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Tie 'Em Right

When you lose a big fish, don't let a knot be the reason why.

The knot is the connecting point between the hook and the fish. If it fails, the game is lost. Period.

Even so, the importance of knots is often overlooked by most fishermen. Too many anglers learn something like the improved clinch knot and figure that's all that is needed to tie on a lure or hook--which isn't always the case. Another problem is that there are well-designed and poor knots being tied every day, plus the quality of knot-tying itself is amazingly variable.

Even anglers who understand the importance of knots are often unaware of a few tips or tricks that can make their knots better.

The most important factor for tying good knots is to realize that no knot breaks until it slips. If a knot can be closed so firmly that it won't slip, it doesn't break.

This rule applies to knots tied in a 2-inch hawser rope to hold a large ship at the dock, or when you use 2-pound-test monofilament tied to a small lure. That is why a Bimini twist is employed in so many situations. The Bimini twist is a knot that when properly tied, doesn't slip--meaning that the line breaks instead of the knot.

There are few knots that will be as strong as the line they are tied with. The Bimini twist is one, the non-slip mono loop is another, and the uni-knot, palomar and Trilene knots are often stronger than the line.

Because knots break when they slip, it's important to be aware of several things. Depending on the line test and knot, there is a specific and correct number of turns that should be made with the tag end around the standing line. For example, if it's required to make six turns with the tag end and you only make five, you may not have made enough turns to keep the knot from slipping; if you make seven turns instead of six, you may have so many turns that you can't draw it tightly enough to keep it from slipping. It is critical to make the proper number of turns.

There are also knots that perform well in some diameters of line and poorly in other diameters. A good example is the popular improved clinch knot. My knot-testing machine reveals that when you tie a clinch or improved clinch knot with a diameter larger than 15-pound-test monofilament, it is very difficult to close the knot hard enough to provide a tight hold. Generally, where larger diameters are used and the knots require numerous turns with the tag end around the main line, they are usually difficult to close.

Another important knot-tying factor is that with lines testing more than 15-pound-test mono, it is difficult to close the knot properly with bare hands. It is usually necessary to use pliers or gloves to get a proper closure.

If you are connecting monofilament lines of two very different diameters, such as when using a blood or barrel knot, you should try to use monofilaments that have the same limpness. If you try to tie stiff or a hard monofilament to a much more supple mono, it's somewhat like tying a rubber band to a piece of limp wire. For example, if you are making a tapered leader, instead of using a butt section that is of hard monofilament and trying to connect it to limper mono, discard the hard mono and use a slightly thicker diameter of the limper mono.

Most knots are some form of overhand, clinch or nail knot. For example, a uni, blood and clinch knot are all variations of a clinch knot. There is an important little trick when closing any type of clinch knot that makes it easier for you and improves the knot's strength. After the turns have been made around the standing line, the tag end is inserted through a gap in the knot and the knot is ready to be drawn tight. You can ensure a better closure if you take the tag end and gently pull on it until there is no gap between the tag end and the spiraled coils. If the tag end lies flush against the coils and you wet the knot, it will almost always close easily and firmly.

If you have been using a favorite knot for some time and a companion suggests that he or she has a better one, there is a simple test to decide which is best that doesn't require any complicated equipment. Select two identical hooks. Take a short length of monofilament and tie your favorite knot to one of the hooks. Tie your companion's knot to the other hook, using the other end of the strand of the monofilament. It is important that you have mastered each knot so they're tied correctly. Grip each hook with a pair of pliers. Firmly gripping the hooks with the pliers, begin to slowly bring the hands apart until one of the knots fails. Repeat this test 10 times, because some knots are very good on a steady pull but fail when a slight jerk is placed on the knot. Tie another 10 samples of the two knots to the hooks and this time hold the pliers firmly and jerk each of them apart. After testing 20 knots (10 steady pulls and 10 jerks), you will have an indication as to which knot is best.

Many anglers have used the new braided lines. None of these lines that I have tested has quite the knot strength of a premium monofilament, but they do offer a very thin diameter for their line strength. The caution here is to realize that most knots that perform well with monofilament don't necessarily function well with braided lines. Fortunately, most of the manufacturers of these lines have done the experimenting for you and provide drawings and instruction for knots that do work fairly well with their products--follow these directions and resist the urge to use what you always have.

Give much consideration to the types of knots you use, particularly if you tend to use the same knot all the time. Test a variety of lines and you'll better appreciate their capacities and limitations. More importantly, you'll probably start catching fish that perhaps you would have lost without taking that extra knot-tying care. FS

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