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Do You Need a Wire Leader for Muskie?

Do You Need a Wire Leader for Muskie?

A lot of anglers, who are relatively new to muskie fishing, wonder if this predator requires the use of wire leaders. As muskie have extremely sharp teeth, this question is most certainly a valid one to ask. In order to help you choose the right leader for your next muskie adventure, I have written this helpful article on the much-debated question: do you need a wire leader for muskie?

When fishing with jerkbaits for muskie, using a stiff wire leader is always a good idea, as stiff wire provides security against bite-offs and improves lure presentation. When casting with bucktail spinners or trolling with crankbaits, you can instead use a heavy fluorocarbon leader.

Continue reading this article to get more valuable tips on wire and fluorocarbon leaders for muskie fishing.


Disclaimer: This article contains advice and tips from Strike & Catch’s own expert musky angler to make it more authoritative and trustworthy.


Do You Need a Leader When Fishing for Muskie?

Generally speaking, you should never fish for musky without a leader on. If your hand or fingers have ever been too close to a musky’s head, you’ll know just how sharp and terrifying their teeth and gill plates are. This fish is a highly evolved hunting machine and if you want to manage to catch it, you’ll have to use the right tackle.

Conventional fishing line is simply no match for their ultra-sharp teeth and gill plates or their raw strength. Both braid and mono will eventually break when fighting this predator.

So, using a strong wire or fluorocarbon leader is absolutely essential when it comes to muskie fishing. Please never forget that!

Using wire or fluorocarbon is by the way not so much about the visual aspect of these materials, but as the following sections will explain, much more about lure presentation.

Pro Tip: Many hands and fingers have been seriously injured by musky teeth and gill plates. Make sure to always wear armored gloves when handling this fish! You can find a pair of puncture-proof fish handling gloves on Amazon.

When to Use a Wire Leader for Muskie?

a happy predator angler on a boat holding a large musky that he has caught on a jerkbait
Courtesy of Strike & Catch’s musky expert Andre Charron

When fishing with jerkbaits or dive and rise baits for musky, using a heavy and stiff single-strand stainless steel wire leader is always recommended.

For one thing, stiff single strand wire material won’t tangle as much when casting out your lure or when retrieving it underwater.

Working lures such as Suicks means that you’ll have to employ retrieval methods that include pulls and slack lines in order to make the lure rise and dive. A soft leader would sooner or later end up getting tangled around your lure, totally destroying your presentation.

For another thing, jerk- and dive and rise baits need stiff leaders attached to them in order to convey the best action and life-like movements.

When standing still or being pulled, a stiff leader material forces them to go nose-down and thereby mimic the angle of real fish underwater. When being retrieved, it will instead make your lure go in a zig-zag fashion, so that it will look like an injured fish.

These crucial retrieve features are simply not possible with a softer type of leader!

Go for a leader of about 10 inches and a 170 to 210lb test and you’re good to go for those jerkbait-hitting muskie out there! You can a super strong and very reliable wire leader material for musky on Amazon here.

When to Use a Fluorocarbon Leader for Muskie?

a female angler on a boat holding a big muskie that she has caught trolling a crankbait
Courtesy of Doug Moffat

If you are fishing with inline spinners (bucktails) or trolling for musky, you can use a heavy fluorocarbon leader instead of wire. Modern fluorocarbon material is extremely durable and can withstand those sharp musky teeth without a problem if the right leader strength is used.

Fluorocarbon is a more flexible leader material that will give your bucktails or trolled crankbaits a very realistic presentation. This can make a lot of difference and is a really important factor. After all, musky aren’t caught easily and so you want to make sure to improve your chances of actually hooking up to one as much as possible.

When trolling, it’s important to mention that your fluorocarbon leaders should be around 3-4ft long. That’s because muskie tend to roll during those longer fights with more line out, which means that your mainline can end up wrapped around them.

If and when that happens, it’s very common for the line to be on or under the muskie’s gill plates, which are as sharp as a sword. Simply fishing all the way with your braid or mono mainline, instead of a very thick fluoro leader, will most likely cost you that musky!

Additionally, braid line especially can be very harmful to the fish, as it is fairly sharp, particularly under a lot of pressure. Fluorocarbon has the advantage of being fairly soft and is hence a much better alternative to use when there is a risk of wrapping.

When casting with bucktails or other types of inline spinners, this risk is much lower, as you’re fishing shorter distances and so the fights won’t last as long as when trolling for musky.

Hence, a leader length of about 8 to 12 inches is totally sufficient.

When it comes to leader strength, make sure to use fluorocarbon of about 130-150lb test. Check out the ultimate fluorocarbon leader for toothy predators on Amazon here.

What to Think of When Using Fluorocarbon Leaders?

Whenever you use fluorocarbon for toothy predators such as musky or pike, always make sure to check on them after each and every bite. FC is an awesomely durable and very modern leader material, but it can nonetheless develop weak points after having come in contact with those sharp teeth and gill plates.

Losing a fish and your precious lures to a weak leader or a bite-off is extremely frustrating and can easily be avoided by simply keeping an eye on your fluorocarbon.

After every fight, look for obvious weak points, such as abrasions or kinks, and run your fingers over your leader a few times. If you spot or feel any irregularities, take it off and put on a new one!

It’ll take you only a few seconds and it’s really not worth the risk! Trust me, when you finally get that mythical musky on the line, you’ll want to keep it at all costs!

Final Thoughts

If you’re into predator fishing, you will know what leader you prefer and what works best for your fishing. Some anglers swear by their wire, while others will use fluorocarbon leaders only. The choice is really yours!

The same goes of course for beginners. My best advice to you after 20 or so years of extensive freshwater predator fishing is to try out both materials in different situations and for different fishing methods and then go for the one that fits your fishing style best and that lands you the most fish.

This article is merely a helpful introductory suggestion. Ultimately, you’ll have to find out the rest for yourself out there on the water. Test and learn and always optimize your fishing. That’s the way you’ll succeed!

Tight lines!

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Featured image courtesy of Doug Moffat

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