Do You Need a Steel Leader for Muskie Fishing?


Muskies are a challenging fish to bring in even during the best of circumstances and with only moderate weight. If you have your eyes set on big trophy muskies (and what self-respecting angler wouldn’t?) then you definitely need to shift the scales as much in your favor as possible because

You absolutely need a steel leader for big muskie fishing. It’s generally agreed among most muskie anglers and muskie guides that the steel leader is best, although there is some debate on that point in select circles.

If you want to know why steel leaders (or leaders of any kind, for that matter) are so important, well let some seasoned northern and muskie anglers teach you a lesson about that all-too common and hated word: “Bite-off.”

fishing bite off
Bite-offs are common when chasing the big muskies.

Why You Need a Leader for Big Muskie Fishing

Muskies, the even bigger cousin the northern pike, is a sports fish that is right out infamous for smashing into a lure so hard that they snap the line. This can be incredibly frustrating, especially if your favorite lure was on the other end of the line.

The line snapping can be from just impact of force putting so much stress on the line it snaps. This is especially true of old fishing line that is a lower test pound of line. Asking 6 lb test line rigged for a smallmouth bass to hold up to the hit and run of a 45+ lb muskie might be asking a bit much even in the best of times 🙂

But there are other reasons – because an impact break isn’t going to be stopped by a leader. However, when it comes to bite offs those are things that we can control.

The Dreaded Bite-Offs

Many a big muskie has been lost due to the teeth coming down on the fishing line and cutting right through it. Or sawing through it. Or cutting just enough to cause the line to snap. Put simply: big muskies are just built for biting right through the line.

This is not an uncommon occurrence at all when chasing after these big fish. A steel leader is not going to be gnawed through or bit through, no matter how many sharp muskie teeth get on it.

While a leader of any kind is better than none, why would you settle for a subpar option when there was a better one available? Steel leaders are simply the best option. They are the way to go.

Why Are Bite-Offs So Common with Muskies and Pike?

There are plenty of strong sports fish that put up a huge fight but don’t bite off lines and take away favorite lures with the consistency of muskies. Why are these bite-offs so common?

There are three major reasons, and they are:

Mouths Crammed with Razor Sharp Teeth

Have you ever seen the mouth of a muskie, or a pike, for that matter? There’s a reason that there are some pretty gnarly reports of how muskies attack people when they mistake a foot or a hand for food, and the pictures of injuries are…well don’t Google them if you have a weak stomach.

The mouths of these fish are loaded with row after row after row of razor sharp teeth designed for slicing and tearing apart flesh, and they can make very short work of even some normally very solid and strong fishing line.

Muskies Have Overbite

The way the mouths are designed allows them to suck in a lure, pulling the fishing line into the overbite. That’s a problem if your fishing line is being flossed through mini-razor blades. That overbite in the mouth makes it very easy for a bite-off to occur.

Force of Impact

That much fish rocketing through the water at high speed to ambush a potential meal can cause some serious stress on the fishing line. If that line isn’t up to task or has been worn after years and years of use, then

Why Steel Over Other Leader Materials?

The razor sharp teeth of the muskie can cut through a wide variety of materials. Especially when you think about the sheer number

Some people love fluorocarbon leaders and look, I get it, we all have our favorites. Especially anglers. Favorite lures, favorite rod, favorite net, lucky fishing posts and lucky fishing hats. All of that being said the are not going to do a better job of stopping a musky bite than steel.

If you want fluorocarbon fishing line, great. That is a rock solid option. Leaders though? Maybe for bass but not for pike and muskies.

A steel leader is the strongest out there and these have been used for many decades. There’s a reason they’re considered the go-to for those of us looking for record-setting muskies. Or at least trophy sized ones at the very least.

Best Steel Leaders for Muskie Fishing

A good steel leader is going to be solid, but some have slightly more flexibility than others. When you find that perfect combination of strength, durability, and flexibility than you have an amazing steel leader.

When it comes to the best steel leaders for muskies there are two options that really stand out for us.

Best Musky Leader: Scotank Fishing Leaders

steel leaders musky fishing
In our opinion the Scotank Fishing leaders are by far and away the best pre-made and prepared fishing leaders for big muskie fishing.

The Scotank fishing leaders are tough, they are reliable, and they have been trained to survive saw blades. That’s a pretty good analogy for muskie teeth. In my experience they’re flexible, don’t interfere with your casts, and hold up to heavy use.

If your line breaks going after big fish at that point, it’s because the sheer weight of the fish snapped the line, not the leader letting you down.

That’s what I want out of a steel leader, and these deliver. If you’re not a complete DIY from the beginning, just buy these steel leaders and enjoy your bite-off free fishing.

Best Musky Leader Material: American Fishing Stainless Steel Wire Nylon Coated

I love DIY with certain things, but considering how inexpensive that good steel fishing leaders are it’s not my thing to DIY it. If it’s your thing – here’s what you want to use!

If you want to make your own wire leaders for muskie fishing, you still want to use steel, and this line is some of the best that is out there. The steel is also nylon coated with helps with feel and flexibility when working with it.

Whether you want your steel leaders pre-made or make them yourself, those are the two best options in my opinion when it comes to muskie fishing.

You Need Steel Leaders for Muskie Fishing

There isn’t much of an argument here. Whether you ask long-time muskie anglers or muskie fishing guides who make a living taking anglers out chasing the true trophy-sized muskies, a steel leader is part of the rig. This lessens the chances of the line being bit-off, which is a high percentage of the cause when the line breaks reeling in a musky.

While it’s not necessary for every type of good freshwater sports fish, when you’re chasing the biggest Esox in the area, you need steel leaders if you want any serious chance of bringing them in.

The only potential exception that many guides and anglers talk about is when trolling, since moving with crankbaits at fast enough speeds makes it really hard for those fish to catch up and slam into it. However, I have plenty of examples of when a magnum sized crankbait was inhaled and the line bit off while fishing up north.

So for my next outing, I will take my steel leader, thank you very much!

Good luck, and I expect to see pictures of those trophies!

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Pike Fishing Fanatic

If there's pike fishing to be fond in the area, I'm all about it! Dad's had us fishing since we were five and that's a major part of our outdoor adventures to this day! While I don't get out as much as my days in Canada or Alaska, I still grab the rod for some good northern fishing when the opportunity arises!

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