Knots: Strength is the weakest link
We spend a lot of time working for the opportunity get a day on the water. Add to that the amount of effort and money we spend for a fishing trip and learning to tie good knots seems a no-brainer. I speak from experience when I say learning to tie knots properly is a small part of the fishing equation that will reap large benefits. Who among us hasn't hooked a great fish, only to lose them to an improperly tied knot! It's true that you don't need a book of knots to tie on a lure and catch a fish, but it's an art that can improve the likelihood of landing the fish of a lifetime. And even if that lunker doesn't appear for awhile, you can impress your friends and colleagues in the meantime.
Over the years I've taken time off the water to sit down and practice some of the most important knots. I've been able to tie knots that sufficed for years, but over the last few years I've made it a point to add the more "complicated" knots to my repertoire. Once I decided to expand my knot knowledge, it didn't take long to master a number of important knots. It was amazing what I learned in an hour with a book, a pair of clippers and a spare spool of line. A short article isn't the place to instruct you on how to tie these knots, but hopefully it will help to inspire you to take the time to explore knot tying. Here are some knots that you'll find useful in rigging for fishing in the Gulf or the bay.
The Bimini Twist may take some time to master, but it can be used as a foundation for all saltwater leader systems. The Bimini allows you to double your standing line into a loop, creates 100 percent knot strength and acts as a "shock" between small line and heavier leader. An easier knot to tie is the Spider Hitch,an effective way to double the standing line, but doesn't have the knot strength of the Bimini Twist.
The Surgeon's Knot is one of the easiest knots to tie, is very effective, and can be used to tie your leader (under 60 pounds) to the Bimini twist. This is the knot to use when tying two lines of dissimilar diameters together in the dark. It is one of the most important knots you can learn, really just an overhand knot tied with two (treat the double Bimini as one line) strands of line. You can use this knot on single strands as well.
One knot that I avoided for years but recently mastered is the Blood Knot. Preferred by most Keys guides for building leaders, this knot has a slim profile that easily slips through the guides of a rod.
The Albright Special is an especially useful knot for the coastal angler. This is the knot to tie when you're rigging for Spanish mackerel or tarpon. It allows you to tie mono to wire without a swivel, and lets you join 20-pound line to a 100-pound leader.
The final step is to tie a hook or lure to the leader. The Non-Slip Mono Loop is my choice for several reasons: it's easy to tie, tests near 100 percent, and forms a loop that gives bait and lures more range of motion. The knot has a couple of other advantages: it won't tighten when a fish is hooked, and the tag end comes out facing away from the standing line which keeps it from picking up weeds or other debris.
There are a few rules that will help you tie reliable knots no matter which ones you choose to use. First, make sure you give yourself plenty of line to make the knot. You use less line in the long run, and learning will be a lot less frustrating. You can master the most complicated knots, but if you don't tie them properly they all have a high probability of failing. There are two critical components of any knot. First they must be wet when they are tightened and second they must be tightened carefully so there is no chance of them slipping. Most knots break when they slip. I use an eye bolt attached to my bench (and a small eye hook on my boat console) to hold the hook, wet the knot and tighten it with a pair of pliers. Follow these rules, tie the knots that work for you, and you'll strengthen the weakest link in your fishing experience.