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. Brian Cone
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. 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. Damon McKnight
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. 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. 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. Scott Simpson
Long Beach, Mississippi
Capt. Simpson often ties direct when fishing inshore for speckled trout and other species with 12-pound mono.
Capt. Bouncer Smith
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. 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. 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.