How to Tie A Leader On The Main Line

Knowing how to tie a fishing leader can make the difference between landing the biggest fish of the day and dropping your catch.

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Knowing how to tie a fishing leader can make the difference between landing the biggest fish of the day and dropping your catch. Unfortunately, many anglers do not know how to properly tie a leader.

Shock leaders are the unsung heroes of any successful fishing scenario. They are essential for both snag and range fishing especially if you don’t want to lose your catch at the last moment. A crucial part of using a leader properly is to know how to tie them. The problem is, many anglers have never been taught how to tie a leader on the mainline or, in most cases, were not taught how to do it properly.

Leaders are necessary equipment particularly if you’re looking to cast heavy rigs over long distances. They are of great importance as they prevent the mainline from breaking when you cast. They help in keeping the cast on the spool and to handle the weight of the sinker as you cast.

Given its importance, you should learn how to tie a leader on the mainline if you want your fishing trip to be a success. Here are some tips on how to do it.

Table of Contents

What is a Fishing Leader?

A fishing leader is essentially a short piece of a strand that’s stronger and more visible than the main fishing line. It is placed right between the mainline in the fishing reel and the hook or the lure. While leaders have no minimum or maximum lengths, they generally measure between 1 and 3 feet.

The Importance of Using a Leader

The main importance of using a leader is to enable you to catch big and strong fish species. A leader gives you a better chance of preventing big, strong, and toothy fish such as trout and redfish from biting the mainline or through the lure. It also enables you to have a much thinner mainline to allow you to cast over long distances without worrying that it may snap.

What You Need to Tie a Leader

You do not need a lot of things to tie a leader. The most important thing is to know how to pull it off together. However, here’s what you should have to make it a lot easier.

  • The mainline (Consider going with a 10lb or 20lb braid because it’s stronger and performs much better when casting).
  • A leader line (A 20lb or 40lb monofilament is appropriate).
  • A hook and a lure
  • A knife, pliers or scissors to make cutting the line easier

How to Tie a Leader

Whether or not you know how to tie a leader, you should not see it as a complicated process. It’s a very simple process to master and can be done even while out on the water. Here’s how to do it.

Step One: Connect Line to Line Knot

The most important step is to tie the leader to the main fishing line. You should take this step quite seriously as it can be the beginning of your downfall if you do it the wrong way. The idea here is to keep the main fishing line light to make it perform better while casting. Differently, the leader should be heavier to withstand any bites or pressure from the fish.

To do this, you should gently remove any form of slack as you bring the coils into position. Pull your main fishing line just behind the knot and tighten up the coils. You should then jerk the slack end of the mainline. This is to make sure that the loops are snug. Lastly, give the overhand knot on the leader an added pull to make it strong and tauter.

It’s important to ensure that the knots look neat. You can do this by ensuring that the coils of the mainline are very close together. This is also essential if you want to reduce the possibilities of slippage.

Step Two: Have an Appropriate Leader Length

Although there’s no right or wrong leader length, it’s advisable to use a leader length ranging between 2 and 4 feet. Keep in mind that the leader should be shorter so that the lure does not go through the rod guides. This is because the friction that comes with casting over and over will weaken the knot if it constantly rubs against your rod.

You can as well try tying the leader between 30 and 48 inches if you’re using live bait. This is because you generally do not cast as much when using live bait as you’d otherwise do when using artificial lures.

Step Three: Tie the Lure or Hook to the Leader

You should then tie your hook or lure to the leader. Even though it’s important to connect the hook or the lure to the leader, it’s not as important as connecting the leader to the mainline as explained in step one.

The main aim of tying the leader to the hook or lure is to give the lure the ability to have as much action as possible. This is principally why you should use a loop knot that does not put a lot of force on the lure like typical types of knots do.

Tying the leader to the lure can also help it avoid collecting floating debris or weeds. Remember, having a lot of debris stuck on your knot will considerably lower your chances of getting a bite.

You can also choose to use a snug knot if you’re using a leader that has almost the same breaking strength as your main fishing line. The idea here is that snug knots come with higher breaking strengths because they produce more friction on the surface area of the hook eye.

You can do this by threading the leader through the eye of the hook and twist it behind itself to create some sort of a loop. You can then bring the shorter end of the leader through the loop to create a second loop. In the end, the two loops should look like a figure 8 or infinity sign.


Notably, the process of tying a leader to the main fishing line should be straightforward. You don’t need a lot of equipment. After all, it’s something that can be done even when already on the water. All you need is a little bit of practice and tying a leader on the mainline will become as easy as 1, 2, and 3.

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