The first question on some angler’s lips is just what is terminal tackle? That’s a fair question and I have the easy answer. Basically, it’s the stuff on the end of your line that gets the bait to the fish! How simple is that?
Seriously though, it includes everything that is attached to the business end of the line on your reel. It includes things like weights (sinkers), swivels, leaders, hooks, and lures.
So how do you know what “stuff” to put on the end of your line? Here are some tips to help you determine that for better fishing experience:
Let’s start at the top of the rig with weights and sinkers. I list them separately because not all weights are designed to put your bait on the bottom. And, some weights are designed to be dragged along the bottom. But, for simplicity, let’s just call all of them sinkers.
The key is to use only as much weight as is absolutely necessary to get your bait where you want it. Most anglers use way more weight than they need. They come in all sizes and shapes:
Can you guess why they are called egg sinkers? You got it. Picture an egg made of lead with a hole through the middle of it. Some people call them to slip sinkers because they are designed to allow the line to slide through them as they lie on the bottom.
These are elongated lead sinkers that are designed to be clipped onto a swivel or other piece of terminal tackle. If the line moves with a fish biting, these sinkers will move with the line.
A trolling weight is just what the name implies. It’s a long piece of lead that usually has the line tied to one end and the leader tied to the other. It’s used to get a trolled bait down into the water column. Obviously the heavier the weight the deeper it goes.
These are almost like miniature trolling weights. They are designed to be moved and dragged along the bottom without snagging on anything. Specifically, flounder anglers use these types of weights regularly.
Swivels, by design, are supposed to actually swivel. Also, they can be made of anything from twisted wire to stainless steel ball bearings. Think of a swivel as a separation between the line on your reel and your leader. An egg sinker would be on the line above a swivel. A bank sinker might actually be attached to the swivel.
The expensive ball bearing swivels are designed to swivel to keep your line from twisting if the bait spins and twists. Pacific Coast salmon moochers want their baits to spin, so a ball bearing swivel is very important to them.
Bottom fishermen, on the other hand, need the swivel more to separate their line from their leader than to prevent twists. A leader is very important in saltwater, because most fish in the sea does have sharp teeth, and your light lines can easily cut by that, causing you to lose your fish.
Leaders are made in a variety of lengths and basically from one of three materials:
They provide protection from the sharp teeth of a fish and from the rough bottom structure. Moreover, they can be used to lift the fish into the boat. The type and length of leader you use will depend on the kind of fish you are after, the water clarity, water depth, and personal preference.
My preference is almost always fluorocarbon, because of its lack of visibility under the water. If I am after mackerel, bluefish, or other sharp-toothed fish, I will use a short (6 inches) piece of wire leader on the very end tied to the hook. Then I will place my fluorocarbon leader above that top the swivel.
The hook you use is absolutely determined by the species and size of the fish you are after. Also, don’t expect to land a big fish on a small wire hook.
By the same token, don’t expect to catch small fish on a hook that won’t even fit in their mouth! Common sense prevails here, so choose the hook size with some forethought.
These are just the basics of what the terminal tackle is all about. See the lists of related articles that will address more specific issues about which hook to use, or which swivel is best.
About me: Hi, I'm Alex N. Ferroni, One of the creators of The Safariors blog and former camping trainer at Tripspot Magazine. I wish some other outdoor, hiking, hunting, fishing and camping enthusiasts have made this blog to share our thought. We are learning a lot through each trip, and we want you to learn that too!