Best Leads and Booms For Sea Angling

Leads and booms for sea angling

In a boat you can reach marks well offshore, but away from the shelter of the coast, tides can be very strong. This requires the use of heavy weights to reach the sea bed. If the tide is not too strong, light tackle such as this pirking gear is much more sporting and more fun.

lead lift

When fishing in an extremely snaggy area, the loss of tackle can be expensive. One way round this is to use rocks or spark plugs (with the electrode gap closed) as weights. Use line of a lower breaking strain than the main line (a ‘rotten bottom’) to attach the weight. If the makeshift weight gets snagged, it is easy to snap this link rather than the main line. This allows you to save the rest of your terminal rig and costs nothing.

Another way round the problem is to use a lead lift (shown above). This is attached just above the weight and creates lift when the line is retrieved, preventing the lead from bumping into every snag. It is particularly valuable if you are fishing with a wired lead on a patch of clean ground surrounded by snags. The wires stop the lead drifting into the snags during fishing, and the lead lift prevents it catching on the way back to you.

Running traces have one major drawback – they have a nasty habit of twisting themselves around the main line so that the baited hook ends up tangled far above the boom. This makes the rig useless. It is particularly prone to this when dropped directly into deep water, so guard against the problem by lowering your terminal tackle to the bottom slowly and evenly.

leads for sea angling

A selection of boat leads for a variety of situations: A 2 lb (900g) conical lead for general boat use (1), a 6oz (170g) wired uptide lead for boat casting (2) and an 8oz (227g) bomb (3) for fishing in light tides.

leads for beachcasting in strong surf

For beachcasting in strong surf, you need a wired lead. A wired torpedo (1) has soft brass wires which can be bent with a tug. A breakaway lead (2) has rigid wires which swivel when retrieved. A plain torpedo and clip-on plastic breakaway (3) – used with another breakaway, they increase grip more.

breakaway lead

The breakaway lead ready for casting (1). The rollers sit in grooves on the lead, holding the wires rigid for grip. When retrieved, the wires swivel out of the way (2). In really rough conditions some anglers increase the tension needed to break the grip by looping an elastic band around the wires before casting.

weight carrying booms

A selection of weight carrying booms: the Eddystone boom (1), Clements booms (2-4), a Kilmore boom (5), and a more modern type of plastic boom (6).

circular watch grip

A circular watch grip (left) and a pierced coffin (right) are useful over soft muddy ground as they are flat and do not sink into mud very easily. However, they are no good for long casting and the watch grip is prone to twisting over and over in a strong tide.

banana shaped wye lead

The banana shaped Wye lead (1) is ideal for spinning, as is the Jardine spiral (2), which can be moved easily. The pierced barrel (3) can also be used for spinning, or for float fishing and the pierced bullet (4) is perfect for fishing with a heavy float.

Fold-flat boom and bait clip

A sliding boom rig

Sliding bait booms

Sliding bait booms (1-3) are easily repositioned. Plastic booms (4-5) are held in position with beads and stop knots. A metal version of the plastic boom (6). A three way swivel with beads (7) is an inexpensive way of attaching a snood. The French boom (8) is held in place by twisting the line around the central projecting loop, making it very easy to reposition.

Leads and booms for sea angling

Lead weights and booms are the basis of most saltwater terminal rigs.  Saltwater tackle relies heavily on weights and booms to get the bait to where the fish are feeding in a way they find attractive. There is a large and often confusing variety of both kinds of terminal tackle – much of it designed to do a fairly specialized job. Knowing when to use each item of tackle can save you time and hassle and make your fishing more satisfying.

Weights for saltwater

Choosing the right lead weight is important in both beach and boat fishing. Many beginners make the mistake of thinking that size is all that matters – the deeper the water and the bigger the waves, the heavier the lead should be.

Simply increasing weight to overcome tide, waves and so on seems a logical plan and, for lowering baits straight down into deep water, it works. That is why an egg or cone-shaped lead, weighing between 6oz-2lb (170-900g), has become the usual choice for general boat angling.

For bottom fishing over very deep marks swept by powerful currents, experienced anglers use wire line instead of Dacron or monofilament. Wire line is much thinner than nylon of the same breaking strain and so presents much less resistance to the current. This means that less lead is needed to hold bottom.

Wire line has the added advantage that it does not stretch like nylon, so bites are much more positive in deep water. To be effective, line and weight must be chosen as a team. Always ask the skipper’s advice, otherwise your baits may never reach the bottom.

Wired leads

For surfcasting and uptide boat fishing, there are other considerations besides weight. Long casting – essential in many cases – requires the use of bomb or torpedo-shaped leads. Also, few fishermen, or their rods, can handle more than 6oz (170g). Besides, even a massive chunk of lead alone cannot possibly anchor tackle against strong lateral tides. If you were to use a plain lead on most cod or bass beaches, the tackle would be swept back ashore within a few minutes. The answer is to use a wired lead. These are available in weights of between 3-8oz (85-227g) and in fixed or breakaway forms. A fixed-wire lead has wires sprouting from the nose which act as mini grapnels, anchoring the tackle to the sea bed almost regardless of wind and tide. An 8oz (227g) wired lead sits tight where a 24oz (680g) plain weight rolls uncontrollably. The only drawback is that the wires sometimes get caught up on the retrieve. They are supposed to bend out of the way of snags but, as every angler knows, rocks and weeds can be remarkably clever when it comes to stealing tackle.

The breakaway lead is designed to overcome problems with the retrieve. The wires are fixed during the cast and while the bait lies on the sea bed, but they swivel free to trail behind when you recover your tackle. This combination of high grip and easy handling has made the breakaway the standard choice for beachcasting and uptiding. The best weight for long distance casting is 5 1/2 oz (150g) and it copes well with most conditions and bait sizes.

Other weights

Heavyweight eggs and wired bombs are the main weapons against water depth and tide. Often the angler has no choice but to use them even though they require heavier tackle than the fish themselves deserve. Sometimes though, the sea lies calm with little or no tide. This is the time to let your tackle roll slowly along the sea bed. For this you’ll need a 2-6oz (57-170g) plain torpedo or bomb for beach and uptide fishing, and 4-10oz (113-284g) for boat fishing in deeper water.

For spinning the weights must lie close to the line to minimize water resistance during the retrieve. The best weights for this are Jardine spirals which you can change without cutting the line, or Wye leads which help to reduce line twist. Pierced barrels are also used for spinning, though as they slide freely on the line they need to be held in place with beads and stop knots. This freedom of movement makes them a good weight for float fishing as you can easily change their position.

Sea booms

The boom has been the foundation of successful terminal tackle in sea fishing for many years. There are two separate types of boom – one to carry weights and one to carry hook snoods. Nowadays most are made of tough plastic, though you can certainly still get metal ones as well. Snood booms are stiff extenders which link the hook length to the main line while preventing tangles by holding the two lines apart. French booms are based on the traditional wire paternoster, but more modern plastic booms and ‘bait arms’ do the same job. Thread them on to the line and hold them in place with stop knots.

Fold-flat booms work on the same principle but have the advantage of lying alongside the leader for casting. Casting distances improve and baits are less liable to damage as they aren’t left to flap during the cast. Once underwater, the boom swings out at right angles to the leader once more. You need a bait clip to hold the baited hook in position and it is important that you assemble the whole rig accurately to ensure clean disengagement. Weight-carrying booms are key components of sliding rigs for boat and heavy beach fishing. One of the best sliding booms for light tackle is a link swivel with a short length of rigid plastic tube pushed tightly into the eye. This tube carries the reel line. Booms like this can be bought, or made at home from plain swivels and a short length of plastic sleeve – the tube from a ballpoint-pen for example.

These DP/ booms are excellent for light boat work of all kinds, but they should not be used for long range casting unless the line running through the tube is at least 50lb (22.7kg) breaking strain. You would perhaps be wiser to avoid the sliding boom arrangement altogether for long range work.

Short range congering and tope fishing from the shore, deep water fishing and heavy uptiding call for a weight boom that is tough and which protects the line running through it. The traditional Clements and Kilmore booms are of brass or stainless steel wire with one or two ceramic-lined eyes for the line. They work well, but are quite expensive and have now been largely superseded by nylon bodied booms with stainless steel weight clips.

Booms with two eyes should always be attached with the tail’ (the eye which is not directly above the weight) pointing towards the hook. This helps ensure greater running smoothness and prevents tangles, which is after all, the purpose of the rig.

The variety of booms and leads available is supposed to make fishing easier and more effective, not to make things difficult, so select your terminal tackle with an eye to the fish you are after and where you are fishing. But remember, simplicity is the key – if something is not doing a useful job in your rig, get rid of it.