Regardless of whether your fishing adventures involve a small center console or an 80-something foot battlewagon, a wind-on leader may be the most important piece of tackle aboard the boat. Small boats, simply by their design, have limited sized crews of only two or three people and with one person at the helm and another as the designated angler, there's often only one other person onboard to handle the gaffing/releasing process. Though a large vessel offers ample room for multiple crew members to assist with all cockpit work during the battle, a wind-on leader can limit the chances of the wireman getting tangled up when a big blue girl is at the boat.Employing a wind-on leader system aboard your boat can provide an extra measure of safety for everyone onboard. Those not familiar with the system are probably wondering what the heck a wind-on leader is. Quite simply, it's a length of heavy monofilament spliced into a short length of Dacron with a loop on the end that is connected to the line on the reel with a loop-to-loop connection. Wind-on leaders eliminate the need for double lines and 15-foot monofilament, wire or cable lure/bait leaders.With this system the heavy monofilament of the wind-on leader is reeled through the guides onto the reel while a shorter version of the lure/bait leader allows the fish to be cranked right to the boat.When the swivel, in most cases a ball bearing snap or Aussie-type connecting the windon leader to the lure/bait rig, nears the rod tip, your quarry is just a few feet from the boat ready for the gaff or release.With a wind-on leader there's little reason for the wireman to grab the leader other than to remove the hook.When utilizing a wind-on leader system, several steps need to be followed when setting up rods/reels and tackle. Since this leader system involves winding monofilament of up to 600-pound test onto the reel, sufficient space needs to be left on the reel to accommodate the heavy monofilament. Rod guides must also be of sufficient size to accommodate the monofilament portion of the wind-on leader as well. If you prefer custom built rods, specify guides designed for use wind-on leaders based on the pound-class rod being ordered. For example, rods designed for 80 or 130-sized reels should be able to handle up to 600 pound-test leaders through the guides while 50-pound outfits should allow up to 400-pound test leaders through the guides. Light-tackle outfits utilizing 20- or 30-pound test seldom have a problem with monofilament leaders of up to 200-pound test. Windon guides are also available from several manufacturers while many off-the-rack rods are also available with wind-on guides.While experienced crews build their own wind-on leaders, tackle shops and catalogs can provide more information on a wind-on leader system to fit your needs.Connecting a wind-on leader to the standing line of a reel requires the use of a double-line of two or three feet with a Bimini Twist. The wind-on leader is then attached to the double line with a double or triple loop-to-loop connection. Cranking the leader evenly onto the spool of the reel add a swivel stop before swagging the swivel to the monofilament of the wind-on leader. The swivel stop prevents the crimp from jamming into the roller on the tip-top, which could result in a broken line. Use a waterproof marker to mark the Dacron section of the leader to indicate the breaking strength of the monofilament so the correct size crimp is utilized. This mark also indicates to the crew what poundtest leader they're working with when a big fish is on.With a wind-on leader bait/lure leaders over eight feet long are ineffective and not recommended. Standard 12- to 15-foot leaders will put your quarry out of reach since once the swivel touches the rod tip someone still needs to wire the fish and get it boatside, thus defeating the purpose of the wind-on leader. A short leader of six- to eight-feet is all that's required since the heavy monofilament section of the wind-on leader provides plenty of chafe protection even if a fish brushes up against the leader.Wind-on leaders are an important piece of equipment that can be used on the inshore grounds or the offshore canyons and everywhere in between. Whether you're trolling for striped bass or blue marlin or anything in between, by using wind-on leaders and modifying your bait/lure leaders accordingly you can lessen the chance of injury to crewmembers and will land more fish. Z.G. 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