How to Use Leaders for Saltwater Fishing with Blair Wiggins

Master the art of deception and land your trophy fish by learning what qualities to look for when adding a leader to your saltwater fishing setup.

September 04, 2018

When it comes to saltwater fishing, everyone wants to hook into a monster fish. They want to come back with an exciting story about wrestling the behemoth from the depths. This can be difficult, however, if you don’t cast your best presentations when you’re out on the water. If fish are startled with your setup and display, they’ll steer clear of your hook and lure, time after time. Thankfully, saltwater fishermen can boost their chances with one simple tweak: adding a leader to the end of their line.

Leaders are essentially an additional piece of fishing line, often made from a different material than the spooled line on your fishing rod. They are attached to the end of your rig via a knot or swivel. Because of the different fishing line material, leaders can help boost the look of most hook and lure setups by making the end of the fishing line nearly invisible. This helps create a less distracting visual for incoming fish, making the idea of taking the bait that much more tempting. Leaders can also help with line strength, allowing for heavier baits without increasing line size. When you’re fighting a particularly toothy or abrasive fish, leaders can better resist the rips and tears that other lines might not be able to withstand.

Adding a leader to your saltwater fishing rig can help make for improvements on the water, but there are always questions when adding new gear to your list. Pro saltwater fisherman Captain Blair Wiggins has some tips he’s picked up through his experience in the chop. Follow these helpful guidelines to strengthen your chances of landing your next big catch.


One of the most common questions Wiggins gets asked is how long an angler’s leader should be.“I like to say about two inches bigger than the fish you intend to catch that day,” Wiggins says.

This suggested extra length is due to the fact that many saltwater species can develop abrasive scales and sharp spurs at the ends of their tails. By having a leader that’s longer than the fish, there is less chance that these rough points on the fish can rub against your main line when you’re in the middle of a fight. Be sure to narrow down your intended targets for the day so that you can efficiently determine the right leader length you’ll need.


In addition to having the right length of leader to combat abrasive fish, Wiggins also notes that a leader made of the right material can help you avoid having your line cut and losing your big catch.

“If you’re using a fluorocarbon leader, it’s not going to wear through. It’s not going to break and you’re going to be able to catch that fish.”

In addition to fluorocarbon, your leaders can be made of monofilament, wire or a combination of materials. So, which leader material is best?

  • Monofilament is a great inexpensive option that can be easily knotted by amateur fishermen and can be strong enough for a variety of fish species.
  • Fluorocarbon is great for anglers because it can become nearly invisible in water while still featuring a strong, reactive state. It also sinks more quickly than monofilament, which is more buoyant and tends to suspend.
  • Wire leaders work well for fishermen going after particularly aggressive, toothy species like barracuda.
  • Hybrids can combine qualities of multiple line choices into one package. Examples include plastic-coated wire leaders that can offer more flexibility than bare metal and monofilament leaders made with fluorocarbon content for a strong product at less of a cost.


No matter what material you choose, the goal of creating a solid presentation for the fish remains. In order to do that, you’ll want to find the smallest diameter line that will give you enough line weight without looking like a piece of rope dangling in the water. The diameter of the leader is known as its “size,” and it can vary depending on fishing conditions, fish species and other factors. But finding the right size for your needs isn’t always cut and dry, according to Wiggins.

“That might take you a few times,” he explains. “If you’re sight fishing and seeing the fish come up to your lure and swim away from it, that might be a good indication to downsize your leader a little bit.”

Through trial and error, you can better judge how thick of a line you’ll need to land your big catch of the day.

The right leader can help you stay hooked into your fishing goals. Now that you have these helpful tips, you’ll be on your way to a better saltwater fishing setup and cast your way to a great time on the water.

Continue to upgrade your saltwater fishing profile with additional tips from Captain Wiggins on Choosing the Perfect Sunglasses for Sight Fishing and Which Baits to Use When Out on the Water.