Shock leaders for surf fishing: When (and how) to use them

shock leader line for surf fishing

Shock leaders are often used and talked about in the surf fishing community. What are they and why are they so important?

In short, Shock leaders are a section of heavier line tied to the main line to absorb the stress produced during casting. Let’s talk more about what shock leaders are and when to use them.

What is shock leader and why is it important?

Shock leaders are needed for surf fishing to prevent your line from snapping during casting. Unlike other types of fishing, surf fishing requires heavier sinker weights for longer casting. Heavier sinkers also help keep your bait where you want it and not floating away.

The downside of using heavier sinkers is that it requires a lot of force to cast them, which can cause the line to snap. Snapping your line can be dangerous to you and anyone around you. It could also lead to your rig getting lost to the ocean permanently. And that’s no fun.

 What is the difference between a shock leader and A regular leader?

A regular leader line and a shock leader are both stronger sections of line tied to your mainline. The purpose of a regular leader line to to protect your line from abrasive objects and the sharp teeth of predator fish (like bluefish). A shock leader, on the other hand, is mainly intended to prevent your line from snapping during your case.

There are a few other differences:

Bait attachment: Instead of the main line, the baits and rigs are attached to a portion of the line while using shock leader. Whereas, when you are using regular leader, rigs and lures are attached to it.

Power: As compared to a shock leader, the regular leader is not very powerful and is prone to damage while casting. On the other hand, shock leaders are strong and bear stress without breaking. It is more stable than a regular leader.

Length: Shock leaders are longer than regular leaders. Shock leaders are usually around 30 feet, where regular leader length lies between 2-6 feet.

When do I need to use a shock leader?

Not every setup requires a shock leader. Typically, a shock leader is only needed when surf fishing with heavier sinkers and lighter weight line. If you’re using monofilament that’s 35 lbs. or less, use a shock leader. Otherwise, you’re risking snapping your line.

Related article: The best line for surf fishing

However, if you’re using braided line, which is stronger and less stretchy than monofilament, your line should be able to withstand the force of your cast.

When in doubt, go with a shock leader.

 How long should a shock leader be?

Anglers can use a shock leader of around 25-30 feet in length. The general rule is that the shock leader should be twice the length of your fishing rod AND wrap around the reel 5-6 times.

Check out our Beginner's Guide to Surf Fishing

What size should a shock leader be?

Use 10 pounds of shock leader for each ounce of lead. For example, if the weight you are using is 3 pounds, the size of shock leader would be 30 pounds.

Sinker weightShock leader weight
3 oz.30 lbs.
4 oz.40 lbs.
5 oz.50 lbs.

How to tie a shock leader

Use a double uni knot to connect your shock leader to your main line. Glyn Morgan does a great job demonstrating the double uni know in the video below.

The one downside of using a shock leader is that the extra knot introduces another potential point of failure. Get your knot right!

In a nutshell, we can’t deny the importance of shock leaders to fish safely and comfortably. The decision to go with a shock leader depends on the target fish, and fishing location.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a heavy line instead of a shock leader?

You could just use a heavier mainline instead of a shock leader, but that option has its disadvantages. The biggest problem with heavier lines is that they don’t cast as far. We’d rather go use a shock leader and get the advantages of a lighter mainline.