FISHING TIP OF THE WEEK: Wind-on Leaders vs. Snap Swivels
Photo: Wind-ons allow for more complete control. Note the spliced section of orange braid wound onto the reel.
When big-game fishing, heavy leaders often become necessary for a couple of reasons: to prevent the fish from breaking or chafing through the leader under the duress of the fight, and also to allow the wireman or angler to better control the fish at boat-side. You should always use the lightest leader you can get away with to encourage more strikes, but you must also make a fundamental decision about how the leader gets attached to the main line. We will assume that in either scenario, a section of doubled line (Bimini twist, Australian Plait, spider hitch, etc.) has been tied into the bitter end of the main line and we’ll be attaching the leader to that via one of these methods.
The old-school method of attaching leader to line involved using a sturdy snap swivel to connect the two. You simply tie the swivel onto the double line, usually with an offshore swivel knot, crimp a loop into the upper end of the leader, and snap the two together. Proponents of this method point out that it’s the strongest, most reliable way to go with a very low failure rate. But you are limited by the length of the leader you’ve rigged in terms of bringing the fish close to the boat, and it requires the wireman to physically pull the fish to boat-side by grabbing the leader the last few feet to either harvest or release it.
Wind-on leaders attach to the double line loop-to-loop so that the entire leader can be wound right through the guides and onto the reel. A section of hollow braided line is spliced onto the leader on one end, with a loop spliced into the braid on the upper end. These two splices form a smooth section that easily passes though rod guides, unlike a swivel which lodges in the rod tip.
Proponents of wind-ons correctly point out that it gives the crew greater control of a fish during the end game. But critics point out that splices can fail under heavy pressure, losing fish. With a wind-on setup, it’s critical to create the splices carefully to make sure that doesn’t happen, and in reality the failure rate is very low.
Either way you go, rig using the components (crimps, hollow braid, etc.) that precisely match your leader size to maximize your chances for success.
John Brownlee is the host of Anglers Journal Television, and the former editor-in-chief of Marlin and Salt Water Sportsman magazines.