Best Fishing Knots from 7 Professional Skippers

Seven pros share strategies for connecting main line to leader

Two anglers fishing with a redfish boatside
The moment of truth! Capt. Brent Ballay out of Venice, Louisiana, eases a nice redfish to the boat for light-tackle enthusiast Hunter Cole, who has faith in his knots. How's your knot faith?Doug Olander

Consider: Here you have your fishing line, spooled up on your reel. Here you have your leader. (In most saltwater angling, a leader is called for.) But somehow you have to get the two connected.

That's the situation we posed to seven pros: Main line to leader — how do you make the connection?

Since these guys make their living by helping anglers land the fish they hook, weak connections won’t cut it. Here are the 7 best fishing knots used by seven full-time fishing skippers from around the United States and abroad.

Bimini Twist

How to tie a Bimini twist fishing knot illustration
How to tie a Bimini twistAndy Steer / anglingknots.com

CAPT. DAVE KOSTYO, Miami, Florida

Dave Kostyo charters his 28-foot Whitewater, Knot Nancy, in the Miami area, targeting tarpon, sailfish, dolphin and kingfish in particular. The longtime skipper favors light tackle when possible and has racked up many tournament wins over the years.

Do you tie a double line? Always, with both mono and braid

What type and strength line, mostly? Both mono (12- to 30-pound) and braid

Preferred double-line knot? Bimini twist

Why? As long as it's tied properly, the Bimini has never failed me. I've tried spider hitches and have had them break once too often on decent fish. I also like what I call the shock-absorber effect of the Bimini. (To see that, with mono, leave the tag end a bit longer than usual, and then pull on both main line and double line, and watch the tag end twist slightly.)

Tying strategy? With heavier mono (20-plus pound), 20 twists; with lighter mono, 22 to 25 twists; with all braid, 30 twists. Before "walking" the line down tightly over the knot, I make three or four loose twists. To finish: half hitch on each leg then four half hitches around both legs. Finally, I leave a loop and wrap the tag end around both legs (back toward the main line) and through the loop four times. When pulled tight, this locks the half hitches in place. With braid, I double the number of half hitches on both legs, and double the number of wraps on the inside knot.

Connection to leader? I connect double line to leader with a four-turn uni-knot with the leader (around the double line) and a five-turn clinch knot with the double line (around the leader). I prefer this to a straight double uni, since the finished knot is more tapered and passes through the rod guides more easily.

Here is a video of the author tying a Bimini twist.

Improved Albright

How to tie an improved albright fishing knot illustration
How to tie an improved albrightAndy Steer / anglingknots.com

CAPT. ANDY MEZIROW, Seward, Alaska

As longtime owner and lead skipper of the Seward-based Crackerjack Charters, one of Alaska's premier day-trip and multiday charter operations, Andy Mezirow has guided anglers to more than 30 IGFA world records aboard his fast 46-foot custom sport-fisher.

Do you tie a double line? Yes, other than for offshore trolling

What type and strength line, mostly? Braid (50- to 80-pound)

Preferred double-line knot? Bimini twist

Why? This knot has never failed me, and it serves as a way to attach either a swivel or mono top shot.

Tying strategy? I like to lock my Biminis down with a uni-knot after securing each leg with a half hitch.

Connection to leader? I used an improved Albright to connect to a leader.

Anglers boating a fish caught on a fishing boat
Not all captains and crews rig with a double line, but most do, with the great majority relying on the venerable Bimini twist.Johnny Jensen

Double Cat's Paw

How to tie a double cat's-paw loop-to-loop connection fishing knot illustration
How to tie a double cat's-paw loop-to-loop connectionAndy Steer / anglingknots.com

CAPT. BRAD PHILIPPS, Ixtapa, Guatemala

Anyone who has released more than 25,000 billfish, as has Brad Philipps, has to know his knots. Philipps, with Guatemalan Billfishing Adventures, fishes the sailfish-rich waters off Ixtapa — where his wife, Cindy, runs the Billfish Inn — from his 40-foot convertible, Decisive.

Do you tie a double line? Yes

What type and strength line, mostly? Mono (25-pound)

Preferred knot? Bimini twist

Why? Easy to tie and strongest double-line knot

Tying strategy? I use 40 twists.

Connection to leader? We always use a double cat's-paw loop-to-loop connection to connect to the Dacron loop on a wind-on top shot. Some just go through the loop once, for a single cat's paw, but I've seen that fail, so we go through twice for the double.

Bristol

How to tie a bristol fishing knot illustration
How to tie a bristolAndy Steer / anglingknots.com

CAPT. ANTHONY MENDILLO JR., Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Anthony Mendillo's Keen M charters run three boats out of Enrique Lima's Marina in Isla Mujeres. For about 20 years off the Yucatan, Mendillo has been putting anglers on some of the world's fastest sailfish bites, and he boasts a number of tournament wins.

Do you tie a double line? Yes

What type and strength line, mostly? Mono (20- to 30-pound)

Preferred double-line knot? Bimini twist

Why? It's our proven bread-and-butter knot.

Tying strategy? We form the double line with 27 twists, making it about 18 inches long — a convenient length; longer doubles are harder to tie and serve no benefit for us. We finish with the usual half hitch around each leg, then two half hitches around both legs, followed by a double half hitch around both.

Connection to leader? With 20- and 30-pound mono (our usual sailfish trolling rigs), we tie to the leader with a Yucatan or "no-name" (Bristol) knot with seven turns. When using braided lines for jigging, we tie to the leader using a Huffnagle knot.

Angler locked-down on a fishing reel's drag
Because it's so crazy-strong for its diameter, braid tends to max out the strain on reels, rods and of course lines. Tying knots close to 100 percent of line strength is a real challenge.Antonio Varcasia

Double Uni

How to tie a double uni fishing knot illustration
How to tie a double uniAndy Steer / anglingknots.com

CAPT. CHRIS MYERS, Titusville, Florida

Capt. Chris Myers has been a full-time flats-fishing guide specializing in sight-casting the inshore saltwater lagoons of east central Florida for more than 20 years. He fishes a 16-foot Hewes flats skiff, poling anglers to bull redfish tailing in the clear shallows. Myers also offers seminars at tackle and fly shops and fishing shows.

Do you tie a double line? No. I used to but no longer tie any double lines.

What type and strength line, mostly? 10-pound braid

Preferred knot, single line to leader? Double uni

Why? I used to always tie a double line in mono with either a spider hitch or a Bimini. Since I've stopped tying the double line, I've had far fewer issues with the line breaking at the double-line knot. I've tried other knots, and none proved as strong as the double uni.

Tying strategy? I fold over the braid so I am tying on two pieces (but not forming a tied loop). I use eight wraps (eight times through the loop) on the braid side and four wraps with the 20-pound fluoro leader. With heavier braid and leader, I use same number of wraps on the braid side but three or four wraps on the leader side. A trick I employ is holding the uni loop open with my middle fingers as I tie; then, I can pass the tag ends through the loop rapidly.

Here is a video of Myers tying the double uni-knot described.

Three-Turn Surgeon's

three-turn surgeon's knot
How to tie a three-turn surgeon's knotAndy Steer / anglingknots.com

CAPT. JOHN RAGUSO, Long Island, New York

John Raguso has been connecting anglers to game fish offshore of Long Island for decades. He offers trips for tuna, sharks, canyon fishing (overnight), mahi and light-tackle action on his twin-outboard Phoenix, MarCeeJay. Raguso loves to teach anglers his tricks at his Long Island Fishing School, and is a widely published book and magazine author (including contributions to SF.)

Do you tie a double line? Yes

What type and strength line, mostly? Braid (80 to 100 pound)

Preferred knot? Three-turn surgeon's knot

Why? After a lot of trial and error, this seems to be the easiest to tie, doesn't slip or bind over itself, and is super strong. I can tie it in seconds.

Tying strategy? I keep the double line short — 12 inches or less. If you're nervous about the knot slipping, put a drop of Super Glue on it, and it will never come out.

Connection to leader? I connect the double line to a mono leader with a 12- to 15-turn Bristol. I follow that with six to eight half hitches to lock the knot. (This knot also eliminates having a single strand of braid versus a single strand of mono; braid always seems to win the battle of the resulting shear point.)

Two anglers lifting a hefty wrasse
Big fish require good knots, well tied.Courtesy Capt. Damon Olsen / Nomad Sportfishing Adventures

FG Knot

CAPT. DAMON OLSEN, Cairns, Australia

Perhaps no skipper in the world is harder on his knots than Damon Olsen with Nomad Sportfishing Adventures. The big Stella spinners with 100-pound braid with which Olsen equips his 80-foot aluminum cat mothership, Odyssey, are used to cast very large, very heavy poppers hour after hour, so the knots connecting braid to long mono leaders whip through the guides all day, plus have to handle huge giant trevally and other beasts of the reef, like the massive Maori wrasse shown here. Olsen knows his knots. He also knows his northern Australia fishing, directing the premier multiday-trip operation up and down the Great Barrier Reef, and recently venturing as far as New Guinea.

Do you tie a double line? No (not for casting lures)

What type and strength line, mostly? Braid (50-pound and up)

Preferred knot, single line to leader? FG knot

Why? It's the best knot ever invented for casting — I love it. It holds up for a long day of banging through rod guides.

Tying strategy? I use 15 to 20 crisscrosses back up the knot for maximum strength, then three half hitches at the top, over the braid and mono. The knot must be tightened during tying with a really good pull after the first half-hitch wrap over braid and mono.

The FG knot isn’t easily illustrated step by step; however, this video show exactly how to tie the FG knot with perfect clarity.