What is a Leader in Carp Fishing?

  • By: Rob W (15 Years Carping Experience)
  • Published: June 17, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.
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Let’s not beat around the bush, if you’re new to carp fishing, it can be very confusing! It’s fairly standard to know what your mainline is, but what about the ever-increasing number of leaders available on the market. What are they and what are they used for? In this blog we’re going to explain it all. Read on for our answer to ‘what is a leader in carp fishing’:

So, what is a carp leader?

There is no such thing as just a standard ‘carp leader’. Leaders come in various formats, for use in particular scenarios in your carp angling. These include;

  • Distance Casting Shock Leader
  • Abrasion Resistant Shock Leader
  • Leadcore Leader (or none-leaded equivalent)
  • Fluorocarbon Leader

Let’s take a look at what each of these carp fishing leader are for:

Distance Casting Shock Leader

A distance casting shock leader is a piece of high strength line designed to take the brunt of a heavy distance cast.

When we cast to the horizon, we put a huge amount of pressure through the rod and the mainline. Unfortunately, most mainlines that we use in carp fishing (around 12lb-15lb) are simply not up to the task of whacking a 4oz lead such distances.

This is where ‘crack-offs’ occur, when the mainline simply can’t take the brunt of a cast. To counteract this, we use a distance casting shock leader to absorb the power of the cast.

Shock leaders are commonly made of braid or monofilament, something that is both thin (so you can still hit the distance), yet strong (to prevent crack-offs).

Essentially, the shock leader is tied directly between your mainline and your carp rig.

In terms of length, you need to make sure that when you’re ready to cast, there is enough shock leader to go through all of the rods eyes and 4-5 turns of the reel.

Now there is no right or wrong time to use a distance casting shock leader, it all depends on how you feel about your casting.

However, if there are people fishing opposite me and I need to fish at over 100 yards, I feel much safer knowing that my chances of a crack off are slimmer with a shock leader. The last thing I want is to be hitting someone with a 4oz lead on the other side of the lake!

TIP: If you’re using the shock leader on your fishing rods, be sure to get a sinking version to ensure that everything stays pinned to the bottom.

MORE READING: What breaking strain line for carp fishing?

what is a leader in carp fishing?
Distance casting shock leaders will help prevent dangerous crack offs.

Abrasion Resistant Shock Leader

An abrasion resistant shock leader is very similar to a distance casting leader, but with one clear purpose.

As the title suggests, these leaders are designed to be super abrasion resistant.

If you’re fishing snaggy waters or on the back of gravel bars, the weak spot of your complete set up is your mainline close to your rig.

Many fish have been lost by swimming around snags or dropping down over harsh gravel. This is where an abrasion resistant shock leader comes in.

They’re designed to take excessive strain and abrasion, increasing your chances of getting the carp in your carp landing net.

If you’re fishing close to snags, in or around jettys and platforms with posts, fish locked up with an abrasion resistant leader and you’ll do ok.

In terms of set up, they are attached the same as a distance casting leader. However, if you’re not relying on it to take the power of the cast, you can probably get away with using a shorter length of material here.

An abrasion resistant leader will help get you out of snaggy situations.

Leadcore Leader

Leadcore leaders are designed predominantly to conceal the last few yards of your line, closest to the rig.

They are basically a weaved braid material with a heavy lead inner.

Carp are wary creatures, and the last thing you want to do is have your mainline floating above it’s face whilst it’s eating your boilies!

That’s a sure fire way to spook a carp.

This where leadcore leaders come into their own. They’re heavy enough to completely pin the last few yards down, well out of the way of the fish.

Typically, you would use a leadcore leader instead of fishing rig tubing. Whilst rig tubing provides the same benefits of pinning everything out of the way, it’s just too cumbersome to thread on the mainline every time.

It’s leadcore all the way for us, unless of course your venue bans it. (Please check prior to using it)

You can choose to create your own leadcore leaders using a bulk spool and the splicing method if you want to. However, the ready-made one are so good and cost-effective now that there really is no point. Korda and Nash are two companies both providing excellent ready-made leadcore leaders.

Not allowed lead? Try a lead free leader

A common theme lately has been to ban carp fishing lead core from certain venues. If this is the case on your venue, you can switch over to ‘leadless’ leaders. These share the same colour concealment and abrasion resistant properties as standard leadcore, but come without the lead inner.

Not only heavy, leadcore leaders are also well coloured for better concealment.

Fluorocarbon Leaders

Fluorocarbon leaders are another alternative to rig tubing or leadcore leaders.

Again, these leaders are predominantly made for concealment. As with leadcore or rig tubing, a leadcore leader is connected to your lead arrangement.

Being quite a heavy material, fluorocarbon sinks to the bottom like a rock, keeping your end tackle out of sight.

Not only that, but fluorocarbon is virtually see through. Whilst leadcore and tubing comes in different colours to suit different lake beds, fluorocarbon doesn’t need to.

For this reason, fluorocarbon leaders are incredibly popular on on clear lakes or in the winter where the water may appear clearer.

In recent years, there has been a major improvement in fluorocarbon leaders, with Korda bringing out a full range as part of their safe zone kit.

fluorocarbon carp leader
Fluorocarbon carp leaders are virtually invisible in clear water.

When to Use a Carp Leader

Types of LeaderWhen to Use
Distance Casting Shock Leader– Distance casting
– Spombing & spodding
– Long range marker float work
Abrasion Resistant Shock Leader– Fishing over gravel bars
– Fishing to snags
– Fishing where swan mussels are present
Leadcore Leader– Fishing for tricky fish
– When you want the best line lay
– When you have an idea of the lakebed
Leadless Leader– When traditional leadcore is banned
Fluorocarbon Leader– Stalking in the edge

A Carp Leader for Every Scenario

Hopefully by now, you realise that there isn’t a single carp leader for all scenarios. Also, we’ve hope we’ve helped you answer the question; what is a leader in carp fishing?

Realistically, they all should play a part in your angling at some point. For that reason, it’s well worth having a few different variations in your tackle box.


About the writer

Rob W

I’m Rob, Carp Squad’s main contributor. I’ve been carp fishing on and off for 15 years, but the bug is well and truly back at the moment. Hopefully the articles I write on here help you put more carp on the bank!

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