I deal with fishermen every day and one common thread I see is the desire of each and every one of us to locate some special ingredient that will catch more and bigger fish for us. Our competitive nature encourages us to improve our fishing in order to be just a little bit better than everyone else. This can be a personally rewarding and sometimes profitable experience just to pull into the docks after a hard day of fishing and then be celebrated as having the "top hook" for that day. That's why it surprises me so much that there actually is a "secret weapon" that has been around for several years now but I find that it is way underutilized by so many anglers.
- What is Fluoro-Carbon?
- Fluoro-Carbon is a line and leader that is similar but not the same as the old standard monofilament. There are some substantial differences. Monofilament is actually nylon based derivative of glass that is molded and then stretched to a particular diameter and shape. This gives it its limpness and pound test characteristics.
- Fluoro-Carbon is a hard polyvinylidene fluoride plastic that is formed with a process involving extreme heat and abnormally hazardous working conditions. Because this material is stiff and not porous like monofilament, it sinks faster and does not absorb water. This allows it to maintain its same pound test in nearly all fishing conditions. It has a hard and stiff quality, which would make it definitely undesirable as a casting line, but makes it extremely abrasion resistant as a leader.
Besides all of its other top qualities as a leader, the real secret to the success of fluoro-carbon is that its light refracting properties are much closer to that of water than standard monofilament. What this actually means is that to a fish it is less visible. On a day when the fish are "snapping up" everything in sight, fluoro-carbon may only provide you with a good quality leader that won't fail from abrasion or weaken with use. On a day where every single strike is critical, a less visible leader can mean the difference between a couple fish and no fish.
Why is so little known about Fluoro-Carbon among the U.S. sport fishing industry? The developing Japanese company, Mitsubishi Chemical, is not a fishing products manufacturer. Mitsubishi actually developed this product about ten years ago for the Japanese commercial fishing industry. They then licensed its promotion and sale to a couple of other Japanese companies that were already involved in fishing products. Those companies are Momoi and Jinkai. These companies did their best in promotion of this product, but five or six years ago the U.S. fishing industry in general was having a difficult time accepting a line that cost nearly one dollar a foot, no matter how good a product it might be. The outrageous price was due to several reasons like the high cost of manufacturing this new product along with the strong Japanese yen (at that time) and the high exchange rate.
All these factors kept the American fisherman from becoming familiar with a product that is truly superior. Since its introduction, many of the big name international fishing tackle manufacturers have noticing what a great product this actually is. They ran into many problems developing their own versions. Mitsubishi has an international patent for the process. Not to be outdone, the other world manufacturers decided to develop similar products that they could then call fluoro-carbon. The raw material for fluoro-carbon line and leaders is called fluoro polymers and is provided by Mitsubishi. The actual manufacturing process is determined by the individual manufacturers.
How can I tell if I'm getting the good stuff?
The end result has been that the market is being assaulted with a barrage of similar fluoro-carbon line and leader products that don't have the same proven success record. This has its good and bad sides. The good side is that it has forced the price down on all fluoro-carbon. The bad side is that when you purchase it, you don't know if you are getting the best product for your money. My suggestion is that in order to be sure your getting the best product stick with one of the three original brands that still come directly from the original successful process. These brands are Momoi, Seaguar, Jinkai and Tuff Stuff which are all Japanese made.
Even with the price being down somewhat from what it was a few years ago, it is still expensive. It averages from 50 cents to 60 cents per foot in the sizes over 100# test to 15 cents to 30 cents a foot for sizes under 60# test. If you are forced to rig longer leaders, a 15 foot leader in 150# test might cost ten dollars per rig for just the leader alone. Compare this to between one and two dollars for a good standard monofilament leader.
How can I get the most out of this product?
This is when you can become creative. Instead of using this material by making the standard old long expensive leaders, I have devised my new two-leader system for offshore trolling. The rear leader (with the lure) is made with fluoro-carbon and is only three feet long. The front leader is whatever length you need in order to have your desired total leader length. The front leader is made with standard monofilament. This gives you the invisibility and abrasion resistance where you need it the most, near the lure.
Don't stop there. The front leader and the rear leader need to be attached with a loop and a snap swivel. This means that you will have a very visible piece of hardware (the swivel and loop) three feet in front of your lure. You can overcome this and improve the look and fish attraction capabilities of the front leader by sliding a small lure, squid, duster or octopus skirt down over the swivel. While you're doing that, rig a series of five or six of the same thing the entire length of that front leader. This will look like your lure is chasing or following some small baitfish and this can really turn on the aggression factor in a predator.
Before a day of fishing with the two-leader system you will need enough of the front leaders for all lines plus a couple more for replacements when necessary. Remember that when you catch a fish with this system, you will only need to unsnap the rear three foot leader and throw the fish in the cooler. Then snap on another small rear leader in its place and the front leader remains in action. If you are fishing with lures, ballyhoo or a combination this also means that you will have smaller leader coils in the cooler and a simpler system to keep untangled and ready to fish.
Can I use Fluoro-Carbon in my live bait king fishing?
Live bait fishing is one area that this product really excels. I began rigging fluoro-carbon for king mackerel fishing about four years ago. For me at least, kings have always tended to be a little leader shy, especially big ones and especially when live baiting. Unfortunately, even a tough material like fluoro-carbon doesn't always hold up to a king's line snipping teeth. The rig that I have devised for kings uses both fluoro-carbon and single strand stainless wire.
First I rig the wire leader exactly like many standard king leaders are made using two small Mustad model 774 #4 treble hooks and #5 stainless wire. I also always use one of my flashy Zingers slid down on the bait's nose for added sparkle and bait visibility.
I then cut the wire at about one foot in front of the hooks and form a very small loop in the front (see diagram #2). I put a very tiny piece of duct or electrical tape over the wraps in the front loop and then snell my five foot fluoro-carbon leader to that loop. Add a good quality small swivel to the front of the fluoro-carbon using an improved clinch knot. The tape is to keep the fluoro-carbon from being scraped or cut by the wire during the snelling process. The resulting rig has been an awesome producer on big kings and works well even when the fishing day has been slow!
If you are not already using fluoro-carbon in your fishing, you are making a big mistake. In my opinion, not using fluoro-carbon is even more costly than using it. By the time you have spent the amount of money it takes for a fishing day offshore, why would you even consider using anything less than all the best "secret weapons" available?