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FISHING KNOTS: HOW TO TIE THE SIX STRONGEST

We put monofilament, fluorocarbon, and superline through an exhaustive series of tests and ­discovered the very best bonds for allBY JOHN MERWIN0 Comments

Fishing line has advanced remarkably in the past two decades. Nylon monofilament, fluorocarbon, and so-called superline give fishermen tremendous advantages in strength, visibility, and ease of use.


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Each of the three primary line types behaves differently from the others, however, so picking the right line for the job isn’t easy. Our fishing lives are further complicated because a particular knot that works well for one type of line might not be worth a damn for another type. And what advantage is a great line if the knot you use fails?

So here’s what I did. I bought some expensive equipment and a whole lot of line and began testing. Even after 50 years of angling, I was surprised by some of the results. A couple of them changed the way I fish—and the same may be true for you.


LINE-TO-LINE KNOTS


Not all splicing knots are equally compatible with all three basic line types. I tested the strength of at least three or four different splicing knots for each of three line combinations to find what worked best.

Note that in two cases, an easy-to-tie knot won out over a knot that scored a bit higher. That’s because a knot that you can tie quickly and efficiently is more practical and valuable than one that is a tiny bit stronger but requires much more valuable fishing time to tie.

The “strength” percentages listed after the name of each knot indicate the strength of the knot compared with the leader’s actual ­unknotted line strength. 

WINNER: Blood Knot (5-turn)

Strength: 83% | Monofilament to a Fluorocarbon Leader

For this test, I tied 10-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon to 10-pound Trilene Big Game monofilament, purposefully going with lines of similar diameters to simulate a common use of fluoro, such as in tying on a leader when fishing for heavily pressured steelhead or walleyes in clear water. Other, more high-tech knots fared not as well: A 3-turn Seaguar knot broke at 66%; a 3-turn surgeon’s knot at 65%; and 4-turn back-to-back Uni knots at 6%.

blood knot

▲ Overlap, make 5 turns

Pete Sucheski

blood knot

▲ Bring tag through loop

Pete Sucheski

blood knot

▲ Make 5 turns on other side

Pete Sucheski

blood knot

▲ Bring tag through loop

Pete Sucheski

blood knot

▲ Hold tags and tighten

Pete Sucheski

WINNER: Palomar knot

Strength: 96% | Superline to a Monofilament Leader

I tied 30-pound Berkley FireLine Braid to 10-pound Big Game mono, two lines of similar diameters. The winner here is happily also the easiest to tie: a Palomar knot on either side of a small intermediate barrel swivel. In casting and reeling, the swivel must remain outside the tip-top guide. This limits leader length to 2 or 3 feet, which is usually adequate. If you require a knot that will travel through the rod guides, use a J knot, which tested at nearly 100% for this combination—but is much harder to tie than a Palomar.

palomar knot

▲ Pass leader loop through eye

Pete Sucheski

palomar knot

▲ Make overhand knot

Pete Sucheski

palomar knot

▲ Pass swivel through loop

Pete Sucheski

palomar knot

▲ Repeat on other side

Pete Sucheski

WINNER: J Knot

Strength: 83% | Superline to a ­fluorocarbon leader

I tested four different knotting systems using 10-pound InvizX fluorocarbon and 30-pound FireLine Braid, also of similar diameters. Other trials were close but earned no cigars: A 4-turn surgeon’s knot broke at 80%; 5-turn back-to-back Uni knots at 75%; and a 3-turn Seaguar knot at 73%. The J knot is difficult to tie, but if you’re using a fluorocarbon leader, you obviously are concerned about visibility and shouldn’t go the Palomar-to-a-barrel-swivel route as explained above.

j knot

▲ Place parallel, tie overhand knot

Pete Sucheski

j knot

▲ Pass tag back and forth through loop

Pete Sucheski

j knot

▲ Pass around bottom

Pete Sucheski

j knot

▲ Tighten and trim

Pete Sucheski


LINE-TO-LURE KNOTS


Arguments about the best terminal knot are endless. Usually they match one angler’s opinion against another’s. But to paraphrase knot maven Lefty Kreh, line-testing machines don’t have opinions. With that in mind, I tested the three basic types of line with various lure knots. Some of the results surprised even me.

Here also, the percentages listed indicate the strength of the knot compared with the line’s actual unknotted line strength.

WINNER: Trilene Knot

Strength: 96% | Monofilament to a Lure

I tested five different knots with 10-pound Trilene Big Game monofilament tied to an Original Rapala, and the tried-and-true Trilene knot beat all. Notably, a 6-turn clinch knot and a 5-turn improved clinch also came in at 96%, but only if they were tied with extreme care. Otherwise, they broke at a much lower percentage. The widely used Palomar knot tested at 89%.

Trilene Knot

▲ Pass tag through eye

Pete Sucheski

Trilene Knot

▲ Repeat

Pete Sucheski

Trilene Knot

▲ Make 5 wraps

Pete Sucheski

Trilene Knot

▲ Pass tag through loops

Pete Sucheski

WINNER: Nonslip Loop Knot

Strength: 83% | Fluorocarbon to a Lure

Fluorocarbon in general has gotten a bad rap for knot strength, which was borne out in this particular trial. Tying 10-pound InvizX to a small Rapala in three different ways gave results that were merely O.K. The nonslip loop knot barely edged out a Palomar knot, at 83% vs. 82%. So take your pick, although the loop knot has the added advantage of allowing greater freedom of lure movement in fishing. A 5-turn improved clinch knot came in at only 75%.

nonslip loop

▲ Make overhand knot

Pete Sucheski

nonslip loop

▲ Pass tag through eye and loop

Pete Sucheski

nonslip loop

▲ Make 4 wraps, pass tag through loop

Pete Sucheski

nonslip loop

▲ Pull standing end and lure

Pete Sucheski

WINNER: Berkley Braid Knot

Strength: 62% | Superline to a Lure

Various knots made with regular 14-pound FireLine to a Rapala did poorly percentagewise. A regular 8-turn clinch knot would not hold at all, slipping out and coming untied at about 10 pounds of force. A Palomar knot, often recommended for superlines, broke at 63%, but I picked the Berkley Braid knot as a winner because it doesn’t require passing your lure through a loop as a Palomar does, which can be unwieldy.

Berkley Braid Knot

▲ Pass loop through eye

Pete Sucheski

Berkley Braid Knot

▲ Make 8 wraps from far end

Pete Sucheski

Berkley Braid Knot

▲ Pass loop end between eye and coils

Pete Sucheski


The Test


I spent several thousand dollars on specialized lab equipment that allowed me to conduct the testing reported in this article. I used a calibrated Chatillon/Ametek DFE digital force gauge mounted on a Chatillon LTCM motorized test stand at a cross-head speed of 5 inches per minute. Outside of the fantastically expensive Instron machines used by 

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