Do You Need a Leader to Bass Fish?

Fishing involves a lot of factors – purchasing the proper rod with the appropriate power and action for the specific species of fish that you want to catch, learning various fishing techniques, etc. But if you’re still failing to catch as many fish as you would like, should you consider getting an appropriate leader?

You need a leader to bass fish, unless you’re faced with a heavy cover or are using conspicuous lures. It would help if you had one as it increases the number of fish you catch while protecting the mainline. Using a good-quality leader saves time and money. 

If you want to learn more about what a leader is, why it is so vital to catching bass, and the different conditions you should be using it in, keep reading. 

What Is a Leader?

A leader refers to a shorter piece of line tied to the very end of the mainline. You can use some knots to make this connection, such as the Double Uni Knot, the Albright Special Knot, a Blood Knot, etc. 

Here is how to tie the double uni knot:

How to tie the albright special knot:

How to tie a blood knot:

But why buy a separate piece of line and waste money when you can use the mainline instead? 

Why You Need a Leader to Bass Fish

Here are the key reasons why a leader is important in bass fishing:

  • Visibility. A leader line is made up of unique materials to make it less visible to fish. As bass relies heavily on their eyesight to catch prey, they will avoid fishing lines if they see them. As a result, buying a good quality leader line is imperative to catching a lot of basses. 
  • Protection. As the leader line is at the very end of the rod, it protects the mainline. If the hook or leader line gets caught, the leader line will suffer any damages in the mainline. 

Types of Leader Lines

Standard Monofilament Leader

This is a single line of thinly spun thread. This type of leader is relatively abrasion-resistant, which comes in handy given bass’ sharp teeth, and it is rather cheap. 

However, it also absorbs water, which is a problem if you’re trying to use a surface lure because it will sink that lure. It also reflects sunlight, making it visible to fish like bass, which will thus avoid it to a greater extent than fluorocarbon. 

Fluorocarbon Monofilament Leader

Fluorocarbon monofilament leader is similar to the standard version, except for the fact that it has enhanced properties. This leader absorbs little water and does not reflect sunlight, giving it the appearance of invisibility in water. It is also more abrasion-resistant than the standard version and has less stretch to it, resulting in longer shelf life. 

It is more sensitive to smaller bites; however, the bass is generally a large fish, so it is not very important. Despite this, due to being an enhanced version of the standard leader, the fluorocarbon version is significantly more expensive. 

Should My Leader Be ‘Heavier’ Than My Main Line? 

This depends on your setting. Suppose you have decided to set your rod up very well with a heavy sinker, glass beads, and other materials, and you’re fishing in conditions where there’s a probability of your line becoming tangled up in anything. In that case, your leader line should be lighter than your mainline. 

For example, you could use a 65 lb mainline with a 50 lb leader line. This means that if you do get any problems, your leader line will snap, and you will be able to get all of your paraphernalia back smoothly with no issues. Using a leader line also means that your mainline stays protected, and it will allow you to re-cast much more quickly.

On the other hand, if you plan to do a lot of heavy fishing in relatively clear conditions, use a heavier and thicker test leader line. Most bass fish have sharp teeth that will wear away at the leader line if you use a thinner, lighter line, and despite having caught the hook, a lot of fish will get away. 

Can You Get Away With Not Using a Leader?

It is technically possible to bass fish without a leader, but using a leader will greatly increase your chances of catching a fish. For example, you could choose to forego a leader when you’re using specific reaction-style bait or a fast-moving lure. This is because the brightly colored lure is moving at a greater speed than the duller line or produces a great deal of noise that keeps the fish’s attention on the lure and not the line. 

Here are some instances of lures where you might not need to use a leader:

Preceding a leader also depends on your style of fishing. If you’re doing a straight cast for one of the above-stated lures, you can choose not to use a leader. However, if you’re using just a braided line and trying to jig it, it won’t work well, if at all, because the braid is limp. 

If you’re fishing in very heavy cover, with a great number of vines, you also don’t need a leader because the fish will most likely not be able to see it anyway. 

You need some experience and knowledge related to fishing before you can make an informed decision as to whether it is possible to forego a leader in a specific instance. As a result, if you are a beginner or you don’t have the know-how yet, you are strongly advised to stick with using a leader all the time. 

However, as your technique improves and you become more confident in your fishing, don’t be afraid to go without a leader. It will help you become a more versatile fisherman. 

What Length of Leader Do You Need?

Typically, most leader lengths are from 8 to 10 ft. You can go shorter or longer than that, depending on a range of factors.

 Here are some of those factors:

  • Weightless rigs. If you’re using weightless rigs to catch your bass, it can be challenging to get a solid hookset. Using a 6 to 10 ft. leader helps overcome this obstacle. 
  • Flipping. If you’re flipping, you should be using a leader that is 2.5 to 3.5 feet long. Any shorter and the fish will be able to see your line. 
  • Regular bait-casting presentations. These include pitching, jigging, or regular casting. In these situations, a 5 to 9 ft line would be best. 
  • Finesse fishing. For finesse fishing, like using long spinning rods for smallmouth fishing, leaders can go anywhere from 15 to 40 ft. long. Once the leader falls through suspended fish and the bait goes below them, they will follow, but not if they see the braided mainline. You need a longer leader so that you can go down deeper vertically and get a fish.


When you go fishing, you should be using a clear monofilament leader. You shouldn’t labor under the misconception that a leader is only for beginners because it is vital for both amateurs and professionals. 

You should attach this leader to a braided mainline. A braided line usually has a thinner diameter than a standard line, and you will thus be able to use a heavier line and consequently bag heavier bass fish without having to buy a new rod. However, because the braid is very conspicuous, you should be using a leader with it unless you know specifically when and why not to.

When you’re using a leader, you also don’t need to worry about having it pass through the eyelet of the reel and breaking the connections because it won’t happen no matter how often you do it.

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