Short isn’t sweet: Keep fluoro leaders long

Guide Justin Carter believes you can’t use too long a leader, even if it’s invisible fluorocarbon, when trying to fool saltwater fish like reds.

Braided line has many virtues, and it’s popular among both freshwater and saltwater anglers. It’s also popular among anglers to use fluorocarbon leaders due to their invisibility. No other material virtually disappears in water better than fluorocarbon.

The question many anglers ask is, “How long of a fluorocarbon leader do I use?” Asking a dozen anglers may get you a dozen different answers, but anywhere from a foot to 2 feet seems about the average.

Justin Carter of DIG Charters in Charleston, S.C., is an exception to that rule. He believes more anglers should use longer fluorocarbon leaders.

“Unless you’re fishing somewhere that you have to have braided line all the way to the hook, there’s no reason not to tie on as long a leader as you can. Fluorocarbon is strong, and especially in clear water, (it) will result in more bites than bait or lures with braid connecting to it. I usually start off with a fluorocarbon leader that’s about 4 feet long — and sometimes longer,” said Carter.

The key, he said, is tying a good knot that connects the two lines. With a leader that long, you’ll want the knot to pass through the rod’s eyes with as little resistance as possible. The FJ knot, blood knot and surgeon’s knot are all good options.

“Throughout a day of fishing, you’ll re-tie lures or hooks because you’ve broken off, or because you want to change to different lures or hook sizes. Every time you cut your line and re-tie, you’re losing chunks of leader material. If you start off with a foot of leader, you’ll lose that after re-tying just a few times. I’ve always found if I start the day with 4 feet, I almost always have enough leader to last the whole day, no matter how often I re-tie,” he said.

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