What is the best leader material?
This time on CARPology.net, our panel of seasoned carp anglers are debating over which is the best leader material…
Leadcore by Dave Ellyatt
“Leadcore is the leader material of choice for the majority of my fishing. The only times when I choose not to use it for my bottom bait fishing will be if I am fishing a busy water where leadcore has been ‘hammered’ (or banned!) and it could be an edge to dispense with it, or in really clear water conditions, particularly in the winter. On these odd occasions I will always use a Soft Ghost fluorocarbon leader.
“Leadcore has become hugely popular since the early nineties and I would hazard a semi-educated guess that it would be the first choice of leader material for the vast majority of carp anglers, leaving tubing, fluorocarbon, pvc-coated nylon leaders, tapered leaders and straight-through monofilament some way behind.
“So why is leadcore so widely used? Probably because it is a genuine aid to catching carp! It ticks all the boxes required for effective carp fishing: sinks and stays sunk, it’s well camouflaged, highly abrasion resistant, supple and strong and (I’m speaking of the ESP variety here as that is what I use) relatively thin and easy to splice and connect to the main line. The ESP leadcore can be made thinner still by tensioning the leader before use, the polyester stretches and contracts, therefore decreasing in diameter. By making it thinner it also becomes fractionally more supple. The hydroscopic nature of polyester also means it becomes heavier and more supple when submerged.
“Of course lead-free PTFE-based alternatives have become available in recent years and I have played with these but they just don’t impress me as much as the real thing and I don’t actually know anybody that uses them. Nylon coated leaders are relatively thick and coily and require a reasonable amount of care to straighten them out prior to use.
“Leadcore is the one leader material that is perfectly suited to any lead set-up; be it helicopter rig, lead clip, in-line or running lead, they all function perfectly well. It is easy to use, relatively cheap and highly versatile, I even use it (with the wire core removed) for my bobbin cords!"
No leader by Rob Hughes
“Back in the day when God created the earth, we didn’t have the technology that we have now so we needed leadcore and also lead-free materials for certain situations. Nowadays, in the majority of situations, we quite simply don’t. Mid-water slack lining for liners in winter maybe. Fishing against horrendous snags then possibly, but for most people’s angling, neither leadcore nor lead-free leaders are really required.
“I’ve been an advocate of fishing ‘naked’ for a significantly longer time than the Naked Chod has been in-vogue. Indeed, it was my underwater findings that led to the creation of the Naked Chod beads etc. that are now available (although I’m not claiming credit for their invention). Refer back to Strategic Carp Fishing, a book I wrote with Crowie back in 1997, and you’ll see we advocated nylon leaders back then. Why? Because you don’t usually need anything else. No knots makes a much safer set-up. No leadcore/lead-free means that your end game is much more discreet. And no fuss makes a much simpler set-up.
“If you need to use a leader then in my eyes nylon is king, especially following the creation of Illusion Trans Khaki Fluorocarbon which means you now have everything you really need. I always ask myself one thing when I am adding components to a set-up. That question is, why? If you don’t need it, don’t use it. Simple is good.”
Lead-free by Mat Woods
“A few years back, I remember a few of the Avid Carp consultants telling me during the testing of PinDown that their catch-rates had increased. During good hits of fish, the rod with the PinDown on was going more often than their usual preferred fluorocarbon leaders. Together we surmised it was probably the soft nature of the material, proving less abrasive and foreign against a fish’s body or fins than alternatives. It’s also clear to see that the material doesn’t stick up when the lead goes into softer lakebeds or weed. It follows the contours beautifully.
“I don’t think carp are particularly aware of what leaders are, but if you can make them appear as natural as possible, that helps. Too many other leader materials look like a foreign object on the bottom. Sitting up, being too stiff to follow the true contours and generally feeling quite rough to the touch rather than smooth. The lead-free materials have PTFE fibres in them, which makes them heavy and smooth as silk with equal measure. That, for me, is the future and it ticks all the correct boxes.
“I still use leadcore from time-to-time and think it’s a material for other jobs. However, with most venues having weed on the lakebed for almost all of the year now, the lead-free PinDown remains my first choice when it comes to a leader material.”
Lead-free by Martin Locke
“All areas of end tackle presentation has been moving forward in leaps and bounds in recent years, from the colours we now produce the items in, to the materials we have at our disposal.
“When we came across the Solar Contour Unleaded material around four years ago, it took us a nano second to spot the leaps, bounds and advantages of this product, whether it be the heavyweight leader sizes or the lower breaking strains, it sits on the bottom and out of harm’s way – way, way better than anything else on the market. The description I can give for this lead-free material is it behaves just like a piece of wet spaghetti! It really is something special and I honestly can’t see me ever using a different type of leader material again.
“It also has the advantages of not ‘kinking’ and therefore trapping cracked-off or broken lines, so there’s a really good (and obviously vitally important) safety aspect about the Unleaded as well.
“It knots well, splices well, has really, reall good abrasion resistance, is thick enough and soft enough not to damage the scales or ‘cheeswire’ mouths, it lays bang-on the bottom, comes in breaking strains from 15lb right up to Rainbow Lake-conquering 80lb and its two colours, Silty Black and Khaki Green blend in perfect with all lakebeds. What’s not to like?!” Seriously, just like Mat, I’m sold when it comes to a lead-free leader.”