Developing leaders

bass fishing Jim Hendrick

Improving your saltwater fly leaders for coastal fishing – PII

Before realising the potential behind constructing your own saltwater leaders learn to tie and become familiar and confident with the following excellent knots. Tie them securley across different diameters of mono filament and fluorocarbon

  • Perfection loop
  • Bloodknot
  • Non slip loop knot

Lefty Kreh uses a simple rule of thumb for constructing saltwater leaders, its one I use for bass fishing (with some variations) probably most of the time I’m fishing, it’s often called the 50% leader formula. When building a tapered leader like this, the butt section (closest to end of fly line) should be roughly half the total length of the leader.  The butt section is followed by a second section of line, one step lighter or thinner than the butt section that is roughly one half the length of the butt section. This is then followed with a third section, once again one step lighter, and half as long as the second section.

Following the third section you can elect to taper further with a fourth leader section, or you can tie in your tippet of around 16 inches or even simply let the third section be your tippet!

Let’s say we are building a standard 9’-0” leader for bass fishing in Wexford. For most bass fishing situations I find a 9′-0″ leader of 3 sections and a short tippet a good all arounder. The following set up will apply

50% of the total length is butt section – approx. 55 inches

50% of the 55 inches comprises the mid-section of the leader – approx. 27 inches

50% of the 27 inches comprises the tip section – let’s say 14 inches

The remaining length is reserved for tippet.

We don’t need to be exactly right on the above measurements give or take a few inches here and there and allow some loss for making good knots too.

Regarding strengths of line to use the following can apply – one thing to consider here is diameter in preference to BS. Stiffer higher BS are very difficult to knot.

Sources of quality MONO leader

Ande monofilament

Maxima monofilament

Sufix leader material

If you are casting with a #7 line

30lbs in the butt section

20lbs in the mid-section

10lbs in the tip section – this may in fact be your complete tippet

If you are casting with a #8 line – general bass fishing

40lbs in the butt section

30lbs in the mid-section

20lbs in the tip section – plus your final tippet (12-16)

If you are casting with a #9 line – BIG flies tough conditions or locations

50lbs in the butt section

40lbs in the mid-section

30lbs in the tip section – plus your final tippet (16-20)

The above style of leader will turn over in most conditions and cast large flies like deceivers and clousers for bass with no problems. In some instances, such as situations where a delicate presentation is not required, and you may have to turn over larger flies, you may build a leader of a lengthened butt section of 6 feet and one piece of 3 feet plus your tippet. This may also apply where circumstances have become windier and tougher and you need greater turn over ‘strength’. The adjustments are yours to experiment with finalise and make!

Be aware too that if you are fishing with an intermediate line, your length of leader can often be considerably shortened in effect your line is your leader. 5 feet  (3 + 2) leaders on intermediates with a tippet section is often a perfect solution. With fast sinking lines there are occasions where an even shorter leader can be used.

On the other hand, when fishing a crystal clear rising tide for spooky sea trout or shallow water bass fishing with floating lines you may need an extra long leader of say 12 to 14 feet, the same rules apply for the sections of the leader.

bass fishing wexford

The size of lines that you construct your leader with depends on a few things, the weight of line you are casting, the size of fly you are casting and what strength of  tippet you need in terms of your quarry.  If you are fishing a tippet of 8 – 10 pounds you should probably start with a butt section of around 30# test. For example a 12′-0″ leader casting small flies for mullet might translates to  (6-0″ of 30BS, 3-0″ of 20BS, 18 inches 12BS + tippet) on a #7 line.

Some Points to consider

  • BS and diameter relationships
  • Suppleness and stiffness
  • Mono-filament and Fluorocarbon
  • Behavior in temperature
  • Where and when you fish
  • Length of sections and fishing requirements in situations

One Comment on “Developing leaders

  1. Great article. This leader construction discussion on salt water stuff is, in my opinion the most important aspect of salt water fly fishing, and is more often than not overlooked. Perfectly tied flies with correct colors and “matching the hatch” don’t matter at all if I can’t present the fly to the quarry well enough for an eat. Depending on a commercially manufactured extruded leader that may or may not lay out the fly perfectly seems to be a major failure after all other aspects of the trip have been so carefully planned. Turning those bigger flies over effectively after we trout fishermen have spent the big $’s to buy specialized equipment, flown to an exotic location and spent all our vacation time and funding only to spook fish with bad leaders is frustrating. Salt water fish are not trout, and the tactics to catch them must be thought of differently. I think the key point in this article is the needed stiffness and longer butt section of salt water leaders vs. trout leaders. Well described, Mr. Hendrick. Thank you for the info.

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