Fluoro vs Mono: What's the best leader material?

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The right leader can be critical to landing your catch. Image: Patrick Linehan

WITH the use of polyethylene braided line (or braid for short) now commonplace for almost all types of fishing, using the right leader material has never been more important. This is mainly due to two reasons: Firstly, braid has practically no stretch and therefore little shock absorbing quality. Secondly, braid is non-transparent and, at times, must be highly-visible to fish. To combat these properties, most anglers opt to use a length of leader tied to the reel's braid mainline.

The most common types of leader are nylon monofilament line (or mono for short) and fluorocarbon line. Both types of leader are relatively clear and look and feel similar. Though, fluorocarbon is harder and "wiry" in the hand when compared to soft nylon mono. This is because fluorocarbon is a more dense material weighing about 1.5g/cm3, compared to nylon at about 1.15 g/cm3. Given fluoro is more dense than nylon, it also makes sense that fluoro leader has less stretch than mono. Fluoro also sinks in the water, whereas mono floats. 

Light fluorocabon leader was used to catch this bream. Image: Patrick Linehan

While most anglers will be able to make do with either leader material, knowing the below basics, "switched on" anglers will be able to use the two different leaders to fine tune lure and bait fishing techniques:

Fluorocarbon leader pros

  • Stiffer
  • Minimal stretch
  • High abrasion resistance
  • Thinner diameter compared to nylon mono of same breaking strain
  • Sinks

Fluorocarbon leader cons

  • Expensive
  • Harder to tie knots
  • Needs regular replacing (can become opaque after stretching)
 
Fluorocabon leader is a good option for jigging techniques. Image: Patrick Linehan

Nylon monofilament leader pros

  • Cheap
  • More elastic than fluoro, good shock absorber
  • Easy to tie knots
  • Better knot strength
  • Floats

Nylon monofilament leader cons

  • Line memory
  • Soft and prone to abrasion/cut damage
  • Thicker diameter compared to fluorocarbon of same breaking strain

Which leader material should I use?
Based on the above, we are able to identify some obvious benefits using either fluoro or mono leader for certain lure and bait fishing techniques.

For example, fish like giant trevally aren't too shy of thick and visible leader and topwater casting for these fish is best suited to the use of a nylon mono "shock leader". Conversely, a stiffer fluoro leader is better when deep water jigging for kingfish, where it will assist imparting action on the jig and less stretch helps to keep a fish from reaching bottom structure.

Similarly, finesse luring with small soft plastics is best suited to the use of thin and responsive fluoro leader that allows anglers to detect subtle bites. Meanwhile, using nylon mono may better suit bait fishing as fish are less "leader shy" and mono is more cost effective.

This flathead was caught using a slow sinking glidebait with nylon mono leader. Image: Paul Lennon

It is also worth noting that fluoro and nylon mono can be used to achieve differnent sink rates and actions from floating, suspending and sinking lures.

It is clear to see that both fluoro and nylon mono leader material has its place. It is worth trying and experimenting with both to better understand the different characteristics of the materials.

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