Having fewer break-offs is the key to tying fewer knots and cutting down tackle expenditures. For unbreakable gear, the solution is simple: a lighter poundage in the hook leader.
I spool my reels with 40- to 5-pound green Power Pro. This string doesn't fray with obstructions, tangle or stretch, giving me great hook sets on long casts — and Power Pro seems to cast endless distances.
For artificial lures, the rig up is simple: Connect a swivel to the main line, and to the main-line swivel attach a cork leader and then attach a hook leader to the cork leader's swivel.
Be sure to watch the video below to see some of the rigs discussed in this article.
If you want to fish corkless, simply disconnect the cork leader and put the jighead leader to the main-line swivel.
For the cork leader, I use a plain unweighted oval cork with two red beads above and below it for added sound, using 50-pound monofilament string stretching approximately 7 inches long after knots.
This heavier line will prevent more twist ups.
The top knot is a circle knot for connecting to a main-line swivel, and at the bottom of the leader is a swivel.
I don't like weighted corks because then my cork can never float sideways, leaving me unable to tell if my lure is on the bottom, where it'll go unnoticed from suspended fish or potentially get stuck.
For hook leaders, I use 12- to 20-pound green Trilene Big Game, usually 18 inches and 30 inches for the first and second hook, with 3/8-ounce double-barbed leadhead hooks.
I'll make several of these hook leaders before a trip and wrap them on a pool float varying the depths of leaders and hook weights to accommodate fluctuations in water depths, wind and current.
I'll tie a double circle knot to the top of this leader to prevent it from slipping with fish tugging on each hook.
I try using the lightest hook leader possible, depending on the action of the lure, clarity of water, obstruction fished and size of fish targeted. Lighter poundage gives the most action to the lure and least visibility to fish, but there is the risk of breakage and fraying. So use common sense and risk assessment to choose your line strength for the given situation.
For the hook leader, the lighter line means I never lose my expensive Power Pro or cork. If I get stuck or a monster breaks me off, I just clip on a back-up hook leader and I'm back in action within seconds. At the most, I'll lose a few cheap jigheads.
Make sure you use swivels that latch around the base of the swivel, as the cheaper ones with the small clip-on tab will straighten on big fish with the drag tightened.
With plastic, every situation is different. Sometimes popping a cork works the best. It certainly calls in far-off fish with its noise, but in other spots a plain corkless crank-and-retrieve technique is more suitable. With this rig up you'll be able to fish either way with the same pole.
The cork rig works great if the water depth is more constant and the fish are suspended near the surface. When spots have distinct deep drop-offs and when trying to find if the fish are shallow or deep, I use a corkless tandem rig.
When fishing corkless, you can practice different styles of retrieving to trigger bites: Bounce it off the bottom, wake it on the surface, change speeds or (my favorite) use a fast retrieve with quick pauses.
Even on windy days the tandem can't be stopped because using two 3/8-ounce jigheads will slice easily through the wind.
Remember: When fishing with a cork, always stop the cast before hitting the water to prevent the double lures from tangling with the cork.
In choosing plastic colors, I change it up depending on the day's brightness and water clarity and type of bait I'm mimicking. In clear, green water I like a more natural-looking color like smoke or dark green top fin and clear belly with a touch of gold or silver glitter.
In murkier water I stick with yellow, glow white, LSU or black/chartreuse tail.
Many times I put a bright-colored tail on the first hook and leave a more natural bait on the second. I have marker dyes to do this on the water in seconds. The first bait will catch their attention, but they'll swallow down the more natural-looking lure more often.
If fishing corkless, I'll use round-paddled or curly tailed minnows. When fishing with cork, I usually use curly tailed minnows, split-tailed jerk minnows or shrimp-looking plastics. Usually I'll stick with the cheaper plastic when the fish are in a frenzy, but when the bite is tough I switch to more expensive Berkley Gulps with their mouth-watering scent and flavor.
For those times when nothing seems to hit, there's good old live bait.
I use my Carolina-rigged pole but with the versatile homemade swivel rigs.
Once again, I tie a swivel to the main Power Pro line. From there I'll attach a weight leader. The leader will have a circle knot on the top and a swivel on the bottom with the weight surrounded by four red beads for added noise. I make the weight leaders about 8 inches long using 40-pound-test Trilene Big Game.
I'll make several weight rigs with various sized weights from 1/4 ounce to 3 ounces before a trip. The current always calls for a different amount of weight, and I prefer to use the lightest weight possible for any situation so I can better feel my bait during finicky nibbles. I can quickly change weight leaders in a snap depending on the conditions of each spot.
I can also add a cork quickly to the main line at whatever depth I choose by using a pegged slit oval cork if the trout or reds are suspended or I'm trying to avoid aggravating hardheads, sail cats, and oyster fish. I peg both the top and bottom to prevent twist.
For hook leaders I use a silver Kahle hook in a small 1, 1/0 or 2/0 size connected with about 18 inches of 12- to 25-pound Trilene Big Game line, once again taking bait action, water clarity, fish targeted and underwater obstruction into consideration to figure out the right poundage.
The smaller hooks and lighter line always seem to get more bites from large picky yellowmouths. I'll connect extra pre-made hook leaders to a pool float, and I'm ready to go. Once again, the weaker hook leader will break before your weight leader or expensive main line, so the most you'll loose are a few cheap Kahle hooks.
Finally, my favorite style of inshore saltwater fishing, topwater and hardbaits, can be done on the same pole using the same main swivel. I pre-tie 12 to 18 inches of 15- to 20-pound Trilene Big Game line to my Rat-L-Traps, spoons, Baby 1's, jerkbaits and Top Dawgs using a circle knot at the end. You can quickly snap on any lure of choice in seconds.
Many times when directly tying your lure to soft Power Pro, the string will get wrapped around the bait's first treble hook causing a wasted cast. This doesn't happen with a monofilament leader. I like to fish a leader that's still light enough to give the bait good action, which differs with each lure. NOTE: If your swivel on the main line is too large it will negatively affect the topwater action.
And there you have it. One pole, no knots and loads of fish. Good luck to everyone saltwater fishing this summer.