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Thursday, 10 July 2014

What's the right braid to leader knot for casting?

Do we need more threads on leader knots?  Well there has been so much discussion on forums and Facebook groups lately regarding this basic question - "What is the best knot for joining my braided line to my leader"... we of course have our own opinions here! With plenty of experience in the area that is pretty relevant, we have conferred with some heavy hitters in the GT casting scene for years on the subject but the question cant be answered fully without asking what is the intended use of the knot once tied?, i.e. is it to be cast repeatedly or dropped through the guides in a jigging or sport fishing application (trolling or bait fishing) or even something else.

Why is this question so important? Quite simply, a knot passing through the guides at high speed has different desirable attributes and requirements than one dropped or fed through the guides at low speed.  In casting, if the knot has flaws it will be found out as inferior on a number of fronts.  If however your application of the knot does not include the connection flying through the guides at high speed in a casting application, you can use whatever knot you fancy as long as its strong and does not slip.  If you jig, bait fish or cast with the leader knot outside the guides (a short leader) use what connection you fancy as long as its strong.  If you are casting with it however and intend to use a longer leader, perhaps back to the spool, your knot then has a significant chance at either catching guides or the frame of guide itself which can result in catastrophic failures from bent and ripped off guides, line detonations and lost lures, at a minimum, an inferior knot will cost you casting distance.  No casting knot for this application is perfect, however some are considerably better than others. 

We see the ideal attributes of a casting knot to be in no particular order;
Strong - as close to the mythical 100% as possible
Thin - as close to the minimum as can be achieved, the minimum possible being the diameter of your leader (being the bigger diameter in the equation)
Overall size - a bulky or long knot is more likely to catch in a variety of ways
Tag free - or at least small tags that face away from the direction of the cast, not towards it

This criteria effectively rules out as inferior a number of otherwise popular knots for the following highlighted reasons (note - I make no comment as to the strength of these knots, just their suitability as a casting knot inside the guides);

GT Knot - the weakness of this knot is in the finish with the leader wrapping over itself in the finishing stage where the knot doubles in diameter where it becomes quite bulky.  If casting is not an issue for you, its a strong connection especially if you have also tied a bimini double in the main line.  There are many variations on this knot.
Uni to Uni - again the weakness of this knot is that it extremely bulky although its nice and compact in length. A useful knot, but far from an ideal casting knot.
Albright / Improved Albright - very thick as it uses a doubled over section of leader material making it bulky.  Also has a nasty habit of letting go after some repeated casting, the worst thing is that the tag end of the leader faces forward, really a poor choice.
Slim Beauty - again, the figure eight performed in the leader material makes this knot not quite as slim as the name suggests although the knot is at least compact in length.  Nothing much wrong with it otherwise except slim it is not.

In lighter line classes some of the above are passable to use for sure, but when you step up to medium to heavy line classes forget it, they are simply not designed to fly.

There are others of course, many in fact but are variations on a theme really and none are truly slim -so what is the solution to finding a great casting knot that ticks all the boxes?  The answer is simply to tie a friction knot....


Friction knots are unique in that they are rarely much thicker than the diameter of the leader itself, are incredibly strong if tied correctly, the tag faces the right way making it snag free and are relatively compact in length.  In reality they are a reliable casting connection and worthy of the investment in time required to learn to tie them correctly. Of the three main friction knots we have the PR, Mid and FG knot (again there are slight variances such as the Sebile Knot).  They all have a degree of similarity in that they rely on the friction of the main line biting into the leader to create a grip but have noticeable nuances as well.

In order to get its 'grip' on the leader, the PR requires more wraps overall than an FG making it a less compact knot (greater overall length) which makes it less suited as the perfect casting knot, it can be prone to getting caught in the edges of guide frames in our experience due to the overall length and rigidity created by that length.  Also to tie a PR you MUST have a bobbin handy which is usually not an issue, unless you forget it, lose it or it breaks, it is otherwise a fine and strong connection that I would have no hesitation in using if there was no other option.  

A Mid Knot is very similar in finish to a PR knot except that you do not use a bobbin as part of the construction.  It is an excellent knot and ticks all the boxes however one limitation for mine is that it is a little difficult to get the tension required into the wraps (hence why the PR bobbin is used in a PR).  It is a good knot but its not the best friction connection in our opinion but if you like it use with confidence.

An FG however does not require tools and can be effectively finished using a pair of gloves, a rag or a pair of specialized knot pullers (nice but not essential).  In my experience, an FG is easy to tie extremely tight which is the whole point, that is what a friction knot is all about, being tied with tension all the way.  In our view it is actually the superior knot for all casting applications and if you tie it enough you will become adept and fast at tying it even on the high seas.  From humble beginnings and many repetitions you can tie this knot in a matter of a few minutes.  Whilst it is fiddly in lighter lines, it works a treat from the lightest to the heaviest of classes.

So what if you don't cast through the guides?  You can do what you want, but the FG is an excellent connection, why not adopt it as the only leader to braid connection you use?  Pretty good way to get competent at what is an exceptional connection, I know that's what I do, I now find it as natural to do as a uni knot.

With that vote of endorsement from the Ebb Tide Adventures team - here is how we go about tying it, bare in mind there are of course variations on this theme - many of them, this just how we go about it, on land or water!  If you want to learn the FG, we will explain and demonstrate, but its up to you to practice!  Note in the video we do not continue the half hitches down the main line - the FG in the photo above ^^^ has.  We also trim the tag of the mainline of course, the whole video did not upload.

Click the image below to see how we tie the FG