Tackle shops and industry publications have been singing fluorocarbon’s praises for decades now. If you’re like most anglers, you’ve probably added a few spools of pricey fluoro to your tackle box. While the benefits of fluoro are clear, what’s less clear is how you should be using it when you’re fishing.
You could drive yourself nuts reading about different use cases for different types of lines. Still, the truth is that you can absolutely use regular fluorocarbon lines as leader material.
There are also several instances where it might be worth it to invest in fluoro leader material instead of relying on the regular stuff.
Today, we’re going to take a closer look at fluoro, the difference between mainline and leader, and cover some different scenarios that will make it easier to decide the best fishing line for the job.
What Is Fluorocarbon?
Fluorocarbon is a plastic polymer fishing line made from polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF). It’s similar to monofilament, but it has a few characteristics that make it a far superior choice for most anglers.
Fluoro transmits light much more easily than monofilament, making it nearly invisible underwater. This characteristic is crucial when targeting fish that are line shy or when fishing in crystal clear waters.
Fluoro is also UV resistant and waterproof, so it won’t degrade over the course of multiple fishing trips or hot summer sun the way monofilament line does. While it’s significantly pricier than monofilament lines, it’s also considerably more durable, so you don’t have to replace the lines as frequently.
Finally, and perhaps most notably for leaders, fluorocarbon is more abrasion-resistant than monofilament or braided line. Whether you’re using fluoro as a mainline or a leader, that extra toughness comes in handy in most fishing scenarios.
Suppose you’re fishing around structure, or you’re targeting predatory fish with sharp teeth. In that case, a line that’s more abrasion resistant can mean the difference between landing a trophy fish and ending up with another fish tale.
Fluorocarbon Mainline vs. Leader
As you shop for a fishing line, you’ll quickly realize that there are two types of fluorocarbon line on the market: mainline and leader. You’ll also notice that fluorocarbon leader material is significantly more expensive than mainline. If they’re both made from the same thing, why the price difference?
While they appear to be the same, there are a few crucial differences between them.
First, the materials used to make the lines are different. Fluoro mainline is made from one polymer with the same properties throughout the line. Fluoro leader material tends to have additional additives added to the material before the extrusion process. Depending on the application, these additives can make the line stiffer, flexible, or give it more stretch.
Lastly, the material used to make fluoro leaders will be more abrasive resistant than normal fluorocarbon main lines just because it’s a leader. This will make the line stiffer than a mainline. This characteristic comes in handy when bottom fishing and using two hook rigs because the hook stands off nicely from the line, which makes for a nicer presentation in the water.
Does This Mean You Should Only Use Fluoro Leader?
Many anglers wrongfully assume that you have to use leader material for your leader. The truth is, regular mainline is a fine choice as a leader material for most fishing scenarios.
The beauty of fluorocarbon is that the less expensive mainline fluoro still offers excellent properties that are attractive to all anglers. Regular fluoro’s strength, abrasion resistance, and knot strength are more than enough to do the trick in almost all cases. Compared to mono leader material, any fluorocarbon line is significantly improved.
The fact is, you can catch fish with anything. It wasn’t that long ago that your grandfather was putting monster fish on the deck with a rod and reel that looked downright primitive by today’s standards. He was using either monofilament or the bakery twine dacron braid of the day back then. If gramps was slamming them with that setup, I’m pretty sure you’ll do just fine using mainline fluorocarbon as your leader material.
Of course, there’s no reason not to use every advantage you can as an angler. Any fluorocarbon offers significant benefits over monofilament, and that’s your best bet as a leader in almost all situations.
The way I see it, fluorocarbon leader offers an incremental advantage over fluorocarbon mainline. It’s a much smaller difference than the fluorocarbon mainline and monofilament gap.
If all things were equal, you’d always reach for fluoro leader material when rigging up. But, it’s significantly more expensive than any other line on the market.
A spool of fluoro mainline is often half the price as leader material for double or quadruple the amount of line. Throughout the season, these costs add up. You’ll need to decide if the slight advantage that leader material provides is worth shelling out the extra money for.
When Should You Use Fluorocarbon Leader?
There are several instances where it’s worth it to splurge on some pricey leader material. If you find yourself in similar encounters, you may consider using fluoro leader over the mainline.
We mentioned that leader material offers greater strength and shock resistance over short lengths and improved abrasion resistance compared to mainline. Those features come in handy if you run into a truly oversized fish or if you’re fishing in some pretty treacherous structure.
Say, for example, you’re fishing for striped bass, snook, or tarpon; the extra shock resistance and strength of leader material is a significant advantage, especially if you manage to hook into a 40+ pound fish.
Since fluoro leader material typically withstands more force than its pound test rating, you can also size down on your leader. Sizing down improves the presentation of your bait, allowing it to move as naturally as possible in the water while also decreasing line visibility.
Other examples of when it’s worth investing in leader material are if you’re bottom fishing over structure or fishing in particularly heavy cover, thick grass, or around bridge pilings. Hangups are inevitable with these techniques, and the extra abrasion resistance leader material can mean the difference between working your way out of trouble and losing your lure.