Knots are quite important to fishermen of course - except to those for whom they fail in such a continuous manner so as to lead a person to believe it is normal for fish to be lost in this way, and darn it, why the hell are they so unlucky ?! Personally, and thankfully (or luckily !) I have reached a stage in my life where I do not expect a knot to break anymore unless I am doing something completely out of the ordinary to it (planing a dead marlin of 900lbs up on 80lb line is one such instance, and trying to bulldoze a fish such as a GT or a conger out of some inextricable rough is another). If you think that this is a rash statement, then I would suggest that you do not tie good knots if you cannot trust them to that extent. This also of course, HAS to go hand in hand with correct line selection as well, since the best knot in the world is not going to help if the damn string breaks in between two artistically and scientifically tied Biminis, for example.
Anyway, back to the knot contest. Well, it's a fact of fishing life that fishermen love to compete and argue, and knots come pretty high on the list of debatable subjects. As it has been proved around the world, it happens everywhere, and it became a regular scene in the Butler hut on Midway during the Hawaiian autumn when winds kept us ashore with no girls to look at in 1996. Knots being especially important at Midway, since we had enough fishy customers with naughty tricks to lose gear for us anyway (to this day I have images of huge muscle-bound GT's clanking and rattling their way along the reef with various bits of ironmongery hanging off them, smiling contentedly with their spoils of war) and to lose a lure fish due to a bad knot was considered a heinous offence.
Hence the scene of two manly fellows clad with a glove on each hand and a length of line joining them, a swivel in the middle, pulling for all they are worth - the knot remaining at the swivel after a breakage being the winner, of course. Of course, this scene has been enacted in many different locations around the world, and it has regularly thrown up some surprises. You also get to know what knots really do come out on tops, time after time, and so for what it's worth, these are the knots I use regularly, with complete confidence.
For big game fishing, there is no knot more important than a Bimini twist (see Fig 1). It is one of three ways of regularly making a double line, and if tied correctly is the easiest, quickest and equally reliable method of doing so, NO MATTER what anyone else may tell you !
For the last six years I have struggled to persuade some crews to use Biminis as men of varying nationalities have in turn tried to maintain to me that the Australian plait or the spider hitch is better. Personally I think the plait and the Bimini are equal in strength, but here is a fact:
I can tie four Biminis and rig a leader to a spool of line quicker than anyone can tie four plaits.
Fact - I have never had the need to whip a Bimini (I can tie four Biminis in the time it takes the average deckie to whip one plait !).
Fact - I need no other knot for heavy-duty 80 or 130lb class trolling gear, and after tying Biminis for ten years on a daily basis and not having had one break for nine and a half years or so, I think I can feel qualified to speak on the subject.
The fact that Barky Garnsey and Stewart Campbell of the CHUNDA also use nothing else makes me sleep well at night.
Fact - Stewart Campbell fishes for world records, has an Instron line testing machine at his house in Houston, and spends most of his winters playing with it. When and if he ever comes to me with a suggestion for another way of joining terminal tackle I will listen very carefully ! Until then I will use a Bimini for all my heavy tackle fishing.
It is no coincidence that on the NE coast of the USA and in Canada that the commercial boys who rod and line bluefins for a living use a Bimini on monofilament lines. It has been around since the 1920's and is not going to be shoved off the block by some newcomer from the country that gave us Rolf Harris and Bananas in Pyjamas ! Incidentally, when it comes to joining lines, even dacron, I use two Biminis and a cats-paw (see Fig 8) to join them, even when joining mono to dacron. Again, what's good enough for the CHUNDA crew is good enough for me.
Fact - a join of two Biminis cannot slip and there are no whippings to come undone (unlike a splice), and who hasn't seen that happen ?!!
Having said that though, the CHUNDA crew have showed me a novel way to finish a Bimini this summer. Do your wraps as normal, pull apart your string and double your rolls back down. When you reach the end of this, DO NOT take a half-hitch. Instead, have a doubled piece of whipping twine handy and after pulling the tag end of the mono down between the two standing parts, as it were, make a half-hitch around them with the length of whipping twine to jam the tag end in place. Now lift the tag-end of mono back over the half-hitch and back down again, and do another half-hitch. Continue the routine until you have done at least 15 half-hitches, alternating with the mono tag end, at which stage you then whip the remainder of the tag end to the double-line.
When I asked Stewart why they had started doing this he said that they had had some problems with the 80lb gear when the bulge of the knot has started to chafe during the end game………….with, er, 70lbs of drag or so. Since I do not do that sort of drag I have not bothered to try out this finish, so I cannot comment on it at all, but I have illustrated one here in a photograph (see Fig 2).
I do not regularly tie double lines in strengths of 30lb or less (but if I did I would always try and do a Bimini rather than a spider hitch because I think the former is stronger). Instead, what I normally do is to tie the line directly to the leader, and the knot I use for this is a simple UK surfcasting knot I was taught many years ago. Providing you double the length of the smaller line you will end up with a 100% strength knot. Here's how you do it for a 15 to 50lb connection.
Simply tie an overhand knot in the heavy line and pass a small length of your doubled length of smaller line through it so it lies parallel to the leader. Tighten the overhand knot as HARD AS YOU CAN with pliers. Now moisten the knot. Then pull enough of the rest of the doubled smaller line through the knot to complete the main knot. Twist the doubled line eight times around the leader away from the overhand knot, and then come back seven times, inserting the end of the doubled line through the last loop before the overhand knot. Now gently pull the knot closed, aiding the loops to slide along if need be. Carefully trim all the extraneous line, and you will have a stream-lined and 100% leader knot that casts well and has caught fish up to 800lbs or so for me on 50lb gear, at least!
Hopefully the photos (Figs 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7) will show this knot clearly. In this series of photos, the knot is illustrating a 50lb to 130lb join, tied with a single strand of the lighter line.
Unfortunately at Midway I showed an American journalist called Tony Pena this knot and it is now known on the west coast of the USA as the Roddy Hays Knot. What unfortunate glory - fame at last !! As I said, it should really be called the Man on the Beach Knot, since that is where I learnt it. It is similar to many UK surf-casting leader knots, but I have actually not seen this variation of it since I was taught it. It is certainly very strong and has won many converts from the Albright and Yucatan schools for its simplicity, streamlined shape and durability. A final point is that you can, of course, tie this knot with a Bimini or spider hitch in the lighter line !
A point to remember is that I increase the number of turns for lighter line, and decrease them for heavier line. If I'm connecting 80lb line to 200lb leader for example, I might only go 'up' four times and 'down' three, and I will only use a single strand of the lighter line. I do not remember why I always come back 'down' one turn less that going 'up', but it is something I have always done - it might not matter a jot and I have not had a chance to test it to see if there is any difference
For attaching line to a swivel or hook, I choose my knot carefully. In low breaking strains under 20lb or so I will normally use a doubled uni-knot, and over this breaking strain I now use a Palomar knot, both of which are extremely strong (over 97%). Both knots are easy to tie with practice, the Palomar especially - even on the darkest of nights. Sometimes, for no particular reason, I will also use a doubled length of line and a blood knot. I have never tucked a blood knot since I test all my knots to destruction before they go in the water and any knot that starts to slip gets discarded. This is, in fact, the real secret to good knots. If you try and pull them apart after tying them and they don't fail, you can be almost 100% sure they will not do so in the water.
The last regular circumstance for a knot is for joining line to line when there are no Biminis around. Again I use a length of doubled line, and in anything under 20lb I'll go with a double blood-knot, and anything over with a double uni-knot. If you have the time though, tie two Biminis and put them back to back with a cats-paw.
Braid poses a whole set of different problems, and although my experience with the nasty stuff is limited in the big-game arena, I did do a couple of months several years ago with some 300lb Spectra when Bart Miller fished with me in Madeira and wanted to make sure the fish had no chance. To cut a long story short, we went 4 for 28 in the 6 weeks he was aboard and the first day he left I caught two fish just like that when I reverted to my normal set-up ! That 300lb stuff pulled hooks like no business, broke a couple of small fishes' necks, but was lovely for planing up dead fish. As for the knots though, we found that a 50-turn Bimini was perfect for the swivel knot and we never broke one.
I have also used braid for a strange circumstance which is worth relating for anyone who fishes for wahoos or tunas with Rapalas and similar hard-bodied diving lures. Normally (and this is strictly for meat fishing when I like my tuna to be kicking when they come aboard - hopefully inside a minute !) I use 80lb mono straight through as a wind-on to an 8' section of 150lb leader which is tied to a swivel which has 12" of wire the other side and then a lure.
Under these conditions diving plugs can be a pain to run at high speed and often blow out. However, I found that by adding a 100' section of 80lb braid as a top section of running line, the thinner line sliced through the water much more cleanly, the lures hardly ever blew out and they swam deeper. The only problem is your leader then has to go the whole 8' to the swivel - no wind-on, but that is no big deal. The knot I used to join the 80lb mono to the 80lb braid is peculiar. The mono ends in a short Bimini, which is then used as the 'thicker' line to be tied in an overhand knot as the surf-casting knot described earlier. The braid, though, has to go up 30 turns and back down 29 (or something similar, anyway) to stop it slipping. Just for luck I add a dab of super-glue as well. One word of warning - make sure the join is outside of the rod when in use for two reasons - firstly so you have a bit of mono out as a shock-absorber, and secondly so there is no braid to dig into the soft mono during that first initial run.
That's just about it on knots.
As for the wrinkles - I've got lots of them, so make sure you use something to protect your face when you're out in the sun this year !