5 Best Saltwater Leader And Tippet For Inshore & Offshore Fishing

Last updated:
Disclosure: Some posts contain affiliate links, which earn us a commission if you make a purchase through them. Positive Fishing © participates in various affiliate networks including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.

When it comes to saltwater fishing, one of the most important parts of your rig is your leader and tippet, particularly if you’re fly fishing on the flats.

Saltwater flats species are a tad smarter than their freshwater counterparts and have better eyesight, therefore need fooling. 

By having the best saltwater leaders and tippets with you, you can maximize your chances of catching some of the coolest fish in the world – like Permit, GTs, and Tarpon.

But what makes a good saltwater leader and tippet? And which ones are good for what? 

Our Best Saltwater Leaders And Tippets

  • TroutHunter Big Game Fluorocarbon Leader & Tippet – My Best Permit Saltwater Leader and Tippet Pick!
  • RIO Tapered Tarpon Fc Shock Leader – My Best Tarpon Saltwater Leader And Tippet Pick!
  • Rio Fluoroflex Saltwater Tippet – My Best All-round Saltwater Tippet Pick!
  • Rio Fly Powerflex Wire Bite Tippet – My Best Tippet For Sharp Tooth Critters!
  • Maxima Fluorocarbon Leader – My Best For GTs & Offshore Pick!

Join me as we take a deep dive into all the top saltwater leaders and tippets I’ve used in the Bahamas, Seychelles, and all the best flats fishing locations around the world. 

TroutHunter Big Game Fluorocarbon Leader & Tippet – My Best Permit Saltwater Leader and Tippet Pick!

TroutHunter Big Game Fluorocarbon Leader & Tippet –
My Best Permit Saltwater Leader and Tippet Pick!

TroutHunter Big Game Fluorocarbon Leader & Tippet is a favorite for all the guides in Seychelles, and since you can’t get it there, it’s rationed and only used for catching permit. That says something big, and if it wasn’t for an Irishman, it would never have arrived on the island. 

TroutHunter has an incredible strength to diameter ratio when compared to other saltwater leaders and tippets. Thus it’s much thinner while retaining the same strength which has a series of advantages. 

By being thinner, TroutHunter sinks quickly as it has less drag in the air, plus it’s much harder for fish to see. Now, fluorocarbon is meant to be invisible to fish as it has the same refractive index as water, but cast at a permit and then tell me that – the thinner the better is what we say. 

Not only is this line about as invisible as a line can be, but it’s also durable and tough. It has an amazing tensile strength that often tests at higher than its actual breaking strain and it handles abrasion very well too. 

You can buy TroutHunter in a range of pound tests from 12.8lb up to 45.2lb – an ideal range for saltwater. The spools come with 50 meters of leader & tippet on them, and they’re affordable too, so this line is excellent value. 

Pros

  • Almost invisible so spooking critters don’t see it 
  • Tiny diameter reduces visibility even further 
  • Quick sink rate gets your fly down faster 
  • Good range of strengths for saltwater species 
  • Incredibly strong for its diameter 
  • Great abrasion resistance and knot strength 
  • Very affordable for the quality 

Cons

  • A little expensive 

Specs 

Pound Test (s): 12.8 lbs

Colors: Clear 

Diameter: 0.01 inches 

Length On Spool: 50 meters 

RIO Tapered Tarpon Fc Shock Leader – My Best Tarpon Saltwater Leader And Tippet Pick!

RIO Tapered Tarpon Fc Shock Leader –
My Best Tarpon Saltwater Leader And Tippet Pick!

Rio Lines make some of the best fly lines and leaders on the planet, and I’m not just saying that because I’m on their guide program. Their output of products is consistently excellent and their RIO Tapered Tarpon Fc Shock Leader is perfectly built for its purpose. 

The RIO Tapered Tarpon Fc Shock Leader is a leader and tippet that is ready-made so anglers can quickly add it to their fly lines without having to make them. They are also particularly useful because building a tarpon shock leader is a painful process! 

The pack comes with two 12 foot fluorocarbon leaders, the perfect length to present a fly to a spooky fish. The leaders are tapered to ensure they turn over big flies and feature a 10 ft of taper and the final 2 ft is shock tippet. 

The shock tippet is there to ensure the leader can handle the big head shakes of tarpon and their jumps too. I don’t know if you have ever held onto a big tarpon but it ain’t easy, believe me!

Built from fluorocarbon, the leaders are invisible to tarpon, maximizing your chances of catching them. They also come with hand-tied reliable perfection loops at one end that make it easy to add to your fly line quickly. 

These leaders are designed to be exceptionally strong and abrasion resistant and there isn’t any other leader or tippet I’d use when going after big tarpon. 

Pros

  • Invisible in the water to fool spooky tarpon
  • Tapered to ensure your fly turns over nicely 
  • Built to handle the shock of jumping tarpon and their head shakes 
  • Hand-tied and super reliable 
  • Comes in a perfect length of 12 feet 
  • Offered in a range of breaking strains 
  • Reliable and pre-tied for easy changes 

Cons

  • More expensive than building your own leaders 

Specs 

Pound Test(s): 20/40 20/60 30/60 30/80 lb

Colors: Clear 

Diameter: NA

Length On Spool: 12 feet 

Rio Fluoroflex Saltwater Tippet – My Best All-round Saltwater Tippet Pick! 

Rio Fluoroflex Saltwater Tippet – My Best All-round Saltwater Tippet Pick!

The Rio Fluoroflex Saltwater Tippet is my all-round favorite saltwater leader and tippet material to the point that you should buy every pound test you need and have it ready and waiting. 

This fluorocarbon is top quality and has incredibly low visibility in the water. I have seen it fool everything from bonefish to permit, GTs and sailfish. It’s built to be strong and when tested breaks just above its pound test rating despite having a super thin diameter. 

The smaller diameter has less drag in the air and in the water allowing your fly or lure to sink quickly and for you to fish it with a better action. It’s built tough too with great abrasion resistance meaning you can fish it in areas with sharp rocks and coral without any worries. 

This line is quite stiff and not as flexible as others which directly translates to less stretch and being able to drive a hook into a hard mouth on a strip set a lot easier. The stiffer feel to the line doesn’t make it hard to tie a knot and knot’s seat well and stay strong with this line too. 

While the Rio Fluoroflex Saltwater Tippet is pretty affordable, the spools don’t hold very much line with just 30 yards, meaning you run out pretty quickly. 

Pros

  • Comes in a huge range of sizes 
  • Affordably priced for the quality 
  • Pretty much invisible in the water 
  • Works for all saltwater species without sharp teeth 
  • High abrasion resistance for rocky areas 
  • Excellent tensile strength 
  • Good knot strength 
  • Thin diameter 

Cons

  • Small spool size, more yards would be better 

Specs 

Pound Test(s): 8 – 100 lbs 

Colors: Clear 

Diameter: 0.229 mm (8 lb)

Length On Spool: 30 Yards 

Rio Fly Powerflex Wire Bite Tippet – My Best Tippet For Sharp Tooth Critters!

Rio Fly Powerflex Wire Bite Tippet – My Best Tippet For Sharp Tooth Critters!

Rio Fly Powerflex Wire Bite Tippet is specifically made for catching toothy fish like pike, barracuda, tigerfish, and wahoo. Now, you might be thinking – how do you add wire to a fluoro leader without a swivel?

The Rio Fly Powerflex Wire Bite Tippet is actually “knottable” wire meaning you can tie any knot you can tie with fluoro and mono with this wire bite tippet, and without it, you’ll never land those big barracuda on the flats. 

Once you have tied a knot with this Rio Fly Powerflex Wire Bite Tippet it seats very nicely and holds well. The wire is actually coated in mono and this gives the Wire Bite Tippet an excellent sink rate, as the buoyancy of mono balances out the weight of the wire. 

You can buy this Wire Bite Tippet in 20, 30, and 40 lb tests and it comes with just 15 feet on each spool, which you might think is small. But, you only need 0.5 to 1 foot of it between your leader and the fly, so it’ll work for at least 15 to 30 leaders. 

The Wire Bite Tippet is strong and can handle abrasion extremely well and is, therefore, the best one to go with if you’re looking to catch toothy fish.  

Pros

  • Knottable wire for adding to your leader 
  • Ideal for targeting toothy fish like barracuda 
  • Highly flexible despite being wire 
  • Mono-coated for better buoyancy 
  • Excellent strength and abrasion resistance 
  • Easy to tie knots with 
  • Good knot strength 

Cons

  • Quite visible 

Specs 

Pound Test(s): 20, 30, 40  lbs 

Colors: Wire  

Diameter: 0.016 inches 

Length On Spool: 30 yards 

Maxima Fluorocarbon Leader – My Best For GTs & Offshore Pick!

Maxima Fluorocarbon Leader – My Best For GTs & Offshore Pick!

Maxima, oh Maxima, some of the strongest leaders and tippet out there for both fresh and saltwater fishing. The Maxima Fluorocarbon Leader we are going to look at now though is exclusively for the saltwater giants of the flats and offshore, like GTs and Marlin. 

This leader and tippet come in weights from 50 lbs to 400 lbs making it the ideal leader for big fish. The 100 lb leader is ideal for GTs and big tarpon while the line class above this (260 lbs) is great for making leaders for conventional lures that catch big tuna and marlin. 

Maxima Fluorocarbon Leader is 100% invisible to fish in the water and trust me, it does fool fish all the time. It is also incredibly strong with low stretch meaning you can punch hooks into the hard mouths of fish and really put a lot of pressure on giants in the fight. 

When it comes to both knot strength and abrasion resistance this line is no slouch either. Knot’s seat really well with excellent strength and the line is thick enough to handle a nick or two. It also comes with a special coating that protects it from UV damage, meaning it lasts a lot longer. 

The one downside to this leader and tippet is that it comes in coils and not on a spool which makes it a bit of a pain to deal with and it can tangle up quite easily. 

Pros

  • Incredibly strong for saltwater giants 
  • Great for everything from GTs on the fly to marlin on conventional 
  • Clear and invisible to fish 
  • Coated for UV protection 
  • Low stretch for better stronger hook sets 
  • Affordable for the quality 
  • Excellent abrasion resistance and knot strength 

Cons

  • Comes in coils, not on a spool 

Specs 

Pound Test(s): 100 to 400 lbs 

Colors: Clear 

Diameter: NA

Length On Spool: 27 yards 

Things To Consider When Buying Saltwater Leader & Tippet 

Mono vs Fluoro

The first question you’ll need to answer before shopping for saltwater leader & tippet is whether you want it to be mono or fluoro, so what are the differences? Well, there are three main important facts to remember:

  • Mono floats and fluoro sinks
  • Mono is more visible to fish than fluoro
  • Mono is stretchier than fluoro 

Do you want a line that floats, stretches, and fish can see, or a line that is stiff, invisible to fish, and sinks? I thought you’d go for the second one, fluorocarbon that is. 

But, you can build leaders using a mixture of mono and fluoro as this reduces their costs, since fluoro is more expensive than mono, just ensure the fluoro is at the end. This is called building a tapered leader and you should start with a larger thicker mono at one end and slowly taper down to the fluorocarbon tippet. 

Visibility & Diameter 

The last thing anyone wants is for a fish to spook because it saw your leader, so using fluorocarbon and a small diameter is the best way to get around it. Picking a fluorocarbon line with a tiny diameter is the key to catching smart spooky fish like permit. 

But, you need to be sure that the smaller diameter doesn’t affect the strength of the line overall, so be sure to test them. 

Stretch 

Low stretch is a great attribute in saltwater as saltwater fish have hard mouths and by having a low stretch leader, you can really drive that hook in with a strip set. Lower stretch also increases bite sensitivity, so you’ll pick up on a lot more during your retrieve. 

Lining Out  

Leaders and tippets are a key part of your arsenal and all the ones featured above are perfect for their intended purpose. 

Thanks very much for reading my article, I hope you enjoyed it and now know everything you need to know about saltwater leaders & tippets to go out and buy the best performing options.

You can read more on the details around what are leaders and tippets here!

Jamie Melvin