How to make and use wind-on big-game trolling leaders, Part I
You’re trolling the ledges, your leader rigged for big game with 30 feet between the swivel and the bait. POW! A hot bite and a short fight bring the swivel to the rod tip, and a nice marlin swims just out of reach that same 30 feet from the boat.
The crew takes two wraps on the right glove, two wraps on the left, slowly drawing the big fish nearer. The excitement mounts as 15 feet, 20 feet of 600-pound mono swirl on the deck around his feet.
Suddenly, the marlin makes a move. Dump the wraps! Watch the loops! But the angler forgot to back off the drag and, with little momentum going, the fish pulls the hooks. Aloha. Lucky the leader wasn’t wrapped around the crew’s feet.
While most big-game trollers still use a single full-length piece of leader material between their lure and double line, many are switching to wind-on leaders. Wind-ons basically take your 30-foot leader and put the swivel closer to the end of the leader instead of where the leader meets the double line.
Thus, a wind-on leader system has two parts: the long wind-on leader section attached with a minimal-sized connection to the double line, and a short lure or bait leader section rigged to and changed with the terminal tackle.
Wind-ons have certain advantages. They give anglers the maximum length of leader material allowed by IGFA rules without forcing the leader man to keep a coil of leader material next to his feet while he leaders. During leadering, a major portion of the leader can be wound directly onto the reel, and when the swivel finally hits the tip, the fish is right there. Wind-ons are also great if you’re fishing with a single crew and don’t have both a leader man and a gaff/tag man on board.
Wind-ons can be used with trolling tackle as light as 20 or 30 pounds right up to 130-pound gear. Whatever gear you use, your main fishing line will benefit from a double line. By IGFA rules, if you’re using 30 feet of leader, you may use a double line up to ten feet long. However, a Bimini double line about 15 inches long usually works fine and can quickly be tied by one person.
The easiest way to make a fast, short Bimini is to leave the rod in the holder and pull off enough line so the line will reach the reel handle and double back up to the second guide. After putting 20 twists in this length of line, put the loop onto the reel handle, turn the handle to give the line tension and insert your hand between the two lines to form the Bimini’s tight twist. This makes the knot easy to do alone and can be finished in less than 30 seconds.
The Main-Line Connection
Depending on the size of your line and what you are fishing for, the wind-on may be connected to the main fishing line in one of two very effective ways: a simple method for light tackle and another a bit more time-consuming for heavier gear.
On light leaders used when trolling baits for mahi and striped marlin, tie a 60- to 130-pound test leader to the loop of the Bimini with an Albright knot. For leaders heavier than 130-pound test, making the leader-to-line connection is not so quick and simple.
You have to take a section of Dacron, splice a loop in one end of the Dacron, and splice the mono leader into the other. The loop of the main line’s Bimini is then interlocked with the loop in the Dacron of the wind-on leader. This allows anglers to wind leaders of up to 700-pound test directly onto the reel. Double the loop in your cat’s-paw for the best double-line/leader, loop-to-loop connection.