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"Good connections, in angling and in life, are important." -Frank Woolner
We've all been there at one point or another, waist deep in the surf with a steady hand and focused mind. The conditions are perfect; the tide, weather, and timing all working in your favor. Then, it happens. A hit from a hungry fish and after just a few seconds, the fight ends abruptly. One of the worst feelings in fishing is the moment you reel in an uncomfortably light line only to find out that it wasn't the fish that spit the hook, but rather self-error that stifled your chance at success.
Well-tied knots are the unsung heroes of fishing. There is a lot of debate among today's surfcasters as to which types of knots function best. Personally, I'm a creature of habit when it comes to tying knots and tend to stick with what the universe has shown me works. It's my experience that people mostly tie what they've found to be reliable. What I've attempted to do here is gather a collection of some of the most commonly tied knots for your consideration. Choose wisely, practice, and you'll be well on your way to avoiding mishaps and landing more fish. If you find yourself a beginner to the world of surfcasting, use this article as a guide to help you practice. For experienced anglers, the knot-cards are best used as a refresher, and can even be downloaded and referenced while on the water.
Improved Clinch Knot
Years ago, the Improved Clinch was the first fishing skill I learned. I was on a friend's father's boat, and while we rocked back and forth, he walked me through the steps of tying the Improved Clinch. A special knot, the Improved Clinch actually tightens on itself when strain is applied, increasing the strength of the connection. This knot is recommended for monofilament line and can be difficult to tie with greater than 25lb. test. The thickness of the mono becomes more difficult to twist and tighten, though an extra set of hands or pliers can help if you're fortunate enough to have them. Although this knot is not recommended for braided line, I've tied this knot with braid for a few years now and have yet to run into any trouble.
The Palomar is probably the easiest knot to tie and is a staple in any surfcasters repertoire. Know for its simplicity, strength, and reliability (the Palomar is extremely difficult to pull out if tied correctly) the knot is the go-to for many fishermen fishing with braid. Another benefit to this knot is given its simplicity, in can be managed by experienced surfcasters in situations where little light is present (night-fishing the Cape Cod Canal, for example).
The Snell Knot
Although not as common as the Improved Clinch or Palomar, the Snell Knot is as versatile as any and can be tied traditionally or uni-style. The Snell first came into use years ago when hooks were manufactured eyeless, but is now tied using the eye of the hook. It is interesting to note that this knot is held together primarily by attaching itself to the shaft of the hook as opposed to the eye. Additionally, it's always tied from hook to leader rather than the line itself. Snelling your hook is often used when fishing natural baits or tying tandem hook surf rigs.
The Blood Knot
The Blood Knot (or barrel knot, as some refer to it) is used for joining two types of lines together and has been used by anglers for generations. When trying to adjoin two differing strands together, many knots fail to hold their strength. This is not the case with the Blood Knot, which not only hold strong, but also offers a path of low resistance when being drawn through water. While most commonly tied by fly fishermen, it is categorized as one of fishings most important knots, commonly used during rod setup for tying line to backing.
The Double Uni Knot
The Uni Knot's key benefit is versatility. It can be used for connecting line to the arbor of a reel, joining lines, or attaching lures, snaps, & swivels. It can also be used interchangeably with success between mono and braid. Many anglers choose to tie a uni-to-uni splice to avoid fowl when fishing in unsatisfactory conditions (similar to the low resistance provided by the Blood Knot). Removing the swivel for a strand-to-strand connection also increases sensitivity which can be helpful when fishing species like flounder where a little extra "touch" goes a long way.
The Albright Special
Another connection that serves to join strands of different sizes is the Albright Special. The Albright Special can be used for tying mono to braid and is also proven useful when the angler doesn't have the benefit of a swivel.
The Bimini Twist
The Bimini is one of the more traditionally difficult knots to tie but has the benefit of being considered a 100% knot, or a knot that retains all of its strength. While it may not be the most practical knot for inshore surfcasting, it is a fun challenge to tie and can be nifty to use when tying leaders with mono. The Bimini is commonly used offshore where very strong connections and a little slack go a long way to help land big game fish.
The Dropper Loop
While more of a loop than a knot, the Dropper Loop is most often used for tying multi-hook surf rigs (the High-Low, for example). I've found that the benefit to tying a Dropper Loop is really time saved. While a 3-way swivel could also be used for tying multi-hook rigs, the chances of pulling a knot are higher and the setup is more time consuming. Note that at first, tying the Dropper Loop can be a bit tricky when it comes to achieving your desired loop size. The trick I've found is to start with a simple loop that is 4-5 times the size of your desired end result, expecting it to shrink down while tightening.
Note: Some of the knots above are easier learned by observing an angler tie them. We're lucky enough to have YouTube, which is the first place I go if I ever need someone to walk me through a particular tie.