Fluorocarbon or Mono Leaders? by Chip Willimon

I went for years as a dedicated Fluorocarbon leader disciple, but I'm starting to see some advantages to going back to Mono at times too. My love affair with Fluoro started on a trip to an eastern Tennessee tailwater to fish for stripers years ago. I was rigged with Fluoro and my two buddies were not. We were all throwing fluke style baits and doing well but when the sun came up a little higher I was the only one still catching fish. I was loving it but it was driving my buddies nuts. I had forgotten about the fluoro leader until a nice fish ran me over a rock ledge and cut me off. As I was rerigging it hit me. I told my buddies what I thought the difference was. One guy changed leaders instantly the other is the laziest human being I've ever met and as typical he didn't change. The two of us that had Fluoro were then both catching while the other still wasn't getting bit. After about the 10th fish he finally said, OK give me some of that stuff.

From that moment until the last couple of years, you never saw a single one of my rods without a fluoro leader. During those years, I have also been down sizing my leaders some in highly pressured areas. When I first started fishing Islamorada we used 80 to 100 pound leader when live baiting tarpon. I have found our number of bites has gone up by dropping down to 60 and even 50 fluoro. Captain Shafter will even drop down to 40 pound leader at times to coax the tough bite.

But I started hearing some interesting things about how other good fisherman approach things. A good buddy of mine is by far the best live bait striper fisherman I know with multiple 50 pound plus fish and no telling how many in the 40's and he never uses fluoro. All these fish came from an extremely clear lake that can be really tough fishing. He only uses a smoke color mono for his main line and leader.

I have been told that Mark Krowka who has probably the best tournament record of anybody in the Florida Keys and has guided more grand slams than anybody alive only uses mono leaders for tarpon. From what I understand, he feels like the stiffness of fluorocarbon results in the hook not finding the corner of a tarpon's mouth as often. It's hard to argue with his results.

We use a lot of live and dead ladyfish for bait when fishing in the everglades and on the days you absolutely need a couple of ladyfish every single one you hook jumps off at boat side. A couple of years a ago I had my typical fluoro leader and couldn't land a lady to save my life. My buddy using the same rod and same jig but with a mono leader proceeded to boat 7 in a row before I could get one to stay connected. I really believe it was the little bit of stretch in the mono that was making the difference. It really made me wonder how many tarpon and snook have jumped off because of the stiffer fluoro leader I always use. But then would I have gotten the bite without the less visible fluoro, it's a paradox.

Captain Brian Gwilliam who is one of the best fisherman I've seen at producing fish under any conditions once told me he uses fluoro in the clear water of the keys but it's not needed in the dirty water of the glades. Over in those darker waters he uses Ande pink mono, which is what many of the Keys captains used for leaders before the advent of fluoro. This approach made a ton of sense to me. At night, cloudy days or stained waters I've started using more and more mono to get the benefits of a little stretch, and it's so much less expensive. But on bright sunny days in clearer waters I still think you will get way more bites on the fluorocarbon.

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