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Cable Wind-On Leaders
by Chuck Richardson

This article first appeared in the 'Tips & Techniques' section of the September '98 issue of Marlin Magazine and is reprinted here with permission. Be sure to check out www.marlinmag.com for other outstanding sportfishing articles!

By now I'm sure everyone has read or heard about wind-on leaders -- mono wind-ons, that is. But have you heard about cable wind-ons?

Experienced shark fishermen in the Northeast, especially those out of Cape May, New Jersey, have used cable wind-on leaders for several years now. They employ a 25-foot cable wind-on of 275- or 400-pound test, with a swivel or snap-swivel at the terminal end. From that they attach their shark rig, which is 5 feet of either single-strand wire or 480-pound cable. This setup works extremely well, so much so that recently some captains have begun employing the rigs in their trolling system with success. The technique seems to be working on both natural and artificial baits, no matter what type or size of fish being targeted.

Trolling with cable wind-on leaders seems to make sense from many angles. Comparing mono to cable in diameter, weight and abrasion resistance should create a lot of rethinking in leader choices.

Cable Wind-On
[click for closeup]
Strength to Diameter
Pound-Test Mono Cable
600 .088" .072"
400 .071" .054"
300 .061" .045"
175 .050" .036"
*Jinkai vs. AFW 49-strand

Strength to Diameter:
Cable is 18 to 28 percent smaller in diameter than Jinkai mono, and that difference is even greater when compared to some other brands. This means: 1) With a cable wind-on, not nearly as much line has to be sacrificed on your reel to make adequate room for the wind-on; 2) Using a small-diameter cable as part of your leader system will have a much better effect on how your baits are trolling because of the leader's ability to run straighter and more level through the water.

Strength to Weight:
A 25-foot cable wind-on leader is about twice as heavy as a mono wind-on, which means: 1) Using cable wind-ons during high wind and heavy sea conditions will help to keep your baits in the proper position in your pattern; 2) Because the leader is submerged, it won't be subjected to the wind and sea, so your baits and lures will track better; 3) Natural baits rigged for swimming, especially on days with little or no wind and sea, will run deeper; 4) There's no need for trolling sinkers, which makes for a cleaner setup.

Strength to Weight
Pound-Test Mono Cable
600 1.9 oz. 4.1 oz.
400 1.3 oz. 2.6 oz.
300 1.1 oz. 1.9 oz.
200 .9 oz. 1.4 oz.
*Based on 25-foot wind-on

Abrasion Resistance:
Although I could not find a comparison chart for this category, let's just say cable is considerably more abrasion-resistant than mono, in any pound class. The advantages with a cable leader become quite evident when you have your fish boatside and it decides to go under your boat. In most cases with mono, this is when the fish is lost due to a parted leader. Cable can withstand a lot of abuse in this situation, so your odds are much better of landing or tagging that fish.

No Changes have to be made at all to your tackle setup. You can use the same trolling gear you're using now, and the cable wind-ons are essentially the same as those made with mono. Simply splice a 25-foot cable wind-on to your main line via a length of Dacron, and crimp a snap swivel at the terminal end. All of your baits and artificial lures should have a mono leader no more than 5 feet long, which is attached to the snap swivel. As you can see, you're still trolling with mono, but only a short length. This should satisfy anyone's concern about the visibility of the cable. And as long as your rods have roller guides that are working properly, the cable will have no effect on them. We have been using cable wind-ons for the past seven seasons with no damage whatsoever to our guides.

Making Cable Wind-Ons:
Constructing a cable wind-on leader requires only one more step than when making mono wind-ons. You must dip the end of the cable in a liquid rubber cement such as StayBrite Whip It or something similar. This will form a small bulb at the end, which allows the cable to be spliced into the Dacron with no trouble at all. This small bulb also prevents the cable from cutting the Dacron from the inside out once the wind-on is made.

Cable wind-ons give you a leader system that is twice the weight and one-third the diameter of mono and is considerably more abrasion-resistant. So, without sacrificing strength, your baits and lures will run deeper and track better in all weather conditions with a less cumbersome, more supple and stronger leader.

Chuck Richardson
Stone Harbor, New Jersey
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