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Bite offs

Scott Ferguson

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Although we don't see many pike or musky in our rivers where I fish for smallmouth. I also spend time in Minnesota and Wisconsin lakes and rivers where toothy fish can be pretty common. I used to just accept the occasional bite off of my sinking stick baits as part of the cost of fishing but I'm no longer comfortable knowing that a nice muskie or a pike is swimming around with a hook and a hunk of plastic stuck in his jaw that could keep him from feeding. I'd also like to land a few more of those fish as well.

My typical hand made steel leaders that I use with cranks and spinners, even the small ones, screw up the presentation when attached to an unweighted senko type bait. My solution was to try some knottable, nylon coated, stainless steel leader material in 20 lb test. The wire is no thicker than 15 or 17 lb test mono. I tie the wire directly to my hook, leave around 5 or 6 inches, then tie a loop to tie my main line (8 lb fireline).

I just came back from a trip in Wisconsin and I have to report that it worked very well. No bite offs and I landed pike that would have bitten me off for sure. If there was any negative reaction from the fish I didn't notice it. I got 95 fish (large and smallmouth and some northerns) the day I used the leaders extensively. I wish I'd brought more leaders with me as I did lose the ones I made up to a couple of snags and some in trees that jumped up and grabbed a cast or two! I made up a lot more in preparation of my next trip!

The wire is not cheap. I got some at Cabela's in the fly fishing department. 16 feet was I think $12.99. I have made a total of 28 leaders with it. They also are not easy to tie. I used a fly tying vise and hemostats for assistance which helped minimize waste and overcame my big fingers.

I know many of you would rather lose a few hooks and plastics than risk getting fewer bites by having a leader, but these are so small, & thin with no additional hardware, that I don't believe affects the fishing much at all. If you are getting tired of getting bit off, loosing fish and having to retie, you should give this leader material a try. The wire I used is by AFW, but you can also get the Tyger Wire which is a little more expensive.

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I have used tyger wire or premade bluefish/pike leaders on the flyrod under similar cirumstances & had good results. Its worth the cost if you are fishing where at any time the next fish is likely to be a pike or even walleye. Heavy florocarbon works too, but its harder to tie. Good to hear the fish were active, Scott. Who says Wisconsin lakes are overpressured.

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If I were fishing for muskies, I might consider 80 pound flouro, but I'm fishing for smallmouth. I don't think you could even thread it through the eyelet of the hooks I use. When using line or leaders that heavy, you need to use crimping sleeves and additional hardware that would destroy the slow, horizontal fall of the senko. Being so small and thin and flexible, this steel coated leader has almost no effect on the presentation. It is a lot easier to tie knots with than heavy flouro or mono. It is springy, that's why I was using a vise and hemostats.


John, there is a lot of pressure on walleyes, muskies and panfish. Not so much for bass, at least in the spring. It does picks up during the summer.

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