Fishing Knots

Knots are our direct link to a fish. There is a direct connection between the quality of the fishing knots we tie and the number of fish we put in the net.  Here are some general points to consider while you rig up and a few videos to show how to tie three of the most popular fishing knots.

Knot Basics:

  1. Breaking strength is important for knots and simply means where the knot breaks with respect to the line’s strength. If you’re fishing with 10 pound test and use a knot with 95% breaking strength, the knot breaks before the line at 9.5 pounds. Make sure to use knots that test out above 90%.
  2. Practice tying your knots before you go on the water and tie them properly.
  3. Always lubricate your knots; friction weakens monofilament and increases knot failure.  Water or saliva will reduce the heat of the line sliding against itself.
  4. It’s easier to manipulate the tag (short end) around the standing (long end) line.
  5. Seat your knots firmly. Make sure that you pull slowly and steadily until the knot is smooth and tight and won’t unravel when a fish hits. If you lose a fish and there is a pigtail at the end of your line you didn’t seat the knot. Further, avoid using sharp tugs when seating knots for they stretch and weaken monofilament.
  6. Always check lines for nicks and abrasions and use the proper tools for trimming the tag ends. A frayed line will part when a fish hits.
  7. When using lines made by two different manufacturers, make sure to compare their diameters; while they may be similar in pound test breaking strength, they may be different in diameter and your knots could pull when fighting a fish.

Commonly Used Knots:

Improved Cinch Knot Also known as the Improved Fisherman’s Knot, the Improved Cinch takes one extra turn through the loop and the extra second is well worth the effort.  This knot isn’t prone to unraveling, particularly if you fight a fish for a long time and works best on thinner diameter lines. Breaking strength: 95%.

Uni Knot Movement is important when fishing streamers and nymphs and this knot allows your subsurface patterns to move naturally with the current. It also snugs up when a fish hits and is a combination of a loop and a fixed knot.  The Uni Knot is also used for spoons, spinners and live bait as well as for tying line or backing to a reel’s arbor.  Breaking strength:  95%

Surgeon’s Knot The Surgeon’s Knot is the fastest way to attach a line to a leader. It’s a tactile knot and is so easy that it can be tied at night without using a flashlight. Breaking strength:  100%.

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at