When it comes to fishing with braid, it’s imperative that shock leaders are a part of your rig. However, they are often overlooked and this can lead to lost fish and lost lures and baits when casting. If you’re wondering what a shock leader is you can be forgiven for not knowing – while it’s commonplace among many anglers, there are many who aren’t aware of their advantages. Shock leaders are different from a normal leader in both their construction and application. You should think of a shock leader as an extension of your braid and pre-rig all your rods with a shock leader of equal or greater breaking strain. The best knot to use when tying your braid to a shock leader is the FG knot.
A shock leader is very different from the 2-4 feet of leader you tie on before your hook or lure. It should be used in long lengths of about one and a half to two rod lengths and protects your delicate mainline and offers shock absorption; however, with a quality shock leader you won’t lose any notable sensitivity from the braid. As braid offers minimal to zero stretch, the shock leader is there (as the name suggests) to absorb the shock when casting heavy weights, when a fish strikes and to provide shock absorption during the fight. A shock leader also provides a better visual presentation of both lures and baits as the highly visible braid is further away from your bait or lure.
I first found the need for a shock leader when fishing for gummy sharks in the surf back in the early 2000s. Not only did I need it for abrasion resistance against the sand, rocks and weed of the surf, it was necessary when casting out big baits and six-ounce sinkers.
How is shock leader different?
Shock leader is a supple and high-quality monofilament that is different in its construction from a standard monofilament leader as it’s designed to be soft, so when tying FG or PR knots the braid bites in for a strong connection. The reason they need to be high quality materials is that soft and abrasion resistance don’t go together, but in the case of a purpose-made shock leader they should achieve this. It should also have a high breaking strain for its diameter. The beauty of braid is how thin it is and its ability to cut through water and current without water flow causing a bow in the line (or minimal resistance), and while a shock leader does somewhat take away from this, if it’s a quality leader it will be thin enough that these effects are minimal.
The first shock leader I ever used and the one I still predominantly use to this day is Sunline NY System Shock Leader, and after almost 20 years of use from 6lb through to 80lb it’s never let me down. It’s a purpose-made shock leader that knots beautifully to braid, is soft and tough and has a forgiving stretch. I also use Sunline Big Game Shock Leader, Varivas Shock Leader, and Gosen W Mono. These brands all possess those attributes of softness but with good abrasion resistance and excellent knot tying and strength.
Recently Seaguar released Fluorocarbon shock leaders, which offer the high abrasion resistance and low visibility of fluoro but with the stretch and shock absorption similar to monofilament. I’m yet to use these but we will be testing them out for the mag shortly.
Shock Leader Application
Shock leader should always be used when high drag pressures are used or when fishing over grounds where abrasion resistance is required. In fact, there aren’t many applications where I don’t use them. They are best used with livebait and dead bait rigs and when trolling, and should be placed between the braid and your main leader.
They also have a place when jigging and casting; while almost all anglers use a leader in this situation, the use of an actual monofilament shock leader is often the better choice. Not only is it the quality of leader you use, but the length is also important, and a short leader that doesn’t come through the guides won’t offer the same shock absorption as a longer one that’s more than a rod length.
As a rule of thumb, match the breaking strain of the shock leader to the braid, so 80lb shock leader to 80lb braid. However, if you’re fishing, say, 60lb mainline braid in the surf and you’re casting 8oz of weight, bump the shock leader to 80lb, working off the rule of 10lb of shock leader for every ounce of weight.
Big bait anglers casting large swimbaits and glidebaits for Murray cod need shock leaders to prevent bust-offs when casting, and for the shock absorption of the big hit from a fish. They’re also often casting amongst timber where the abrasion resistance is highly beneficial. Not all low-profile guides of overhead swimbait rods allow the FG knot to pass through with heavy leaders, so this should be taken into consideration when choosing a rod.
There really isn’t a style of fishing where shock leaders aren’t beneficial. You can employ them on light 3lb gear when fishing for trout through to the heaviest gear you’ll use. Start using shock leaders in your set-up and you’ll land more fish and lose less gear.