Leaders for Walleye Fishing

fluorocarbon line for walleye
fluorocarbon line for walleye

Walleye fishing is a popular pastime for many working-class anglers. One key to success is using the right leader. This guide will help you choose the best leaders for walleye fishing, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced angler.

The Best Leaders for Walleye Fishing

1. Berkley Vanish – A great fluorocarbon line that is abrasion-resistant and works well on the Great Lakes
2. Kast King Fluorokote – This is a heavy-duty line that works great for walleye leaders
3. Seaguar Blue Label – This is a proven leader material

What is a walleye fishing leader?

Before we talk about the best leaders for walleye, let’s understand what a leader is:

A fishing leader is a length of line between your main fishing line and the lure or bait. It serves several purposes:

  1. Protects your main line from sharp teeth
  2. Reduces visibility to fish
  3. Provides extra strength when fighting big fish
  4. Helps lures move more naturally in the water

Why do you use leaders for walleye fishing?

Walleye have unique teeth that make them tough on fishing gear. Let’s look at why:

Walleye teeth

Walleye have two main types of teeth:

  1. Sharp canines in the lower jaw
  2. Smaller teeth in the upper jaw

Here’s a breakdown of walleye teeth:

Tooth typeLocationPurpose
CaninesLower jawGrab and hold prey
Upper teethUpper jawMove food for swallowing

Walleye teeth can easily be cut through weak fishing lines. That’s why a good leader is so important for walleye fishing.

Choosing the right leader length

The length of your leader is important for walleye fishing. Here’s a simple guide:

Fishing methodRecommended leader length
Casting18-24 inches
Jigging12-18 inches
Trolling3-9 feet

Remember, these are just starting points. You may need to adjust based on water clarity and fish behavior.

Leader strength for walleye

Choosing the right leader strength is crucial. If you are casting a 10-12 lb. fluorocarbon leader will do. While trolling with braid it is common to use a fluorocarbon leader as well. Most will use a 15-20 lb. leader for trolling. For big walleye or areas with lots of rocks, you might want to go up to 25 lb test.

Best times to use leaders for walleye

Leaders are useful for walleye fishing year-round, but they’re especially important in certain situations:

Spring fishing

In spring, walleye often move to shallow water to spawn. Use leaders to:

  • Protect your line from rocks and debris
  • Present smaller baits without spooking fish
  • When using braided main line for jigging using a leader is essential

Summer deep-water fishing

During hot months, walleye often move to deeper, cooler water. Leaders help by:

  • Getting your bait down faster
  • Providing abrasion resistance against rocks and zebra mussels

Fall trolling

Trolling is popular for fall walleye. Leaders are crucial for:

  • Preventing line twist
  • Allowing lures to run at the right depth
  • Protecting against bite-offs when fish are aggressive

Tips for using leaders effectively

To get the most out of your walleye leaders, try these tips:

  1. Check your leader often for damage
  2. Retie your leader if you notice any weak spots
  3. Use a leader that matches the watercolor when possible
  4. Try different leader lengths to see what works best
  5. Use a swivel to connect your main line to the leader to reduce line twist

Common mistakes with walleye leaders

Avoid these common errors when using leaders for walleye:

  1. Using a leader that’s too thick and visible
  2. Forgetting to check your leader for damage
  3. Using a leader that’s too short for the fishing method
  4. Not matching your leader to the water conditions
  5. Using a low-quality leader that’s prone to breaking

DIY walleye leaders

Making your leaders can save money and let you customize your setup. Here’s a simple way to make a basic walleye leader:

Materials needed:

  • Leader material
  • Swivel
  • Hook or lure
  • Scissors or line clippers


  1. Cut a piece of leader material to your desired length
  2. Tie one end to a swivel using a Palomar knot
  3. Tie the other end to your hook or lure using an improved clinch knot
  4. Trim any excess line

Walleye fishing techniques that benefit from leaders

Certain walleye fishing techniques work especially well with leaders:

1. Jigging

A short leader helps when jigging by:

  • Reducing visibility near the jig
  • Providing some shock absorption

2. Live bait rigging

Leaders are great for live bait because they:

  • Let the bait move naturally
  • Protect against bite-offs

3. Trolling with crankbaits

When trolling, leaders:

  • Help crankbaits run at the right depth
  • Provide abrasion resistance against teeth and structure

Environmental Factors Affecting Leader Choice

Different fishing environments call for different leaders:

EnvironmentLeader recommendation
Clear lakesThin, less visible leader
Stained riversSlightly heavier leader
Rocky areasAbrasion-resistant leader
Heavy vegetationStrong leader with good knot strength

Seasonal changes in leader selection

As the seasons change, so should your leader choice:


  • Use lighter leaders as walleye are often in shallow, clear water
  • Choose less visible leaders for spooky fish


  • Switch to slightly heavier leaders as fish move deeper
  • Consider longer leaders for trolling techniques


  • Use stronger leaders as Walleye becomes more aggressive
  • Choose leaders who can prevent bite-offs


  • If ice fishing, use shorter, lighter leaders
  • Pick leaders that perform well in cold water