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How To Tie The Leader Knot

"How do I tie a basic shore fishing leader knot?" is one of the most common questions that former World Champion caster Neil Mackellow is asked. Follow Neil's simple step-by-step instructions and it is a question that you'll never need to ask again.

The ability to join the main fishing line from the reel to suitable heavier strength and considerably thicker leader material is a key requirement for anyone going shore fishing. I would go as far as to say that if you can't be bothered to learn a simple, and, more importantly, ‘safe’ leader knot then you should not be casting from the beach, or anywhere else for that matter.

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Knots need not be complicated but they must be secure and able to withstand whatever stresses we intend to subject them to. Take the shockleader knot for example, it must, in the first instance, be able to withstand the rigors of what could be some powerful casting, but it must also be fit to cope with other fishing strains.

The term ‘shockleader’ is in fact a slightly misleading one, and I prefer the more universally inclusive term ‘leader’ because it is not just casting duress that the appropriate length of heavier mono tied to your mainline has to contend with. Rocks, shingle, sucking mud and even sand put strain on knots and damage line by way of snagging and simple abrasive contact. Any knot is a potential weak spot; therefore it is vital to tie all knots with a little care.

The old rule of thumb that dictates 10lb of breaking strain in the leader for every ounce of lead being used to cast is a very loose one (especially if you work in grams), but it is not a bad guide to be going on with. So for our purposes if we are casting with 6ozs/170gs of lead then we should be tying on a leader of not less than 60lb breaking strain. It is important to note however, that modern mono fishing lines are becoming progressively thinner in diameter, so we need to keep a sense of perspective and be aware that leader material diameters do vary quite dramatically across the huge choice of available brands and products.

For our purposes here, I am working with a now very standard 0.35mm, 18lb main reel line, and 0.70mm, 60lb Greased Weasel Shock Leader. What follows is the quick and reliable Grinner and Half Hitch leader knot connection. And look out for more quick knotting guides coming soon.


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1. Start by making a simple half hitch in the leader, leaving the tag-end of at least 150mm long because it is important to give yourself plenty line to work with.

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2. Now take the mainline and it through the loop formed in the leader. Make sure that the mainline enters the loop from the tag-end side of the half hitch.

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3. With at least 200mm of the mainline popped through the loop, moisten the loop with saliva and pull the half hitch tight.

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4. Twist the tag-end of the mainline round the leader fully four times and hold it steady.

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5. Now bring the tag-end of the mainline back towards the half hitch and form a loop.

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6. Within the loop wrap a further four turns with the mainline around the leader, effectively forming a grinner knot.

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7. Holding the mainline and leader tag-end moisten the knot and pull on the free end of the mainline to start tightening the coils.

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8. Continue to pull on the mainline tag-end while still anchoring the yellow leader in your other hand until the coils start to slowly draw together.

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9. Tighten slightly more but do not fully tighten the coils at this stage.

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10. Moisten the main knot and half hitch again and ease the two knots together. Do this slowly and under even tension rather than forcing the knot to make by quickly yanking...a common error.

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11. Once the knots are butted up against each other give all the ends of the lines firm but progressive pulls to cinch everything in place. Finally, closely trim both free ends to form a reliable knot which won't stick in a level-wind or butcher your thumb when casting.

Author: Neil Mackellow

Publish Date: Monday 1st November 2010

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