Many DYI vacationers that come to the keys and aren’t sure how to do much of anything in the way of fishing the Florida Keys. If you are a DYI vacationer planning to bring your own boat or rent one, you may want to study up some before making the trip.
Basic Knots and Rigging
I studied engineering, and the first thing they teach you is KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid. That’s one thing that stuck with me very well. So to that end, I only regularly use about six knots: The Uni-knot, haywire twist, spider hitch, Bristol knot, dog knot and the old clinch knot. I can make any rig I use with these knots. These and other knots are in the following books: Complete Book if Baits Rigs & Tackle by Vic Dunaway and Bob McNally’s Fisherman’s Knots, Fishing Rigs, and How to Use Them. The first was and is my bible.
Vic Dunaway invented the uni-knot which stands for universal knot, you can do almost anything with it and it is a strong knot. Every hook I tie, I use a uni knot with only one real exception, 150 pound and heavier mono filament leader to big hooks or swivels, when bottom fishing. To see how to tie a uni-knot click http://www.floridasportsman.com/HowTo/knots/uniknot/Uni-Knot/ Learn it well, this is a great knot. A lot of people have their own favorite knot, so I’m going to defend my selection of the Uni-knot. First, as mentioned it is a versatile knot. It’s good for line-to-line ties, snelling hooks, double line to leader and more detail in Vic Dunaway’s book. Second it has a 98% strength rating, not a 100% rating. That is a good thing if you think about it a little. It decreases the odds that you will lose all the line on your reel if you get smoked. If a freight train nails you, while light tackle fishing for sails, you can get back in action more quickly. If you’re fishing for freight trains, use a Palamar knot. Note: a freight train would be like a 200-pound yellow fin tuna hitting your 20-pound spinning outfit. The odds are big time against you. I’ve had that had happen right here in Marathon.
The next knot is the haywire twist, used for tying steel leader (solid not multi-strand), to a hook or swivel. Some people never get the hang of the haywire twist so study this one real close:
I know there is a description in the Florida Sportsman somewhere. Two things are important, the first five wraps and the final twist to break the tag. This knot is well accepted so I don’t expect any criticism here.
Next is the spider hitch, this is a bit controversial, most people swear by the Bimini Twist and only the Bimini twist, I just happen to disagree. I fish where there are a lot of Mackerel most of the year. Mackerel will hit any thing and have on many occasions hit my Bimini Twist. So an extra five or 10 percent knot strength isn’t going to do you much good if fish are eating your pretty knot. I can also tie a fifteen-foot double line in seconds with the spider hitch. Tying a fifteen-foot double line with a Bimini twist in rough seas by your self takes me a bit longer. So here is the spider hitch:
This will get criticized by a good number of people. But the same reason I use the uni-knot is why I use the spider hitch. It’s 98% and I know where things should break.
The Bristol knot is pretty easy if you wet it. It can be tough with the packaged leader though. I don’t use the package stuff myself, I buy one pound spools, which makes it a lot easier and cheaper. Since you are probable use the small spools of leader, make sure you wet the knot with a lot of saliva. So here the Bristol knot for connecting heavy mono to the double line:
This knot is used mainly for connecting trolling leaders. Some fishermen opt for tying a locking snap swivel to the leader and have the full 20 or 25 feet of leader pre-rigged on the lure. I don’t recommend that and explain later.
The dog knot is pretty rarely used. Not may fishermen even know about it, but it can be very useful. I use it to tie wire direct to mono on rare occasions when the current is dead the mackerel are cutting me off while yellow tailing. It also saved my butt one time when my box of swivels fell over board mackerel fishing. Fly fishermen should love this knot if they are hunting toothy critters. I showed the knot to a trout guide from Colorado and he loved it for tying the wire from his mackerel fly to his shock leader. It is a variation of the uni-knot invented by Capt. Jeff Rogers in Kona. The wire version goes something like this:
- Take your mono and wire leader and line them up in the same hand.
- Take the mono and start a uni knot. Make your first two turns of the uni knot around both the mono and the wire.
- Fold the wire back own itself from the main line to the terminal end. Get your self about six inches of over lapping wire until you learn the knot.
- Make your next four turns of the uni knot.
- Pull the tag of the uni knot to slightly snug the uni knot around the wire.
- Pull the wire (both tag and main, at the same time) snug with the uni knot.
- Tightly snug the uni knot.
- Use the lever method used in the haywire twist to break the wire tag off flush.
This creates about the smoothest transition from mono to wire you can make.
Finally, the old clinch knot or fisherman’s knot. Just pass the mono through the hook eye. Twist the hook about six times while holding the main and tag. Pass the tag back through the hole created by the mono at the hook eye, and snug it up while holding the hook and the tag end. A little saliva will help it slide. I finish it off by putting the hook around a cleat or any thing securely nailed down, then double wrap the mono around my hand a pull pretty hard. You may want to wear a glove on your pulling hand. This isn’t a pretty knot, but with 200 to 400 pound leader, it’s plenty strong for 80# grouper gear.
Now you have six knots to play with, the last two being rarely used. So these knots are listed in order of importance. Next we’ll see what to really do with the knots.
My basic trolling rod rig: Use the spider hitch to make a 10-foot double line on your rod (maximum of 15 feet can be used for 30 plus pound tackle per IFGA). Use the Bristol knot to add 15 feet of heavier mono leader (20 foot for 30 plus pound tackle). Finally tie a locking snap swivel to the end of the leader. This whole set-up is called a wind on leader. Using this wind on leader, all of your lures should be rigged with just under, five foot of leader to be IFGA legal.
This system greatly reduces the space required to store your lures and I have never been on a boat that had enough storage space. It also makes changing lure or rigs a lot quicker also. If the knots are properly tied, they should run smoothly through the guides of the rod with just the slightest catch under pressure.
Basic bottom rod rig: Slip a small (1/8 to ¼ ounce) egg sinker on your line and tie on a good size swivel, size 5 say for 30 pound gear to a monster for 100 pound gear. The egg sinker helps prevent tearing up your tip guide if you wind up too far.
Spinning rod for big fish rig: Same set-up as a trolling rod but limit the double line to 3 or 5 feet, and the leader to 5 or 6 feet. You can go longer with either the double line or leader, but it’s harder to cast.
Bait casters and light spinners for everything else, tie direct to the lure or rig. A short double line might be needed to reduce chaffing on structure occasionally, but not very often.
You never know what you may tangle with in the Florida Keys, so study up and come on down.