Constructing Leaders for Largemouth Bass

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Question: What strength of leader and tippet is good for largemouth bass?

Bill Nellums, via email

Fly Fishing for Bass

Judy Ledbetter photo

Answer: “Lefty Kreh and I have been going round and round on this question for years,” says John Likakis, former editor of Warmwater Fly Fishing magazine. “We both prefer a tapered leader to help turn over big bugs, but unlike me Lefty switches to a level leader in thick weeds — when he wants to avoid snagging gunk on the knots.”

For fishing deep cover, such as lily pads or submerged wood, you need a lot of pulling strength. Luckily, bass in these situations are not usually leader-shy. Likakis uses a 3-foot butt section of 30-pound-test Mason Hard Mono attached to 3 to 4 feet of 15- to 18-pound-test fluorocarbon. He attaches the tippet with a blood knot. Although many anglers are wary of attaching fluorocarbon to monofilament, Likakis says that he’s never had a problem with the connection. Mason Hard Mono is very stiff and can be hard to work with, so you might want to prebuild you leaders at home, where you can take your time and perhaps steady your hands with a cocktail.

For fishing open water, Likakis adds a middle section and doesn’t bother with fluorocarbon. Again he starts with 3 feet of 30-pound-test Mason Hard Mono, but then steps down to a 1-foot transition section of 18- to 20-pound-test monofilament before adding a 3-foot tippet of 10- to 12-pound mono. Because there’s often a lot of dirt, algae, and other slop in the water, you want a leader with few grime-grabbing bumps. (Or you can use Lefty’s level-leader system.) Before you go fishing in the weeds, coat your line-to-leader knot and any knots in the leader itself with Pliobond or a similar adhesive, which will make the knots less likely to get snagged on weeds or pick up any snot during the retrieve. For the same reason, use an improved clinch knot to tie on the fly, and be sure to trim the tag end as close as possible.