Pike & Muskie Fishing photo

Most of today’s serious muskie hunters have swapped yesteryear’s steel leaders for fluorocarbon, because its low visibility brings more strikes and its tough material withstands muskie chompers. You can buy pre-tied fluorocarbon leaders, but they aren’t cheap. So make your own instead. Here’s my recipe, which will save you a few bucks and possibly the heartache of a refusal.

Get the Good Stuff
Forget bargain-basement terminal tackle. Start with a quality No. 1 AFW Mighty-Mini Crane barrel swivel. For snaps, I prefer a No. 4.5 Stay-Lok, which is rated to 250 pounds and connects easily to any style of lure. My fluorocarbon of choice is 130-pound Hi-Seas because it’s superstiff and reasonably priced.

Make the Connections
For a 12- to 14-inch finished leader, start with a 24-inch piece of fluorocarbon and simply tie one end to the swivel, the other to the snap. Keep in mind, though, that Palomar and cinch knots are nearly impossible to tie with such heavy line. I use what’s called a Centauri knot, which is very easy to learn. You can also use crimps to make the connections, in which case you can start with an 18- to 20-inch piece of fluoro.

Pull It Tight
To make sure your knots or crimps are tight and strong, hold the barrel swivel by the ring with one pair of needle-nose pliers and the bend of the snap with another pair. Give the leader a good pull. If you opted for knots instead of crimps, add a drop of superglue to each connection for added security. After all, why take chances when you may get only one shot at a beast?