Beach anglers first started using leaders some 25 or so years ago, but their widespread use is much more recent. The need for leaders became more urgent as beach anglers began using more sophisticated equipment and lighter main lines and started experimenting with the more elaborate tournament casting styles. These days the benefits of a leader are widely accepted and any experienced beach angler uses one as a matter of course.
Follow the leader
A leader is a length of strong line tied to the end of your main line to take the strain of casting – for this reason it is sometimes called a shock leader.
Newcomers to beach angling are often unsure how heavy a leader they should use, and how long it should be. In the first instance it is essential that the leader is long enough to have half a dozen turns around the spool, travel down the length of the rod and continue through to the weight. And if the end rigs are made up separately, you must use at least the same strength, or stronger, nylon.
A strong leader
Find out why you need a leader – and you’ll also discover the sort of length and strength of leader to use.
Firstly, there’s the question of safety. When fishing for flounders at close range in a lonely estuary mark a 30lb (13.6kg) leader is more than adequate (some would argue that a leader is in fact unnecessary).
But a crowded beach is another matter. When fishing in company, a good rule of thumb is to allow 10lb (4.5kg) of leader strength to each 1 oz (28g) of lead weight. Therefore a 4oz (113g) weight would require a 40lb (18kg) leader, a 6oz (170g) weight a 60lb (27.2kg) leader and so on.
It’s always better to err on the side of safety, especially when using powerful, advanced casting styles such as the pendulum cast and the backcast. Backcasting can be particularly hard on leaders and experienced backcasters are never afraid to step up the breaking strain of their leader.
If the leader is only there to take the strain o casting, it can be kept to a minimal length Half a dozen turns of the leader around the spool at the stage of casting is about right.
But an extra long leader is also useful when fishing from piers or rock marks where you can use it to lift the fish up from the water. When you expect big fish, an extra long leader can be handy even on bead marks.
Boatcasters also use leaders as a matter o course, but because the casting is less powerful, leaders don’t need to be as heavy. Most anglers use a 30-35lb (13.6-15.8kg) leader for the vast majority of their boatcasting.
One exception is tope fishing, when you need to step up to a longer, 55lb (25kg leader.