Shock Leaders: When & How To Use Them For Surf Fishing


It’s surf fishing time!

Here’s a question we get asked often: when should you use a shock leader for surf fishing?

Shock leaders aren’t your typical 1-2 feet of mono or fluorocarbon leader that you tie on right before your hook…

They’re long lengths of heavier leader to help your line not break when you’re casting out heavy leads, as well as add a little extra protection against abrasion if you’re fishing rocky or shelly beaches.

In this video, you’re going to learn:

  • When you should use a shock leader (and when they’re not necessary)
  • How long a shock leader should be
  • How to tie it to your main line (using a simple knot)
  • And much more

To learn more about using shock leaders when surf fishing, check out the video below.

Using A Shock Leader When Surf Fishing [VIDEO]

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When Should You Use A Shock Leader

You won’t always need to tie on a shock leader when you’re surf fishing — it depends on where you’re fishing and the type of equipment you’re using.

But for the most part, if you’re using light monofilament or braided line (less than ~25 lb test), use a shock leader.

If you’re using heavier mono or braid (over ~25 lb test), then you likely don’t need to use a shock leader.

Of course, that 25 lb test threshold may be increased or decreased depending on how big of leads are you using with your rig or what the bottom composition is like.

One of my reels in the video above had light mono (17 lb test) and another had light braid (10 lb test), so I use shock leaders with both of those.

On another reel, I had 50 lb braid, so I do not use a shock leader for that.

If you’re really looking for some long casting distance, I recommend using light braid with a shock leader.

This combo is great for maximizing casting distance while decreasing the chances of your line breaking (either from abrasion or tension caused by tossing a heavy lead out).

What Size Shock Leader You Should Use

Here’s a general rule of thumb to help you decide what size line to use for your shock leader:

For every ounce of lead, use 10 lbs of shock leader.

For example, if you’re using a 3 oz weight, use a 30 lb shock leader.

If you’re using a 4 oz weight, use a 40 lb shock leader.

As far as the length goes, use 2-3 rod lengths plus 4-5 rotations around the spool.

This usually averages out to about 20-30 ft of shock leader.

And finally, to connect your shock leader to your mainline, use the double uni knot as demonstrated in the video above.


surf fishing pompano

If you’re fishing with light line and you’re using heavy leads, or you’re on a beach with rocky or shelly bottom, you probably want to use a shock leader to decrease the odds of your line breaking.

Use about 20-30 feet of mono, and for every ounce of lead you have rigged up, use 10 lbs of shock leader (i.e. if you’re using a 3 oz weight, use a 30 lb shock leader).

Have any questions about using shock leaders?

Do you use shock leaders differently than we do?

Let me know in the comments below!

And if you know someone who likes surf fishing, please TAG or SHARE this with them!

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David Baldwin
10 months ago

Fantastic to see more info on surf fishing! The question/comment I have, being a novice surf fisher, you said with heavy braid no shock leader is needed. I tried that with a short 18″-24″ leader on my rig, but had the line break regularly. I had 50lb. braid, throwing 4-5oz and the line would snap. I know it’s not a lot of info, but is there a trick to this, or was I doing something wrong? I fish on the Virginia Beach coast line.

Jeremy Sims
10 months ago

I’m glad to see more surf fishing content!

David Baldwin
10 months ago

Since we’re talking shock leaders, I have a question that I can’t get a definitive answer to: What is the difference between the mono on a “Shock leader” spool and the exact weight mono on a regular (large) spool of fishing line? I’ve heard (read) every explanation from a marketing scheme to a different chemical make-up of the line. Can you explain?

David Baldwin
10 months ago
Reply to  Wyatt Parcel

Thanks for the confirmation… I’ve been using mainline and shock leader interchangeably with no noticeable difference seen…Thanks for all your surf fishing tips…

Kenneth Pape
10 months ago

I applaud Saltstrong covering surfcasting and pier fishing. I’m sure that these articles will support a larger base of anglers in a larger region.

Kenneth Pape
10 months ago

I like the Alberto to tie leader on to braid, so much that I tried to use it for mono to mono. That’s not a good idea, though. I went back to a blood knot.

7 months ago

I like to use light line for the surf, 16 or 17 test mono on a nine foot rod. Most days I can get by with a two (2) or three (3) ounce weight. I used to use 50 lb. test for a shock leader but then backed off to a 30 lb. fluoro. Getting good distance. I have landed up to 30 lb. reds in the surf without a breakoff. A little finess is needed during the fight but what the heck….Lighter test still permits me to land the small table fare. Tight lines, guys.

Robert Huerbsch
5 months ago

For shock leader had issues with the double uni sometimes catching when line is spooling or going through the guides. Solved it by switching to the FG knot, so much better because of the tiny profile of the knot.

David Yates
3 months ago

If I am using 30 pound braid do I need a shock leader 2Xs the length of the rod? I always use some sort of leader but about a foot or 2 so I am not casting a knot through my guides.

8 days ago

About to re-spool my rods….I use a 12ft conventional and a 10ft spinning.

I typically throw 4oz weight. I tie my own dropper rigs with 20lb mono and linked to mainline with two perfection loops.

If I use a 50lb shock leader do I need to tie my dropper rigs with higher test too? 50 seems like a lot.

What size mono do you suggest for the mainline? I historically use 20lb test but wondering if I should drop to 15 for more distance


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