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View From The Beach Renowned surf angler, Rich Troxler, shares his thoughts, tactics, tips and tricks for surf casting success!


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  #1  
Old 10-29-2011, 01:45 AM
richtrox richtrox is offline
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Default Leaders, shock leaders, and top shots.

by Rich Troxler

Recently, a member had made a comment on one of my threads called “What’s in your wallet?” about having trouble tying a suitable knot between his leader and his running line. It occurred to me that there are a lot of misconceptions regarding leader terminology and leader usage. To be honest, I have had my own uncertainties about what’s what, in leader technology, and why/how it’s used.


So I started to write a post about leader types and usage last week, and lo and behold, over this morning’s breakfast, as I was reviewing my latest edition of “On The Water” magazine, I see that Jimmy Fee stole some of my thunder with an article on “Leaders For Surf Fishing”. It was a good article, and I agree with much of what he said, but I’ll give you my take anyway, in hopes that I might offer something additional into the knowledge pool.

There seems to be three main leader types (terminologies) tossed around quite a bit, and a fair bit of confusion as to what their actual purpose for using them is. How important any one of these leader types is, will have a whole lot to do with how and where you do your fishing. I’ll try not to restrict my conclusions to my own area of expertise, and try to cover as many fishing scenarios as possible. So let me start with the one that is least likely to concern those who fish the surf.

The Top Shot

I hear a lot of “surf talk” as moderator of this site, and moderator of the Surf Fishing board on noreast.com. And I frequently hear guys talking about adding “top shots” and the various knots they use to connect them to their running lines (usually braid). So what exactly is a top shot?

Well for starters, it’s mostly a big game boat thing, for the guys who fish the canyons for tuna and sharks. Think of it as the inverse of what most surf guys do with their Van Staals and braided line. We tend to wrap the lower half of the spool with mono (for spool gripping and spool filling ability) and then top off the action part of the spool with the braid of our choice (followed by some sort of leader). Typical knots for this braid to backing union are Uni-to-Uni, Albright, and Alberto knot.

We do this because braid has a very thin diameter, is very strong, and because of the thin diameter, casts so much better than mono. But being expensive, and being realistic about how far we really need to cast (and can actually cast LOL), most of us fill the lower half of our reels with mono, and “top-shot” with braid (connected to a leader of some sort).

Canyon runners, on the other hand, have an entirely different set of criteria. They frequently need a whole lot of yardage to land their big game, and braid provides the greatest strength to diameter ratio there is in fishing lines. But it is expensive (we all know that) and most of all unforgiving, in terms of stretch (think landing big bass in big water in the surf).

So the addition of a 100 or 200 ft top shot of mono, and the stretch that comes with it, provides the safety factor needed by these gentlemen, when their quarry nears the boat. These mono-to-braid unions are typically loop knot to loop knots, quick to implement, and easy to reel onto a reel.

So while we start sweating when we get run into our backing, the boat boys with a big Bluefin, or an over 200 lb Mako on the line, relax when they get into their backing (braid). They have the footage on their reel to let them run and let them tire out, and then when the fish begins to tire, they put the line back on the reel. Their whole thing is the end game (the last 100 feet), and that is what a top-shot is used for.

The Shock Leader

Now this is one that has frequent surf fishing applications, depending on where you fish and how your shore structure is oriented. For me, distance is usually not an issue, and when it is, I deal with it the old school way, brute force LOL. But even then, I can only get so far. So what is a shock leader and why is it used? Let’s take a look.

For starters, it’s mostly a conventional gear thing, but spinning guys may also use it under certain conditions, and both have to do with casting long distances. The reason it’s mostly a conventional thing is because the physics of casting conventional rigs, and spinning rigs, is very different. But they do have one thing in common, and that is the initial force required to get the cast in motion.

I’m not going to comment on the value of shock leaders to those who fish spinning gear, as I do not have enough experience in it. But being a man of science and mathematics, I’m always fascinated by the physics that govern “these type things” (the intellectual nomenclature for non-specific phenomenon LOL).

When trying to cast bait and eight long distances, with conventional gear, considerable strain gets put on the rod and line in the initial moments of the cast. While the line off a spinning reel can exit the spool from the get go, a conventional reel has to “spin up” to speed in order to release the line spooled on it. This takes considerably more pressure than the equivalent cast from spinning reel. That’s where the shock leader comes into play. Also, a length of heavy mono or fluoro shock leader provides abrasion resistance when fishing around structure, where a long cast may not even be necessary.

Some of the guys I know in Jersey and areas south, have dire need to reach long distances with their baits, in order to catch. Me, for my area, I use 50 lb Ande pink spooled on Penn Squidders or Newell P235’s, with an 11’ ft Lami Honey, and can probably cast 90 yards at best, LOL. But that is usually plenty as most of the areas I fish, have the fish in tight to the beach.

As for those others, such as my friends, who need to cast long distances in order to catch. These guys need the best combinations of running lines and “shock leaders” to match their casting technigues, in order to reach the bars they need to reach in order to catch. So the general consensus, where shock leaders are concerned, is this.

1) Factor of 10x weight.
2) Minimum 2x rod length wrapped on reel.

Item 1) If you are using 6 oz of weight, then your shock leader should be 60 lb test, but most I know rarely exceed 50 lb shock leaders. You can decide for yourself, based on your local conditions and your casting abilities.

Item 2) The 2x ratio is subject to debate. Some say 1x rod length and 6 turns on the reel, etc. I say it really doesn’t matter that much.

If you have a need, due to your locale, to engage in distance casting, then you will figure out the best ratio for your area. The important point is to not snap your rod, or snap your line. As for the knot used to connect your shock leader to the running line, the Uni-to-Uni, Albright, and Alberto have all been “attested” to be the best knot. Many suggest the use of applying “Pliobond”, or other adhesives to the line-to-leader knot, for both strength and castability Your choice.

The Plain Old Leader

But for the majority of us, who simply want to cast plugs, bucks, or shads, to feeding fish. Nothing could be easier. A simple 4 foot “leader”, of 40-50 lb Seaguar Fluorocarbon, connected to a 230 lb Spro barrel swivel at one end, and your plug at the other, will catch more fish fish than you can count. The knot of choice in my book, for both leader-to-swivel, and running line-to-swivel, would be the palomar knot.

Fluorocarbon is the most invisible leader material available and the Spro swivels will reduce your line twist, particularly if you fish bucks near the bottom a lot. It is also very east to pre-tie the leaders and store them in a plastic sandwich bag. A simple palomar knot to the barrel swivel and you're ready to go.

So always endeavor to keep it simple. Keep your tackle as simple as you can, and tweaked for your own backyard.

Keep your bait choices simple, as you don’t need a garage full of plugs to catch bass. It makes nice pictures, but it is really not necessary.

Learn to identify structure, in whatever form it takes, and always keep your senses attuned to the presence of bait, for at the end of the day (at especially at night) it always comes down to bait and structure.

The tackle we use is just to deliver the package LOL
.
As always, take me to task, tell me I’m wrong, and splain me why. All I ever hope for is that we all become better at this sport, than we were yesterday.

Yeah, I don’t fish Friday nights LOL.

Be well.

-Rich
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  #2  
Old 01-08-2012, 11:18 PM
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Clam Chucker Clam Chucker is offline
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Default Re: Leaders, shock leaders, and top shots.

Hi Rich,
I have found the use of the shock leader to be very helpful. When I first started surf fishing I lost a lot of rigs on the cast. I'd hear a crack like the sound of a whip and would watch my gear take off toward Italy. The general length of the leader as I understand it is to have enough as to allow for what ever is neeed to hang off of the tip of the rod down to the reel plus 5 to 6 wraps around the spool. The idea being that durring the power of the cast the 5 to 6 wraps on the reel keeps the knot and the base line from taking any of the strech caused by the weight during the cast. Since the point in time that I started using a shock leader I have not lost a single rig to casting compaired to loosing several per a trip. It should be noted that the shock leader of mono should be checked every trip for scuffing and replaced as needed. A 100 yard spool will last a long time.
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Old 01-09-2012, 07:53 AM
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JakeF JakeF is offline
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Default Re: Leaders, shock leaders, and top shots.

I mostly fish spinning reels, and use a flourocarbon leader tied direct to the braid (or fused original Fireline). On an 11' rod my leader starts out around 15' long and gradually gets shorter as scuffed sections get cut out of it while fishing. Once it gets to be less than 8 or 10 feet long, it gets replaced.

This is not a true shock leader, as it is not long enough to wrap around the spool of the reel during the cast, but fishing in primarily rocky areas I find that the longer leader greatly reduces the chance of getting cut off when a nice fish ducks behind a rock. It also gives me something a little less likely to slice into my hand to grab onto when landing a fish.

I use a modified Albright knot to join the leader to the main line.
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Old 01-09-2012, 02:04 PM
richtrox richtrox is offline
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Default Re: Leaders, shock leaders, and top shots.

Clam Chucker - that is my understanding of a shock leader also. All of my chunking is done with conventional spooled with 50 lb Ande, so my shock leader is built in LOL.

Hi Jake - like you, I don't use a true shock leader when fishing plugs, just an approx 5' section of 50 lb fluoro connected via barrel swivel. As soon as it gets too short, I just clip it and tie on a new one. I still manage to wrap my hand around the braid every once in a while LOL

Thanks guys.
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Old 01-11-2012, 07:47 AM
striper774 striper774 is offline
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Default Re: Leaders, shock leaders, and top shots.

I use a 40" leader on open beach.Around any structure i increase the length to around 10'.40lb what i been using floro or youzuri hybred
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Old 01-13-2012, 01:42 AM
richtrox richtrox is offline
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Default Re: Leaders, shock leaders, and top shots.

Hi Striper774 - YoZuri Hybrid is very interesting stuff and I haven't figured out whether I like it or not yet. I used it on some of my conventional setups and the lo-stretch casted like the dacron braided lines I grew up on, but the fluro coating, which I thought made this the perfect line, didn't seem to hold up too well around the nasty structure I was using it around.

The line seemed to lose it's initla smooth quality and develop a "roughness" to it in a short period of time. Then again, the areas I was using it around (bridge pilings, docks and rock piles) aren't known for being very kind to fishing lines LOL.

I might spool a few conventional reels with it again come Spring.

Thank you for taking the time to post on my board.

Have a good 2012.
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Old 01-13-2012, 06:07 AM
striper774 striper774 is offline
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Default Re: Leaders, shock leaders, and top shots.

I haven't tried alot of different kinds of floro.I came upon the yo-zuri at my local tackle shop where i was looking for Seguar floro.I was told about this line from a friend who's been using it for a while.I don't find floro to be that great against resisting abrasion.I used Big Game for leader material for a while until i started using floro.Tried to get Ande 100yrd leader wheel of floro but they didn't have any.That's how i wound up with the Yo-zuri.I like it,not the greatest but not to bad.It's 16.99 for 660yrds.In the mean time im picking up some ande hd pink floro and i'll give that a try.
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Old 01-23-2012, 01:46 PM
Tman1 Tman1 is offline
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Default Re: Leaders, shock leaders, and top shots.

A great summary... I think for the fishing I do Flouro is a waste. The water usually isn't that clear and I fish alot at night.
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Old 01-23-2012, 10:31 PM
richtrox richtrox is offline
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Default Re: Leaders, shock leaders, and top shots.

Hi Tman1 - thank you and good to see you over here. You know, I can't make a real strong arguement for fluoro for most conditions, particularly at night. I fished mono for a lot of years also, and if it wasn't for that one experience under the lights, I might still be doing so.
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Old 01-24-2012, 07:29 AM
Tman1 Tman1 is offline
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Default Re: Leaders, shock leaders, and top shots.

#50 ande is the basic stuff I use and I do carry a flouro leader or two in #20 for the occassional shot at those pesty tunas that are so fun to catch.
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