Pike leaders- What do you use? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Pike leaders- What do you use?

Dble Haul
02-25-2004, 11:58 AM
It seems like I'm not the only one here with pike on the brain....

I've had only moderate success using fluorocarbon, but perhaps I'm not using material that's heavy enough. After having a few fish chomp through 30 lb fluoro like it was cobweb on the initial strike, I moved on to something else. Anyone have any experience with fluoro heavier than 30 lb test?

I'm satisfied with Tyger Wire because it's supple enough to tie knots, but strong enough to not get bitten through. My only real concern with this material is the decrease in incidental bycatches of other species. For example, with the fluoro leaders I've had big smallmouth take the pike flies, and I'm certainly not one to turn that kind of action away. But with the Tyger Wire, I've had smallies follow but not commit and in my experience this has everything to do with the leader material. But on the plus side, I don't lose pike.

Can I have my cake and eat it too? Can I use a material that's strong enough for pike teeth, but won't turn off other incidental (and desirable) species? Something tells me that heavier fluoro may be the answer, but I'd like to hear from other pike fans.


02-25-2004, 06:19 PM
have you tried any braided lines

02-25-2004, 08:01 PM
I'm just curious if anyone has used ordinary 20 lb. spinning gear wire leaders. Remove the swivel and loop line directly to the leader, then use the snap to easily attach and remove flies. The snap is the only element that adds weight vs. making one's own wire leaders.

I normally use 40 lb. hard mono and I've yet to have a bite-thru but I do have to replace the leader after every fish.

Dble Haul
02-26-2004, 08:02 AM
Peter- I have never tried the regular spinning leaders that you speak of. I do suspect that they would be a turn off to other species. As far as hard mono, it's good to hear that you haven't had any bite throughs, but the thought of leader replacement after every fish isn't too appealing.

Don't want much, do I? :rolleyes:

Sean- Braided line just plain sucks for fish with sharp teeth. I think it gives them even more leverage for the bite through. But you're thinking outside the box, and I like that. ;)

Anyone else? Frenchcreek?

02-26-2004, 08:23 AM

Don't know how big the pike you are catching are, but I've used 50# floro on blues in Boston Harbor with good success. Seems to work well for blues up to 10-12# or so...over that they will bite you off when you put the screws to them.

Stripers don't seem to mind the 50# mid-blitz....maybe pike wouldn't either? The smaller diameter of the Gen 2 Floro might let you get away with a heavier leader without taking too much away from the action of the fly, etc....

Changing floro tippets is a snap with a loop to loop or a surgeons.


John Desjardins
02-26-2004, 08:31 AM
Mark, ever try placing all the materials at the rear of the hook & leaving the shank bare as a biteguard? Just trying to get out of the box. Otherwise, I'm using wire like you.

Dble Haul
02-26-2004, 08:36 AM
Dave- That's good to hear! Like I said in my initial post, I have a feeling that heavier fluoro is the way to go, and your comments seem to confirm that. The pike aren't wire shy at all....it's the incidental species that are. Thanks for the insight.

John- I've barked up that tree before, and will do so again this spring with some flies like the Keys style that I put in the archive earlier this winter. We were thinking alike on that one. ;)

Good discussion, fellas....:)

02-26-2004, 08:44 AM

Since we never have any control over the size of the next toothy fish that's going to hit (may be a little guy, maybe a railroad tie), it's smart to plan for the big ones, as you point out.

One of the reasons that I came up with that frog-tube fly the other night is that I can retrieve the fly from the surface if the fish cuts the line. It would be great if we could do that with all flies, however the only way to do so is to fish tube-poppers all the time, and that's not realistic. But I digress... Heavy mono is what I've always used, simply for the reason you state: bycatch. Essentially, I tie the shock tippet to the leader with a loop-to-loop, which allows me to have flies pre-rigged and easy to change once the leader has been frayed. The larger the fly is, the heavier the leader material I use. Yes, little fish will often go after a large fly, however just as often you're going to hook into one of his larger relatives, and that's when the heavier leader comes into play. I wonder if coating the leader with Devcon would increase the durability of it? It sure would help the leader sink and straighten it out. BTW - I've used anything up to 50-lb. test as leader material.

02-26-2004, 09:08 AM

Doing the same as you, pre-tying my mono leaders and storing them in large, plastic, divided, tackle storage boxes with the moveable dividers. I notch two dividers and place one in front of the fly and the other at the end of the long compartment, then slip the leader into the notches. keeps the leaders straight and prevents fouling during transport.

02-26-2004, 10:58 AM
It has been a long time since I had "incidental bass" while pike fishing. We have no bass in Alberta!
When I was back east, many moons ago, I regularily fished for bass & pike and most of my bass flies would be smaller than what I would use for pike.
I'm just wondering if the follower bass are more concerned with the size of the pike fly and its action/movement than with the showing of a leader. I have caught small 24 inch pike with a 15 inch withefish being spit out. With bass, my recollection is that they prefer shorter baits/flies. For pike, I now stay with Tyger wire and occasionally use the snap leaders. I tried very large diameter mono but I hate changing each time and with larger fish, say 18Lbs. or more, they will cut through. Lastly I don't like the action of the fly with such a large mono leader.
My typical leader for still water pike is as follows:
18" of 25 Lb. Ultragreen
24' of 15 Lb. ""
18' of 12 Lb. ""
4 to 6 inch 30 Lb. Tyger with a loop at the end
The I use 15Lb. Tyger to tie the fly and do a loop to loop connection with the leader.
If you think you can't have your cake and eat it too, then buy the bakery!

Dble Haul
02-26-2004, 12:27 PM
Pete, the follower bass aren't biting because of the wire leaders. I've had smallmouth take very large pike flies when I'm using fluoro material, and on the same day seen similar fish not commit when using the wire. If this happened just once in a while I'd brush it off as coincidence, but since they do commit to the flies often enough without the wire leaders I think that there is a correlation here.

I don't use small flies when chasing bass. I think that there are many notions out there regarding flies for smallmouth, and one of them is that the flies need to be on the small size (under size 2 or 1/0). When I want to catch smallies, I regularly use flies that are 2/0 or 3/0 and up to 6 inches long.

We'll just have to test some of these leader systems later this year, if ya know what I mean.


02-26-2004, 10:46 PM
I have had similar thoughts during our CT river April sojurns - wondering what opportunities might have been missed by using wire.

Pike dentition looks a lot like their saltwater cousins - barracuda. and I've had those guys bite through 100lb fluro in less than a minute -- albeit with some pretty impressive aerobatics :D

Maybe pike teeth are not quite so sharp? I'm definitely up for some experimentation this season.

If there is risk of a bite-off the use on non-stainless hooks might be the right thing to do? The freshwater folks probably do this as a matter of course but I have used saltwater patterns in the past and not given the hook much thought.

02-27-2004, 09:19 AM
Adrian, you bring up a very good point regarding SS hooks and the break-off potential. I hadn't thought of that before, though it seems so obvious.

03-01-2004, 12:18 AM
So those of you that use the heavy fluoro line 40 lb and up for a leader, how long is your leader of this stuff and do you tie directly to your fly line via perfection loop and then to your fly? Do any of these fluro seem tougher or have better abrasion resistance than others?

03-01-2004, 07:34 AM
For toothy critters in Fresh or Saltwater I use a shock tippet of wire or heavy fluro rather than a full leader. These are usually about 12 inches long and attached to a bimini twist in the the 'class tippet' via a huffnagle or albright knot. I attach the shock tippet to the fly with a no-slip loop knot.

For a great reference on knots and rigging leaders check out Practical Fishing Knots by Mark Sosin and Lefty Kreh.

Fluro does seem to vary quite a bit. I've used sci-anglers brand for most of these applications. For regular tippet material up to 20lb I like the stuff Rio puts out.

03-01-2004, 11:05 AM
I've always used 12" leaders.

03-07-2004, 12:32 PM
Well, I've got a few Climax pike leaders coming in from Cabelas that are 8' in lenght with a 20 lb wire leader attached. They weren't real expensive so we'll have a look at them. I still like the idea of the heavy flurocarbon line for the incidental strikes. Heading up north twice this May and June (UP and the Boundry waters) and hopefully will get to put a lot of things like this to the test.

03-07-2004, 06:10 PM
I've used 40 lb mono; but gave up on it rather quickly because, as FrenchCreek already mentioned, it needs to be replaced anytime you hook a fish of 15lb or so. Nylon coated wired of 20lb became my choice because it is very easy to tie flies too though a simple figure-8 knot, and if you put a small loop on the end of the 12 or 15lb tippet, it is very easy to tie to the mono leader. My leaders were virtual mirrors of FrenchCreek's regarding formula as well.

I found using swivel clips added too much weight for nice casting. Tying a figure-8 in the wire is quick, easy, and strong. The 6" to 10" of wire you need for the shock tippet adds very little weight is you don't use clips or swivels.

Greg Pavlov
03-07-2004, 08:07 PM
Originally posted by peter-s-c
I normally use 40 lb. hard mono and I've yet to have a bite-thru but I do have to replace the leader after every fish. This is not a wiseguy question: what is the largest pike you've brought in with such a rig ? I've had (what I assume to be) bluefish bite through 40 lb test mono.

03-07-2004, 08:20 PM
It was on my first trip to Byng. I'm not sure how big the fish was, probably in the 12 to 15 pound range. It hung over the edges of the 36" cradle so it was close to the 40" range. This one did a lot of slashing back and forth with his head and I was sure the mono would let go, but it didn't. It was a mess though. I used 20# and 25# on our last trip.

Dble Haul
03-08-2004, 08:04 AM
Sure, you guys get them okay on 20 and 25 pound mono and I have them bite through 30 pound fluoro like it's nothing.....maybe the pike I'm fishing over have really crooked teeth and need braces. :rolleyes:

I'll be giving the heavier fluoro a thorough workout very soon.

03-08-2004, 08:33 AM
The largest pike-family member that I've seen hooked was (no kidding) a chain pickerel that my boy-hood best friend tied into early one day in our favorite lake in South Jersey; this fish was honestly a monster (not just in length, but in girth from what we could see of it) and I think it would have given the world record a serious run for the money. The fish was hooked on a red/white Heddon Torpedo (one my two favorite topwater lures, the other being a red/white Zara Spook); we got the fish next to the boat, and as soon as the net went in to the water the fish took off and cut right through the leader... 40-lb. mono.

Of course, what ensued was a blood-curdling cry of extreme anguish. About thirty-seconds of silence later, what should float up to the surface but the Torpedo; my buddy had crushed the barbs on the trebles, and the fish had managed to disoldge the lure. I can't recall the number of times that that lure had been temporarily lost, only to float back to the surface a few moments later. At any rate, the piece of leader still tied to the Torpedo had been cut clean-through. We tried in vain for that fish for another 30-minutes, then moved a couple of hundred yards down the bank and he hooked another monster pickerel on the same "magic" lure; this one was landed and mounted at just over 38"... much smaller than the first one he hooked!

While we're all on the subject, what are everyone's thoughts on tying patterns on long hooks with everything concentrated over the bend? This is common in many flies for 'cuda and bluefish, and I've seen it done with pike patterns from time to time. Just wondering what the experiences have been.

03-08-2004, 08:59 AM
Originally posted by Dble Haul
Sure, you guys get them okay on 20 and 25 pound mono and I have them bite through 30 pound fluoro like it's nothing.....maybe the pike I'm fishing over have really crooked teeth and need braces. :rolleyes:

I'll be giving the heavier fluoro a thorough workout very soon.

I don't like the way fluoro abrades when rubbed on something rough. A couple of seasons back, I lost a nice steelie on fluoro that probably would've been landed on one of the tougher mono lines. She rubbed the tippet against a rock. After she broke off, I checked the tippet and about 10" of it was scabbing off chunks.

Last fall, I'm fishing for steelies on the Grand below Wilks dam and I get a solid thunk then nothing. On the next cast, there's no noticeable splash from the fly so I haul up and it's gone. I go to tie in another one on the remaining tippet and the fluoro 10# is literally disintegrating in my hands despite showing no signs of damage. Mr. or Ms. Pike had stopped by for a chomp. I realize 10# is not pike leader material, but I didn't like the way the fluoro fell apart without showing damage. Moral? Scabs when roughed up and knicks cleanly on something sharp -- neither are good

My mono leaders are ripped to shreds after an encounter with a decent fish but they don't fail. I use the cheapest Canadian Tire hard mono or Rio saltwater hard mono.

I make no claims for bluefish. ;)

03-08-2004, 09:05 AM
Originally posted by flyfisha1

While we're all on the subject, what are everyone's thoughts on tying patterns on long hooks with everything concentrated over the bend? This is common in many flies for 'cuda and bluefish, and I've seen it done with pike patterns from time to time. Just wondering what the experiences have been.

I've been thinking about this but I haven't found a long shanked SW hook that would work nicely. I have long Rangley style hooks but they bend like pretzels on a big fish.

03-08-2004, 09:09 AM
Of course, we were fishing for those pickerel back in the pre-fluorocarbon days...

The only long-shank hook that I've found that could be considered a saltwater model is the Tiemco 9394, which I believe only comes in sizes up to 2. A 911S might do the trick, as I believe it's a little longer than standard and comes in larger sizes. I'll try a few today.

03-08-2004, 09:51 AM
A quick Google search yielded these saltwater long shanks:

Eagle Claw 066 2X up to 7/0
Orvis Long Shank 28G01002 2X max size unknown
Daiichi X472 3X up to 2/0

My Yak 9 would be perfect for these hooks as it's already tied with a tarpon head -- just have to move it back on the shank.


03-08-2004, 10:07 AM
I had forgotten about the Mustad C71S SS, which is the streamer circle hook; I've tied some tarpon flies on this hook. The largest I have is 3/0, though I imagine they're available in larger sizes than that.

03-08-2004, 10:37 AM
Yup, I've seen this one too, it's sold locally. Which opens up another question -- would a circle hook streamer work on pike? I can see it working on bass. I left the Mustad off the list as I didn't think it would be a great choice.

03-08-2004, 10:39 AM
I've caught mid-sized 'cuda on this hook, so I imagine it would work for pike.

03-08-2004, 10:59 AM
I've never been close enough to a 'cuda to know how their teeth and jaws are arranged. Are they more like a bass lip with significant teeth arranged in a row along the lip, or an array of teeth, both along the lip and on internal plates, like a pike or muskie?

In the NWT, I had a very large pike chomp down on various lures that I threw at her and I was not able to set the hook as she had too firm a grip. Given the way that game progressed, I wouldn't have had a chance with a circle hook. Mind you, this was an extremely large fish and can't be taken as typical.

03-08-2004, 11:09 AM
I had a hard time finding a good photo of the open mouth on line, so I'll try to decribe their toothy-arrangement: teeth are essentially placed irregularly around the jaws, all "on the lips" from what I can recall. Although they don't have the uniform pattern of teeth that pike seem to have, 'cuda teeth, in my experience, tend to be larger when comparing them to pike of similar length. So the end result is the same: when a large barracuda shakes it's head, you'd better hope that the leader can resist the cutting. Same as pike in that regard.

03-08-2004, 11:28 AM
OK, so they have a defined lip like a bass. I think of a pike mouth like two flat plates covered in teeth. As long as there's a good sized lip, a circle hook has a place to grab, but there doesn't appear to be much purchase for a circle hook in a pike's mouth.

Should clarify this -- the pike has a lip of course, but the angle on the inside is shallow -- not very upright. If the hook can get back into the scissor then it'll work just fine, but I'm not sure how reliably we can get the hook back there.