It was a lesson learned. Unfortunately, like many things in life, it was learned the hard way.
It was a beautiful fall evening. From what I could see, it looked like there should be a fish or two up feeding. I bounced my crankbait off a rock, paused for just a split second, and felt the “thump” on my line, that “thump” that I live for. I set the hooks into a really nice fish. As I fought it, right away it came shallow and swam in front of me. Pike, a really nice pike!
I started praying. I was not using a leader of any kind. Oh sure, I knew a big toothy was possible on the water I was fishing, but I wasn’t fishing for pike or muskie. I just wanted a big bass or a walleye.
Putting absolutely no pressure on the fish, I gave it line wherever it wanted to go. You know the end of the story. Within seconds, my line broke, pike gone.
Remember, I said it was a lesson learned. . . . A couple weeks later, different reservoir, another beautiful fall afternoon and evening. I still was not targeting pike or muskie, but again knowing one was possible I had tied on a fluorocarbon leader.
Landed two muskies that night. Neither were BIG muskies, both were 30-inch class fish, but I would have landed neither if I had not been using a leader.
I understand the hesitation to use steel leaders, especially those old clunky, silver-colored, leaders sold in many tackle shops. I quit using those a long time ago. There are a lot better options now.
I already mentioned one option and that is fluorocarbon. There are a variety of types of line available to anglers nowadays and those different lines have different properties. Again, I will tell you that the different lines are different tools for different situations. The advantages of fluorocarbon are abrasion resistance and a refractive index the same as water. No, I did not say it was invisible. Yes, I am saying it is harder for fish to see fluorocarbon line.
The beauty of it is, you can use a relatively light fluorocarbon leader, one light enough that it will NOT harm your bass or walleye presentation, even your panfish presentation, and you will still be able to land a bonus pike or muskie. I religiously use 20-pound fluorocarbon leaders. I am a big fan of Seaguar fluorocarbon lines.
By the way, the braided superlines are incredible, but they are NOT substitutes for leaders. Those lines have an incredible break strength for their diameter. They do NOT have good abrasion resistance. Don’t fool yourself.
I have played with some very heavy fluorocarbon for leaders specifically when I am targeting the big Esocids, 40-pound and even heavier. I have not been a big fan of that extra heavy fluorocarbon because in my opinion, when you get fluorocarbon that heavy, you might as well jump to some type of wire.
Those old silver-colored steel leaders with the crimps are obsolete. Several varieties of tieable wire are on the market today. That wire is thinner, more flexible, less visible and can be used with just about any presentation. Again I will tell you my favorite, Surflon Micro Supreme by AFW Fishing Brands.
I have played a little bit with tieable titanium wires, but have not liked them as much. But, that’s me, the tieable titanium is another option that is thin, flexible, tieable and can be used with any presentation.
One little tip I will mention about tying knots with either heavy fluorocarbon or tieable wire. . . . Actually, Pete Maina has a video about it:
I am a big fan of a uni-knot, uni-knot for a lot of uses, but for tying heavy fluorocarbon or tieable wire, Pete’s knot is way better. It produces less kinking in the wire or leader when you cinch it down. If you want, use a clinch knot, just a clinch knot, NOT an improved clinch knot.
In my opinion, if you are fishing any waters where a pike or muskie is a possibility, you owe it to yourself AND the fish to use some type of leader. You do not want to lose a big fish, and you do not want that fish swimming away with possibly a couple sets of treble hooks pinning its mouth shut. With the options now on the market, you have no excuse.