Tech Tricks: Tooth-proof lure leaders for toothy predators

by Gordon Macdonald •

With conditions warming up and pelagic activity on the increase over the coming months, it’s a good time to look at wire leader options for your lures.

Using wire leaders for toothy critters like mackerel and wahoo will prevent bite-offs on the strike if the fish engulfs the entirety of your lure. This is also the case for rigged swimming baits, and we will look at one of these next issue.

There are numerous types of wire available to the angler. Choosing the appropriate option can be especially important for maximising strikes and minimising bite-offs.


While any wire can reduce lost fish, some are more suitable for various uses than others. Options include single-strand and multi-strand, and each has a couple of variations. Multi-strand wires are more readily available in the fishing arena as 7-strand (1×7) or 49-strand (7×7). The more strands in the wire, the more flexible it is. Single-strand wire is either soft, flexible wire or hi-tensile (commonly referred to as piano wire).


Uncoated multi-strand wire is better for lure leaders than nylon-coated wire. Seven-strand is slightly stiffer than 49-strand but it’s more reliable during prolonged fights. Most wire is shiny silver in appearance, but some brands are available in a lower-visibility brown which is a better option, especially in hard-fished waters. You can turn any silver wire brown by heating it (tempering) to a temperature of up to around 390íC. This will not affect the strength at all, and the colour change comes about due to oxidization. I often do this to lower the reflective property of wire used on leaders for trolling.


Pre-made leaders can be used for bite protection on your offshore lures but you need to choose the quality carefully. I wouldn’t recommend a leader that wasn’t crimped as I have found that leaders with bound connections tend to come apart after a while. They are OK for lighter fishing applications, but aren’t up to the rigours of serious gamefish. The Halco branded leaders (available in multi-strand or piano wire) are one of the few readily available premade leaders that are up to the task. These can be used in the conventional way by attaching the snap to the lure, but I prefer to remove the snap and attach the lure’s split ring directly to the leader as shown.


Piano wire is a great choice for lure leaders as it is a dark colour, single-strand and inexpensive. Additionally, it can be used without the need for a crimping tool and crimps. Due to its high tensile properties, piano wire is only recommended to be used in shorter lengths as it can snap if bent several times in one spot. It is easily twisted up by hand using a wire knot called a haywire twist. There are specially designed tools for this, but it’s not hard to do it by hand.


To do the haywire twist, first pass the wire through the lure eyelet or split ring and bend it back on itself, leaving a least a 10cm tag end.


Use a pair of pliers to grip the wire close to the lure. Next, use your fingers and begin bending both strands of wire around themselves evenly to complete four or five twists (the haywire).


Bend the tag end out at 90í to the main wire and begin doing 6-8 wraps (barrel rolls) around the main section. These wraps need to be right next to each other to maximize strength.


Once you have completed these wraps, grip the tag end by hand or with your pliers and rock the entire tag end backwards and forwards in a big arc in line with the wire.


Due to its hi-tensile properties, the wire will snap off cleanly. If you were to snip this wire off with a side-cutter you would be left with a razor sharp end that would probably cause injury at some stage.


Repeat in the other end to either form a plain loop or attach a swivel to the leader. The lower leader is a 7-strand, brown wire leader which has the loop formed using a dark copper crimp. You will notice that both loops are relatively low profile which reduces air bubbles when trolled.


Attaching this loop to your leader can be done in a couple of ways. The top one is the plain wire loop, and this can be attached to a ball-bearing snap swivel that is crimped to the end of a wind-on leader. The lower one is lower profile, and the leader is simply knotted (sliding uni) to the swivel that was put on the wire leader when it was made. These small rolling swivels are exceptionally strong and create a lot less disturbance in the water than the larger snap-swivel.