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Wire Leader

A quick primer on using wire leaders.

Wire leader comes into play when you’re fishing for fish with teeth sharp enough to cut through regular monofilament or fluorocarbon leader; for instance, Mackerel and Bluefish. Another class of anglers, those who fish for shark, swear by wire. But fish don’t need teeth to make wire suitable, and there are plenty of old timers who have always used wire for night Tarpon fishing. They believe–and there is some validity to the concept–that the stiffness of the wire not only allows the hook set better and deeper, but keeps the fish from rolling the leader on their lips in an attempt to break off. Using old fashioned hand-built cedar plugs, whose action is so finely tuned as to be amazing, is another place where experienced anglers believe the stiffness of wire compared to monofilament and fluorocarbon leader makes the lure act more like it was built to act.

Wire leaders 1

For now we’re going to talk about the most common application for wire leaders–fishing for fish with teeth, whether using one piece of wire or making stinger rigs. In our case, we’re referring to Mackerel (including Kingfish and Wahoo), Tuna, and Bluefish. Basically speaking if you are fishing terminal fish–open water predators or bottom feeders with teeth (the sharks)–be ready to use wire.

Rigging with Wire

Wire comes in different weights. The lower the stated weight, the thinner and lighter and, to some extent, the more flexible the wire. Regardless of weight, all wire is stiffer than the stiffest monofilament or fluorocarbon leader. There are sport fishing applications where wire is also used as line and leader–Lake Trout in deep northern lakes comes to mind or saltwater fishing for Stripers and Bluefish–but for the most part, wire is for wire leaders.

Types of Wire Leaders

There are three kinds of wire used for fishing leaders: multi-strand, single strand, and knottable. You can tie the knottable type with any of your regular knots. You can also buy both single-strand and multi-strand wire leaders that are premade in a package by big name companies–they have a barrel swivel on one end and a clip on the other end. You can usually tie your braided line to the barrel swivel and clip the lure or hook onto the other end, which contains a snap. You can also buy both multi-strand and single-strand wire leaders that are already tied and ready to work in all different sizes and strengths. Single-strand wire leaders are more traditional and easier to use when you want to make custom leaders, which many anglers often do.

Knottable wire leadersMulti-strand, single-strand, and knottable wire leaders.

Before we move forward, we should make a comment about pre-tied wire leaders. Although they are often mocked by guides and high end amateurs (all you elitists know who you are), they do work. If you’re not good at using wire yet, or are still a little uncomfortable, you can clip on one of those wire rigs to a spoon, throw it into a school of hungry Mackerel, and have four fish in the box before your friends know what happened. They are effective for immediate rigging and when you are using spoons and other lures for very active open water predators. In other words, they can get the job done. For Shark, larger baits, and specialty targets like big Kingfish, most active anglers want to tie their own.

The key to using wire leaders is to learn how to tie or crimp them correctly and custom tie or crimp your own so you can create them in the length you’re going to need and rest assured they were done correctly. Preparation is the key to your success on the water. The prepared angler is the one who catches the fish and wins the tournaments, not the ones wrapping wire on their way out the morning of the event.

There are a few critical issues when it comes to properly tying a haywire twist. First, it can only be used with single-strand wire (it doesn’t work for multi-strand wire, as it has to be crimped). After you make the loop through your hook, lure, or terminal tackle, you’re not wrapping one wire around the other, but twisting them together. Start with both wires at a 45-degree angle and twist them together approximately four to six times. The next step is to bend the tag end at a 90-degree angle to the standing part of the wire and begin to make four to six barrel wraps tight to each other.

Haywire twist instructionsThe correct way to tie a haywire twist.

Be sure to properly remove the wire tag end. This is best done by making a 90-degree handle on the tag end, and turning it just like you would a handle on a spinning reel. Breaking off the wire tag end this way will leave it smooth. Do not cut the tag end with pliers or wire cutter, as this will leave the tag end as sharp as a razor blade and cut your hands up all day when you touch the leader.

The following video demonstrates how to tie a haywire twist:

NOTE: Another thing you need when using single-strand wire is a wire straightener. Single-strand leader tends to kink when you’re fishing, so it’s important to run the wire straightener down the wire to remove all kinks. Leaving the kinks not only weakens the wire, but makes you baits run foul.

Wire straightenerWire straightener.

If you want to use multi-strand wire, you have to use crimps of the same millimeter size as the wire. There are single barrel crimps and doubled barreled crimps. Some will be marked for wire use on the package. You also need a crimping tool that has the right size millimeter gap as the crimps you’re using. Crimping with the right size crimps, wire and crimping tool is critical. Otherwise your crimp can either damage the multi-strand wire because it was crimped too tight, thus weakening the wire, or crimped too loose, thus running the risk of the connection pulling apart when you hook a big fish.

Wire leader sleevesSingle barrel wire crimp leader sleeves.

For the new knottable wire leaders, simply buy them in the pound strength you need and tie them with the same knots you use to tie any of your fishing lines.

Wire leadersEverything you need to crimp your wire leaders.

Picking the Correct Wire Leader Size and Weight

The size and weight of the leader you decide to use will depend on the fish you intend to catch and why you need wire in the first place. For Spanish or Cero Mackerel or Bluefish under ten pounds, you can use wire as light as a #2.

Stated SizePound TestDiameter
#2 27 0.011
#3 32 0.012
#4 38 0.013
#5 44 0.014
#6 58 0.016
#7 69 0.018
#8 86 0.020
#9 105 0.022
#10 124 0.024
#11 140 0.026
#12 174 0.026
#13 195 0.031
#14 218 0.033
#15 240 0.035
#19 340 0.043

For Kingfish, we tend to use 4-weight wire, which measures in at 38lb test. Shark anglers go with heavier 8-eight or 9-weight, but for Kingfish we are generally using the relatively light and easier to handle 4-weight.



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