There is no denying that game fishing can be an expensive sport. While it can be done from smaller craft in the right conditions, the larger boats that are commonly used can cost more than your house. Add to this the rods, reels, lures and fuel required and you can easily see why it is often dubbed as a rich man’s sport.
Obviously, game fishing can be accomplished on a smaller scale but there can still be a considerable outlay required to put you in the game. Surprisingly, I have regularly witnessed cashed-up anglers with all the right equipment and a flash new boat who have no idea how to even rig their lines. Whilst sheer luck can sometimes catch these anglers a few fish, the ‘all the gear and no idea’ scenario is unlikely to produce success on a regular basis. This month I thought we would have a look at one of the most overlooked aspects of game fishing- the knots used for rigging up.
So when is a knot, not a knot? When it fails. Good connections are vital to game fishing as well as all fishing in general. Whilst fishing off the jetty for bream, you can get away with just a series of granny knots to attach your hooks, however the extreme pressures and often prolonged fights associated with game fishing will dictate that good connections are vital for success. If a connection is not up to scratch, you may lose the fish you have hooked and also the expensive lure and hook rig you have been trolling for miles whilst chewing up many litres of fuel. A carelessly tied knot could quickly spoil your day, especially if you lost the only fish hooked, or the one you needed to win a tournament. While there are a lot of knots that anglers use for game fishing applications, only a few are tried and proven time after time by seasoned skippers. Whilst different anglers have differing opinions about which knot is the best, there is no denying that all the knots commonly used by successful anglers have a great degree of merit. The two main applications where knots are used in your rig are firstly to create a double in the main line and secondly to join this double to the leader. Lets look at a few of the possibilities.
The term ‘double’ continually pops up when game and sport fishing anglers are talking about rigging up, no matter what species is being discussed. A double offers several advantages for any angler. If your single strand of line is tied directly to a hook, swivel or leader, then the entire rig is only as strong as that connection. The connections usually used for these applications often only have around 70% knot strength, therefore if you were using 10kg line, the maximum breaking strain of your rig will only be around 7kg. If however, you create a double in the main line before doing these knots in the double line, then your knot strength at the connection to swivel, hook or leader will technically be 2x70% of the line strength (ie.14kg for 10kg line). Obviously you are maintaining the full strength of the lines breaking strain at this connection area and any week spot in the rig is avoided. Another attribute of the double is the extra abrasion resistance that that is gained over a single strand of line, especially when a hot fish is scorching across the surface with the line getting punished by every beat of its tail. When doing a double in the main line, three main knots that are used with great success.
As its name suggests, the Bimini twist originated in the Bimini area of the Bahamas. It has seen a degree of change over the years and although the basis of the knot stays the same, the finishing of the knot has seen many changes and alterations over the years, especially since braid came to the fore. Repeated half hitches, wraps with a pull-through (like in rod binding) and the Rizutto finish are a few of the more popular ways. The Bimini twist, when tied well, has a reputed 100% knot strength. Whilst the Bimini twist is used to create a loop in the main line, it is generally only performed in line classes up to and including 15kg. The profile of this knot is low when tied well and therefore goes in an out the rod tip without problem, even under pressure. Personally I have never had a Bimini twist fail and rate them very highly. They can be used for a broad array of applications and are especially good for braid. Generally the smaller the line class the more wraps (or twists) you will put in the Bimini at the start. As an example, I would use around70 wraps for 2kg mono, 40 wraps for 8kg mono, and 25 for 15kg. When using braid you would generally add around 30% more twists, due to its fine diameter.
The spider hitch is often referred to as the ‘dumb deckies’ knot. Like the Bimini twist, it is used to perform a loop in the main line. The spider hitch’s main advantage over the Bimini twist is that it’s much easier, and generally quicker, to tie. Whilst this sounds like a good idea to those struggling to master such knots, the negative aspect is that it has a lot less knot strength, although some skippers argue this fact. A spider hitch double is better than no double but if you are serious about your sport then take the time to master the Bimini twist. The spider hitch is generally only tied in lines up to 15kg. This knot should be pulled tight slowly to avoid weakening the line with heat friction. It is not nearly as low profile in larger line classes as the Bimini. A little lubrication with water or spittle, helps the spider hitch to compact without friction. Probably the spider hitch’s only advantage over the Bimini is that it is easier to tie when long doubles are required.
The plait is mainly used for heavier line classes between 24kg and 60kg, where Bimini twists and spider hitches are hard to tie without heat friction damaging the line. The plait is very strong when tied well and also reasonably low profile when tied in thick line. Like the Bimini twist, it is a little harder to learn but the long-term rewards in having the patience to master it are well worthwhile. If you are anticipating doing some heavy tackle fishing for large marlin, tuna and other gamefish, then the plait is a basic necessity. Unlike the Bimini twist, which is hard to do when long doubles are called for, the plait can easily be completed at any length because no line tension is required when tying it. With heavy tackle applications, doubles are generally in excess of 5m in length, therefore all things considered the plait is the obvious choice for these heavier line classes.
Now that we have sorted out our doubles the next requirement is that we know how to connect them to our leader. There are two main connections that are readily used. The first for when you are attaching a fixed leader to the double and the second when attaching a removable leader. Whilst both will allow the leader to wind through the guides and onto the reel in normal circumstances, the latter is preferred for the flexibility it offers and the low failure rate, especially when the leader is exiting the guides under tension.
The first double to leader connection is the Albright knot (sometimes called a Tony Jones leader knot although this is a slightly different knot)), which is a good choice when attaching lines of differing thicknesses. Whilst the Albright has relatively high knot strength when connecting quite thick leaders to the double, it does have some negative attributes. For attaching lighter leaders to around 80lb in strength, the Albright is generally fine, but heavier leaders can often catch on the frame of guides and tip due to their bulkiness and the way the tag end of the leader faces up the rod. This can also affect casting. The Albright is a suitable knot for joining braided and monofilament doubles to leaders to around 80lb, but for heavier leaders I personally don’t recommend it. Our next connection is the best for this application.
Wind-on-leaders are definitely the best option when heavy leaders are required. The simplicity of connecting a wind-on-leader to your double with a loop-to-loop connection makes for hassle free fishing. The assembly of the wind-on-leader is another topic all together, with many methods proving their worth. Basically a wind-on-leader is a thick monofilament leader that has a Dacron loop spliced to one end. Pre-made wind-on-leaders can be purchased at many of the better tackle stores which specialize in game fishing equipment. If you have the time and patience then they can also be constructed at home to save on costs and lost time on the water. There is good DVD available entitled Rigging Baits and Leaders for Light Tackle Game Fishing which illustrates their construction. Like a knot, the strength of the Dacron splice is only as good as its maker. Quality wind-on-leaders can last a long time but a poorly made leader may not even allow you to land a single fish. The benefits of wind-on-leaders are enormous. They permit you to wind the leader right onto the reel, which allows easy single-handed fighting of fish and avoids rod tip damage caused by swivels. When used in conjunction with short lure leaders they allow easy storage of leaders, reducing the possibility of an accident caused by having loose coils of line and lures with sharp hooks on the deck. Wind-on-leaders are easy to swap over between rods without having to totally re-rig and do new knots. They also have many additional benefits, as detailed in previous articles. To connect a wind-on to your double it is a simple process. Pass the loop of the double through the Dacron loop on the wind-on-leader. Then pass the other end of the wind-on-leader (which usually has a snap on it) through the loop of the double. Slowly pull tight and you are ready to go fishing. The entire double and wind on can easily pass through the guides with a minimum of fuss.
Whilst having good knots will not definitely make you a better angler, it at least gives you the best opportunity to achieve your goal when a fish does strike. If every little facet of your rig and technique can be honed to the nth degree, then you have all the tools in place to do the job well. Knots are just one of the pieces of the game fishing puzzle, although a very important one. Take time to learn a few of these more advanced knots and you’ll discover you will use them repeatedly for the rest of your life. I was lucky to be taught correctly the first time and quickly mastered the Bimini twist, Albright and the making of wind-on-leaders. These are used extensively in all offshore and many inshore fishing applications with the addition of a plait for heavier line classes. They have served me faultlessly over the years and I am sure they will do the same for you. I mean this in the nicest way when I say, “go get knotted”.
KNOTS TO LEARN
From Geoff Wilson’s Book of Fishing Knots and Rigs (2006 edition)
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