There are a few things you need to have in order to be a successful fisherman: a bountiful fishing location, the right pairing of rod and fishing lures, and the ability to choose and tie the correct fishing knot for your situation. A fishing knot is the link between you and the fish; it is, in fact, the most pivotal part of your fishing kit.
Without a solid fishing knot, your hook won’t remain on the line, and any fish attracted by your lure will end up back in the water rather than on the end of your line. Therefore, it’s important to take some time to learn how to tie fishing knots before you head out on your next fishing trip.
General Tips for Tying Fishing Knots
Though knowing how to tie a variety of fishing knots is a necessary skill, it’s one that novice anglers may not think about as they practice their hobby. However, a strong, well-tied fishing knot guards against the possibility that the fish will get away since it secures your tackle to your line.
In addition to knowing how to tie the knot, you also need to know how to choose the correct knot for your particular fishing situation, since the type of knot that you choose to use has a direct impact on your fish catching success. For example, if you, like many new anglers, choose to tie an ordinary overhand knot, you’ll likely weaken your line to about 50 percent of its original strength.
The only way to learn to tie fishing knots is to practice! Practice tying a variety of knots on an extra length of fishing line, using a hook that you’ve blunted or buried the point into a piece of cork. Be sure to practice each type of fishing knot that you might use until you can do each correctly.
One mistake that many novice anglers make when tying knots is using a line that’s too dry. If your line is dry, it can break or become damaged when you tie the knot; even if it doesn’t break, you may not be able to tie the knot as tightly as you should. To avoid breakage, damage, or a loose knot, wet the knot with water or saliva as you pull it.
Be sure to pull the knot tight and trim the ends with small scissors or nail clippers. Trimming the ends of the knot will prevent your line from getting hooked in weeds, plants, mud, or other debris in the water or near the shore. Don’t be afraid to trim the ends close to the knot, either: if you’ve tied your knot tightly, it won’t come loose when you cut the ends.
As you’re learning to tie knots, you’ll notice that each part of the fishing knot is designated by a special term. Learn fishing knot terminology so that you not only understand how to tie the basic and most commonly used knots, but also more complex, advanced, or specialty knots as you advance in your fishing career.
Two important terms are “tag end” and “standing end.” The tag end, also known as the working end, is the end of the line that you use to tie the knot, while the standing end is the end of the line that is attached to your fishing reel.
For every knot that you tie, you should leave about one foot of line at the tag end to ensure you have enough line to tie the knot correctly. In addition, be sure to pull each end of the knot to tie it tightly. While for many knots this means pulling the tag end and the standing end, for other knots you may have multiple ends that you’ll need to pull to make the knot tight.
Finally, remember that knots are rarely as strong as the lines onto which they are tied. As you read more about tying fishing knots, you’ll likely see the strength of the knot expressed as a percentage. This percentage signifies the percentage of the line’s strength at which the knot will snap or break.
For example, in a line testing ten pounds, a knot testing 50 percent—such as a simple overhand knot—will break at 5 pounds of tension. Many of the knots listed in this guide have been tested to 90 percent when tying tackle to your line.
Tying Basic Fishing Knots
There are a wide variety of fishing knots that you’ll likely learn to tie over the course of your fishing career. Learning how to tie more complex, complicated knots not only opens you up to different types of tackle and fishing situations but also can be a challenging and rewarding experience.
However, before you tackle more complicated knots, master some of the basic and most commonly used knots. The following knots are basic knots that every angler should have in his tackle box:
- Improved Clinch Knot
- Surgeon’s Knot
- Uni Knot
- Palomar Knot
- Snelling an Eyed Hook
- Non-Slip Loop Fishing Knots
Improved Clinch Knot
The Improved Clinch Knot is one of the most popular and commonly used fishing knots for securing tackle, such as a lure, clip, artificial fly, or swivel, to your line. It’s also one of the easiest knots to learn how to tie.
This knot also offers up to 95 percent of the original line strength if it’s tied with 5 turns of the tag end of the line around the standing end before you run the tag end back through the loop.
To tie an Improved Clinch Knot,
- Begin with about 1 to 1.5 feet of line at the tag end and thread the tag end through the eye of the hook or tackle, leaving about 6 to 12 inches of line.
- Be sure to leave a small space in between the hook eye or tackle and the line end, and then twist the tag end around the standing end 5 times.
- Pass the tag end through the small space (loop) you left between the hook and line.
- Run the tag end back through the loop you just created in the above step.
- Pull the tag end and standing end slowly away from the hook.
- Moisten the line with water or saliva, then pull only the standing line away from the hook to secure the knot tightly.
Also called the Double Surgeon’s Knot, this knot is one of the easiest and most essential knots to know for tying together two lengths of line. The best part of using the Surgeon’s Knot is that it can be used to tie together lines of either equal or unequal diameter.
In essence, this knot is just two overhand knots with the whole leader pulled through the knot every time. To properly tighten this knot, all four ends of the line must be pulled.
To tie a Surgeon’s Knot,
- Put the leader line next to your main line.
- To form an overhand knot, pass both the long end of the leader line as well as the tag end of the main line through the loop.
- To form a second overhand knot, pass the long end of the leader line and the tag end of the main line through the loop.
- Moisten your lines with saliva or water, then pull on all four of the line ends to properly tighten your knot.
- Trim all ends close to the knot.
Also called the Duncan Knot or Hangman’s Knot, the Uni Knot is the best knot if you want to tie an eyed hook to a leader. This type of knot is an excellent choice if you have braided or monofilament line, or if you are tying together lines of unequal diameter.
To tie a Uni Knot,
- Pass the line through the hook eye, then double back so that the line is parallel to the standing line.
- Lay the tag end over this double line to create a loop, making sure that both lines face the same direction.
- With the tag end, make 5 to 6 turns around the doubled line and through the loop you just created.
- Hold both ends of the line in one hand and the hook in the other, then pull them gently until the knot is just tied. Don’t tighten the knot just yet.
- Use water or saliva to wet the lines, and pull the ends away from your hook to tighten the knot.
- Trim the end closely to finish the knot.
This knot offers up to 95 percent strength for lines testing up to 20 pounds. Because this knot retains most of the strength of the original line, many think that it’s the best choice for light lines, particularly braided lines, as they won’t pull out of this knot.
The only possible problem with this line is that, due to the way it’s tied, it may more easily tangle your line. If you are going to use the Palomar Knot, it’s important to practice often on an extra piece of line so that you can avoid this potential pitfall and use the favorite knot of most anglers.
To tie a Palomar Knot,
- Begin with about 1 foot of line at the tag end, and double about 6 inches over on itself.
- Pass the folded line through the eye of your hook or tackle.
- Tie an overhand knot just above the hook eye, being sure to leave about 2 to 3 inches on the tag end of the folded line.
- The folded line is now a loop, which you now open and pass over the hook or lure.
- Pull the tag end and standing end close to the loop to tighten the knot.
Snelling an Eyed Hook
While many knots are tied around or near the eye of the hook, there are occasions when you do not want to tie your knot through the hook eye.
Tying your knot away from the eye of the hook is called snelling. Snelling a knot creates a stronger knot and can improve your catch rates in situations where you are trying to catch bigger, heavier, or faster fish; however, this technique can be used for any type of fishing.
To snell an eyed hook,
- Using an upturned or downturned eye hook, pass the tag end through the hook and make a large loop along the hook’s shank. Your tag end should lay along the hook shank.
- Wrap the loop around both the shank of the hook and the tag end, down the shank towards the curve of the hook.
- The number of times you need to wrap the loop around the shank and tag end will vary depending on the size of the line and the size of the hook.Generally, you will use 6 to 10 turns of the loop around the shank and tag end.
- Pull the main line to tighten your snell.
Non-Slip Loop Fishing Knots
If you have a larger line, a tight knot like the Improved Clinch Knot can hinder the movement of your hook, lure, or bait. You can create a fixed loop that allows your hook to move freely by tying a non-slip loop fishing knot.
To tie a non-slip loop fishing knot,
- Make an overhand knot 10 inches from the line end, then pass the tag end of the line through the tackle and back through your overhand knot.
- Turn the tag end around the standing end above the overhand knot 5 times.
- Pass the tag end back through the overhand again.
- Moisten the lines with water or saliva and pull them tight to secure the knot.
Learning to tie a variety of fishing knots properly and tightly is as essential as a tackle box full of lures or a high-quality fishing rod. In fact, properly tied fishing knots mean the difference between a successful day’s catch and failure.
Ultimately, if you want to enjoy your hobby and also improve your angling skills, you need to practice the basic knots discussed here so that you’re prepared to fish in a variety of situations with an array of tackle and types of line.
To help you with good choices, see our article on how to select the best fishing rods for your reference.