Introduction to Shock Leaders
The Shock Leader is one of the most important pieces of sea fishing tackle in an anglers armoury. Casting without a shock leader could be extremely dangerous. Without one, your main line could easily snap sending your weighted rig in any direction! Using a shock leader makes your casting much safer and greatly improves the distance achievable from a beach cast. Read on to find out what shock leaders are, the different types available and how to use them.
What is a Shock Leader?
When sea fishing from the beach, the angler is required to cast a baited rig past the surf to reach the deeper water where the chances of catching a fish are greater. Anglers will commonly use a 15 to 20lb main line. Any heavier and the thickness and weight of the line will become a limiting factor both in achieving distance and in the capacity of line that can be held on the spool.
If the angler were to attach his or her rig (or trace) directly to the main line it would almost certainly snap as the force applied to the line during a cast would easily exceed 20lbs. This could potentially be extremely dangerous. To allow a force greater than that which the main line can handle to be applied to the cast, a shock leader is used. A shock leader is simply a short length of heavyweight line that sits between the main line and the rig. With the shock leader in place it will absorb the full force of the cast protecting your main line from snapping.
How do I use a Shock Leader?
The shock leader is cut to a length great enough to run from the main line, 4 or 5 times around the spool of the reel, up the length of the rod with a 3 or 4 foot drop down to your rig. The shock leader is tied to the main line using a Shock Leader Knot and attached to the rig or trace using a trace link.
Now with the shock leader in place, the angler can apply a much greater force during the cast and be assured that the line will not snap.
Types of Shock Leader
There are two main types of shock leader: Tapered and Non-Tapered.
Non-tapered shock leader is normally supplied on a spool with a continuous length of about 50 metres. The angler would then cut the shock leader to the required length for his or her particular set-up. Many shock leaders can be cut from a single spool.
The disadvantage with a non-tapered shock leader is that the knot which joins the shock leader to the main line will end up being fairly large. This will add hinderence and ultimately reduce the distance of the cast as the knot passes through the guides of the rod.
The tapered shock leader overcomes this by starting with a thin diameter of say 15lbs and increasing to the full strength in a relatively short distance. This allows the shock leader knot (which is now joining two low diameter lines) to be much smaller causing less drag and allowing a smoother cast to be achieved.
Tapered shock leaders are normally supplied with 5 or so pre-cut tapered lengths to a spool. They are a little more expensive but most anglers will agree that they are well worth the extra money.
IMPORTANT: When using a tapered shock leader, be sure to wind the shock leader around the spool of the reel enough times to allow the full strength section of the line to take the force of the cast and not the weaker tapered section.
Which Strength Do I Need?
As a general rule or thumb, the strength of shock leader required can be estimated by taking the weight of the lead in ounces and multiplying this by 10 to give the strength of the shock leader in pounds.
For example, if you were casting with a 5oz lead weight you would need at least a 50lb shock leader and for a 6oz lead, a 60lb shock leader. This is obviously open to some degree of variation depending on your casting ability.
To summarise, a shock leader is a length of strong line that takes the brunt of the force applied to the line when casting. Without a shock leader your main line would easily snap and this could be very dangerous. Shock leaders can be tapered or non-tapered and the advantage with the tapered type is that you end up with a much smaller knot which passes through the guides of the rod with less drag when casting.