However, the very popular Palomar knot and the Uni knot are both excellent choices as well… they all 3 scored extremely close in our knot strength analysis.

What Size Leader Line Should I Use?

There is no one-size-fits all fishing leader line size for any species… it all depends on water clarity, size of expected fish, amount of structure nearby, etc.

But here are the strength range that I most often recommend:

  • Redfish, trout, and flounder on the flats: 20 lb to 25 lb mono leader and 10 lb braid main line is my favorite
  • Snook on the flats: 25lb to 30 lb mono leader and 10 lb braid main line
  • Snook and redfish in inlets and/or near structure: 40 lb to 60 lb mono leader and 20 lb to 30 lb braid main line depending on size of expected fish
  • Tarpon/Cobia on the flats or near inlets: 50 lb to 80 lb mono leader and 20 lb to 40 lb braid/mono main line depending on size of expected fish

Although the 10 lb braid main line seems a bit light for battling big snook and reds on the flats, just keep in mind that the true breaking strength of braid is often much higher than its listed value.

For example, I consistently get a 20 lb to 22 lb line system when using an FG knot to connect my “10 lb” PowerPro braid to a 30 lb fluorocarbon leader… and this 20 lb level is higher than the max drag setting on most inshore spinning reels.

In case you’d like to see the light gear in heavy action… here’s a short video of a decent sized tarpon getting landed on my inshore setup:

The 2 core upsides to using lighter main lines are that they:

  1. Significantly increase casting performance (over 20% longer casts as shown in this casting experiment)
  2. Decrease wind/water drag which makes for improved feel of strikes and a better retrieve while working lures

And these upsides completely overshadow the downside of the line not being quite as strong as it otherwise could have been in my opinion.

What Type of Main Line Should I Use?

There is an endless amount of options for lines these days, so it’s tough to sort through the good vs. the bad.

For those of us who use spinning tackle, it is very helpful to use braid line vs. monofilament because the much thinner braid will significantly increase your casting distance (see braid vs. mono casting distance test here).

And the zero-stretch nature of braid will enable you to feel strikes and set hooks so much better which will undoubtedly result in more fish caught just by making this one simple adjustment.

Here are the strengths that I most often recommend based on fishing type:

  • Redfish, seatrout, snook, and flounder on the flats: 10 lb to 15 lb braid main line is my favorite
  • Big Snook and redfish in inlets and/or near structure: 20 lb to 30 lb braid depending on size of expected fish and the amount of current and structure that is typically present
  • Tarpon/Cobia on the flats or near inlets: 20 lb to 40 lb braid/mono main line depending on size of expected fish

Conclusion

When fishing for most saltwater species, it’s important to use a fishing leader to increase the odds of landing the biggest fish of the day while also having the ability to effectively cast and present your bait for increased strikes.

And fortunately for you, tying a strong leader doesn’t require a lot of fancy equipment.

It simply involves having two different types of line and knowing 2 to 3 different knots.

Play around with the knots to find out which ones give you the best hookup ratios for the type of lines you use.

Any questions on how to tie a leader?

Let me know in the questions.

Want More Inshore Fishing Spots In Your Area?

Then you’ve got to see this private fishing club…

You’ll receive:

  • Weekly fishing reports and trends revealing where the inshore fish are feeding all year long
  • Weekly “spot dissection” videos that walk you through all the best spots in certain areas
  • Exclusive fishing tips from the PROS you can’t find anywhere else
  • Everything you need to start catching fish more consistently (regardless if you fish out of a boat, kayak, or land).

Click here to join today.

P.S. – If you think your angler friends would like this, please Tag them or Share this with them… Fish On!

Please leave a comment below if you have any questions, or if you think I skipped over anything.

Go To Our Knot Testing Homepage [Full Knot Rankings]

 

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50 Comments on "How To Tie The Perfect Fishing Leader for Snook, Redfish, and Seatrout"

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Kali
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Kali

Ok so this set up is veeeery interesting. From talking to numerous fisherman, they seem to use a higher weight Braid and a smaller leader. For example a 20 lb braid attached to say a 12 lb fluoro or mono. Correct me if I am wrong, but you are recommending from your experience to go with 20 lb braid and even bigger mono for saltwater fishing? That is interesting! I grew up using all mono…and now I am so confused on what to use. I will be doing more fresh water fishing and occasional saltwater fishing. My rod’s line limit is 12 lb, and my reel for mono is 12LB/131yds , and for braid it is 30LB/140Yds. Can you please help me make a decision before I purchase any line? I am struggling between going with braid and leader vs just going with all mono. I haven’t ordered my reel yet but I was thinking of going with the 3000 kastking sharky III with the above line specs. Thank you for taking the time to read and respond. xoxo!

Gary Friedman
Member

I remember speaking with an old salt from the keys who schooled me about fishing lines, he told me that power pro, spiderwire and others are great lines. But for a person who fishes alot and needs to change out line more then once a year, those lines can get expensive. I change out my line at least twice a year and rely on Ande to do the job. I have yet to make the conversion to braid, so I cant say the shelf life on the line when fished alot. I also agree on the use of the loop knot. Some lures demand it, such as topwater and “walk the dog” lures.

parkfede@gmail.com
Member

Guys thanks for showing how it’s done. I´ve been practicing about 7-10 times at home and seems I’m getting it.
I´ve always used a swivel before my leader because everyone here uses this setup (Peru). Now I´m going without it.
Braid-FG-leader-clip-lure. what knot do you recommend for leader to clip? same as the video “braid to swivel knot”?

Rich Fiorentino
Member

That FG knot looks really good. Could you also put a dab of crazy glue or nail polish on the knot when finished for a better finish?

Rich Fiorentino
Member

When you say “braid to mono’, would it also be true with ‘ braid to flouro’?

Steven Free
Member

I guess i might try the fg knot although there was a knot i have been using for about 5 years now that i learned from a florida sportsman mag that has never failed me i make a loop in the leader then take the braid and put it through the loop then wrap the braid around the leader 10 times then holding that end bring the braid and wrap the leader and braid in the loop together 5 more times then pull it snug and trim the ends like i said i dont off hand know what its called but it has never failed me i also use a polomar to tie the lure on the leader in the florida sportsman mag they did there own knot tests and the polomar had a 95 percent strength rating now as far as a loop knot i never use it i use what is called a speed clip its not a swivel but is very strong and makes quik lure changes a breeze unlike having to retie if using the loop knot now for spinnerbaits jigs or any other soft lures i tie directly to the line using the polomar but its what works that works for me and your idea works for you thanks for the tip😊

Jerry
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Jerry

I fish for flounder all the time with 20 lb braid. But it breaks constantly on the hook set. I switched to 30 pound and have had no issues other than shorter casting. Am I the only one who has trouble with braid breaking on hooksets? I don’t use a leader and catch a lot of 20″ plus fish and a lot of slot redfish.

Steven Free
Member

Sounds like your braid might be weak i use 20lb power pro and a 20lb inviso line by berkly leader and never have breakoffs in fact when i just used mono i had more breakoffs then ever but since i switched to braid about 14 years ago fish fear me ha ha if you have not changed your braid in a few years that might be a reason why your line might be weak braid does get old just not as fast as mono and the more time in the sun the faster it will weaken unless its new try changing it and if it is new maybe i would switch braid brands you can never go wrong with power pro great stuff and strong as hell good luck😊

dl2033@gmail.com
Member

I’d like to know a good knot for dropper line

Austin Prysock
Member

What knot would you recommend for fluoro to a jig with a gulp shrimp?

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I used my old style of knot and was just out fishing, got a lot of weeds and stuff on the knot. Then I remembered your knot video, reviewed it and retied my knots and had no trouble. Such a little detail to get the tag end toward the hook and not back up the line and it makes all the difference. Thanks.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

What knot would you use for mono to fluoro?

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

When using a lure how do we tie it i want to fish from the surf do i need a leader line to my main line I’m using a 20lb line

Ira Cohen
Member

Why use mono as opposed to fluorocarbon? I have always been told to use fluorocarbon for leaders. Why should I use one over the other? Thanks, IraC

John Pierce
Member

I really like your fishing videos and all of the free help. (Makes me feel guilty). I’m considering buying the video but I live in Al off Weeks Bay. I have tried all of your suggestions but I cant seem to find grass flats in my area. I cannot tell the difference between dark (deep) water and dark (grassy) water. We have some inshore reefs and oyster beds but I have not had much success fishing them. I catch sharks and catfish but I mostly use live bait. Before I put my money down, do you think your video will help me find the good fishing spots in my area? I will probably buy it anyway but AL isn’t like FL. I plan on retiring at year’s end and moving down there full time. It is much different from any place I have fished and I just cannot seem to get on the fish although I know people that can. The Bay area just looks like one big lake to me!
Thanks,

Gary Rankel
Member

Hey Luke…….another of your super informative articles which I’ll share with my yak fishing group. My only question is why you seem to favor mono over fluoro leaders??

Brian Furlow
Member

The FG knot is a phenomenal knot with superior strength. I learned it originally from your video. Thanks for sharing. The FG knot takes a little practice but then becomes second nature. So important to make sure that your all wraps are “side by side” and don’t overlap each other otherwise the integrity of the knot is significantly compromised.

Ronald Richardson
Member

wow thanks lucas for the leader to braid knot. it is my favorite and really strong. you made it so easy to learn. because of that knot i,m thinking about joining the insider but i,m skeptical because you don,t do much from my area in weeki wachee.

Ben
Guest
Ben

Hi Luke i would like to know if i can use flurocarbon line to make my leader and what is the difference between flurocarbon line versus flurocarbon leader material

dave
Guest
dave

ill be in st petersburg area feb 12- 27 i would like to try to catch a snook any suggestions

Larry Gause
Member

Luke,
In tying the fg knot, after making the 20 loops with the leader line, what line do I use to make the hitch knots to lock the loops in place??

Burt Silver
Guest
Burt Silver

I haven’t been fishing since my dad took me when I was a young boy. In the recent years since he passed, I have wanted to get back out on the water and fish to feel close to him. I want to catch snook, but I’m afraid I won’t have the skill to do so. This article was helpful, I had no idea that tying main line to the leader was the most important step in tying a leader line.

Jack Kenley
Member

I’ve found that Super 8 Slick braid is much better for casting.

Michael Umstead
Member

Luke I’m just wondering if it would be a good idea if I tied a top loop knot from my leader to a tactical clip to change out lures if need be?

Aj Easterling
Member

I have a stupid question. Do you buy leader material or do you just use regular line for the leader? Seems less costly to use regular line. Thanks in advance.

Ben Castellano
Member

I am a new surfcaster in NZ. I have been told the shock leader should be about 2.5 – 3 X the length of the rod (to go around the reel 3 or 4 times). That this helps with the cast of the weight. What are your thoughts?

Jack Van Fleet
Member

Awesome videos and information on all types of problems people have when fishing , Hats off to you for your work in training others the tricks of the trade.

Adam Monts
Member

When using a gotcha plug or sting silver what knot would best be used to tie lure to ur leader? I like the idea of using the loop knot but worries me about the plug getting fouled with line more often. I typically use mono to flouracarbon leader tied with a uni.