10 Reasons Why a Pro Won't Use a Fishing Leader

10 top skippers explain the circumstances for when they don't use a fishing leader.

Tarpon caught without fishing leader
When fishing pros lose the leaderJason Arnold / jasonarnoldphoto.com

Most anglers in most saltwater situations use a fishing leader. But in some situations (particularly when pursuing keen-eyed quarry in clear waters), even pros prefer to tie directly to their terminal gear. Curious, I asked approximately 30 top skippers if they tie direct. Most replied that they always fish a leader, but 10 said there are circumstances in which they tie directly.

Capt. Richard Andrews

Bath, North Carolina

Capt. Andrews uses a palomar knot to tie a braid main line right to a jig head with a Z-Man tail when fishing stripers in winter. "The extra sensitivity helps us detect light bites," he says.

Capt. Richard Andrews
Capt. Richard Andrews (on right)Chris Woodward / Sport Fishing

Capt. Brian Cone

Islamorada, Florida

Capt. Cone ties mono main line to hooks using a uni knot or a snell (five to seven turns around the shank on light line, and four turns on a main line more than 30-pound) for both yellowtail snapper and blackfin tuna.

Capt. Brian Cone
Capt. Brian ConeCourtesy Capt. Brian Cone

Capt. John Luchka

Montauk, New York

Capt. Luchka ties 30-pound mono (Berkley ProSpec) direct when stripers are coming off the spring spawn, snelling to a circle hook. For deepwater fluke fishing, he uses a loop knot tied to a bucktail.

Capt. John Luchka
Capt. John LuchkaCourtesy Capt. John Luchka

Capt. Damon McKnight

Venice, Louisiana

Capt. McKnight almost never uses a leader when fishing for yellowfin tuna. He ties 40- to 80-pound mono directly to the hook with a uni knot or, occasionally, by snelling (when going to very small hooks).

Capt. Damon McKnight
Capt. Damon McKnight (on left)Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Capt. Brant McMullan

Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina

Capt. McMullan skips the leader offshore when he finds blackfin tuna on top. He quickly slides a trolling head onto his 50-pound mono main line, ties to a 5/0 hook and drops it over. Which knot does he use? He says, "I tell my fishing-class students to tie a knot that won't come undone!"

Capt. Brant McMullan
Capt. Brant McMullanCourtesy Capt. Brant McMullan

Capt. Frothy de Silva


When guiding for bonefish, Capt. de Silva favors tying directly to a fly or jig with a basic four-turn uni knot — but not drawing the knot down tight to the eye. "This leaves a very small loop that gives the fly or jig a little extra movement," he says, "which I think is important."

Capt. Frothy de Silva
Capt. Frothy de SilvaCourtesy Capt. Frothy de Silva

Capt. Scott Simpson

Long Beach, Mississippi

Capt. Simpson often ties direct when fishing inshore for speckled trout and other species with 12-pound mono.

Capt. Scott Simpson
Capt. Scott SimpsonCourtesy Capt. Scott Simpson

Capt. Bouncer Smith

Miami, Florida

Capt. Bouncer skips the leader when fishing "stealth mode" for wary yellowtail and mangrove (gray) snapper, with 12- or 20-pound mono tied directly to the hook via an improved clinch knot.

Capt. Bouncer Smith
Capt. Bouncer Smith (on left)Courtesy Capt. Bouncer Smith

Capt. Robert "R.T." Trosset

Key West, Florida

Capt. Trosset also targets yellowtail and mangrove snapper, as well as bonefish, when he ties a fluorocarbon main line of 12- to 20-pound test directly to hooks, jigs or flies.

Capt. R.T. Trosset holding a grouper
Capt. Robert "R.T." TrossetDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

Capt. Ed Walker

Tarpon Springs, Florida

Capt. Walker says he’s discovered that when fishing for finicky pompano in clear waters, tying 10-pound mono main lines directly to jigs outfishes braid-and-leader “by a wide margin.” Ditto when targeting big trout using jerk baits over clear, shallow grass flats in the winter.

Capt. Ed Walker holding a tarpon
Capt. Ed WalkerCourtesy Capt. Ed Walker