Line, leader combos that catch more trout, reds

Robert Sloan photo

A few days ago, I was fishing on Sabine Lake, and two of us were chasing fresh slicks and catching some really nice trout on 4-inch Badonk-A-Donk topwater lures in cotton candy and Mardi Gras colors. But as the tide changed, the bite slowed a good bit, and we tied on Bomber Mud Minnows with paddle tails for more action under the slicks. On about my third cast, I had a solid thump, set the hook, and a 7 to 8 pound trout came out of the water like a rainbow trout on a cold-water stream in Wyoming. But just about the time I had her heading toward the net, the line snapped, and I watched with wide eyes as a great photo op darted out of sight.

The malfunction was easily diagnosed. Seems the trout inhaled the mud minnow imitation and wore through the 12-pound test line. The problem was that I had gotten lazy and didn’t rig up with a fluorocarbon shock leader. The low-test monofilament line on my reel was no contest for the toothy maw of the big trout.

I’ve fished a lot of places along the Texas coast over the past couple of months. Along the way, I’ve noticed that everybody has a different idea about what works with lines and leaders. For example, guide Dwayne Lowrey uses 12-pound test braided line. But for a leader, he’ll tie on about a 4-foot section of 14-pound test leader material.

“I like to use the braided line for a quicker hook set,” said Lowrey. “But I also like to use a clear leader.”

One of the most popular leader materials is Silver Thread Fluorocarbon. The reason why is simple – it’s tougher than regular monofilament line and is virtually invisible under water. It’s a good option when you want a leader – or line, for that matter – that offers maximum strength.

Capt. Ted Springer has been guiding on the Laguna Madre for years. His line of choice is Silver Thread Excalibur. He’ll usually be using 12-pound test for more distance when fishing light, soft plastics and topwater lures like a Super Spook Jr., or a slow sinking 2-1/2 inch Badonk-A-Donk.

“I like the Silver Thread Excalibur line because it’s abrasion-resistant and super strong,” said Springer. “I fish a lot over grass, and that can be abrasive on some fishing lines. Plus we target fish like trout and reds that can wear through weaker line.”

When in doubt, it’s always best to use a leader. One of the most popular line/leader combinations is 12-pound test line that’s connected to a 12- to 14-pound test fluorocarbon leader. A good line-to-leader connection can be made with a blood knot. That’s a low-profile knot that’s strong yet small enough to avoid snagging bits of vegetation.

What you don’t want to do is use a leader that’s too heavy because it’ll kill the action of the lure. For example, you don’t want to use a 20-pound test leader with a topwater lure like a Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow or Bomber Long A.

Lumberton angler Phil Brannon says one of his favorite all-time lures for catching numbers of trout is a Bomber Jointed Long A. He fishes that particular topwater/diver lure with 14-pound test fluorocarbon leader.

“When I’m using a Long A, I’ll often use a heavier leader because that bait comes with a split ring attached to the nose of the lure,” said Brannon. “With the split ring a heaver leader won’t hinder the action of the lure. But if you’re using something like a Super Spook Jr. you’ll want to go with a lighter leader because those lures don’t come with a split ring attached to the nose of the lure.”

There are a couple of easy-to-remember rules with attaching leader or monofilament lines to a lure. If it’s got a split ring, an Improved Clinch knot is a good option. If there is no split ring, always use something like a locking loop knot. This is a strong knot that won’t lock down on the lure and hinder it’s action.

Here’s another little tip. When fishing soft plastics, you have two options. One is to attach a 15 to 20 pound test black swivel on the end of your leader to avoid line twist. The other option is to tie your running line to a small black barrel swivel, and a short leader to the other end. That will prevent line twist when using soft plastics and spoons.

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