Fishing leaders are little more than an afterthought to many anglers – but they really deserve more attention. After all, a good leader will provide abrasion-resistance from nasty teeth and sharp rocks, while also creating a line that’s difficult to impossible for fish to spot in the water.
A leader is essentially a short section of fishing line that attaches to the end of your main line. Your terminal tackle attaches directly to the leader – which has several benefits for multiple fishing applications.
Leaders can be made out of a number of materials, with the most common being monofilament, fluorocarbon, and steel wire. The right material for your particular needs will depend on the type of fishing you’re planning on doing, as each type has its respective strengths and weaknesses.
I’ll break down some of the best fishing leaders on the market, so you’ll have no problem catching line weary fish.
Quick Answer: 6 Best Fishing Leaders
- Best Fluorocarbon Line: Seaguar Blue Label
- Runner Up: Daiwa J-Fluoro Fluorocarbon Leader
- Best Mono Leader: Hi-Seas Grand Slam Monofilament Leader
- Best Wire Leader: American Fishing Surflon Coated Stainless Steel
- Pre-Rigged Wire Leader: JSHANMEI Stainless Steel Wire Fishing Leaders
- Best Fly Fishing Reel: Rio Powerflex Trout Fly Fishing Leaders
Types of Fishing Leaders
Not all fishing leaders are alike. In fact, leaders differ significantly in the way they perform, so selecting the right one for the job is key to a successful fishing outing.
Fluoro leaders are well known for their ability to essentially disappear underwater. This makes fluoro a great choice when you’re fishing for line-shy fish in clear water. The line refracts light in a nearly identical fashion to water, so when it’s submerged, fish won’t be able to distinguish your line from the surrounding environment.
In addition to being nearly invisible, fluorocarbon line is relatively tough and abrasion-resistant, and like braid, has little to no stretch. This makes it ideal when you need a crisp hook set, or when fishing for soft biting fish.
On the flip side, fluorocarbon line is fairly expensive, so you’ll end up shelling out more money on fluoro than other leader types.
Mono line is familiar to most anglers, and when used as a leader it’s actually surprisingly effective. It generally performs similar to when mono is used a main line, but at a leader width diameter.
Mono is cheap, has a high degree of stretch, and is more buoyant than fluorocarbon. It’s also far more visible than fluoro, so it’s more appropriate for dark and stained water fishing.
Mono can also be used as a ‘shock leader’ with great effectiveness. This means it’ll provide enough stretch to prevent breakage from hard-charging fish hitting your lure or bait at speed.
Wire leaders (typically made from steel or titanium) are slightly more specialized leaders used when targeting particularly sharp-toothed species. These leaders are typically shorter than leaders used for their low-viz effect, as they only need to prevent a fish from stealing your bait.
For freshwater fishing, northern pike and musky are often fished using wire leaders, as their bite can shred through most mono or braid. Saltwater anglers often use steel or titanium leaders for toothy fish like Wahoo, Bluefish, Mackerel, and sharks.
Top 6 Fishing Leaders
Best Fluorocarbon Leader
When it comes to line-visibility, you’ll have a hard time outperforming the virtual invisibility of this line in the water. Constructed from 100% double structure fluorocarbon, it vanishes in the water, so even the most line shy fish out there will be none the wiser.
The leader also features a high level of abrasion resistance, as well as being resistant to UV damage. High tensile strength combined with superior knot strength means you’ll be able to get away with a smaller-test leader than comparable leaders.
Like most fluorocarbon line, it’s fairly high density, so you’ll never need to struggle with making the line sink down to where it’s needed. While it’s not the cheapest fishing leader on the market, if you’re looking for the best performing fluoro leader on the market, you’ll have a tough time beating this one.
- Material: 100% Fluorocarbon
- Refracts light to virtually vanish underwater.
- Highly abrasion-resistant.
- UV damage resistant.
- Low stretch.
Japanese manufacturers are renowned for producing some of the best fluoro line on the planet – and Daiwa’s J-Braid series is certainly no exception. This Japanese made fluoro leader is manufactured using the most precise extruding technology on the market, making the line consistency second to none.
The line is essentially invisible in the water, allowing you to create a flawless presentation that will fool even the most line shy fish out there. Daiwa’s spool band technology makes dispensing the line precise and easy, so you can get the exact amount of line you need without wasting any.
Knot strength and abrasion-resistance are both excellent, so fishing in harsh environments is a non-issue. Daiwa offers the leader in 50 and 100-yard spools, as well as a wide variety of line test.
- Material: 100% Fluorocarbon
- Crystal clear line is virtually invisible in the water.
- Daiwa’s spool band technology makes the leader material easy to dispense.
- Excellent knot strength and abrasion resistance.
Best Mono Leader
If you’re looking for a rock-solid monofilament leader for just about any type of fishing – Hi-Seas’ Grand Slam makes a great choice. It’s tried and tested by both fresh and saltwater anglers and is one of the toughest mono leaders on the market.
Excellent knot strength and high abrasion resistance mean you can fish without worry around rocks, reefs, barnacles, and catch toothy fish that would tear through weaker line. Hi-seas offers the leader in a wide variety of lengths and pound tests (from 30 lb. up to 500 lb.), so you’ll have no problem finding the precise one needed for the job.
Excellent sensitivity and control provide ideal performance for both trolling and bottom fishing, while its inherent stretch means it’ll perform well as a shock leader.
- Material: Monofilament
- Well-made high-end leader is perfect for a variety of fishing applications.
- Tough, abrasion-resistant, and superior knot strength.
- Works well as a shock leader to avoid losing tackle.
Best Wire Leader
When you’re after toothy fish that can tear through mono or fluoro leaders with ease – wire is the only way to go. It’ll withstand just about any strike from a toothy fish, making it the ideal choice when bluewater trolling or going after freshwater monsters.
The Surflon coating offers an excellent nylon coating, which seals out water, reduces visibility, and extends the overall lifespan of the fishing line. The stainless steel core is constructed from 7 strands of wire, so you can rest assured your lure or bait isn’t going anywhere.
American Fishing Wire makes the line in a wide variety of spool sizes and pound test, so matching your presentation to the fishing task is a breeze.
- Material: Nylon coated stainless steel
- 7 strands of stainless steel wire.
- Nylon outer coating seals out water, reduces visibility, and improves lifespan.
- Ideal choice for toothy saltwater and freshwater species.
Pre-rigged Wire Leader
Pre-rigged wire leaders are a fantastic choice when you want an easy setup leader without the fuss of cutting, crimping, and tying your own. Each package contains 12 pre-cut stainless steel wire leaders, complete with snaps, swivels, and beads.
The wire is designed to work well in both salt and fresh water and is abrasion-resistant enough to withstand just about any adverse conditions. Built-in crane swivels ensure smooth rotation – effectively eliminating line twist.
The main line is rated 90 lb. test, while the optional extra arm is 50 lb. test. At just under 14 inches long, the leader is the ideal length for catching Pike, Muskie, Salmon, and small to medium-sized saltwater species.
- Materials: Stainless steel wire
- 8” long wire.
- Highly abrasion-resistant.
- 90-pound test main line.
- Completely pre-rigged with snap, swivels, and beads.
Best Fly Fishing Leader
Fly fishing leaders are slightly different than other types. These leaders are the main clear material connected to the end of your fly line. It features a tapered design that reduces downwards in thickness and weight as it approaches the tippet.
The leader is made from an advanced copolymer material that offers exceptional knot and tensile strength. Each leader is designed to provide unmatched wind penetration and the ability to cast smoothly.
An integrated perfection loop in the butt allows for quick and easy rigging, making the leader a great choice for streamers, dry flies, and nymph rigs.
- Materials: Copolymer
- Aggressive taper design offers superior casting and wind penetration.
- Integrated perfection loop.
- Great choice for multiple fly fishing setups.
How to choose the right fishing leader?
Picking the right fishing leader can be a little confusing – especially if you’re not experienced using leaders. With a multitude of materials, pound test, and features, selecting the right one for your needs will require a little bit of know-how.
The two main uses for fishing leaders are reduced visibility and abrasion resistance. Some situations call for one and not the other, while sometimes you’ll want both. Let’s take a closer look.
Low visibility is key when you’re fishing for line shy fish in clear water. Some fish, like trout and bass, will ignore lures and bait if they can spot your mono or braided line.
This is where fluorocarbon line excels. It’s essentially invisible in the water, so even the keenest eyed fish won’t be able to spot your leader.
When you’re using a leader primarily for low visibility, you’ll generally want to go with a longer leader section. If the leader is too short, keen-eyed fish will still be able to spot your main line and know something is up.
The other primary reason for fishing leaders is abrasion resistance. Some species of with have razor-sharp teeth that will shred through mono or braid like a hot knife through butter. Additionally, when your fishing around sharp surfaces like rocks, reefs, and barnacles, you’ll need something to protect your line from accidental fraying and breaking.
In these situations, wire leader is pretty much the only way to go. Wire is typically made from stainless steel cable – making it almost impervious to abrasion. Titanium wire leaders are also available, providing exceptional abrasion resistance at a small diameter, although they’re more costly than stainless steel.
I’ve loved being in the outdoors for as long as I can remember. I grew up fishing, canoeing, and camping throughout the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. It’s what lead me to start this site and share my passions for fishing, diving, kayaking and more. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or (preferably!) preparing for my next outdoor adventure.