Improved Bristol knot
  |  First Published: March 2015

The Improved Bristol knot, which is the subject of this month’s back-to-basics, provokes interesting discussion.

As mentioned last month, when tied correctly, the Bristol Knot out-tests all the various ‘improved’ Albright ‘specials’. As you would expect, the Improved Bristol Knot (IBK) out-tests the Bristol Knot, however, it also out-tests the mainline.

The IBK is arguably more reliable in out-testing its ‘teammate’ the Bimini knot (the Bimini knot constructs the double). Therefore the interesting debate is: do you really need the Improved Bristol Knot, especially if, all other things being equal, the line is always going to break somewhere along the mainline?

I always conclude that when using long doubles, the IBK can come in handy if you have a skilled angler and the appropriate tackle set (which includes an overbuilt rod).

In some tournaments, the fish can be released as soon as the swivel hits the rod tip and\or the wireman gets his hand on the leader. Accordingly, if a long double is being used, then at that point the angler who is using the long double should have a few wraps of the double line on the reel. At this juncture the singular mainline is no longer in the fight and an increase in pressure can be applied to the fish through the doubled mainline i.e. the double. This can be used to help out in controlling the fish at the side of the boat for release. So there is a use, albeit limited and specific, for the IBK.

One major advantage of the Bristol Knot and its improved version is that they can be tied very quickly even when at sea in rough high-excitement conditions.

A caveat: Some braids have a very slippery surface and the Bristol will need more wraps than normal in order for there to be enough surface area for your knot to grip. Hence it pays to tie a few ‘testers’ when matching braids and\or leaders of a combination that you have not used previously.


Start the Improved Bristol Knot as you would start the Bristol Knot.


First, tie a Bimini in your main line to give yourself a long double loop. Note that the double loop at this point is at its actual finished length and it will not get any shorter when the Bristol is tied.


Insert the leader (aka shock leader) through the loop that has been formed by the Bimini in tying the double. It helps to keep your index finger hooked around the leader to maintain the loop (or pinch the leader and the end of the loop together) when you start tying this knot. Then wrap the tag end 5-7 times up along and around the doubled line (i.e. wrap it upwards towards the Bimini knot).


Pinch the braided double line(s) and the leader together at the top of the wraps of leader. Then wrap the leader's tag end back down around the previous wraps\twists for the same number of wraps. Five or six wraps in each direction is the gold-plated standard for this knot. In fact, sometimes in some materials, tying more wraps can make the knot too complex, which risks the outcome of the end product.

Then pass the leader’s tag end back through\between the bottom loop (as held open by your index finger) – ensure that the leader’s tag end goes through the bottom loop in the opposite direction to that which it entered.


Snug the knot by moistening the lines with saliva and pulling on both the standing part of the leader and the double line to tighten the knot. The tag end should be protruding at around about a 90º angle – trim the tag end and you’ve finished the Improved Bristol Knot.

Please note, it can take a lot of applied force to cinch down any of the Bristol knots, so it is advised you have gloves on both hands!

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