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April 10, 2014

Metal Logic

Weigh out the pros and cons when it comes down
 to the wire.

We were on a roll, having bested a sailfish double-header under ­lackluster conditions. After Bill Harpling and Steve Grigsby both released their first-ever sailfish, we ran inside, anchored over a ledge in 35 feet of water, hung a block of chum over the gunwale, and began pitching out live pilchards to draw in Spanish mackerel.

Harpling’s luck continued, as a big kingfish blasted his blue runner under a ­balloon float. I was a bit concerned about the 10-inch trace of 20-pound-test Terminator ­titanium leader, but he boated the king, and on post-battle inspection, the titanium leader looked like new. 

Metallic leaders are often necessary to avoid cutoffs from Spanish and king mackerel, bluefish, wahoo, ­barracuda and sharks. And like fabricating any piece of terminal tackle, the trick lies in selecting the leader material and strength that will draw the most strikes, and remain intact for the duration of the fight. Given the choices of single-strand wire, Sevenstrand, Steelon (nylon-coated Sevenstrand), and premium-priced titanium, which is really the best for large, nearshore toothy pelagics on light tackle? 


Regarded as the “fluorocarbon” of metallic leaders, titanium costs the most. ­However, its diminutive diameters minimize its visibility, and it is more kinkproof and ­cutproof than other metallics. Single-strand nickel titanium does have some stretch, and is therefore more forgiving (advantageous with lighter strands). It is also quick to rig using clinch and Albright knots.

I’ve known about titanium since it entered the market, but was exposed to it only last year by Capt. Skip Dana of Pompano Beach, Florida, an ­accomplished tournament competitor and owner of the Fish City Pride drift boat. We used it during a TV shoot, and did very well on sailfish and kingfish, one of which weighed 42 pounds. Since my initial experience, I’ve favored titanium over light single-strand when live-baiting.

“Titanium is toothproof, and it doesn’t corrode,” says Dana, “I’ve had titanium leaders on kingfish jigs for a couple of years, and they’re fine. When we tournament fish, seconds count; after a catch, we strive to get a fresh bait back out immediately. Single-strand wire is time consuming to rig, but I can fabricate a titanium leader in seconds. And nine times out of 10, it’s fine after catching a fish; it doesn’t kink or get those curlicues like the single-strand wire usually does.”

Days before this writing, Dana scored an 85-pound wahoo on a live ­goggle-eye using a 30-pound-test ­Terminator titanium leader. “The hook was down the wahoo’s throat,” said Dana. “We pulled it out, and rebaited using the same hook and leader; the titanium leader was fine.”

Dana uses around 3 feet of 40-pound-test Terminator, and an 80-pound Spro swivel to join the ­titanium leader to his ­nonmetallic ­wind-on leader. He uses in-line circle hooks exclusively, and has been ­experimenting with ­dropping to 30-pound-test titanium with good results and no bite-throughs. Even his vertical jigs utilize ­titanium leaders.

As much as I use and rely on titanium, I have to say, bulky knots are the norm (though they’ll hold, the knots won’t fully cinch down). Also, tag ends can’t be simply and cleanly broken off, as with single strand.