Predatory fish attract many anglers, but casting for pike and co. makes special demands on the material used. Armed with lots of sharp teeth, it quickly happened that the fish, together with the bait, left the field during the fight because it bit through the line. This is not only unpleasant for the angler who loses hook and bait, but can also have health consequences for the fish who can’t get rid of either of them. The use of a steel leader – a thin steel wire mounted between the line and the lure – protects fish and equipment because it is usually impossible for predators to bite through.
Which fish require a steel leader?
A steel leader should be used when fishing for all fish that are able to bite through a normal line. In domestic waters, this mainly includes pike, for whose sharp bite even a braided line is no obstacle. But even if you are casting for a less armed zander, a steel leader is advisable. In almost all fishing waters you can find bigger pike, which can go for the lure just as well.
The pike is the sprinter among predatory fish. Because it does not have the condition for longer chases, the first bite must be right. To ensure this it has a strong bite and razor-sharp teeth. The larger pike often swallow the lure very deeply, so you should not skimp on the length of the steel leader.
Perch are also predators, but they do not have teeth as sharp as pike and so are not really a danger to the line. Since pike also like to be in waters with perch and like these often stay under overhanging trees, a steel leader is recommended here too, in order to be able to land a pike as by-catch if necessary.
The zander has dog’s teeth to hold on to its prey. However, they are not as sharp as the teeth of a pike. Although the opinion that a steel leader discourages the sensitive zander still holds true, protective measures should also be taken with this fish. In this case, alternatives to the steel leader are particularly suitable, which are described in more detail below. Experience has shown that a steel leader does not pose a problem when fishing for zander and should not be left in the box, especially when pike are expected. However, the leader should not be too rigid to ensure the natural movement of the lure.
Advantages and disadvantages of the steel leader
The advantage of a steel leader is quite clear: it prevents the loss of fish and bait when – whether you like it or not – you have a pike on the hook and thus protects the gear but also the fish. Even though it is a useful addition to fishing equipment, it is of course more expensive than fishing with a line alone. But because it also prevents unnecessary loss of material, this should not be seen as a disadvantage. However, because it is not as flexible as the line itself, it can also prevent bites. This problem can be minimized by using the thinnest possible steel leader. Many commercially available finished assemblies with a steel leader unfortunately have poor workmanship or production errors. Experienced predator anglers therefore make their own assemblies.
Variations of the steel leader
Steel leaders are available in different lengths, thicknesses and with different connections. The most important variants are the Sevenstrand, which is bound with seven wires of equal thickness, and the 7×7, also known as steel silk, in which a total of 49 steel threads are connected. Particularly important is the processing of the joints, which are the weak point of the assembly. Spiral windings break very quickly and should therefore be avoided. Crimp connections have the highest load-bearing capacity.
Alternatives to the traditional steel leader
If the steel leader was the constant companion of the predator angler for a long time, countless alternatives have now flooded the market. Modern technology has produced new materials that can also be used by the angler. They try to compensate for the disadvantages of the traditional steel leader.
Flurocarbon is a transparent non-stretchable line, which has a longer life span, sinks quickly and is more stable compared to normal polyamide lines. Its biggest advantage, however, is that it is almost invisible, which makes it particularly suitable for spin fishing and for shy fish species. Although it is expensive compared to the traditional steel leader, whole reels made of fluorocarbon are also available. It is standard equipment for spin fishermen, but is also becoming increasingly popular as a leader for fly fishermen.
This material is still quite new on the market. It is smooth, springy and keeps its shape even after hard use. Therefore it is very durable. Because it is very smooth and needs to be secured against slipping through, it requires some finesse when knotting your own assembly but it requires some finesse.
The market now also offers leaders made of hardmono, which try to compete with their rivals in terms of stability. With a stronger leader made of this material you should be able to bring even bigger pike safely to shore. Hardmono leaders have proven to be particularly suitable for spin fishing.
The connection between steel leader and line
A steel leader of any length is generally attached to the lure with a carabiner and attached to the line with a swivel and a Noknot connector. The latter is not absolutely necessary, but makes it easier to change the lures. When using a wobbler or rubber fish the swivel can be omitted. If you bind your assembly yourself, you can adjust it exactly to your own needs. Through countless tutorials this is easy to learn.