Fluorocarbon Leaders for Muskies

By Rob Manthei
Musky fishing is getting more popular every year, and with gaining interest there is always more questions. What is the best reel, rod, boat, lure, line, etc? What kind of leader should I use with jerkbaits? Will a solid wire leader ruin my crankbait’s action? I hear these questions day after day while guiding the home waters of Northern Wisconsin.

Over the last 5 years or so, I have answered the question of leader choice to myself. I have switched entirely from seven strand wire and solid wire to strictly using Fluorocarbon leaders. I know guys like Steve Herbeck that have been using mono and fluoro leaders for over 20 years without failure, so I decided to give them a try after seeing the success of these strong, almost invisible leaders.


There are many reasons why I like to use the fluoro leaders over wire. First and foremost is the limpness that the leader material provides. I feel strongly that these leaders lend more action to crankbaits and sensitive top water lures. Lures like the Doc or Dancin’ Raider that are zig-zag top waters really respond well to the physical lightness of fluoro leaders. Without the added weight of wire in front of the lure, the top water stays higher in the water and reacts very well to each twitch provided from the rod. Creeper style lures also seem to work better when their noses aren’t being held down into the water too. Using fluoro leaders in front of Jakes, Ernies, Depth Raiders, etc allow the lure to provide its best wobble that it can provide.

I think that the invisible qualities that fluorocarbon materials have also put a few more fish in the boat in some of the gin clear waters that I fish. It may be all in my head, but it sure seems that more muskies have hit the net year after year since I have been using this stuff. For guys that troll, I think there is definitely a place for this material too. Most trolling leaders are 4 to 5 foot long and made from seven strand wire. A couple problems could be caused here. After a muskie is hooked trolling they sometimes roll in the line, wire with cut the muskie when rolling in the wire, causing some damage to the fish down the road. I have yet to see a fluoro leader cut a muskie in the limited amount of trolling I get to do every year. Also, with pre-made wire trolling leaders of such length, sometime boat side handling of the fish can be an issue(I will touch on this later ).


I do a lot of night fishing in Wisconsin in the summer months and have had problems with lures reeled right into the rod tip after dark from inexperienced muskie anglers not use to night fishing. After constantly repairing rod tips, I needed to find a solution.

One nice thing about fluorocarbon leaders is the flexibility of the length of leaders that can be made. I like to make the about 6 feet for starters. I tie the leader material directly to the superbraid that I am using via a double-uni knot. This knot is super strong and works against itself. That is, the harder it is pulled the stronger the knot becomes. The tag ends can be trimmed ultra flush and the knot itself is small enough to be reeled right through the rod tip and remaining guides. One thing I stumbled upon was that when the knot is reeled through the rod guides, it makes a clicking sound. When the knot clicks against the guides the angler knows that within a few feet the lure is approaching and can go into the ever so important figure eight without having to seen the lure approach the boat. It works great and also wakes you up after fatigue sets in during the wee hours of the morning.

I have found that only certain knots respond well to fluorocarbon materials. Like I said, I use the double uni-knot to attach the leader to the main line, and then use the single uni-knot to attach the leader to either a plain snap or combo of a ball bearing swivel and snap. I think that these knots are the best and strongest to use with fluoro materials. As stated before, the use of the double uni-knot allows for the leader to be reeled right into the rod, so for trollers, the problem of dealing with a long pre-tied leader at boat side is no longer a concern. I use only a snap when using cranks, jerks, and top waters. I use a ball bearing swivel and snap combo when using lures that can twist your line such as bucktails or some tail-spinner type top waters. Another advantage of the long leader is that if and when the material becomes nicked or worn, a simple snip of the leader above the bad area is all that is needed to re-tie the snap or snap swivel. The double-uni knot can be retied after each day, but I haven’t seen one fail yet, so I do it about every three days of fishing.


I prefer the leader material Vanish. It is made by Berkley and comes in a variety of pound test. I like to use 60,80, and 100 lb depending on situations and lure usage. I like the 100 lb for trolling leaders and quick-strike leaders. I use the 80 lb for most casting applications, and use the 60 lb for smaller lures. I prefer to use the Stringease stay-loc style of snaps. I like these for the double locking system which won’t pop or pull open. The ends are also round which allow for maximum lure action. It is also very simple to add a ball bearing swivel to these snaps too. After opening the snap simply slide the o-ring of the swivel over the open end of the snap and work it to the top of the snap. I pre-tie several leaders ahead of time and store then in my box. It is very simple to do this and buying the components in bulk and fluorocarbon in 30 yd spools saves money and you will soon find out that the cost at first is a little expensive, but after the amount of leaders that can be tied, the cost doesn’t look bad at all.


One problem with seven strand or wire leaders is that they can kink pretty easily after a muskie is landed using one. I always hated tying on a fresh new leader and catching a little pike and after unhooking the fish, noticing how bad that little snot-rocket bent the leader out of shape. Furthermore, the twisting and coiling that seven strand is known for also got my temper flaring. Fluorocarbon doesn’t kink, coil, twist or do anything that makes for an unhappy fisherperson. I would recommend using this stuff and giving it a fair shot. The night fishing advantages that it provides is worth it entirely.

Good luck and always practice CPR.

Rob offers many types of fishing adventures for all season’s targeting Walleyes, Muskies and Bass in Vilas, Iron and Oneida Counties in Northern Wisconsin. During the summer Rob is a guest instructor at Andy Myer’s Lodge in Ontario, Canada and appears on John Gillespie’s Waters and Woods 4-6 times per year. Rob and his staff are all accredited, professional, fully licensed and insured fishing guides with the latest fish finding, navigation and safety equipment on board. Have fun and catch fish is what we are all about….We have the tools and knowledge to show you a great time on the water. Catering to all skill levels. 

Rob owns and operates Fibbers Resort & Restaurant and Rob Manthei Guide Service in St Germain WI. For more information or to contact Rob please visit RobManthei.Com and FibbersResort.Com

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