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October 26, 2001

No Wraps Necessary

Use large crimps and short sections of mono to create a simple, safe and strong leader.

During those crazy moments that often come at the end of the offshore game, with a large fish thrashing at boatside, many a deckhand has tried to dump the leader only to find he can't release the coils before suffering serious injury -- or worse. While working as a charter captain, I developed a safer leader system for sharking and trolling that requires no wraps when wiring fish.

The leader, whether monofilament or wire, consists of several segments, each attached to the next with an oversize ball-bearing swivel. Instead of taking wraps, the mate grasps the leader below a swivel. Squeezing tightly with both gloved hands (like holding a baseball bat) provides tremendous leverage on the leader. It takes great force to pull the swivel through two fists, and even when this happens, no injury ensues. With no mono wrapped around his hands, the mate has more leeway in deciding whether or not to dump line by simply opening his fists. The leader shoots right down into the water and the mate's gloved hands are already in position to keep the line from rubbing the gunwale.

The mate's hand-over-hand reach determines the length of leader between swivels (five-foot segments are usually about right), allowing him to reign in the fish by moving down the line from one swivel to the next. The final segment should be long enough to allow the mate to hold both fists under the last swivel while bracing his legs under the coaming and leading fish to gaff or tagging stick. This length could be anywhere between 5 and 10 feet, or more, depending on the boat's freeboard.

Use the largest swivels possible when assembling the leader. I prefer Sampo corkscrew ball-bearing swivels because their bulk ensures a good grip while wiring, yet they are impossible to open accidentally. Sharks don't seem to mind the extra hardware, and we simply put a small octopus skirt over each swivel to enhance bait presentation when trolling for tuna and billfish.

Capt. Zac Grossman
Mako Express Charter Service
Parkland, Florida