Q Over the years I have had varied success as far as leaders are concerned, but it is difficult to find how-to information on tying a proper leader for tarpon fishing. Can you recommend a source that gives detailed step-by-step instructions for tying these difficult leaders?
I think the description and drawings in Practical Fishing Knots by Mark Sosin and myself should answer your question as to how to construct the basic tarpon leader, which has a butt section, a class tippet and a bite or shock tippet.
Most butt sections are made from 40- or 60-pound monofilament. Under normal conditions, the butt section will average about 4 to 5 feet in length. However, tarpon often become exceptionally wary when they’ve been fished hard for several months or when they are over light-colored sand. Many anglers will then resort to a butt section that is at least 10 to 12 feet in length. The class tippet ranging from 12- to 20-pound-test.
The class tippet must be at least 15 inches between the knots. Most anglers make the class tippet about 18 inches long, with a Bimini twist on each end to connect to the butt and the bite or shock leader. For tarpon, the shock leader should be 80- to 100-pound-test clear monofilament. According to IGFA standards, a bite or shock tippet cannot be longer than 12 inches, including all knots. You have a number of choices for connecting the shock leader to the Bimini twist in the class tippet, but I would recommend the Albright knot.
Some tarpon anglers feel that fluorocarbon is necessary for the shock or bite tippet. Many of us have tried it and have found that it does not seem to make any difference with tarpon.
I might also make a final point. Unless you hope to catch a world record, you need not use such an involved leader setup. There are two reasons for fishing for tarpon (or just about any other species). One is to catch a world record; the other is for the sheer joy of catching a tarpon. Those individuals who fall into the latter group only need a butt section, a tippet stronger than 20-pound-test (so you have a better chance of landing the fish), and a bite or shock leader. The serious record hunter will be aghast at such a suggestion, but until someone has landed a big tarpon, they may want to forgo the class tippet until they have mastered some of the fish-fighting skills necessary for landing a silver king.