Table of Contents
A Quick Guide to Fishing Knots
There are as many ways to tie a fishing knot as there are stars in the sky – over the years, a massive number of different knots have been created, none quite alike. It can be quite intimidating to learn how to tie fishing knots when you’re just getting into fishing, but it doesn’t have to be.
Really, there aren’t that many different knots you need to know – at least not when you’re first starting out. There are only three basic kinds of knots you need to know – line-to-line knots, which join together lines of similar or differing strength, terminal knots, which tie hooks and lures to fishing line, and loop knots, which are usually used for securing artificial lures.
With just a couple knots from each of these categories in your arsenal, you’ll have all the tools you need, and we’ve included video guides to help you learn in case the text accompanying each knot gets confusing.
Beyond those three categories, there are some specialty knots – but they’re not really necessary for beginners, so we’ll just focus on these for now, along with the Arbor Knot – the most popular knot for tying fishing line to reels.
Securing the Line to Your Reel
The Arbor Knot
The arbor knot is an important knot to know – without it, you won’t be able to attach your lines to your reels, so it’s important even for beginners to know, in case you have to replace your fishing line.
- Begin by passing your fishing line around the “arbor” – your reel, beginning with the “tag” end of the line. Then, tie an overhand knot around the line.
- After doing so, you will tie the tag end of the line one more time in an overhand knot, which will act as a stopper preventing your first overhand knot from coming undone.
- After tying the knots, slide both of them down and tighten them against the arbor.
That’s it! Your line is now securely attached to your reel, and you can begin spooling on your line.
Line-to-line knots are quite important when fishing. Firstly, you often must attach a smaller line to a larger line – for example, when adding a monofilament leader to a braided superline. And if you’re fly fishing, you’ll need to be able to attach your fly line to your backing line. But don’t worry. There are several line-to-line knots that give a secure hold with just about any thickness of line, and we’ll go over them now.
Double Uni Knot
This knot is one of the most versatile line-to-line knots out there, and it’s pretty simple to master. It can be used to join backing line to fly line, and leaders to braided line, among others.
- Begin by overlapping the ends of the lines that are to be joined. Then, take the end of the leftmost line and double it back, making 3-4 loops around both lines, and pushing the tag end through the large loop created when doubling back with the line.
- Then, repeat the process on the other end – if using braided line, you will want to use at least 8 wraps – wrapping the right line around both itself and the other line, and pulling it through the loop created when you doubled back with the line.
- Finish by pulling both of the standing lines in the opposite direction from each other. This will tighten the knots and pull them together, creating a tight hold.
The surgeon’s knot is another highly versatile knot that can be used to tie together two lines of equal or differing sizes, and is quite easy to master, and is one of the most favored methods to tie leaders to line.
- Begin by laying the line and leader on top of one another, overlapping each other by about 6 inches.
- Form a simple loop with both sections of line. You should have a few inches of line and leader outside the loop.
- Take that section of line/leader together, and wind it around the loop. Repeat this process one more time for a double surgeon’s knot – you may do it one more time to create a triple surgeon’s knot.
- After feeding the line/leader through the loop as desired, pull both sides of the line tight. Before closing the knot all the way, it is recommended to moisten the knot for maximum hold.
- Once the knot is wet, pull as tight as possible.
Loop knots are often used for artificial lures that closely mimic real fish, and they’re used because the open, yet strong loop helps the lure float more realistically, unlike terminal knots which can cause it to move in unnatural ways. We’ll go over one simple loop knot now – easy to master and easy to use, it’s better to know it and not need it than vice versa.
Surgeon's End Loop
The surgeon’s end loop is quite similar to the surgeon’s knot, but in this case, it’s used to loop one line back on itself, creating a strong loop to which many different lures and equipment can be attached.
- Begin by doubling the line back on itself, and tying a loose overhand knot.
- Once you’ve tied the overhand knot, pass the loop end of the line through the knot.
- Hold the standing end – the end with the loop – and the tag end tightly, and pull. The knot will tighten, and the standing end will form a loop.
- Clip tag end and trim excess.
Terminal knots are used to join hooks and other baits to fishing line, as the name might suggest. These knots are meant to have a very secure hold, and to be able to tie a variety of objects to the end of the fishing line. Often, they use multiple small loops for a very tight and secure hold. We’ll go over a few of them now.
Improved Clinch Knot
The improved clinch knot is a tried-and-true knot with great effectiveness for smaller lines – though it’s not recommended for use with braided lines or in bulky lines that are over 25lb test strength.
- Begin by threading the end of your line through the eye of the hook or lure.
- Then, double back, and make at least 5 loose wraps around the fishing line.
- Bring the end of the fishing line forward to the first loop formed around the eye, and pull it through.
- Moisten the knot, and pull the tag end of the line to tighten down the coils.
- Slide the tag end of the line tightly against the eye, and then clip it.
Unlike the previous knot, the improved clinch, the Palomar knot is perfect for use with bulky line, and especially great when you’re working with heavy-duty braided fishing line.
- Begin by doubling 6 inches of line and passing it through the eye of the hook or lure.
- Tie a loose overhand knot, and ensure the hook is hanging from the bottom.
- Hold the overhand knot between your thumb and your forefinger, and pass the loop formed from your overhand knot below the hook, and pull it up to the eye of the hook.
- Pull both ends of the line tight, moistening the line for extra hold if necessary.
The uni knot is a terminal knot that’s quite easy to tie – some anglers find it easier than the improved clinch, and it’s got quite similar strength. It has the added benefit of being able to create a loop, rather than just a flush knot at the eye of a hook or lure. This is the single version of the double uni knot previously used to join two lines.
- Begin by pulling the tag end of your line through the eye of the hook or lure.
- Double back parallel to the standing line, and create a loop by laying the tag end over the doubled-over line.
- Hold onto the doubled line and the loop laid over it. Begin winding the end of the loop around the doubled line, and repeat 5-6 times.
- Moisten the line and pull the tag end taut.
- You may then slide the knot all the way to the end of the eye, or leave a small loop if desired.
While you may need to learn quite a few more knots before you can call yourself an expert angler, this basic summary of some of the most popular knots in fishing is sure to be useful as you learn the basics of knots and fishing, and will get you surprisingly far.
If you have mastered these basic knots and are interested in more exotic and specialized knots, there are plenty of web resources out there to use, such as NetKnots and Animated Knots, which feature detailed knots, diagrams, and even video resources to help you learn more about fishing knots.
So get out there, start tying up some line, and get fishin’. There’s no need to be intimidated – with just a little practice and elbowgrease; you’re sure to master these basic knots in no time, and be well on your way to fishing mastery.