How-to Content • Updated Thu, Nov 9, 2023
Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus), also known as the “Silver King,” is one of the most prized catches in saltwater fly fishing. As one of Florida’s premier game fish, they are adaptable, intelligent, and long-lived, foraging and migrating along Florida’s coastline with regionally distinct resident populations. Fishing with an IGFA (International Game Fish Association) leader keeps you in contention with these wiley fish, while also ensuring your angling experience is sporting — and record-eligible in case you land that fish of a lifetime.
An IGFA legal tarpon leader's shock tippet section cannot exceed 12 inches in length, while the class tippet must be 15 inches or longer.
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If you find yourself fishing a tournament, or are looking to measure your angling prowess against an official metric, you may opt to fish with an official IGFA leader. Fishing with an official IGFA fly leader makes any fish you catch eligible for an official IGFA world record in any 1 of 7 tippet class categories. IGFA leader recipes are also great guidelines to follow for building a leader that will cast well, lay out the line, and present the fly effectively to fish.
The official IGFA tippet classes are: 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 16, and 20 pound-test tippet.
The tippet must be made of non-metallic material attached directly to the fly or a shock tippet. Remember, your class tippet dictates the categorization of any resulting IGFA records.
For an example, we’ll use 16-pound test as our class tippet. Take a length of 16-pound test monofilament or fluorocarbon fishing line, and affix it to the thicker butt section of your leader with a blood knot. Cut your class tippet to any length of your choosing, so long as it is at least 15 inches long when measured in between your knots. Remember, your class tippet is the lightest pound test section of your leader.
Take a section of 60-pound test shock tippet and secure it to the free end of your class tippet with another blood knot. Then, your shock tippet must be less than 12 inches in length when measured from the outside of your fly connection knot to the outside of your blood knot.
While tarpon, especially adult tarpon, can grow to behemoth sizes in excess of 200 pounds, an informed angler can bring these fish boatside in a surprisingly short amount of time — even on a light leader. Using a reel with a smooth, strong drag and applying maximal pressure at the correct angles are crucial to minimizing fight times. To read more on how to properly fight adult tarpon, check out this article.
To view all current world records, and learn all about the official IGFA rules for gear and tackle, check out the official IGFA website here.
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