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Knot a trivial matter

August 24, 2009 at 10:48 AM

As my fishing partner scrambled for a net—the first time I’d seen him do that in all the days we’d spent on the water—I realized the fish on the other end of my line had to be a big one. So as the big bass continued fighting, bending my rod and struggling for freedom, I started contemplating on which wall she’d be displayed.

But while reeling the lunker to the boat, a tragic thing happened: The line went slack.

“He broke the line,‘“I groaned. But the telltale curly-cue at the end of my line said otherwise. The line had held, my knot had not.

It was at that point, still on the water, that I learned to tie a Palomar knot. The knot I had been using had no known name, at least none that could be printed here, and that one incident taught me the importance of a good connection.

Sure the rod, reel, line and lure are all important components for landing fish. But if the knot won’t hold, the fish won’t make it to the livewell—or the wall of your office. As I learned so painfully, an incorrectly tied knot can lose up to 50 percent of its inherent strength.

And really, learning to tie a knot is a relatively simple endeavor. Sure there are plenty of different varieties with colorful names like the King Sling, the Bimini Twist, the Jansik Special and the surgeon’s knot.

In fact, there are estimated to be more than 3,000 knots, with more than 100 of them designed specifically for fishing. Obviously, attempting to learn them all would be impractical. But mastering a few can make the difference between a trip to the taxidermist and a lifetime of ``If only’s.’‘

To be successful, it’s helpful to know at least one knot in each of the following three categories:

1. Tying line to a lure, hook or swivel; 2. Joining lines of different diameter; 3. Joining lines of similar diameter.

1. Connecting line to a lure, hook or swivel

Many anglers choose the improved clinch knot, while others favor the easier Uni-knot.

But judging from conversations with weekend anglers and professionals alike, the Palomar is the most popular knot around.

As BASS pro David Fritts said at a recent seminar in Bloomington, ``You can use other knots and some of them are pretty good. But if you can tie a Palomar, you should use a Palomar.’‘

And there’s scientific data to back up that claim.

Testing by Du Pont researchers has shown the Palomar to be the most efficient knot for holding lures and hooks. That’s why we’ve included a diagram for tying the Palomar on this page.

Designed by Californian Chet Palomar, the simple knot has been tested to retain 95-100 percent of a line’s original strength when properly tied.

What’s more, the Palomar can be used with the newer braided lines.

“I don’t know of any time I’ve had a Palomar knot fail, even with the new braided lines,” Macon angler Phil Sargent said. “In my opinion the Palomar is so quick, so simple and so good I can’t think of any situation where I can’t use it.’”

Naturally, there are exceptions. Anglers fishing with top-water baits who want to impart more action in their lures generally use loop knots that are not pulled down tight on the lure, allowing the bait to move more naturally.

The Rapala knot works well for this purpose, as does the King Sling, the Brubaker loop knot and other loop knot variations.

2. Joining lines of different diameter

The only way to assure 100-percent line strength is to use the Bimini twist. But who has the time or, in my case, the manual dexterity to attempt this involved knot?

But you don’t need the hands of an MD to learn the surgeon’s knot, the Albright special or even the Stu Apte improved blood knot.

All three of those are very effective at joining lines of different widths.

3. Joining lines of similar diameter

When the lines you are joining are very close in diameter, you can use any of the knots listed above or the blood knot (shown on this page).

One study showed that the surgeon’s knot with two overhand turns was superior to the blood knot. Another study showed the exact opposite. Whichever one works best for you, learn it.

The blood knot is nice because it makes a small enough joint to slip easily through most rod guides.


This kind of knot is equivalent to the improved clinch for terminal tackle connections, yet is easier to tie, except when using large plugs. It, too, is used by most of the pros.

1. Double about four inches of line and pass through eye.

2. Let hook hang loose and tie an overhead know in double line. Avoid twisting the lines, and DON’T TIGHTEN!

3. Pull loop of line far enough to pass it over the hook, swivel, or lure. Make sure the loop passes completely over this attachment.

4. Paull both tag end and standing line to tighten.

5. Clip tag end.


This is a good knot for making terminal tackle connections. Professional fishermen and angling authorities prefer it for lines up to 20-pound test.

1. Pass the line through the eye of the hook, swivel, or lure. Double back and make five turns around the standing line.

2. Holding the coils in place, thread the end of the line around the first loop above the eye, then through the big loop.

3. Hodl the tag end of standing line while pulling up coils. Make sure the coils are in a spiral, not lapping over each other. Slide tight against eye.

4. Clip tag end.


This is a good knot for connecting two lines of similar diameter. This knot makes a small joint that slips easily through most rod guides.

1. Lie the ends of two line against each other, overlapping about six inches.

2. Take five turns around one line with the end of the other, and bring the end back where it’s held between the two lines.

3. Repeat by taking five turns around the other line, bringing the end back between the two lines. These two ends should then project in opposite directions.

4. Work the knot up into loops, taking care that the two ends do not slip out of position.

5. Draw the knot up tightly.

Knot-Tying Tips

—Practice your knot of choice enough so you can tie it in any condition: dark, wind, rain, etc.

—Follow the directions for tying a knot exactly. It’s generally not true that a few extra twists make a knot stronger.

—Be even more precise when tying braided lines.

—Moisten a knot before pulling it tight. Dry knots have half the breaking strength.

—Tighten your knot all the way down with even pressure. Slippage is the main cause of failure in most knots.

—Don’t be afraid to waste a little extra line while tying your knots.

—Clip the tag end of knots with a nail clipper.

—It’s always easier to tie a knot with dry hands, so keep a towel nearby.

—If you want to make your knots extra strong, coat them with some type of waterproof glue.

—An excellent book on knot tying is offered by the Stren Line Co. entitled, ``Choosing and Using Lines and Knots.’’ It’s available at many sports shows and tackle dealers.

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