Do You Need a Wire Leader for Pike?

do you need a wire leader for pike

Pike have both many and extremely sharp teeth and I don’t think that there are many anglers out there who haven’t asked themselves the question: when do you need a wire leader for pike? I have certainly had my fair share of bite offs over the years, which is why I decided to write this article on pike leaders.

Wire leaders for pike are needed when fishing with baitfish, smaller lures, such as jigs and spinnerbaits, or softbaits, as these can be swallowed swiftly and easily by the pike. For larger lures and when trolling for pike, one can instead use a thick fluorocarbon leader, as it is unlikely that the pike will swallow the entire bait.

To find out exactly when and when not to use a wire leader for pike, and what type of wire and fluorocarbon leader is best for pike fishing, continue reading this article.

If you simply want to grab the market’s best wire and fluorocarbon leaders for pike, you can check them out at Bass Pro Shops. Check out my favorite wire leader here and my go-to fluorocarbon leader here.

Why Do You Need a Wire Leader for Pike?

Northern pike are freshwater predators, and as such, they have a lot of sharp teeth. In fact, their mouths are filled with teeth of varying sizes and anyone who has ever had their finger or hand in a pike’s mouth knows just how razor-sharp they are.

And so, not using a leader for pike is generally a bad idea, as they can bite through any type of conventional fishing line.

I remember fishing for pike when I was just starting out. At times, I would forget to bring wire leaders to the water and made the bad mistake of going for it regardless, which, of course, resulted in plenty of bitten off lures and lost fish.

This is why you will need a wire leader (or a very thick fluorocarbon leader, if you prefer using that material instead) when fishing for pike.

If you want to learn more about pike teeth, make sure to also read this related article: Northern Pike Teeth (Amazing Facts And Photos)

When Should You Use a Wire Leader for Pike?

when should you use a wire leader for pike
Courtesy of Nathan Edgell

It is wise to use wire leaders when fishing with smaller lures that you retrieve rather slowly or with pauses, as well as when fishing with live or dead bait.

Smaller lures

Additionally to having a large number of teeth, pike also have mouths that they can open extremely wide. They are predators that can swallow prey fish of considerable size.

Keep that in mind when it comes to your lure size! The smaller the lure, the more likely it is for the pike to swallow it, especially when retrieving them slowly or in a stop-and-go fashion.

Hence, using a wire leader is an absolute necessity when fishing with smaller lures such as:

  • jigs
  • spinnerbaits
  • inline spinners
  • smaller spoons
  • smaller softbaits

Live and dead bait

Likewise, when fishing with live or dead bait, using a wire leader is always a good idea. When it comes to baitfish, it’s not only the size of the bait that matters, but also the way you are presenting it!

Obviously, smaller baitfish, such as minnows and shads, can be sucked in and swallowed easily by a pike.

But even for larger baitfish, a wire leader is essential to use. Often, anglers wait a few extra seconds before they strike after a bite, in order to give the pike enough time to get the entire baitfish into its mouth.

If you would strike immediately after a bite, there is a risk that you will not hook the pike, as it is likely that it has not grabbed the fish exactly where the hooks are sitting. So, waiting a few seconds allows the pike to turn the prey fish and get it fully into its mouth.

This, of course, implies that the entire bait, or most of it, will be inside of the pike’s mouth, bringing its teeth closer to your leader. And in order for it not to damage or chew through the leader, you should have a wire leader in place!

The same reasoning applies when it comes to ice fishing leaders for pike.

When Can You Use a Fluorocarbon Leader for Pike?

When Can You Use a Fluorocarbon Leader for Pike
Courtesy of Tobias Ekvall

Thick and durable fluorocarbon leaders have become more and more popular among pike fishermen around the world and many anglers now prefer this leader material. This is why I included it in this article so that you can make an informed choice and go for the leader that fits your fishing needs best.

When it comes to fluorocarbon leaders for pike, I would only recommend using them when fishing with larger lures or when trolling. In these cases, thick fluorocarbon leaders are, for the most part, safe to use.

Larger lures

When spin fishing with large-sized lures, anglers very often strike immediately after a pike hits the bait, which commonly results in the fish being lip hooked. It is the combination of fast lure retrieval and size of lure that makes it relatively safe to use fluorocarbon leaders.

The fluorocarbon leader simply won’t get exposed to the pike’s teeth all that much, but can still handle them and offer enough protection, if the pike manages to get the entire lure into its mouth.


Similarly, when trolling with larger crankbaits or swimbaits, using a fluorocarbon leader is perfectly fine.

As you are most likely to be fishing these lures at a faster pace, the pike just won’t have the time to fully inhale the entire bait, as it will have to strike while the lure is moving.

Instead, it is rather common for the fish to miss your lure, which is why violent tugs and strikes, which then result in nothing, are fairly common when trolling for pike.

Best Wire Leader for Pike Fishing

Bass Pro Shops XPS Titanium 7-Strand Leader

The Bass Pro Shops XPS Titanium 7-Strand Leader is one of the very best wire leaders on the market!

For beginners and anglers who like to fish with ready-tied leaders, the XPS Titanium is a perfect choice. I use this leader myself when spin fishing for big pike. Here is what I like most about it:

  • highly durable
  • qualitatively tied
  • very strong
  • swivel rotates smoothly
  • does not kink

This last one is especially important to me; how many wire leader shave you’ve been using that kink and curl up after a couple of bites! They become practically unusable as the lure presentation suffers from this immensely. It’s both frustrating, expensive, and time-consuming to have to switch leader son a regular basis.

The XPS Tutanium’s smoothness makes that it stays kink-free and straight for a very long time. So, you end up saving time and money!

If you want to buy this qualitative and 100% reliable wire leader, you can find it at Bass Pro Shops: here

Best Fluorocarbon Leader for Pike Fishing

Opti Tackle Fluorocarbon Leader 100lb

When it comes to fluorocarbon leaders for pike, I recommend using heavy muskie leaders of 80-100lb. This may sound somewhat extreme and too thick, but as fluorocarbon is practically invisible underwater, no matter the diameter, it’s a smart choice to use thicker material like that.

And thanks to the flexible nature of fluorocarbon, your presentation will not a tall suffer from a thicker leader.

Of course, you could be using a leader of 30-50lb, but it just won’t last as long, as every bite will make that fluorocarbon less abrasion-resistant. Because even though fishing with bigger lures drastically reduces the risk of the pike teeth actually reaching the leader, it’s still always a possibility that you have to take into consideration.

So, why use a thin leader and take the risk of a line break, if you can opt for an ultra-strong and 100% reliable fluorocarbon leader!

The Opti Tackle Fluorocarbon Leader is such a heavy-duty, high-performance leader that will make sure that you can fight any pike without risking a bite-off. I personally used these when trolling for pike and I have yet to change a leader due to abrasion issues, that’s how good and long-lasting they are!

Take a closer look at the Opti Tackle fluorocarbon leader at Bass Pro Shops: here

Final Thoughts

Keep in mind that there is never a 100% guarantee that a pike won’t bite through your fluorocarbon though! That’s fishing, you just never know for sure what may, or may not happen!

Nevertheless, you can avoid a lot of bite-offs by simply going for the logical choice that fits your bait or lure size, as well as your presentation. If you do that, you’ll just know that you have made the right choice when it comes to wire vs fluorocarbon leaders and can fish with full confidence in your tackle and yourself!

Pike-Related Articles

If you want to read up more on the northern pike, make sure to also check out the following articles that I have written:

Featured image courtesy of Robert Moores

Max Loesche

Hi, I'm Max, the founder and head author of Strike&Catch. I have been a passionate fisherman since 1997 and spend as much time as possible on the bank. Click on my name to read my full biography.

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