Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Bound to Fail - The 'Knotless Knot' Demolished

Wrecking ball at the ready...

The line was 15lb Penn 'Long Distance' Super Surf, the hook, a small shark hook, an O'Shaunessy in size 4/0. Both line and hook were chosen because they visibly show the knot at work in a most demonstrative way possible. Both were chosen too, because they are enormously strong...

Unlike the knot, which performed pathetically.

It gave out under a pressure exerted at full arms length, which I estimated at the time to be 7lb maximum, but could have been far less, to be frank. Have you ever tried to break 15lb line? It takes far more effort than you'd imagine to succeed, it really does. I've hauled home well over 100lbs of sodden bladderwrack in a racing tide on the same line, but it never failed me.

Such line cannot be easily broken at arms length by any normal human being.

It's simply impossible.

Unless there's a knotless knot in the equation...


  1. Interesting. But I think I might repeat that experiment for myself with a set of scales in the line. For, I have always thought that the k-k is logically unlikely to introduce a great deal of weakness into the line, BECAUSE of its design. What knot do you now propose using in its stead, and what line strength reduction will you get with it?
    I don't know anything about the line choice you made, is it a very stiff line?

  2. Sorry, just seen rather more of your text, which answers my query with the plomar knot....a knot I first used 45 years ago, without then realising it even had a name.

  3. Jeff, I'm wondering if the problem is using monofilament as the repeated samll movements could be creating friction casuining the line to part. i use the kk with multi-strand braid hook lengths and can confidently say have not experienced a breakage as you have demonstrated. it may be that braid has different friction properties! Revealing experiment; well done.

  4. JAYZS, I thought just by looking at it that the knot should be perfectly sound. All seems well with it, but something happens due to that movement that doesn't happen in any other knot I know of, because other knots just don't move at all, once set. And do repeat the experiment, I'd like to know how you get on.

    Dom, I think with braid no such problem could occur because its not susceptible to compression failure like mono. I'd imagine that only friction could harm it and I don't think friction is the issue at all, just constant hammering flattening the line.

    I heard that mono strength was related to its thickness. If so, then flattening it, reduces thickness, so half thickness might well mean half strength?

  5. Same here I don't tend to use mono or flouro with the k k but I used to and have lost some fish in the past but can't remember if the pigtail evidence was present or it was from a tensile strength failure of the line?

    I don't think braid suffers from the same frictional stress that the mono in your clip shows, so I will still be quite happy to use a kk with braid - I will have second thoughts next time I need to hair rig with mono though!

  6. I've only used it this season Lee, and suffered a few breakages with it, but as you say, I wasn't sure what they were caused by, thinking just normal breakages due to nicks in the line or being cut off by mussel shells and the like. Funny thing was, they all were failures well below breaking strain, just here one minute, gone the next. Most peculiar at the time, but you would just get on with it.

  7. i dont know if it makes any difference but i sometimes put the leader through the eye twice and then through the loop this seems to me to make it more of a knot.

  8. Thanks for your efforts, Jeff; it certainly made me think. I reckon your reasoning is spot on. Perhaps nylon is more susceptible to the flexing ('breathing') because it is springy and slippery, and that a k-k can never be 'tightened' to the extent where it is truly secure? Braid tends to stay where put?
    Loved your analogy with the leaning against a brick wall - you have a way with your words which I enjoy.

  9. I fished yesterday jeff caught five barbel and lost two, one hook pull and one break which was below the swivel knot the k k was used and I had no problem with it. I think your experiment is thought provoking but inconclusive, thick mono has so many different characteristics to thin, indeed every different mono is very different to the next one property wise. The barbel were all very fit, hooked in fast water and I finished with an aching shoulder and cramp in my fore arm. Maybe some monos are fine with the kk but some like yours fail with it, I do have complete faith in it still though

  10. Ian, I reckon that would make a difference, you know. It should reduce the pressure brought to bear on the weak point, I'd have thought

    Dave, the elasticity of the line seems to be the root of the problem. The turns down the shank respond to stretching in the line above by rotating around the shank so without any means of locking itself, the whole knot is elastic.

    I agree, Joe, inconclusive is what it is without more rigorous testing of the knot tied with all kinds of mono, nevertheless, it does suggest that all monos are guilty till proven innocent! Personally, I can no longer trust to it after seeing it perform the way it does.

    There may be many other factors at work too, apart from the qualities of the line, such as how tightly both lengths of line fit through the eye and the number of turns down the shank.

    What I would suggest is this. If a monofilament compresses easily, then it is likely to fail, but if it resists lateral compression, and retains its circular section, then it should be fine. Trouble is, I can find little info on which lines have this property because it's never been much of an issue before.

  11. Hello Jeff,

    interesting video, just mirrored your test, using Daiwa sensor clear (6lb) and yo-zuri hybrid (10 and 15lb).No problems kk with either of those lines.

    As Joe says, some monos maybe fine and others more susceptible to the breakage that you have had with some regularity lately.

    edited due to my spelling

  12. lsRese 8Another point occurs to me. To be realistic maybe the experiment should be done with the knot under water. I will find time to have a go, and may also just put a tiny blob of paint on the line, so as to confirm the exact breakage points.

    Dom, I doubt that you would get much in the way of friction with The experiment as performed.

  13. Mark, that's interesting. Joe reports no problems, and your tests check out too. So, I ran a few more tests, and guess what? There's more to this than meets the eye...

    The original tests were performed with a Drennan Wide Gape Specialist size 8 hook tied to Drennan 10lb, and that combination continues to fail over and over. However, same line tied to a Drennan Specimen in size 6 performs completely differently.

    This combination is far more reliable!

    So, I tried a few more combinations of different hooks and lines and found that the results were all over the place...

    Some were terrible, some strong, but by far the best found was the Drennan specimen size 6 tied to 8lb Ultima Power Plus, which always held so well that the line actually broke first in almost every case.

    What I cannot understand is why any small variable could make such a difference one way or the other, or what that variable could be.

    JAYZS. I followed your lead, and by dabbing green ink on the line just above the eye and at the last loop down the shank, found that it broke at the last loop, as I suspected, but it'd be interesting to see what results you get, if indeed, you get anything like similar results with different combinations than I have tested thus far.

  14. Very interesting Jeff, so what you're saying is that the weakness of the knotless knot is dependent on the pattern of hook used? If that is the case you may have just given me some real food for thought, as I do regularly change hook patterns depending for what and where I'm fishing.

  15. Well, it seems to matter very much! I have no clear idea why though. All I can say is that if the combination is correct then the knot is very strong indeed. If it's not, then its very weak after being put under stress. I suppose a proper bench test could find out why? I don't have the facilities though

  16. Hi Jeff. I did what probably amounts to the nearest thing to a bench test ( I have a scientific background).
    I did 4 tests, each identical, as far as I could make them. Size 4 straight eyed barbel hook. New 12 lb daiwa sensor monofil. Dry test as it would have meant a lot more trouble to immerse the knot. Each time I did 100 cycles of stressing the knot to about 8 pounds of tension, and then fully released until the line became slack. After the 100 cycles I then slowly tensioned up until the line broke. It always broke at a tension of over 11 pounds, which I reckon is a pretty good value, suggestion little or no weakness being induced by the stressing of the knot. It did break at the knot each time, but that was the only possible weaker spot in my set-up. ( The other end of the line was affixed in such a way as to not generate any unusual kinks in the line.)
    Now, I had already been thinking about the pattern of eye, its size and shape ( straight/upturned etc) so it was interesting to read your last comment about hook patterns. If, as you say, your breaks were always at the knot itself, then the eye pattern, hook size etc SHOULD be irrelevant. But it could be that the eye size and shape is such that it either allows, or forbids complete relaxation of the line when it goes slack.
    At the moment my thought experiment goes like this: to me, it appears logical that the k-k compresses the monofil, and distorts its cross section, far LESS than other knots. Hard to actually observe this of course, hence the thought experiment. Any other knot surely must compress the cross section rather more, and maybe...maybe...be affected even more than the k-k by the tensioning/relaxation cycle.
    I am going to play around with the palomar knot when I have some more time. My expectations are that it will always break at a lesser tension than my tests with the k-k, but that the tension at which it breaks will also be more variable.
    Certainly the topic has generated some interest in here.

  17. Another tiny thought: as regards glueing the knot. I would think that the coils around the hook shank would remain frmly glued, but, the at point at which the line first starts to coil around the shank, I cannot see the glue being able to take the stress, ans so think it would not affect your results.
    Oh: and what about trying this: apply some shrink tube over the knot. Would this stop the flexing that you suspect might cause the problems you have seen? (and is monoifil able to take the heat required without degradation )

  18. One last thought before I grab my rods. Metal, as you will know, is weakened by work hardening. Basically bend and rebend a chunk of metal often enough and it will break. I wonder whether the stress/unstress applied to monofil, could have a similar effect? Is the nylon work hardening in some odd way?

  19. Interesting that you used Daiwa Sensor because I had two spooled reels worth fail on me earlier this year.


    The line deteriorated to a quarter of its strength. It may have taken some time as the line had not been used all winter long, but it performed perfectly well against a very large pike at Bury Hill, then a month later was snapping like cotton.

    Which begs the question of line age. My tests, which were more akin to bank tests than bench tests, were performed on lines that were not taken off reels, but fresh from old spools. They are kept in the dark, but were all at least six month of age, some over a year.

    As for work hardening, is seems that nylon and polyester lines have different properties, nylon not work hardening but polyester having work hardening properties ~


    Here, the screen printers only work polyester in one direction so that the molecules align in one direction, changing direction destroying it and resulting in chaotic molecule patterns.

    I think most fishing lines are actually nylon, but nylons treated in all kind of ways nowadays to give them abrasion resistance, low memory, high knot strength, shock resistance, etc. I suppose all these processes change its properties

  20. Also, did you take notice of the shape of the break when the knot gave out? It was always the same with my tests, and very distinctive once seen a few times.

  21. Called back from the bankside 'cos some of the wife's kitchen cupboards started to fall off the wall. 25 years they have stayed there, rock solid...until she decided they were solid enough to fill up COMPLETELY with tins.

    ...but on to more important things before the now mandatory B&Q visit. My choice of sensor is based on two factors. Firstly in bulk spools it is quite cheap, which 2) enables me to change it 2 or 3 times a season, or whenever I feel it has been subjected to unfair use. Use, especially in rocky and snaggy rivers, cuts and abrasion are one factor, maybe light is another, but also, on a reel the relevant section of line is under constant tension, for all of that time when I am not fishing. I wonder whether under such circumstances it might no longer retain its original elasticity, and maybe become more brittle? I seem to be generating more questions than answers here!
    The test spools are not new, and have been kept in shade rather than darkness. It is of course not just a simple matter of line age, or else my "new" two year old spools would not be perorming so well.
    By the shape of the break, did you mean the shape of the curly end, or the actual break itself?

    Using the same line and the palomar knot, same 100 cycle test I was very pleasantly surprised (if not actually shocked) by the result. Only managed a couple of tests so far but the knot broke with very high strength. Test one was over the 12 pounds B.S., test 2 was nearly 15 pounds. I was astonished, because I did not expect more than 60-70% knot strength at most. I have used the Palomar for over 40 years, without knowing its name until fairly recently, but always felt that, on tightening it, you could never guarantee a consistent knot shape.... and therefore consistent knot strength.

  22. 23312 stravee..and of course my "new" spools have never seen wat or damp conditions.

  23. Well the palomar is an amazing knot, so I'm not surprised by your results at all. It is the only knot that I know of where the line usually breaks before it does.

    Interestingly, when I tested the best combination of line and hook I'd found for the reliable performance of the KK, I then tied the other end to the scales with the palomar knot, and had all kinds of things happen...

    Often line breaks, often knot breaks at both the KK or the palomar, but all at well over maximum strain for the line. Of course, at maximum, the break will occur at the weakest point, and that could be the very slightest thing. Here the KK exonerated itself, but in any normal situation, I'd still trust the palomar above all other knots.

    As for tying the palomar wrongly. I've found it can be tied almost anyway it turns out, and without too much loss of strength. It's that last loop that must be pulled tight that causes the problems, and can end up round the eye in the dark, round the knot sometimes, but should be around the line itself, I've heard.

  24. I must add that if the palomar turns out with a kink in the line above the eye, I chop it off and start over. I see this as a trace of friction/heat damage due to poor lubrication

  25. I'm not surprised myself, only ever tried to tie a knotless in mono aobut twice, and wasn't convinced then.

    I've also had knotless knots in braid unravel enough for a loop to pass back over the hook eye...

    I use the grinner, palomar, in that order for most things and the uni-snell if I need any kind of presentation.

  26. I think the snell knot may be the alternative to the Knotless knot I'm looking for. It has a tag for the hair and is a real knot, but the only downside is not being able to form the hair till after tying. A small price to pay though, for peace of mind.

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. The Snell Knot. Hadn't heard of it before so looked it up. Three of the first snell knot google links showed three different snell knots. One is quite blatantly a simple knotless knot. Do you have a link to your version of the snell?
    ( Too many typos in my last comment so deleted it.)

  29. I was thinking of this version tied by Roy Marlow. He even puts down the KK, doesn't explain exactly why, except that plenty of good anglers have lost fish on it, and says the snell is 'far, far superior' in every way.


  30. thanks for sharing.

  31. Hi Jeff, here's another one for consideration. Having started to use circle hooks I wanted a knot that encouraged the 'circle' effect. The KK seemed ideal from my carp fishing days, but on testing with 10lb Maxima it was breaking at around 3 to 4lb strain (nothing scientific just a gut feel)
    However when I used a simple overhand figure of 8 knot to create a loop and then thread the loop through the eye and back up the shank of the hook the 'kick-out' effect was brilliant. This is obviously due to 2 strands of mono but the greatest plus was that on testing it has never parted below the knot, it has always found the weakest spot in the line and broke there which at times has felt very close to the rated strength of 10lb (again a gut feeling as I couldn't be bothered to get the scales!)

    I'm not sure what the knot is called but it was first shown to me over 40 years ago by my Dad as it was the only one he could tie! Strange that I should start using it now and even stranger that I have spent the afternoon messing around testing it before going to fish a spot where he first taught me to fish for bass all those years ago.

  32. Morning, having been a recent convert to circle hooks I did a bit of experimenting yesterday as I wanted a knot to really enhance the circle effect. I had been using the KK from my carp fishing days but remembering this article wanted to do a few test's.

    Now I must say first there was nothing scientific at all about mine however the knot when used with 10 lb. Maxima broke under tension at around 3 to 4 lb. and always at the point of the eye.

    I then tried a simple over hand figure of 8 knot to form a loop which is threaded through the eye, down the shank and back up the other side. The loop must remain on the shank of the hook but pulled up to the eye.

    The circle effect from the knot is greatly improved due to the 2 strands of mono but the best bit is that during tests it was always the weakest point of the line that went, never the knot, which felt pretty dam close to it's rating of 10 lb.

    All these test's were a gut feeling as I couldn't be bothered to dig out my scales but I'm sure won't be that far out.

  33. Looks like there may be two versions as I thought the first attempt failed. Please delete as appropriate

  34. Afternoon AIC,

    I don't know which one to delete! Lets leave them both saying the same thing from two considered perspectives for now...

    I have an article cued up about circle hooks. I was an early pioneer of them in my bass fishing but now everyone knows (no thanks to me, I kept it to myself but sea anglers take up ideas much quicker than coarse anglers ever do!) At the time they were an exotic, something you just couldn't get hold of. Simply extraordinary results though! Turned a 10% hoooj up rate into 95% in one fell swoop. They breathed it in they were hooked, always in the same place too.

    But recently I had the opportunity to trial them for thick lipped course species, tench specifically. Unbelievable results, Shocking really!

    What species are you using circles for?

    The knot used is very important if the circle effect is to be retained. Too much looseness and it ceases to work for obvious reasons. I always used a palomar pulled so tight the hook could never swivel backwards. Make it loose and the hook moves backwards. You seem to have found an answer to that problem with the inherent flaw of the KK

  35. What I failed to mention about my test with the KK was that it seemed that the weakness was at the eye, but it wasn't. It actually failed at the tuck at the last loop down the shank but because of a few millimetres of stretch it seemed that it was at the eye...

  36. Hi

    I am using them for bass and as you say the hook up rate is exceptional, so much so that it has almost taken the 'un-expected' away. A bit like the hair and the bolt rig in the early days of carp fishing.
    Not sure its right for the fishing I do as the frustration of missing bites was part of its attraction - however I'm still enjoying the novelty factor!
    Although the loop is left on the shank below the eye it does remain tight (have only tried it with 10lb line and 3/0 circle)but I do draw it up tight. Can you explain 'the hook swivelling backwards,'? Surely if the hook is the process of turning i.e. in the mouth, it can only move one way. Some articles advocate tying the hook to a loop to aid the turning affect which to my mind is inefficient, but does seem to support my theory?

    I would love to give it a go with Tench and whip on a hair to the shank as I used to find them so difficult as the season progressed.

    Tight lines

  37. The frustration of missed bites was what drove me towards them!

    Fishing the nursery area of the Colne/Blackwater estuaries in Essex, I'd bites as soon as the lead hit the deck in a only foot of water as it came in over the mudflats. This would go on for an hour or so, tail off, then begin again on the ebb tide. I'd get 100's of bites but hook so few it was ridiculous! Circle hooks changed everything, because they told me what size of fish were our front, how many and how few large fish between. That's when I started moving around to find the areas where the larger fish were, and found them too. They were over hard packed clear areas in open water from flood onwards or way up the tiny rivulet estuaries at low ebb but always feeding on crabs. Without the astonishing hook up they gave I'd have been in the dark bashing away at hoards of small schoolies...

    But, I know what you mean about removing some of the fun of it because it became ridiculously easy. But I think I preferred the three and four pounders they found me to the endless tiddlers!

    And the gut hooking problem ceased to exist...

    I don't know if I can explain the swiveling thing, just thought that the tight connection made the hook work as it it should and never felt right having it rotating. I imagined the sharply inturned beak bouncing off the hard mouth and not pricking, but if the hook turns around anything that fits in the gape, as you know, it will not be possible for the fish to shed it. It's almost cheating when it comes to bass!