Leader Wars: Mono Vs. Flu­oro

Which should you choose? How about both!

Saltwater Sportsman - - Table Of Contents / Departments - GE­ORGE POVEROMO


Is fluoro­car­bon worth the ex­tra money over ny­lon monofil­a­ment for lead­ers? My an­swer is a re­sound­ing yes. It’s a high-per­for­mance ma­te­rial that re­sults in more bites and catches. But don’t take my word alone as gospel.

The most widely pro­moted ad­van­tage of fluoro­car­bon is its re­frac­tive in­dex, which nearly matches that of wa­ter. In clear wa­ter, sun­light passes through flu­oro with­out re­fract­ing. There­fore, no light dis­tor­tions ex­poses the leader to alert fish. Yet in many sce­nar­ios, wa­ter clar­ity isn’t a fac­tor. And in murky or darker wa­ter, fluoro­car­bon’s big­gest over­all ad­van­tage is abra­sion re­sis­tance ver­sus that of ny­lon monofil­a­ment of the same break­ing strength.


Tom Daf­fin spe­cial­izes in tro­phy striped bass, tau­tog and tuna out of Cape May, New Jer­sey. In fact, at 25 pounds, 4 ounces, the cur­rent New Jer­sey state-record tog was caught aboard his boat, and he has two ad­di­tional 20-plus-pound togs to his credit. More on his tog­gin’ in a bit.

When trolling for stripers, Daf­fin sticks with ny­lon mono lead­ers. “As a char­ter cap­tain, it’s about sav­ing money,” says Daf­fin. “Plus, it’s not like we’re fish­ing in clear wa­ter here; when our nearshore wa­ters are clear, we have about 8 feet of vis­i­bil­ity. Our striped bass aren’t that sen­si­tive to lead­ers, es­pe­cially on the troll.”

Daf­fin gen­er­ally trolls Mojo lures in pairs, rigged on 100-pound mono lead­ers on small con­ven­tional reels filled with 65-pound braid.

“The heavy mono is ex­tremely durable, and its stretch pro­vides shock ab­sorp­tion. Fluoro­car­bon doesn’t stretch or ab­sorb shock. On the Mo­jos, we com­monly hook and fight two big bass on one same out­fit. There’s a lot of stress when two 30-pound fish op­pose each other, and the mono ab­sorbs the stress, re­sult­ing in fewer pulled hooks and ter­mi­nal-tackle fail­ures.”

Mono lead­ers are also Daf­fin’s ticket for suc­cess when chunk­ing in Delaware Bay. “For a long time we used 60-pound mono lead­ers, but the dog sharks were prob­lem­atic,” says Daf­fin. “Rather than keep los­ing hooks, we bumped up to 100-pound mono lead­ers. It solved our cut­off is­sues, and it didn’t af­fect our striper bites.”


When it comes to tog and tuna, Daf­fin switches to fluoro­car­bon. As men­tioned ear­lier, be­cause it has a re­frac­tive in­dex nearly iden­ti­cal to wa­ter, fluoro­car­bon is less no­tice­able and boasts higher abra­sion re­sis­tance over ny­lon mono. There­fore, for tuna chunk­ing and pluck­ing big togs, it pro­duces more bites and landed fish.

“Flu­oro is nec­es­sary for pulling up big togs around wrecks,” says Daf­fin. “Its tough fin­ish stands up a lot bet­ter than mono when dragged over a wreck.” Daf­fin uses 65-pound braid, then adds a 12- to 15-foot top shot of 60-pound mono for shock ab­sorp­tion, fol­lowed by a 12- to 15-inch leader of 60-pound fluoro­car­bon. “You wouldn’t think togs are leader-sen­si­tive, but I’ve fished both flu­oro and mono lead­ers of the same strength side by side as a test, and the flu­oro pro­duced bet­ter catch ra­tios.”


In South Florida and clear, blue Caribbean wa­ters, the choice is all about abra­sion re­sis­tance for Jef­frey Lie­der­man, a team mem­ber aboard the 63-foot Spencer Sand Man. “Yes, the prop­er­ties of fluoro­car­bon make it harder for fish to no­tice it, but we choose it pri­mar­ily for its su­pe­rior abra­sion re­sis­tance,” says Lie­der­man.

“When live-bait­ing for sail­fish, that tough­ness lets us scale down in leader strength. So, in­stead of 50-pound lead­ers, we’re us­ing 40- and even 30-pound lead­ers. And be­cause the di­am­e­ter of flu­oro is smaller than mono of the same strength, and our leader di­am­e­ters are fur­ther re­duced when we scale down, that makes them even more dif­fi­cult for fish to see.”

Lie­der­man claims they’ve also scaled way down on their mar­lin lead­ers. “We’re not in­ter­ested in long, drawn-out fights, but rather get­ting to that leader as quickly as we can to score a le­gal re­lease. So, we’re us­ing a lot of 80- and 100-pound fluoro­car­bon lead­ers on our 30-pound stand-up tackle. The smaller-di­am­e­ter lead­ers get more bites, and they hold up well due to flu­oro’s tough­ness. Plus, with 30-pound-class gear, we’re not putting the heat on a fish that we would with heav­ier mar­lin tackle. What’s also neat about these lighter fluoro­car­bon lead­ers is that they’re very ef­fi­cient when there’s a mix of both blue and white mar­lin.”

Is there a dis­ad­van­tage to us­ing fluoro­car­bon for off­shore pitch-bait­ing and trolling? When bait-fish­ing with cir­cle hooks and 200-plus-pound lead­ers, Lie­der­man says the stiff­ness of fluoro­car­bon could in­ter­fere with a suc­cess­ful hookup, if it pre­vents the cir­cle hook from rolling into the cor­ner of a fish’s mouth as ef­fec­tively as a more sup­ple mono leader. “But that would be about it,” says Lie­der­man. “It’s all flu­oro for our off­shore fish­ing.”


Mono lead­ers do have an off­shore niche. For in­stance, a mono leader of 10 to 20 feet is ideal for bail­ing school dol­phin. The sup­ple­ness of mono lets the line roll smoothly off the spool and through the guides, pro­mot­ing cast­ing dis­tances. And when a fish is flipped in the boat, sim­ply re­move the hook, cut off any dam­aged leader por­tion, retie the hook and cast an­other bait. With a long leader to work with, there’s no time wasted rerig­ging shorter lead­ers.

Old-time yel­low­tail­ers still swear by straight monofil­a­ment line or mono lead­ers. Be­cause ny­lon mono is por­ous and ab­sorbs wa­ter, it has a near-neu­tral buoy­ancy. There­fore, it sinks more slowly than fluoro­car­bon, which does not ab­sorb wa­ter. A yel­low­tail bait on a mono leader drifts at the same rate as the chum. And the more that bait blends in with the chum flow, the more yel­low­tails it fools.

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