Marine Fisheries Resource Center
For Anglers: Fishing Knots and Hooks

Knots are important details in fishing and they serve different purposes. There are many textbooks and websites written about knot tying and we will not attempt to present a comprehensive review of the many choices that are available. Two good rules to remember are you should not use the same knot twice and you should take time to tie your knots carefully. Knots should be tied slowly, the line and knot should be moistened before pulling them tight (this prevents binding and allows the knot to tie evenly). Use firm and deliberate force when tightening a knot.  Allow a 1-4" tag length on each knot to prevent it from unraveling. Keep your twists and spirals uniform to make the knots neat and precise. When tying double lines, keep them parallel to avoid twisting as the knot is being tied.

Since the knot is the only connection the angler has to keep the hooked fish, it is important to inspect each knot before fishing. Check the line for knicks and fraying, and retie each knot made with monofilament lines before each fishing trip. Although wire leaders can be reused many times, you should test the crimps, and replace wire leaders with kinks or are rusted.  Remember that although snaps and swivels may be reused, wire leaders and rigs have a shorter lifespan.

Knots & Loops

Attaching Lures & Hooks
You will find it necessary to make a terminal connection to the line, and a useful knot to learn is the Improved Clinch Knot. This knot is used to connect: line to hook, line to lure and line to barrel swivel.  It is most suited for monofilament lines of test strength of up to 20 lbs.

Joining Lines
The Blood Knot provides a quick means of tying one length of monofilament to another, and works best when both lines are of similar thickness; it is a popular choice that is used by anglers. The Surgeon's Knot is recommended for joining lines of different thickness. Also, a situation may arise where it is necessary to connect the main line to a heavy leader, or tie a line to a wire leader (e.g. bluefish fishing)- the Albright Knot is the one recommended by the experts.

Making Loops
There are a diverse number of reasons for using loops, and the Surgeon's End Loop is perhaps the easiest to perform.  This loop is usually tied at the end of the line, making a quick attachment for leaders and sinkers.

Stopping a Float
There are many advantages to using floats on your fishing line (for example to keep the bait out of the reach of crabs when fishing for striped bass), and it is important to invest a few minutes to tie a Float Stop Knot to prevent the float from sliding over the line.

Selecting Hooks
Hooks come in a variety of shape and sizes and selecting hooks for fishing is pretty much a matter of personal choice; however, it is also important to consider the fish's habit and morphology. There are many options available to the angler with an interest in catch-and-release. Hooks should be matched to the jaws they will encounter and the angler should anticipate the type of battle that will ensue. A jeweler's file is used to sharpen hook points that soon become blunt from natural oxidation.

You should consider whether to use bronze or stainless steel hooks. Bronze hooks have the advantage that they rust within a few days but they increase the fish's exposure to chemical toxins that are generated from the decomposition process, which is often lethal. Hooks made from stainless steel take longer to be rejected by the fish (as many as 120 days); however, fish suffer lesser trauma in spite of the long retention. Hook size should be considered, and it will depend upon the type of fishing that is being proposed.

Researchers have demonstrated the advantages of using circle hooks to reduce hooking mortality in fish- this is an important factor when an angler is interested in catch-and-release. Circle hooks have a built-in mechanism to set themselves when there is increased pressure on the line. There is no need for the angler to set the hook, instead, the line should be brought taut and the fish played. Other advantages of using circle hooks include:

  • Setting the hook; performed automatically, which is useful when fishing in deep water where it might be difficult to detect when the fish takes the bait.

  • Snag resistance; the inwardly turned point makes them less prone to becoming snagged.

  • Fewer "deep-hooking" injuries; wounding location is usually in the jaw where it is easily removed.

  • Lighter leaders; since hooking is usually in the jaw away from the teeth, it is possible to use lighter leaders which is useful when fishing for wary fish.

It is important to ensure the hook is not rigged in a manner that impedes its performance. Hooks should not be placed in the boniest part of the bait. If you are using live bait, hook the bait through the fleshy part in the back to allow the hook to tear loose and set itself when the fish strikes.

Circle hooks do not work for every fish, but are most successful in the case where the fish makes a sharp turn after taking the bait (for example, striped bass, fluke, bluefish, blackfish and tuna). These hooks are not recommended for fish that swim in the same direction after taking the bait because the bait is taken further into the gut as it swims, increasing the chances of hooking on the gill arch or the gullet wall. When this happens, it is best to cut the leader line as close to the mouth as possible before releasing the fish.

Extracts from the preceding section were reproduced with permission from Fishing Lines, a newsletter by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Division of Marine Fisheries.

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