Hackney: It’s time to talk about knots

In the last column I gave you some of my thoughts about line. A lot of guys worry about the test-weight of line, but the truth is that most of your problems will come from knots.

Manufacturers test the strength of line with a steady pull. They wrap it around something on both ends and pull it until it breaks. Every line I’ve ever seen tested meets or exceeds its test-weight. That’s a given. The trick is to tie a knot that’ll do the same thing.

Years ago I used a Clinch Knot almost exclusively. The only exception was when I wanted a bait to walk and move freely — something like a popper — that didn’t have a split ring or a snap on it. Then I tied an open loop type of knot. (I forget what it’s called. It’s the one everyone uses.) Now I’ve switched to a Palomar. I use it for everything except when I need a loop.

The trick to success with a Palomar Knot is to make sure you never cross the lines and never twist them. If you do you’ll burn the knot and it’ll break every time. Another thing is to pull the ends tight when you’re finished tying it. Pull the main line tight first, then the tag line. Keep the line wet while you’re doing this and you won’t have any trouble.

Tying a leader to your main line requires something different. For years and years I tied my leaders on with a Blood Knot. Now I use a Crazy Alberto. The blood knot is an excellent knot. I really can’t say anything bad about it. But, the Crazy Alberto is just as good and is a little smaller. It moves through the guides better and doesn’t stick on the reel spool. I frequently tie fluorocarbon to braid without any trouble whatsoever.

At this point I want to go back to how they test line strength, the slow and steady thing. That’s not a false measurement but it has nothing to do with knot strength or with jerking strength. I can’t break 14-pound-test line with my hands by pulling slow and steady on it.

However, I can break it if I tie a knot and jerk it. Even a properly tied knot will break below the test weight of the line if you jerk it hard. I’m sure there’s some sort of a scientific reason for that, but I have no idea what it is.

A lot of anglers lose their fish on the hookset. That’s because they jerk the lure on a slack line. When the line snaps tight, it breaks. That problem can be avoided by reeling in the slack before you make the hookset. I suspect some of you think that takes too long. It doesn’t. And besides it’s better than a lost fish and lure.

You don’t need to learn how to tie those weird, never-heard-of knots that you sometimes read about. I’ve used the knots I just talked about — Palomar, loop and Crazy Alberto — for years now. I have no hesitation recommending them. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time my line broke. It just never happens anymore.