Ron's Tackle Tips — High-Low Leaders

Ken Jones

Staff member
High-Low Leaders

By Ron Crandall of Ron's Reel Repair (September 1999)

Most everyone has either used or heard of high-low leaders. When using twenty pound or heavier line the results can be wonderful, but if you are using ten pound or lighter line, it can be a real test of patience to keep your hooks and bait untangled.

The problem is stiffness of the line. Obviously, the larger line is stiffer and can be used successfully in heavy water conditions. But if the water is calm and you want to use ten pound line, no matter how careful you are, the hook snell is constantly twisted around the leader, and that means no bites.

Here’s a way around the problem. The only catch is you have to tie your own (which if you are a serious angler, you’re probably doing anyway). Take out your twenty pound line and build a normal three foot High-Low leader. Now cut open the dropper loops about an eighth inch from the knot. You now have a leader with strands of line at ninety degrees, but no loops. Next, melt the ends of the line to form small balls of hard mono. Snell your hooks with ten pound line and tie them to your cut leader with melted end with a Nail or Uni knot. The melted knob of mono helps to keep the nail or uni knot from slipping. What you have created is a stiffer leader that won’t tangle as easily and still retains the lighter line near the hook where you want it.

Of course there are variables. The size of the drooper loop can be changed to lengthen the stand off distance and the length of the hook snell can be changed to suit the conditions. It is also common to do the same thing to the sinker end of your leader, so you can vary the break off strength. Doing so means you may only give away the sinker not the whole outfit.

I used this method last Wednesday fishing from shore in kelp beds. There was a one foot swell at twelve seconds and I was fishing in a heavy kelp bed with eight pound line. My setup had twenty pound leader with loops that created a stand off of about six inches when cut. Snells of about four inches with Eagle Claw size 4, L184 hooks using freshly caught mussels for bait. The results were two 15" Rock Greenling and one 13" Striped Sea Perch (in the one hour available to me). I lost one hook which broke at the uni knot and one ≤ oz bank sinker, and there was not one tangle in the line.