How to Tie Fishing Knots: A Beginner's Video Guide

Jun 13, 2024 | 7 minute read
Reading Time: 7 minutes

We can discuss the best lures, baits, and other fishing tactics all day. But fishing knots are the most important thing anglers often overlook. A poorly tied knot means you could lose the fish and the terminal tackle or lures you’re using. Learning how to tie a fishing knot is something every angler should practice at home to ensure you land more fish. 

A large tackle box full of gear with a fishing rod and reel stood upright next to it, with the water out of focus behind it

On a positive note, learning about knots isn’t difficult. The main issue is navigating the overwhelming number available to anglers. That being said, you really only need to learn and perfect a few knots to get started and be successful. Read on to learn about some simple options – and find out how they can improve your success rate on the water. Let’s dive in!

Types of Fishing Knots

Before we jump into specific knots and strategies, it’s important to understand the purpose of various knots. They’re often designed for specific connections and purposes. For example, the knot that ties backing to a fly reel is much different than one used to tie monofilament to a lure.

The type of line you’re using can also influence knot selection. Braided lines have different diameters from monofilament and fluorocarbon lines. Fly lines and leaders can also call for specific knot types. Understanding your equipment will help determine which knots are most effective and strongest. 

The following are a few of the most common connections needed to rig your fishing line from the reel to the final hook…

Tying Line to a Conventional or Fly Reel

A man wading waist-deep in the waters of a river, tying a knot on the end of his fly fishing line on a bright day

Before anything happens, you’ll need to spool the reel. Luckily, this is a one-time thing that’s done at home. Take the time to get it right and you’ll rarely – if ever – need to make this connection in the field. Several knots exist but the Arbor knot is the universal option for fly line backing, as well as braid, monofilament, and fluorocarbon lines.

Knots for Tying Two Sections of Line Together

A closeup of two monofilament lines – one white and one gold –knotted together above a wooden table

Occasionally, you’ll need to splice lines or connect two different lines together. This is especially common in fly fishing but it’s also done to build leaders and make emergency repairs on conventional lines. Many different fishing knots exist for this purpose but the blood knot and surgeon’s knot are two fairly simple options to learn.

Knots for Terminal Tackle and Hooks

A closeup of a pari of hands holding a weight and displaying the knot tied to ensure it stays connected to the rest of the tackle

The last and most common knots are the ones connecting your line to a hook, swivel, or other piece of terminal tackle. Many opinions exist about the strongest knots for this purpose and there are an overwhelming number of knots available. You’ll need to tie these in the field so proficiency is very important. Learning two knots and tying them properly will cover the vast majority of situations you encounter. 

What are the Strongest Fishing Knots?

While testing fishing knots is possible, they’re only strong when properly tied. I’ve chosen the following knots for their combination of strength and ease of tying. This creates a more beginner-friendly approach to ensuring secure connections with consistency. 

Arbor Knot

Tying the line to a reel is done with a very simple slip-style knot that snugs up against the reel without leaving bulk that can cause snags. The knot is strong but, ideally, anglers won’t test the strength because that would mean all of the line is off the reel. 

To tie an Arbor knot, you’ll first tie an overhand knot on the line end. This will prevent the knot from slipping. Next, take the end of the line around the reel, start an overhand knot on the main line but don’t pull tight. Make another wrap around the main line to form a figure eight. Slowly snag the line down until it meets the initial overhand knot and is tight to the reel. You’re now ready to load the reel with the line or backing.

Palomar Knot

For terminal connections, the Palomar Knot is very easy and strong. It works with any line type and is a favorite for conventional gear anglers. Use it for swivel connections, tying weights, and for tying lines to the hook. 

To make this knot, first fold the line to create a loop. Pass the loop through the hook eye (or swivel). Tie an overhand knot with the loop then pass the loop over the hook. Pull slowly to complete the knot.

Snell Knot

Step-by-step snell knot

There are a few ways to tie a snell knot. I prefer the simple version of this knot as it’s easier to tie and remains super strong. Pass the tag end through the hook eye and give yourself plenty of line to complete this knot.

Fold the line back on itself to create a loop with the tag end pointing back towards the main line. Pinch at the loop and avoid covering the loop as you make 8–10 wraps down the hook shank, covering the line and hook. 

Pull the tag end through the loop you previously created. Hold the tag while pulling on the main line until it’s tight and secure against the hook eye. Clip the tag and you have a completed snell knot.

Clinch Knot

Another great knot for terminal connections is the clinch knot. Use this for tying to lures, swivels, jigs, and flies. The simplicity makes this one of the easiest knots to learn and it’s difficult to mess up.

Start by passing the end of your line through the hook eye. Next, twist the line or make individual wraps to create 6–8 twists. Pass the end through the opening at the base of the twists. Hold the tag end while pulling the main line slowly to tighten.

Improved Clinch Knot

Step-by-step improved clinch knot

Featuring just one more step than the clinch knot, this knot is great for a variety of situations. It works especially well with light test lines and small-diameter fly fishing tippets

As mentioned above, start by passing the tag end of your leader through the hook eye. Wrap the end around the main leader 6–8 times. Pass the tag end through the loop that formed between the first wrap and the hook eye. Pass it through the loop formed after the last step.

Finally, lightly wet the knot and hold the tag end while pulling on the main line until the knot is tight. The wraps should be even and will be strong when done properly. Clip the tag end and you’re ready to go fishing!

FG Knot

Step-by-step FG knot

This is a super strong knot that anglers use to connect braid and monofilament or fluorocarbon lines. It’s tricky to grasp at first but once you have a system in place, it actually becomes quite easy to implement.

Place the end of your braid into your mouth or wrap it around your finger to create tension. You can also have a friend hold the braid for tension when possible. Next, create a perpendicular cross with the leader material and make a wrap to lock the lines together. Continue wrapping and alternate – under then over – the original wrap. Do this up to 20 times or even a few more! 

Pinch the wraps to hold them and use the end of your braid to create several half hitches. This will lock everything into place. Lastly, use firm pressure to pull on the lines and cinch the knot into place. The wraps should be even when the knot is completed.

Surgeon’s Knot

A closeup of a piece of fishing line tied into a loop using a surgeon's knot against the hand that's holding it
Photo courtesy of Zach Lazzari

This might be the easiest knot for connecting two segments of line together. It works best on monofilament and fluorocarbon lines. First, overlap the main line with the section you plan to attach. Fold the lines to create a loop. Now tie a double overhand knot and pull tight to complete the connection. Trim the tag ends and you’re done!

For added security, the double overhand can be replaced with a triple overhand knot. Ideally, you’ll be using similar line diameters as well. Too much difference in line diameter can weaken the knot. 

Uni Knot

Step-by-step uni knot

One of the most underrated and underutilized knots is the uni knot. It’s simple and is ultimately stronger than most clinch knots. I really like it for 8 lb and heavier tests, but I still use a clinch knot for very small diameter lines and leaders.

Pull the end of your line through the hook eye and double up the line in one hand. Take the tag end and pinch it to create a loop. Pass the line through your loop 4–6 times (catching both segments of the doubled line). Pull the tag end upward while slowly pulling the main line to cinch everything down. The tag end should point upwards with the main line when done properly.

Uni to Uni Knot

Step-by-step uni-to-uni knot

Also called a “double uni knot,” this is another good option for connecting braided lines to monofilament leaders. It’s effective in both saltwater and freshwater environments and is also relatively quick to tie.

Overlap the two lines, facing in opposite directions. Take the braided section and form a loop. Make 4–5 wraps through the loop, capturing both the braid and leader material. Do the same thing on the opposite end using the leader end to make the loop and wraps. 

Now you have two knots. Pull each knot tight then pull on the braid and leader until the knots snug against each other. Clip the tag ends and the knot is complete.

How to Practice and Tie Basic Fishing Knots Quickly

The best way to become proficient at tying fishing knots is through practice! While you can learn on the water, practicing at home is the best approach. You can control the environment and correct mistakes without being rushed by the anticipation of casting a line.

A man in a green shirt focuses as he ties a knot before going fishing

Practice with thin ropes or cords before attempting to tie knots using normal lines. It helps visually and will reveal mistakes, too. After working through the basic steps and following video instructions with the ropes, move to your normal line sizes. Tie, cut, and repeat the knots until they’re second nature. Always pull hard on completed knots to ensure they don’t slip as well. 

Practicing at home will build confidence while saving time in the field. After a while, you can tie simple knots without looking. When the basic knots are second nature, it’s good to slowly expand by adding a few new options to your repertoire. Learning loop knots and some saltwater-specific knots for heavy line test is a natural progression!

Tie Great Knots and Catch More Fish!

At the end of the day, strong fishing knots mean you won’t lose that trophy fish. There’s nothing worse than having a knot fail at the last minute! Be diligent about checking lines for weak points throughout the day, re-tie knots as necessary, and always lubricate knots before cinching them down. Wet them with your mouth then secure the final knot to prevent burning and weakening. You’ll then be ready to get on the water! 

What are your favorite fishing knots? We’d love to hear which knots are the easiest, strongest, and go-to options for other anglers. Share your own tips in the comments below!

Author profile picture

Zach Lazzari is a freelance outdoor writer, full-time traveler, and adventurer. He drove the Pan American Highway, chasing fish and whitewater across 13 countries, and continues pushing the limits of travel, fishing, whitewater, and hunting. Follow his travels at the Busted Oarlock.

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