We’ve demystified the marketing hype around line before, and now it’s time to concentrate on knots themselves.
Which knot is the strongest? Which is the easiest to tie? Can you use the same knot on braid as well as fluorocarbon? Which is the best choice for joining your braided main-line to a fluoro leader?
Wherever you fish, and whatever you’re after, a well-tied knot is a critical component of your angling success. And while not as exciting as a new rod or reel, a good knot will do more to help you land fish than almost anything else.
I’m sure you have a lot of questions--and I hope to provide solid, fact-backed answers!
Taking a look at what people who fish for a living use, I derived the following list for the best fishing knots. What’s important to note about this is that for both fresh and saltwater, the Palomar, Uni, and Non-Slip Loop are universally popular:
Table of Contents (clickable)
Every angler knows that knots are essential to the art of fishing. From securing line to your spool, to joining main-line to leader, to attaching a lure or hook, knots are at the heart of what we do on the water.
Choosing the right knot for the job can be complicated, however, and the wrong one might fail at the worst moment. This problem is especially clear when considering different line types, where a knot that holds with one is a catastrophe with another.
There are three types of line that dominate angling: nylon monofilaments, braids, and fluorocarbons. We’ve discussed their various strengths and weaknesses before, and we’ve reviewed all three to reveal our top performers.
What’s important to understand here is the basic physics governing each as it affects the knots you’ll tie in them.
Nylon monofilament (including “hybrid” or copolymer lines) - Mono, including co-polymers, ties well. It provides plenty of friction or “bite” against itself, without inducing undue abrasion. In short, it holds knots well with very little danger of cutting itself under heavy load.
Braid - Braid is notorious for its finicky relationship with knots. Slick and surprisingly abrasive, braided lines don’t provide much friction against themselves, and where they are forced to bite, they can actually cut into themselves, causing failure. Especially when tied directly to terminal tackle, braid tends to fail at relatively low levels of stress.
Unsurprisingly, you need to learn some specialized knots for your braid applications, and with the right know-how, the good news is that braid can be made to behave!
Fluorocarbon - Finally, fluoro can be a bit stiffer than mono, but it generally ties similarly. That doesn’t mean that every knot that works well with mono will do so with fluorocarbon as well, but fluoro is generally more knot friendly than braid.
Fluorocarbon’s unique characteristics make it a popular choice for leader material in both fresh and saltwater applications. And in this role, tying the right knot to join your main-line to your fluoro leader is essential.
The physics of lines are what they are. Choosing the right knot for the right line and task is essential.
These tests were conducted with state-of-the-art equipment and excellent brand-name lines, and they reinforce what I’ve explained above.
Know your line, know your knots, and know their limits.
While there are dozens of excellent knots, most people--and most pros--only use a few. Generally, these are strong, easy to tie, and fast. Other considerations include the size of the knot, especially for line-to-line connections, and the size and direction of the remaining tag ends. For instance, some knots, including the well-respected Blood Knot, can hook weeds and other debris too easily, explaining why the Double Uni is more popular.
Taking a look at what people who fish for a living use, I derived the following list. What’s important to note about this is that for both fresh- and saltwater, the Palomar, Uni, and Non-Slip Loop are universally popular:
I’ll review each of these--and a few more--below.
All knots are not created equal, even when tied correctly. Indeed, some are vastly stronger than others, or easier or faster to tie.
I’ll categorize these knots by their best use, noting when one has a variety of applications.
I’ve divided these knots into two categories based on their overall rating.
Note: I’ve eliminated the awesome PR Bobbin Knot because it requires a tool to tie.
The Top Tier
Ease: Very Good
Utility: Very Good
Famous for its incredible strength, the Palomar Knot ties well in all line types. That’s a huge advantage, and few knots can equal it on that front.
Tied properly, this knot won’t slip even on braid, making it a popular choice as an all-around knot for securing line to swivels, hooks, and pretty much anything else where a snug connection is desired.
It’s also quite easy and fast to tie, though it can be a tricky choice for lures: it requires a large loop to be passed completely over and around your terminal tackle.
When I need a snug knot on a big lure, I use the Uni or Braid Uni.
If there’s one knot to learn, it’s the Uni. Remarkably quick and easy to tie, the Uni creates a snug connection and can be used for everything from securing line to your spool to attaching a lure.
While not quite as strong as the Palomar, it will hold both mono and fluorocarbon very well. It’s also much easier to tie to large, treble-hooked lures where a snug connection is what you’re looking for.
This is as close as you’ll get to the “one knot to rule them all,” and it’s my first choice 90% of the time.
Speed: Very Good
Essentially the standard Uni on steroids, this modification helps the knot bind on slick braid.
Strength: Very Good
Utility: Very good
The Kreh Knot, also called the Non-Slip Loop, is a fantastic choice for attaching line to a top-water lure or crankbait that needs a touch of freedom to strut its stuff. And while not quite as strong as snug knots like the Palomar and Uni, it still provides a sure connection.
The Kreh is perhaps the finest knot for securing fluorocarbon leaders to lures, and it’s my top choice for that, whether I’m fishing salt or fresh.
I chose the Kreh over the Rapala Knot as the best loop knot for a simple reason. Though the Rapala is a touch stronger, it’s also a tad more difficult to tie. That may not mean much when you’re practicing at home, but every little bit counts!
Speed: Very Good
While not as strong as the FG Knot for connecting braid to fluorocarbon leader, the Double Uni has many advantages over its rival. Easy and relatively quick to tie, it’s no trouble in the real-world and holds your mono main line to your fluoro leader like glue.
Even better, it doesn’t care about line diameter, so for application where you may be joining slim mono to fat fluoro, it’s an awesome choice.
Snelling a hook is an age-old way of attaching it to your line. And for octopus hooks and circle hooks, the snell’s ability to keep the shank and line in-line is amazing.
The Snell Knot is not the easiest to tie, and it’s really only useful for one thing. But it does that job better than any alternative, earning it a place on our must-know list.
While the PR Bobbin is stronger, it’s impossible to tie without a tool, and even pros recommend you pre-tie it at home. To me, that’s disqualifying.
The FG Knot is a worthy alternative, and it’s an essential knot to know, whether you’re fishing for tuna or bass. It’s my top choice for connecting braid to fluoro, and I think it’ll be yours, too.
The FG provides awesome strength, probably because it distributes the load on the braid extremely well. It will begin to loosen after repeated casting, so watch for that.
It’s easiest to tie by using the handle on your reel as a “third hand,” and with practice, it’s not too bad--about a minute or so to tie.
I prefer the FG to the Bimini Twist. That’s controversial--I know--but I think my reason is good. The Bimini requires a second knot after you create the strong loop, and that means more tying as well as greater chance for a mistake.
The FG is one knot and done.
I also recommend the FG over the Alberto for bass anglers. It’s stronger and slimmer, allowing better casts and greater confidence.
The Second Tier
Speed: Very Good
The San Diego Jam is a great knot for creating a snug connection with all lines, but especially braid. Tied properly, even the slickest superlines won’t slip or cut themselves, and it distributes load well.
It’s not a particularly tough knot, but it’s nowhere near as fast as the comparable Uni and Braid Uni.
Pay attention to 2:44
Speed: Very Good
Ease: Very good
Utility: Very good
The Rapala Knot creates an excellent loop, and is among the strongest of its kind. And where you need fantastic action from a lure--which is always--you’ll find it popular.
In my view, however, it’s outperformed by the Kreh or No-Slip Loop Knot. Slightly easier to tie, the Kreh is my go-to choice for this application.
Utility: Very Good
The Bimini Twist Knot is legendary, and there’s no stronger knot for doubling braid and forming a connecting loop.
But to produce that strength and prevent slippage, it needs to be twisted, and twisted, and twisted--and then folded back on itself. That makes it cumbersome to tie, and it’s terribly slow to boot.
In the real world, the Bimini is paired with another knot to create a connection, often an Albright (modified or not), a Yucatan, Aussie Quickie, Surgeon’s Knot, or even a loop-to-loop connection. That slows things down even further, and it creates a second point of potential failure.
Nevertheless, it’s a popular knot for off-shore applications.
A good knot is an angler’s best friend. And just like friends, you don’t need a lot of them, but rather a just a few that are tried-and-true.
I hope that this article has helped you find a few new options, though I realize that these rankings reflect my experience and opinions.
If you think I’ve missed something, made a mistake, or just plain have it wrong, please leave a comment below.
I’ll be updating this list after your feedback!