If you consider finesse presentations for largemouth bass, it seems that a majority of anglers–pros and amateurs alike–have turned to braided main line attached to a fluorocarbon leader.
There’s no questioning the effectiveness of this choice–assuming you’ve mastered a good fishing knot to connect the two! Simple physics is working against you, and the knot joining your main line and leader is going to be the weak point in the chain connecting your rod to that monster.
Indeed, if there’s a single frustration that bass fishermen share, it’s problems with their leader knot leading to break-offs.
We’d like to help, and below, we’ll discuss the best and most popular bass fishing knots for making this all-important connection. You might be surprised by what we discovered–so keep reading!
Table of Contents
- 1 Why Run Braid to Fluorocarbon
- 2 The Problem
- 3 Some Partial Solutions
- 4 Leader Knots: Which Knots Are Best for Bass?
- 5 Final Thoughts
Why Run Braid to Fluorocarbon
We’ve discussed the science behind braid, fluoro, and mono before, and if you have questions you want answered, that article is a good place to start. And while we’re not completely sold on the need for a leader when fishing finesse presentations for largemouth, there are some advantages to this set-up.
Braided main line provides:
- Better hook sets – Probably the strongest advantage of running braided main line to a fluorocarbon leader is improved hooksets. Braid is often touted for its lack of stretch, and that’s not just marketing hype. Elongating by just 1 to 8 percent of its length, however much line you have between you and your hook, you’ll be able to tug it into place with braid.
- Better sensitivity – That lack of stretch also translates into better feel, allowing you to read the bottom as well as detect light strikes, including the soft suck of a largemouth engulfing your lure.
- Better casting – Braid is super-limp and very small diameter for test. All other things being equal, it’s probably going to outcast mono and fluoro main line.
A fluoro leader adds:
- Improved abrasion resistance – Braid, by nature of its woven construction, isn’t terribly abrasion-resistant. And even when you step up in diameter, the polymer fibers composing the braid just aren’t as tough as nylon or fluorocarbon monofilaments.
By adding a fluoro leader, you improve abrasion resistance at the point where it matters most.
- A bit of shock absorption – Braid doesn’t stretch, meaning that it displays poor shock strength. It’s also relatively easy for a bass to throw a hook with pure braid. A fluorocarbon leader stretches about as much as mono–but there are only a few feet of it on your line!
As a result, you get some shock absorption while maintaining the superior hookset and sensitivity braid offers.
- Improved invisibility – Fluoro’s not invisible in water–that’s a myth propagated by manufacturers to sell more expensive line. But it is far more low-vis than braid, and by adding a bit of leader to the end of your line, you can better entice line-shy fish into a strike.
Braid doesn’t knot particularly well, and that’s especially true when connecting fluoro to it.
If you’re an experienced bass angler, you already know exactly what we mean, and joining main lines and leaders of different diameters doesn’t improve the connection, does it?
That creates an almost inevitable weak point in your line, and long before it fails, the leader knot does.
Sounds familiar, right?
Some Partial Solutions
Line choice matters
Before we get into the knots themselves, it’s worth mentioning line choice. Slick braids sometimes won’t bite well into harder fluorocarbons, allowing even a well-tied knot to slip.
For instance, Seagaur Invixz makes for an excellent fluoro leader, but when paired with PowerPro Super 8 Slick, the braid just can’t get enough bite to hold most knots. By contrast, Ande fluorocarbon connects really well.
We recommend that you avoid super slick and 8-strand braids. Yes, they’ll cast better than the alternatives, but you really need that knot to hold!
You’ll also want to give a pass to super slick and hard leaders.
The best way to know is to test your knots at home. Tie one well with the line you’ve chosen, and give it one hell of a tug!
Try to Avoid Passing Your Line-to-Leader Connection Through Your Guides
We all want a super-thin knot to make our leader as castable as possible, but slamming the ends of knots like the Alberto and FG into the guides is a sure-fire recipe for eventual failure.
When possible, we recommend running a leader that’s short enough to cast without reeling the connection through a guide. However, that will shorten the life of your leader quite a bit if you cut line and re-tie periodically.
If you must cast your knot, you need to make an inevitable choice between distance/accuracy and robustness. The Alberto and FG cast best, as we’ll discuss in a moment, but both can fail after repeated passes through your guides. The Double-Uni and 5-Turn Surgeon’s Knot won’t fail after impact, but they will probably affect distance and accuracy.
As you can see, no knot is perfect.
Leader Knots: Which Knots Are Best for Bass?
The 5-Turn Surgeon’s Knot
The 5-Turn Surgeon’s knot (5TSK) doesn’t get the press it deserves for bass fishing, especially as so many anglers have moved away from mono. But in the salt, where braided main line and mono or fluoro leaders are dominant, this knot has demonstrated its effectiveness, time and time again.
Initially used for mono-to-mono connection, it’s surprisingly strong, and the 5TSK is easy to tie and very fast as well. But it relies on the friction the lines being joined create against each other, making it generally inferior where braid is concerned.
Notice my careful use of “generally…”
Where the 5TSK shines is for joining braid to a much stronger leader. The increased number of turns–five rather than two or three–distributes the load over a greater surface, and creates more surface area for line-to-line friction. With five full wraps of braid, this knot will hold 10 to 15-pound PowerPro to 30 to 40-pound fluoro like the two were welded together!
But don’t take our word for it:
Notice that breaking strength on 10-pound braid: 18 pounds!
Not as small as the FG knot, you may have some trouble casting a long leader.
Verdict: When you need to run a stronger leader to your braid, the 5TSK is an awesome choice as it’s easy to work within the real world. But like the Double-Uni, this may bump and catch on your guides, affecting casting. In my experience, that’s not a problem leading to knot failure, however.
The Alberto (modified Albright)
The Alberto has won many hard-core fans, and tied well, it’s an awesome knot. Probably the most talked-about option for joining braid to fluoro among bass anglers, you’ve undoubtedly heard about it.
Though very strong, it takes some practice to tie well, and it isn’t particularly fast, either. And while some folks can tie it well on the water, most of us are better off tying it the night before at home. In my book, that’s a mark against any knot because the odds of needing to re-tie a leader while actually fishing are simply too high.
Moreover, given this knot’s difficulty, it’s easy to make a mistake, and a poorly-tied knot is no knot at all. The Alberto can also be trouble with a small-diameter, relatively slick leader like 4- to 6-pound P-Line Floroclear, as braids like PowerPro will find it hard to get a good bite and grip.
Its secret is that it wraps the thinner braid around the thicker fluorocarbon, and once tightened, bites into the leader. As it’s pulled under load, that bite actually increases, much like a Chinese Finger Trap. But on slick, hard leader, that bite is compromised, so line choice is critical for maximum strength.
Where the Alberto shines is that it creates a very small, very compact knot that’s easy to cast through guides, allowing for a long leader. On that front, it’s a worthy rival for the FG Knot, and something to consider carefully, and it’s certainly easier to cast than the Double-Uni or 5-Turn Surgeon’s.
The Verdict: The Alberto is an excellent knot for running long leaders. Because it’s slim, it can pass pretty easily through your guides, and it’s among the best for long, accurate casting, explaining its popularity with bass anglers.
But it is a finicky knot, and it needs to be practiced and practiced and practiced to tie well. Line choice is also critical, and it’s worth testing your knot strength at home with your chosen fluorocarbon.
The (Double) Double-Uni Knot
The Double-Uni has earned its reputation for strength predominantly offshore, but there’s no reason bass anglers should ignore this knot out of hand.
Beyond being merely strong, it’s great for joining lines of unequal diameter and material. It’s also easy to tie and reasonably fast, especially when compared to worthy alternatives, making it a useful knot on the water. I appreciate knots like the Alberto and FG, but they’re really tough to tie in the real world without a lot of practice.
As you can see, I like this knot a lot, and used properly, it’s among the best you’ll find.
It’s not very small, however, and it may snag or bump your guides if you’re using a long leader. In my experience, that won’t produce a failure, but it will affect the distance and accuracy of your casts, neither of which is ideal when targeting bass with finesse techniques.
And the physics of the Double-Uni mean that small diameter braids–under 10-pound test–can cut the fluoro leader under load.
The Verdict: I know bass anglers who use this knot, preferring it to the Alberto because it’s simpler to tie and get consistently right. I like it too, but I think the 5TSK is the better knot as it’s easier and even faster to tie, with greater overall strength.
And if you’re willing to throw a short leader, it won’t affect casting. If you must cast it, expect some bumping through the guides, though in my experience, this shouldn’t weaken the knot.
First, here’s video of Steve from Into the Blue tying the double uni in real-world conditions:
And this is a knot tutorial demonstrating how to tie the Double-Uni with a modification to maximize braid-to-fluorocarbon strength:
The FG Knot
The FG knot is quickly becoming the go-to way to connect braid to a leader for off-and in-shore fishing. And for bass anglers, it’s more than time to pay attention to this under-used option.
Probably the strongest of all the knots we’ve discussed, a properly tied FG is as good a connection as you can create between your main line and leader. It’s also very compact–even smaller than the Alberto–making it easy to cast. Unfortunately, it’s a chore to tie, and like the Alberto, can be a real pain on the water in the event that you need to re-tie your leader.
Yes, you can tie this knot at home the night before–and that’s a good idea–but if you do need to re-tie your leader knot on the water, I personally prefer the 5TSK or Double-Uni.
The FG knot was specifically designed for braid to larger-diameter mono/fluoro connection, and it derives its incredible strength by distributing load and friction, like the Alberto. Essentially wrapping the braid around a larger leader to create bite, the FG tightens under load and will not slip if used properly.
It is critical that this knot be cinched-down with real pressure. The tighter you get it, the stronger it’ll be.
But it will not hold for mono to mono/fluoro connections, and should only ever be used with braided main lines.
And though it’s even slimmer than the Alberto, slamming it into guides can loosen it. It’s the best fishing knot for casting–no question–but if you can, run a short leader to avoid passing it onto your rod. If you need a long leader, just be aware that knot integrity will be affected by impact, so prepare to re-tie and check your knot frequently.
The Verdict: The strongest and best knot for casting, the FG deserves a place in every bass angler’s arsenal, and is a worthy replacement for the Alberto. Indeed, anything the Alberto does well the FG does better, and we really think this is the better knot of the two.
Here are two different techniques for tying the FG:
As you can see, choosing your knot is a question of trade-offs.
Many anglers prefer the Double-Uni and 5-Turn Surgeon’s knot, me included because they’re so easy to tie on the water. They’ll hold remarkably well, and the 5TSK will often exceed the main line’s test strength. On this front, I prefer the 5TSK to all others, as it’s faster, easier, and plenty strong.
But you may not find that it casts particularly well, and though that may not matter much off-shore, it matters a lot on your local lake.
That helps to explain the awesome popularity of the Alberto knot. Small in diameter, it will outcast the Double-Uni and 5TSK every time, hands down. But it is difficult to tie well and will slip with slick, hard, small-diameter fluorocarbons. Line choice is critical, and practice is essential.
For maximum casting performance, we’re going to give the nod to the FG knot. More compact than the Alberto, it passes through guides pretty easily, making for excellent bass angling performance. Care needs to be taken; however, as beating this knot against them can loosen it, just as it can with the Alberto.
Check your FG knot often, and be prepared to re-tie as necessary. If you’re already using the Alberto, we recommend you give the FG and 5TSK a try.
If this article has helped you, please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!