Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Steel leaders for northern pike fishing

Northern pike have a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth so a steel leader is a must when fishing for them. Yet this is one of the most-ignored pieces of tackle for most fishermen.

Take the photo above. This leader is kinked and its wire is unravelling after a hard day of pike fishing which also took its toll on the black and white dardevle. All the paint missing from the spoon came from the dozens of northern pike which bit down on it.

Leaders are made of finely braided wire which flexes pretty well but which eventually will break. When you see your leader getting kinks in it or starting to unravel then it's time to put on a new one. If you are doing a lot of pike fishing this can happen a couple of times a day.

The leader doesn't need to be much heavier than your line strength. We advise using just 8-10-pound test fishing line for anglers who like to cast and 10-12-pound test for those who like to troll.

For leader strength, 18-30 pound weight is all that's needed. The point of the leader is that pike cannot cut the wire with their teeth, not that it is stronger than your fishing line. And just as heavy fishing line will prevent you from hooking many fish (See Lighten Up for Pike), a heavy leader will also spook away the majority of pike. It also interferes with the action of your lure. Your spoon won't wobble, your crankbait won't wiggle and your spinner won't spin right. So there's no point in using them.

The longer your leader, the faster it will kink. Most people use 9-inch leaders and I prefer 6-inch ones. Both sizes are excellent for casting.

There's no good evidence whether a black leader works better than silver but my personal preference is black.

If you like to troll, you can get away without using a leader at all if you use straight stick baits like Rapala, Rebel, Bagleys, Cotton Cordell, etc. The pike will just about always grab these 6-8-inch baits sideways leaving your line safely exposed outside their mouths. Leaders of any sort also interferes with the action of these baits when trolling at a steady speed.

Steel leaders are more of a necessity when casting these baits because the angler can impart twitches and pauses that entice strikes but which also results in the fish taking the entire lure into their mouths.

You should probably figure you will need 4-6 leaders for each day of fishing. You are going to lose a couple of them (and lures) to snags and you'll wear out a couple more just in the normal flexing that goes on with each cast.

They aren't expensive and don't take up much space in your tackle box so bring a good supply and change them often.

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