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John Merwin lives in Vermont, where, when he's not tying flies, building lures, or digging up worms with his backhoe, he writes the monthly Fishing Column for Field & Stream magazine.

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November 12, 2008

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Merwin: On Pound-Test and Knots

So I had a long phone conversation the other day with James Therrell, the brand manager for Cajun Line. (Frequent readers will understand why we had this conversation.)

He's a former nuclear engineer turned fishing-line geek and a really knowledgeable guy. In the course of talking, I learned something very interesting about knot strength and braid, often known as superline.

It seems the pound-test label on your spool of superline has little to do with the actual strength of the line. These lines are most often rated according to the strength of a palomar knot tied with a particular line brand and size.

Thirty-pound-test superline, then, means a palomar knot tied with that line should break at about 30 pounds. This, I've been told by a couple of people in the line business, is common practice among line companies. They just don't tell anybody.

Tricky business, this fishing-line stuff.


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Geez ... thanks. I learned something today. But, after many decades of automatically tying improved clinch knots, I'm done tying the knot before I even remember to use a palomar.

Dr. Ralph

Never was any good at tying knots but every time I bought a Rapala lure there would be directions. Not sure what they call it but that's the one and I've been using it forever...

John Merwin

Note the foregoing applies ONLY to superlines; not to nylon mono nor to fluorocarbon. Ralph and Mike, the knots you mention work okay with mono, but not with superline, for which you really need a palomar knot.


Yep, knew that ... but it still doesn't stop me from automatically tying an improved clinch with braided ... and then pulling the knot apart while uttering some choice words.

Alex Pernice the fly rod winner

Hey Ralph, about you're last post... I am 13.


Interesting stuff there, John. I use the Rapala Knot since I fish a lot of Rapala lures. I am currently switching over to braided line so may have to learn some new knots.

John Merwin

Been there; done that, too. Ugh!

If you go to our homepage and search for "knot," you'll find most of what you need.


I've always tied a palomar on my braid. The knot I use for mono is usually a palomar also, but for some lures where tying a palomar is difficult (long treble laden plugs, like spooks or crankbaits) I use a uni knot. When I see bass schooling and want to change lures fast I use a knot that my dad taught me, it has no name and I've never seen it anywhere else, but you can do it likety split and it has always held.


where's Cermele?.... picking ticks out of his arse in the bush of kebek (quebec) city!?!
being a salt water guy, I think the palomar is a great knot to tie. As a 21 year fresh water guy.... The improved clinch is the way to go with large mouths

Blue Ox

The palomar knot has always worked for me, no matter what line i'm using. No need to fix something that ain't broke.

Dr. Ralph

Having been given the bad news that this old dog will have to learn a new trick and start tying a different knott I just looked up the Rapala knot and that is not what I am tying... obviously twenty five or thirty years ago when I was learning they were teaching something else. After way too much time spent studying knotts I have come to realize I tie an Improved Clinch Knott. It has never faised me but I have never caught a fish over 35 pounds.

Jim in Mo

That palomar knot always gave me fits trying to tie it in a rocking boat and keeping the line from crossing each other at the eye, thats the most important point. So, I can't think of the name of the knot right now but I use the one that you loop six times around main line then back thru main loop. I do it a bit different and after going thru the main loop I then go thru the secondary loop (after the six twist arounds) and spit on it and tie. The knots stronger that way and works great on 17 lb. test.