Surf Casting Florida

Learn how to catch more fish off of the beach.

Do I need a shock leader for surf fishing?

The short answer is: Yes, it is a good idea for some fish species, heavy lures and environmental circumstances like heavy winds and heavy surf. Some fish species hit hard and fast; Heavy weights and lures will often snap your line if you don’t have a shock leader and of course strong currents, big waves and heavy winds may also make a shock leader necessary.

A shock leader is about 10 yards of mono filament line that is in between your braided line or main line and your terminal line that is connected to your hook or lure. Its job is to absorb the shock of a big fish hitting your bait or lure. I rarely use one but many surf fishermen swear by them.

I am a kayak fishing guide on the Treasure Coast of Florida and I have been fishing for more than 40 years. I have fished the beaches, grass flats, mangroves, docks……. all over Florida for just about every fish that swims. In the article below, I will talk about shock leaders and the pros and cons of using them.

Let’s say that you are fishing for whiting in the surf at high tide. You don’t need a shock leader because you can fish with 10 pound mono filament line and not get broken off once. You can even bring your 7 foot medium action trout rod for this kind of fishing off of the beach. You won’t need to worry about a shock leader at all.

Now let’s say that you are trying to catch bluefish and mackerel in the surf. Well you had better have a wire leader or you will be retying the entire time that you are fishing. Mackerel and bluefish can bite through 50 pound mono filament leader like it is nothing. So in this circumstance you will need a leader of some sort.

So you see that a shock leader is a good idea most of the time but you don’t need one for fishing for small non toothy fish species in good surf conditions.

If you are fishing with lures, then I would definitely use a shock leader of at least 20 or 30 pounds. Lures are for getting reactionary bites from the fish. They instinctively bite the thing in front of them. It might be a territorial instinct or a hunger instinct but it is a reactionary bite either way. Even if you are jig fishing for pompano it might be a good idea to use a shock leader for you.

Watch the video below to learn the best lures for pompano fishing.

Let’s go through another scenario where you are fishing rough surf or a lot of current or both. You might have a 5 or 6 ounce sinker if it is really bad out there. You will need a shock leader so those leads don’t come flying off when you cast out in the surf.

The bottom line is use your own common sense when it comes to using the right shock leader for the right circumstances. It is a good idea to have a leader most of the time if you ask me. I am sure that many people will disagree but that is my suggestion.

If you are fishing with braided line, then you will want to have some sort of mono filament or fluorocarbon leader or the fish will see your line. I am not convinced that fluorocarbon leader works that much better than mono filament but that is better left for another article in the future.


Use a shock leader and you will have less break offs and be able to spend more time fishing in rough surf or on the outer sand bars. The idea of a shock leader is to stop your line from breaking while casting or when you get a big fish to hit your baits and lures. When you spend more time fishing than retying then you will catch more fish. It is really that simple.

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