Proven Knots for Inshore and Offshore Lures

Pros share their favorite knots for tying on lures and plugs.

Swimbait attached to leader
Knots that attach a lure to a leader must permit the bait to swim and move properly as well as allow a good hook-set.Jason Arnold / jasonarnoldphoto.com

One thing that all successful anglers have in common: They tie good knots. Many learned the hard way—by losing a big fish or watching the tournament winner swim away—that certain knots don’t hold up under pressure, and not all knots work for every situation.

Some knots might be stronger than others; some might be easier and quicker to tie. Knots that fasten a leader to a lure must also allow the bait to swim properly and facilitate an efficient hook-set.

Some inshore captains swear by loop knots, which let the lure swing and move unencumbered. But in the o­ffshore world, where big fish slash and tumble bigger plugs, anglers might need a different connection.

To sample a few of the options, I asked two captains—one inshore guide in Florida, one offshore captain in North Carolina—to describe their go-to knots for tying on lures.

How to tie a double figure 8 knot
Cohen crosses the leader over itself to make a loop in the line [A]. Holding the loop with the thumb and index finger of his left hand, he runs the tag end of the leader under and through the loop two times, and slowly pulls on both ends of the leader so the loop shrinks and eventually forms two loops shaped like an "8" [B, C]. He runs the tag end of the leader through the eye of the lure [D] and feeds that through both loops of the 8 [E]. "This is the tricky part," he says, explaining that the leader goes through the top and bottom of the 8 in the opposite direction from how the line came out of the 8 before going to the lure. "If the line went over the loop of the 8 closest to the lure, then it goes under and up through the loop, and then back over the top of it. Thread it through the loops of the 8 under and over (or over and under). Then cinch it down to the eye [F, G]. Make sure it's very tight." Cohen aligns the tag end along the leader and ties a half hitch with the tag end going twice through the loop of the half hitch [H]. He pulls on the tag end and the leader to create a second 8 in the leader, positioning it so it's fairly close to the first 8 [I]. He then pulls on the leader to slide both 8's together—the double figure 8 [J]. The first 8 knot pulls away from the lure eye, creating a loop. Cohen trims the tag end [K] so a small piece remains in case one of his anglers ­battles a big tarpon for an hour or more.Kevin Hand

Inshore: Double Figure 8
Capt. David Cohen (southflorida​inshorecharters.com) of Cooper City, Florida, fishes year-round for tarpon and snook in Miami's north Biscayne Bay. When throwing swimbaits for those species, the Salt Life pro staffer likes a loop knot because it makes the lures swim more naturally.

“Any bait that needs movement, I want a loop knot,” Cohen says. “I want to make sure the bait has exaggerated motion, has good action and side-to-side motion to get the best out of the lure. The double figure 8 loop knot is my go-to knot for a loop knot. I’ve tied a lot of loop knots in my day, and the double figure 8 has been tried and tested on big fish over 150 pounds, so I know it works.”

The connection features two ­figure-8 knots that jam against each other. Cohen says it’s similar to a double uni-knot, which is used to tie one line to another. His theory is that having two knots results in added strength.

“Tarpon, when they get over 150 pounds, can take more than an hour to land, so the knot has to not slip and has to stay true,” he says.

Cohen adjusts the strength of his leader to the size of fish he targets. For tarpon of 20 to 50 pounds, he uses 40- or 50-pound fluorocarbon leaders 3 to 6 feet in length, with a main line of 30-pound braid.

If he’s fishing for 100-plus-pound ­tarpon, Cohen upgrades his line and leader to land the fish without excessively tiring the tarpon. That means 40- to 60-pound braided line and 60- to 80-pound fluorocarbon leader.

The double figure 8 works especially well, he says, with a DOA Baitbuster—a soft-plastic lure that imitates baitfish such as a mullet, pilchard or sardine.

Tying the nail knot
Davis runs the tag end of the leader through the eye of the lure, leaving 6 to 10 inches of tag end [A]. He lays that tag end along the leader, and holds the lure and both pieces of line in his left hand, pinching the line between his thumb and forefinger [B]. With his right hand, he wraps the tag end around the standing line and brings it up to his left forefinger [C]. He makes three or four loose wraps around that finger [D-F], and then inserts the tag end from left to right through the loops he just made [G-H]. He slowly pulls the tag end [I], guiding the loops so that the knot snugs up and slides down to the lure ring [J]. "Two wraps will hold; three is better; and four is more," he says. "It's cinched against itself, and the knot is inside. Even though it sounds like a hard knot, it isn't."Kevin Hand

Offshore: Nail Knot
Used primarily to attach a leader to a fly line, the nail knot also works great for tying leaders to plugs used for tuna, says Capt. Daniel "Backlash" Davis, of Manteo, North Carolina.

“I like the nail knot because it slides down on the lure ring better,” he says. “I’ve tried other knots—like the perfection loop—but at some point, the hook will tangle in the loop.”

Davis—a longtime charter captain who now runs private boats—uses the nail knot on big offshore poppers made by Rebel, Rapala, and Yo-Zuri that his anglers throw at blackfin, yellowfin, and bluefin tuna up to 100 pounds.

The classic fly line-to-leader nail knot originally used an actual nail, although a short tube can usually substitute these days. The leader is wrapped six times around the line and tube, then inserted through the tube, which is then removed. Pulled tight, the leader is now held securely by its wraps around the line.

Instead of a nail or tube, Davis uses his index finger, which makes it quick and easy to tie.

Davis fishes the big tuna poppers on 20-pound Ande Backcountry blue monofilament with 40- or 50-pound Ande pink fluorocarbon leader on a 6½- or 7-foot rod. He also uses the nail knot to tie on jigs for cobia.