Leader Storage Options by Scott Haugen

Leader Storage Options by Scott Haugen

A buddy recently asked, “Don’t you ever run out of topics to write about?”

Truth is, I could write every day for the rest of my life and still not get all my ideas on paper. Combine my thoughts with what I learn from others during the course of a year, and my mind is always writing that next piece.

Personally, the audience tops my list of considerations when it comes to figuring out what topics to write about.

winter steelhead Maxi Jig, with a trailing Lil’ Corky on a dropper.

This winter steelhead fell for the author’s Maxi Jig, with a trailing Lil’ Corky on a dropper. Having rigs pre-tied and ready to fish is a major time saver when on the water, which ultimately results in catching more fish.

While I’ve been fishing salmon and steelhead for 48 years, some of you reading this have more experience than I, while some are looking at STS for the first time.

Frank Amato once told me that the sport of salmon and steelhead fishing grows by about 20% each year. That means 20 out of every 100 anglers I see during the course of the year are potentially new to our great sport.

How do these folks learn how to fish?

Through spending time on the water and researching the fishery of interest. Many gain information through reading, which is a great way to acquire knowledge and establish a long-term reference list.

No matter what your level of fishing experience, gear organization is one of the most important elements to success.

Organization means you save time while actually fishing, which equates to keeping your line in the water more, which ultimately results in catching more fish. I’ve written about leader storage systems before, but as new products hit the market and ideas continue to come my way, this is one part of our sport I feel anglers should keep abreast on.

“I made a leader tree with four bars on it, and I love using this for winter steelhead,” shares guide Tommy Belknap.

“I have the tree set up to go in a rod holder so I can easily take it out each day. For steelhead, I’ll have one leader roll full of egg leaders, one with bead leaders, one with shrimp leaders and another with pre-tied yarnies. This allows me to quickly grab a leader, tie it on and be fishing. If we’re trying different presentations to see what the fish like, I can quickly set up each person in the boat with something different. It’s a big timesaver and ultimately helps us cover a lot of water.”

leader rolls gear storage

Leader trees are perfect for storing a variety of pre-tied leaders. From different hook sizes to double hooks, fluorocarbon leaders to mono, and different styles and sizes of driftbobbers, it’s nice having a range of leaders to choose from.

The roll that slips over the bars on the tree is pipe insulation or a swimming pool noodle. Simply cut them to length so they slip over the bars, and you’re set.

Leader trees are also designed to hang inside the boat and some designs come attached to the underside of a bait tray, so leaders and baits are easily accessible from the same spot. Many people like having their leaders tied to the foam tube, allowing it to be passed around the boat, or carrying it in a pack or vest pouch if bank fishing.

For years anglers have been putting full-sized leaders inside pipe insulators. On a recent trip with Belknap on Alaska’s Nushagak River, he had such a setup and it worked great. “I got the idea from a buddy of mine 11 years ago, on the Kenai, and have been using it for big salmon, ever since,” Belknap shares. “I like about a three-foot long section of 4- or 6-inch diameter pipe insulation, which isn’t easy to come by these days. I’ll cut it open from one end to the other, then place my pre-tied leaders inside, terminal gear and all.”

In one end of the tube, insert the hooks, then run the leader down the inside, letting the end of the leader hang out the other end of the tube. Next, clip the swivel at the end of the leader into the outside of the insulator and that’s it.

belknap leader pipe storage

Guide, Tommy Belknap, with an array of salmon leaders that are ready to fish. Note the duolock swivel on the outside, which secures each leader. Pipe insulation is a great tool for storing leaders loaded with terminal gear.

“This helps protect the hooks and keeps them from falling out,” Belknap notes.

“It’s also tangle-free which allows for quick retying because I don’t have to mess with slipping on beads or driftbobbers, because I already did that at home. I like using a duolock snap on the end of the leader so I can just hook it to the barrel swivel on my mainline and get back to fishing. If replacing gear or changing out for a new presentation, this is a great setup.” When managing big, bulky terminal gear with many parts and big hooks, this is a slick, simple device that’s easy and quick to handle.


I still have over a dozen Pips Hook and Leader Dispensers filled with steelhead and spring chinook leaders, as I love how they protect hooks, keep them organized and are easy to access.

For summer steelhead and some trout fishing, I’ve also been impressed with the Lindy Rigger X-Treme, as it works great for keeping leaders tangle-free. I also like the plastic containers on the inside that screw together and hold a range of gear, from swivels to beads, hooks to driftbobbers and more.

When I was a kid fishing in the late 1960s and 70s, I stored my leaders in a metal film canister that fit in my pocket. Today, the metal canister is gone, thank goodness, as messing with tangles grew old, and I rely on a variety of leader storage systems.

Whatever your fishing needs may be, find a leader storage system that works for you.

What you’ll discover is, the more species you pursue, and the wide range of techniques you use, the greater the need may be to acquire multiple leader storage systems in an effort to increase efficiency and catch more fish.

-written by Scott Haugen



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