Knot a Problem
By Tom Redington
Ask any coach and they'll tell you that taking care of the fundamentals is essential for success. In fishing, nothing is more fundamental than the knots on your fishing line. Choose the incorrect knot type for your fishing line and you nearly cut the breaking strength in half. Or incorrectly tie a knot and the first fish or snag you encounter will likely unravel your line and steal your lure. With the widespread use of braided and fluorocarbon lines, choosing the correct knot has become more difficult. Following are the knot guidelines that I have developed after battling large bass in the heavy cover of Lake Fork.
First, let me cover a few basics of knot tying. In general, knots with two lines through the eye of the hook are better than a single strand. That is why for years the Palomar and Trilene knots have been favorites of many bass anglers. Secondly, friction from tightening a knot can damage the line, so be sure to moisten the knot before pulling it tight. Finally, a poorly tied knot will not be nearly as strong as one done well. Many knots are complicated and tough to tie at first, but once you've mastered them, they can be tied quickly and neatly, providing a secure hold.
Beside a few exceptions covered later, I stick with a few basic knots for most of my fishing, especially for monofilament. The Palomar knot is a very easy knot to learn and tie, plus it is one of the very strongest. As a result, it's my go to knot over 80% of the time. In some cases, I prefer a Trilene knot or a loop knot. When I'm working jigs around cover, the tag end of the Palomar knot stands straight up and has a tendency to hang up. In this case, the Trilene knot is another 100% strength knot that is easy to tie, but the tag end lies towards the hook point and comes through cover better. Just as with any clinch knot, your knot can fail if the tag end is too short, so leave a longer tag end. Finally, the loop knot is not as strong as a Palomar or Trilene, but it gives jerkbaits, topwaters, and small jigs the very best action. For the best action with these lures, go with a loop knot and back down your drag.
With today's new lines, I stray from my basic knots in some instances. Following are my recommendations for these cases.
Braided or "Super" lines like P-Line Spectrex IV are very slick and many traditionally strong knots will slip, especially clinch knots. In addition, the line's small diameter and low stretch can result in break-offs on hook sets when fishing lures like a Fork Frog or Mega Weight Jig in heavy cover. For best results, run your line through the eye of the hook twice or even three times, if possible, before tying your normal knot. A standard Palomar will work OK with braid, but a Palomar with 2 or 3 wraps around the hook works better and an Uni Knot with the line wrapped through the eye of the hook twice works best.
For all of fluorocarbon's positive traits, break-offs on the hook set remains an issue for many anglers with this line. I don't hold anything back on hook sets whether I'm using a spinning rod or a flipping stick and I've had great results with a Palomar knot while using P-Line 100% Fluorocarbon. If you're having trouble with broken line with fluorocarbon, I'd recommend you try a few things. First, fluorocarbon can be extremely damaged if you don't moisten the line when pulling a knot tight, so make sure you get it good and wet. Secondly, be careful that you tie the knots neatly, as the line can cut into itself on poorly tied knots. Finally, try the San Diego Jam knot or the Double Clinch knot. If tied properly, these knots often are stronger than a Palomar for fluorocarbon lines.
On lakes with clear water or when fish are pressured, I'll often use a fluorocarbon leader on my braided line. I'll do this with heavy gear when I'm using 65 lb braid and 20 to 30 lb leaders when pitching Lake Fork Trophy Lure's Flippers or Craw Tubes to flooded brush or hydrilla mats. In contrast, I use 8 to 12 lb leaders with 10 to 30 lb braided line when I'm fishing small baits on spinning rods around cover-the perfect blend of finesse and power. Although many folks prefer the Uni to Uni knot, I use a modified Surgeon's knot. While most knot guides show the Surgeon's Knot being tied with 2 or 3 wraps, I'll weave the lines together 5 times. I've found the extra wraps make this knot much stronger.
Hopefully my knot tips will help you land a few more fish this season. There are loads of websites with detailed knot tying information on the web, so if you want to learn more, simply click the links below and you'll be able to find step-by-step instructions. Here's hoping you catch the lunker of your dreams. If I can be of assistance, please contact me at 214-683-9572 (days) or 972-635-6027 (evenings) or e-mail me through my website, www.LakeForkGuideTrips.com.
Tom Redington is a full time bass guide on Lake Fork and is sponsored by Ranger Boats, Diamond Sports Marine, Lake Fork Trophy Lures, Minn Kota, Humminbird, and P-Line Fishing Lines.