Making Your Musky Own Leaders
Craig Sandell 2009

As most of you have read in printed periodicals and books, you should always use a solid wire steel leaders when you fish for our Musky friend. With the advent of Spectra line, some anglers are foregoing leaders.

Leaders can be bought over the counter in all sizes with and without swivels and with a variety of snaps. There is nothing worse than to be in some remote location fishing for Musky only to discover that you are short on leaders or that the leaders that you have are not quite what the conditions dictate. In this article, I will show you the tools you need to be able to make good quality leaders anywhere.

You can't make leaders without wire. Wire that is 174 pound test (.029 gauge) is a very good choice. It will not weigh down your lures and will provide that strength needed during a Musky encounter. Some folks like a leader that is more beefy. To me, it makes no sense to have a 200 pound test leader when you are using line tested at 35, 40, 50 or 80 pounds. The heavier leader will also impede the action of your lure in the water. 

You can pick up a package of 30 feet of this type of wire (shown here) for around $3.00. This amount of wire is usually enough for most Musky anglers for a season, however, it is cheap enough so you might want to get a couple of 30 ft. coils.

You will need snaps and swivels. A #5 snap is a pretty good choice since it has good strength and will not add a lot of weight to the leader. You can get #5 snaps from almost any fishing catalog. Swivels are an item that deserve a little thought. A swivel is not a solid piece of metal and represents the potential to be a "weak link" in you tackle. If you are convinced that you need a swivel, buy a good one. A good one will cost about $1.50 each, however they are made very well and worth the price.

Tools are the next order of business. In addition to round nose pliers and wire cutters, you will need a method to wrap the wire evenly to close each end of the leader. You will also need a good tool to twist the tag ends of your wire like the one pictured here.

Best American pre-made leaders in three different sizes and configurations are available from Best American Tackle...Click Here To Order Online.

You can order your own leader making kit from Best American Tackle...Click Here To Order Online.

Why should you make your own leader? You can always buy a couple if you need them. Well, that is not always true. Sometimes the local resort does not have leaders available, sometimes the local tackle shop may be out of stock or may not have the exact configuration that you have come to regard with high confidence. There is no substitute for being able to make a leader on the spot that is exactly what you want to meet a specific angling situation.

Leader Board

You use a leader board to make it easy for you to make leaders that are consistent in size and configuration but it is not necessary. Leader boards are very simple to make. You need only have a length of 2 x 4, four 2 8 penny nails, three 1 inch finishing nails, a hammer and a compound bolt cutter.

The leader board that we will make can be used to make a leader that is 7 inches, 9 inches or 11 inches. The length of 2 x 4 that you will need will be 31 inches. You don't have to have a leader board to make a leader; the board just makes it a little easier.

First Nail

Take an 8 penny nail and hammer it into the 2 x 4 approximately 2 inches from one end of the 2 x 4 so that about 2 inches of the nail remains above the board. Measure 7 inches from that nail and hammer in another 8 penny nail in line with the other. Using your compound bolt cutter, remove the head of the nails that you have just hammered into the board. (NOTE: You may want to file the cut head of the nails to remove irregular edges.)

Second nail

Now, cut a 10 inch length of leader wire. Using your round nose pliers, make a loop about 1 inches from the end of the wire. Slip the loop over the first nail that you installed and place the non-loop end of the wire next to the second nail that you installed. Holding the non-looped end of the wire against the left side of the nail, position one of the finishing nails as shown here. (Note: This finishing nail will stabilize the wire when the second leader loop is made.) [I have placed a piece of white paper under the wire so it can be seen better.] Now, take your round nose pliers and form the tag end of the wire around the nail as shown at the right.

First Nail Loop

Second Nail Tag

Remove the wire from the leader board. Using your round nose pliers, make a loop in the tag end to match the loop that you made previously. Your leader should now look like the leader shown below:

You now have a leader that is 7 inches from eyelet to eyelet and you are now ready to finish it up before we finish the leader board and make the 9 inch and the 11 inch leaders.

Wire, Clasp, Pliers, DuBro

Placing the # 5 clasp onto one of the eyelets, hold the eyelet and clasp with the round nose pliers. Position the DuBro tool per the tool instructions and close the loop by twisting the end of the wire.

Do the same with the other eyelet installing the swivel rather than a clasp.

Trim any excess tag wire and you now have a finished 7 inch leader (See Below).

Loop Pliers

You have now made your first leader using the 7 inch section of your leader board. The rest is easy. Just measure 9 inches from the last large nail you put in the leader board and then add the finishing nail just as with the 7 inch section of the leader board. Do the same for the 11 inch leader section of the leader board.

Remember that you MUST ad 3 inches to the desired leader length to be sure that you have enough tag wire with which to work. (For 7 inch leader cut 10 inches of wire, for 9 inch leader cut 12 inches of wire, for 11 inch leader cut 14 inches of wire.)

A word of encouragement. Most people mess up the first couple of leaders so don't get discouraged. In reality, the only thing that you are wasting is a little very inexpensive wire and some of your time.

Best American pre-made leaders in three different sizes and configurations are available from Best American Tackle...Click Here To Order Online.

You can order your own leader making kit from Best American Tackle...Click Here To Order Online.