There seems to be a lot of debate around the question, “how long should your leader line be?” To end this debate, I decided to issue a poll to over 100 different anglers and comb through countless fishing forums on the topic to compile a comprehensive answer.
In most cases, the length of your fishing leader should be between 24 to 30 inches. Your leader length can be shorter or longer than this, depending on your fishing style, main fishing line, weather, and surrounding underwater features.
After reviewing all the information from the poll and forums, the different length of leaders can be generalized categorized as:
- Short Leaders: 12″ – 24″
- Medium Leaders: 24″ – 30″
- Long Leaders: Greater than 30″
After compiling all the information, it revealed to me just the number of different factors you need to consider when deciding the length of your leader.
Below are ALL MY FINDINGS of the different factors you need to consider when deciding how long your fishing leader needs to be.
Leader Size For Different Methods Of Fishing
There are tons of different types of fishing, such as casting, trolling, and bottom fishing, to name a few. The length of your leader line can impact different fishing styles different. Meaning that what is good for one style might not be good for another.
Using a medium-sized leader would be suitable to use in pretty much most casts if you don’t want to worry about the different lengths. But if you want to optimize your fishing game, then understanding when to use short and long leaders would be helpful.
To understand why certain size leaders are good for some things but bad for others, we need to understand how leaders affect your bait underwater.
How Leaders Affect Your Bait’s Action
Short leaders tend to give your bait more quick and aggressive motions underwater. Small movements on the rod tip will result in quick dart-like movements underway. Longer leaders tend to give your bait a slower and more natural movement underwater.
This is why short leaders are generally used in power baits, and when you’re doing more finesse fishing, then you’ll want a long leader. If the fish you’re going for is easily spooked, you might want a longer leader, but if the fish is more of a predator and will eat anything, you could get away with a shorter leader.
The way I think about this is;
- The Angler determines the action of the bait when using a short leader.
- The type of bait being used determines the action of the bait when using a long leader.
How Leader Size Affect Casting
When it comes to casting, there are two important things that most anglers strive for, which are better casting distance and accuracy. Unfortunately, the length of your leader can have a major impact on your casting.
Short leaders will give you better more accuracy but less distance. Medium leaders will give you more distance than shorter leaders, but it tends to be less accurate. Long leaders tend not to be as good for casting because there’s too much line hanging out of the rod tip to get a good cast.
Safety Note About Casting With Long Leaders
I recommend not casting with long leaders or with a lot of fishing line hanging from the rod tip for your safety and others around you.
When you’re casting with so much line hanging from the rod, it becomes hard to control, and you could hook yourself, someone else nearby, or on a nearby object.
Other Factors When Deciding Leader Length
Your leader length may change depending on the type of fishing line you’re using as a leader. Here’s a summary of the different factors you need to be aware of when selecting a leader line.
|Leader Line||Visibility||Abrasion Resistance||Hook Set Power|
How Important Is Your Leader Line Visibility?
Having a good bait presentation is of the most utmost importance. Your leader line’s visibility plays a big role in your bait’s presentation.
If your leader line is highly visible underwater, fish could notice the leader line, spooking them and preventing them from biting your bait. If you use a leader line that’s not visible, then it will be hard for fish to notice to line, increasing your chances for a bite.
Fluorocarbon line has the lowest visibility out of all the fishing lines. Light passes through fluorocarbon material is similar to how light passes through water. This causes the line to blend in with the water making it hard to see.
Pay Attention: Fishing With Braided Line As Your Main Line.
Braided Fishing is extremely visible underwater which is why it doesn’t make for a good leader line. But if you’re using a braided line as your main fishing line, then you need to consider the length of your leader to get enough distance between your bait and mainline to make it harder for fish not to notice the braided line.
How Does Abrasion Resistance Affect Your Leader Line?
Abrasion resistance is an important factor to consider. Your leader line will rub against sharp rocks, wood, barnacles, and sharp teeth, which could damage your leader line and eventually break your leader line.
By picking the right fishing line to use for your leader will help minimize your chances of your leader line breaking off.
Monofilament and fluorocarbon are typically used as leaders when abrasion is a concern. The longer the leader line, the more abrasion resistance your fishing rig will become. Longer leaders mean your connection between the leader and mainline will be higher up on the water column, reducing your mainline’s chances of rubbing against something.
What Is Hook Set Power And Should You Care?
Hook set power is simply how easily it is for you to set the hook when a fish bites your bite.
Monofilament fishing line tends to stretch a bit when trying to set a hook. The longer the monofilament leader, the more stretch you will have. This stretch will dampen out some of the force you applied to your rod when setting the hook.
Other lines like braid and fluorocarbon have no stretch when you try to set a hook, increasing your hook set power.
Things To Consider With Extra Long Leaders Sizes
The data I compiled showed a fair number of anglers using leader as long as 6 ft. These anglers claimed that they don’t experience any issues with the leader to mainline knots rubbing against their rod guides and reduce the number of times they have to retie a new leader.
However, the data showed that there were more anglers that had issues with having extra long leaders, such as:
- Leader-to-mainline knots knocking out the fishing rod’s guide insert
- Knots hitting the guides reducing casting distance and accuracy
- Knots hitting the guides slowing down the line’s momentum, causing a tangle at the rod tip
- Potential damage to the knot causing it to break prematurely.
Safety Note: Leader Length When Fishing With Braid
For anglers that tend to fish with braid lines, a reoccurring safety concern kept popping up. Braid is a super thin line, and because of that, it can cut your hands if you wrap it around your hands.
Some anglers reported that they had cut their hands when trying to land a fish by accidentally grabbing the braided line to pull the fish onshore. In the midst of the excitement, it’s very easy to forget a small thing like that!
Having a longer leader made from fluorocarbon or monofilament so you can grab on too when landing a fish will not cut your hand.
Leader Length Is A Personal Perferance
There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding how long your leader line should be. There is no hard-fast rule that you NEED to follow. These are just some guidelines that I compiled to give you some goal posts to start with.
Fishing is about experimenting and testing different things until you find something that works for you. How long your leader needs to be is a personal preference. But when in doubt, start with a medium-length leader and adjust from there.
Happy Fishing and Tight Lines