My favorite line-to-leader connection is the Bristol knot, which I use to join a wind-on leader to a short Bimini twist (double line) in a fishing line. It's a diminutive knot that passes easily through rod guides and reel bail rollers, making it an excellent light-tackle connection for both spinning and small conventional outfits.
Oldie, but Still a Goodie
The Bristol knot dates back to the mid-1970s, when its popularity grew among a contingent of hardcore south Florida light-tackle anglers and line-class record seekers. Their goal: Make short work out of a fight by quickly winding a long, heavy leader (heavier than the main line) back onto the reel and positioning an often unsuspecting fish within reach of a gaff or net.
Ironically, this knot was created by a freshwater angler who fished Tennessee reservoirs for large striped bass using 6-, 10- and 12-pound-class spinning tackle; hence the “Bristol” moniker. He desired a long leader to shield his light fishing lines against a big striper's body as well as impoundment and shoreline structures. He also wanted a knot that could be wound onto the reel without snagging or jamming in a rod guide or bail roller, so he could apply extra pressure when the fish neared the boat.
The knot is every bit as outstanding at pairing braided lines to monofilament or fluorocarbon leaders as it is for joining monofilament fishing lines to leaders. The only tweak required to neutralize the cutting and slippage tendencies of braid on monofilament and fluorocarbon is to double the number of wraps when creating both the Bimini twist (double line) and Bristol knot.
The Bristol in Action
There are numerous fishing applications where the Bristol knot will excel. When live-bait fishing for sailfish, I use the Bristol knot to join 15 feet of 40-pound-test fluorocarbon leader to 12- or 20-pound-class monofilament line on spinning and conventional tackle. For drifting deep baits for tuna and mahi, I'll use it to join 40 feet of 30-pound-test fluorocarbon leader to 20-pound-test monofilament line on conventional tackle. And for tarpon, snook, redfish, trout and other inshore game fish, the Bristol knot joins 3 feet of 25- or 30-pound-test fluorocarbon leader to 10- or 20-pound-test braided line on my spinning tackle.
Mastering the Bristol
Prerequisite: Create a double line by tying a short Bimini twist in the fishing line, using 25 turns with monofilament and 50 turns with braid.
1. Pass 5 or 6 inches of the leader through the loop of the Bimini twist, using the fingers of one hand to hold the loop open and secure the leader where it passed through the loop.
2. If connecting a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader to monofilament fishing line, tightly wrap the tag end of the leader five to eight times around the doubled fishing line above the loop. If connecting a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader to braided line, make 10 to 16 tight wraps.
3. Pass the leader's tag end back down through the loop in which it originally came up through.
4. Moisten the knot. Then cinch it down by simultaneously pulling on the leader and double line.
5. Once the knot is drawn tight, trim the tag end as close to the knot as possible to promote smooth casts and avoid snagging on grass or debris.
The Bristol Knot's Greatest Hits
- 100% knot strength at connection
- Excellent for connecting monofilament or fluorocarbon leaders to either braided or monofilament fishing lines
- Small enough to easily pass through rod guides and rollers, which promotes smooth and long casts and eliminates knot jams and line breakage should a fish surge when the leader is on the reel spool
- Protects light line from heavy structure and large fish such as tarpon, sailfish/white marlin, large mahi, sharks, etc., which could land on the line
- Good for inshore casting as well as offshore pitch-baiting
- Perfect for bailing school fish, such as mahi, since the damaged part of a lengthy leader can be clipped off and a new hook or jig tied on within seconds. Gone are the time-consuming chores of frequently replacing damaged short leaders during a red-hot bite