March 15, 2021
By Doug Stange
The two simplest and strongest line-to-snap, line-to-split ring, or line-to-lure knots for monofilament and fluorocarbon are the Palomar and the Trilene (also called the double-loop clinch knot). Tied correctly they both provide knot strength of around 95 percent of line break strength. This is much better than other easy-to-tie knots like the improved clinch. My experience with these knots is a matter of testing with machines that determine tensile strength; my discussions with engineers working in the line facility at the Berkley Lab in Spirit Lake, Iowa; and extensive field experience, having used these knots for more than 30 years.
Much of the fishing world was at one point better-schooled in which knots work best. During the sportshow season, Berkley provided line-testing machines in their booths set up across North America. Anglers would tie their favorite knot and could see how it performed, as tested by the machine. Performance usually was poor. Then they were shown how to tie the Trilene knot, which subsequently would test as I said—so, knot novice into the booth, knot pro out. Of course, Berkley has also run tens of thousands of tests with even more sophisticated machines in their Spirit Lake facility, with results that back my points here.
I use the Trilene knot except when doing knot connections for drop-shot rigging, where the Palomar is superior at making a hook stand out perpendicular to the line. I find the Trilene faster and easier to tie. And it wastes less terminal line, which is a factor when you’re using a fluorocarbon leader at the end of a braid or a fused superline (like Berkley NanoFil or FireLine Ultra 8). Many anglers trim over a foot of line each time they tie a Palomar. The typical Trilene trim is 3 or 4 inches. It saves you from having to tie on new leaders in the field.
Wrapping makes a difference in how a knot performs. With the Trilene, use 5 wraps for lines with break strengths of 10 pounds or less. For lines with break strengths of 12, 14, and 15 pounds, 4 wraps work fine. Heavier lines, up to 30 pounds, need 3 wraps. Beyond 30 pounds, the Trilene tends to “knuckle up” on itself. I switch to a three-wrap uni-knot to make terminal connections with heavy mono and fluorocarbon. The tag end on the Uni-knot lays perpendicular to your mainline when it’s finished, making a straight, solid connection to lure, snap, or split ring.
It’s worth interjecting, as a matter of overall perspective, that doubling the end of one’s line and tying knots with the doubled line also produces knots with high break strengths. This is more critical in saltwater, where fish pull much harder than most freshwater fish. It’s a subject for another day.
In the North Country where pike (and sometimes muskies) swim along with walleyes, largemouths, smallmouths, and other fish, I almost always use an 8- to 12-inch section of tie-able wire at the end of my fluorocarbon to keep from getting bit off. The science of how many predatory fish see suggests that they don’t see well enough close in to be turned off by a tiny section of wire near your lure. As long as it’s a short section, it seems to become an extension of the lure, more than something attached to it and apart from it.
This is particularly true for lures moving steadily or erratically. But I also find that largemouth bass don’t mind a short section of wire on a skirted jig. Using small jigs for smallmouth bass might be an exception at times, but again, from long practical experience my findings generally suggest otherwise.
Fine wire saves lures, allows you to land some exceptional fish you wouldn’t otherwise catch, and saves fish. Last season I used a single 1/2-ounce Santone bass jig dressed with various soft trailers to shoot six different largemouth bass show segments for In-Fisherman TV. In 6 days of fishing over the course of a couple months I caught over 100 largemouths plus many pike, without getting bit off.
And, every so often, one of the pike or muskies is a fish weighing 20 pounds or so, an impressive incidental fish on TV. With wire, I land those fish. Without the wire there’s a good chance those fish might swim away with a hook in their mouth, or, in the case of a suspending stickbait or crankbait, a set of hooks in their mouth. Some of those fish are wasted.
The best wire is Surflon Micro Supreme from American Fishing Wire. I use the 13-pound break strength on smaller jigs like those for smallmouths and stickbaits for walleyes, smallmouths, and largemouths. The 20-pound works well coupled with a skirted jig for largemouths. I use 20-pound in most situations with swimbaits and crankbaits—and in most situations where I’m fishing for pike. The 26-pound works best with bigger pike lures and smaller muskie lures. They also offer a 40-pound break strength for heavier pike lures or situations near heavy cover.
A three-wrap Trilene knot is a great way to connect wire to a lure or snap. The “two shoulders” or wraps that surround the hook eye or snap cushion the connection and allow it to perform well. Cinch up the knot by pulling on the main portion of wire, instead of pulling the tag wire tight, or you curl the wire.
You rarely need to re-tie with 20-pound wire unless it becomes too curled or worn from catching fish. The coating on the 13-pound wire is more easily worn away, reducing wire strength and subjecting it to curl. You must retie more often.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to connect wire to fluorocarbon or fluorocarbon to a mainline of braid like Power Pro, or a fused superline like FireLine or NanoFil, is with back-to-back Uni-knots. Illustrations for tying that connection are found elsewhere on this website.
From the Lab
These suggestions are from Tim Wiedow, Senior Manager, Monofilament & Research Chemistry, Research & Development, at the Berkley Lab in Spirit Lake, Iowa.
• Wet the knot before cinching it to reduce friction
• Cinch the knot slowly and don’t over tighten
• Do not at that point, especially with fluorocarbon, act like a gorilla and pull harder to test the knot, as this can damage the line going into the knot and reduce overall knot strength.
• Check the knot. If the knot or line doesn’t look straight or normal, you should re-tie
• For the Trilene knot, which I use most of the time, use 5 or 6 wraps for lines testing 12-pounds and below. Reduce the number of wraps for heavier lines