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By Bryan Honnerlaw

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What knot should I use? 
   The palomar knot is one of the easiest and strongest knots there is to tie.  I use the palomar almost exclusively, and am very satisfied with it.  The only time I don’t use it is with fluorocarbon, because I have had problems with the line breaking because of how the knot pulls together and the texture of the fluorocarbon line.

The PALOMAR KNOT - For Joining Line To A Fish Hook

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The Palomar Knot is easy to tie correctly, and consistently the strongest knot known to hold terminal tackle.

1.  Double about 4" of line and pass the loop through the eye of fishing hook.


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2.   Let the fishing hook hang loose, and tie an overhand knot in the doubled line.

Avoid twisting the lines and do NOT tighten the knot.


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3.   Pull the loop end of the line far enough to pass it over the hook, swivel or lure.

Make sure the loop passes completely over the attachment.


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4.   Pull both the tag end and the standing line until the knot is tightened.  Clip off the tag end of the fishing line.

Choosing the right equipment


Baitcasters vs. Spinning Reels vs. Closed Faced Reels:

 The main things to look for in a reel are the number of ball bearing, anti-reverse, type of frame, and other options.  I would recommend a reel with five ball bearings or more.  Ball bearings increase durability, and smoothness of a reel. Reels may have no ball bearings up to 15 ball bearings.  Generally speaking, each ball bearing after five (if quality bearings) increases the price of the reel ten to twenty dollars.  

You want to get a reel with an aluminum (metal) frame.  Reels with a lot of plastic do not hold up nearly as long.  

Other options you might look for are titanium parts, type of lubrication and bail spring.   

One more thing that confuses a lot of people when seeking out a reel is gear ratio.  Gear ratio is the amount of line taken in per turn of the handle.  Spinning and closed-faced reels are usually pretty standard around 5:1.1.  Baitcasters on the other hand, come in three basic speeds; fast, slow and very slow.   I will discuss more about this in the section on baitcasters.  

Closed Faced Reels:

 Closed face reels, such as the Zebco 33, are very good reels for beginners, especially children, since they are the most basic and simple reels to learn how to use.  You simply push the button,  bring your rod back, and release your thumb when you cast.  They are very simple and work well for occasional light fishing (bass, panfish, etc.)
The disadvantages to these reels are that they generally do not hold up for long periods of time, and are low quality.  The best one I have seen on the market is the Zebco Omega.  It has 6 ball bearings, an aluminum frame, and is very high quality.  The price is around $49.99. 

Spinning Reels:

 Spinning reels, or open-faced reels, again have their advantages and disadvantages.  They come in all different sizes, made to hold line from 4-40 lbs.  For bass fishing, they generally come in four different sizes, marked differently by each company.  For example, Quantum marks their reels as 10, 20, 30, and 40. The 10 size holding the lightest line (up to 6 lb. line), and the 40 size holding heavier line (up to 14 lb.).  Shimano, on the other hand, marks theirs as 1000, 2500, and 4000; 1000 holding the lighter line and so on.  For bass, spinning reels work great for worm fishing, because they allow your bait to fall vertically when they hit the water. Also, you can skip baits far under cover with them.  They are great for lightweight and finesse baits.  The disadvantages are that the line often twists, they are generally less accurate than baitcasters, and if you want to use heavy line, you have to use a very big, bulky reel to handle it. 

The Quantum Catalyst or Kinetic are my reels of choice.  The Catalyst has 8 ball bearings, scratch resistant coating, hot sauce lubrication (doesn’t break down under heat), an aluminum frame, a titanium bail spring, and many other options, all for $89.99.  The Kinetic is the same reel, for the more cost conscious customer. The only difference in the two is that the Kinetic has 2 less ball bearings (6 bb), does not have the scratch resistant coating, and is $20.00 less.

Baitcasting Reels:

 Baitcasters, in my opinion, are a must-have for bass fishermen.  I have heard countless bass fishermen say (including myself at one time), “I do just fine with my spinning reel.  I just don’t like those baitcasters.”   I have also seen most of those same people (including myself) use baitcasters almost exclusively a year or two later.  There are many advantages to a baitcaster.  They are a lot more accurate for casting, flipping, and pitching.  They are much more efficient.  I have had many anglers in the boat with me that used a spinning reel, and I nearly always outcasted them 2 to 1.  There is less work and effort.  You can accurately and silently flip a ½ oz. jig up under a dock with a baitcaster, unlike a spinning reel. Baitcasters will handle a lot heavier line for their size.  You can take a regular sized baitcaster and put 25 lb. line on it, whereas you would need a spinning reel the size of a winch to handle that kind of line.  You also have more leverage with a baitcaster.  
          Like I stated before, baitcasters come in three basic speeds; fast, slow and very slow.   This is the simplest way to look at them.  Don’t get caught up in the difference between numbers such as 5:1.1 and 5:2.1.  Fast reels are 6:2.1 or thereabouts, slow reels are around 5:2.1, and slower reels are around 4:4.1.  I use a high-speed reel for everything except crankbait fishing, where I use a 5:2.1.  The only time I would use a 4:4.1  reel would be for big, deep diving crankbaits, but a 5:2.1 will also work for that.  A slower gear retrieve makes you slow down, keeps you from overworking a bait, and is more powerful.  If you are just buying one reel for everything, get a fast retrieve reel.  Remember, you can make yourself slow down, but you can’t speed up a slow retrieve reel without killing yourself.
One more thing to look at is a wiffle spool.  This is a spool with pre-drilled holes in it.  It’s a lighter weight spool and allows you to use lighter baits and pitch or cast lures with greater ease.
To get a quality baitcaster, the cheapest I would go is $69.99 as a rule of thumb.  If it’s regular price is cheaper than that, I would be very cautious.  A great reel is the Bass Pro Shops Extreme for $79.99.  It has five ball bearings, a wiffle spool, centrifugal braking system, and a lot of metal to it for the price.  I use the Quantum Energy PT’s.  They have eight ball bearings, scratch resistant coating, a wiffle spool, hot sauce lubrication, metal frame, and run around $159.99.


 There are several factors to look into when choosing a fishing pole.  The first is the type of reel you will be using with the it.  Spinning reels have rods specifically made for them.  The eyes are much larger than casting rods and the writing is generally on the opposite side of the eyelets.  Baitcasting and closed faced reels use the same type rods with smaller eyelets and writing on the same side as the eyes.  The second major factor is length.  Again, don’t be concerned with a difference in inches.  Rods generally come in 5-6’, 6’0, 6-6’, 7’0, and

7-6’.  To pick the right sized rod, consider your own height first.  The shorter the person, the shorter the rod.  There are advantages to a longer rod such as more leverage on the hook set, and longer casting distance.  To give you an idea of what size to pick, anyone over 5’4 and under 5’9 could get away with using as big as a 6’6 rod.  Anyone over 5’9 could use a 7’0 rod.  There are other things to look at when choosing a length.  A shorter rod may be better for close range underhand casting, such as with a spinnerbait, and a longer rod may be better for flipping and pitching.  It comes down to trying different lengths until you find one that is comfortable for you.  I use 7’0 rods for topwater, crankbaits, soft plastic jerkbaits, and most flipping and pitching applications.  I use a 6’6 rod for spinnerbait fishing, and a 7’6 rod for Carolina rigging and very heavy flipping and pitching (such as flipping dense vegetation with heavy weights.

Rods come in all different actions.  People always ask me; “Why in the world would you need so many different rods?”  Well, the best explanation for that is that the rods are like golf clubs, they all serve a different purpose.  Would you use a putter to drive a ball down a fairway?  I don’t think so, just as you wouldn’t use a flipping stick to throw a small crankbait.  Rods generally come in ultra light, light, medium light, medium, medium heavy, and heavy actions.  I use a medium for crankbaits, because they have some backbone, but plenty of flex to them, making it harder for fish to throw pesky treble hooks.  I also use a medium for most other baits with treble hooks such as pop-r’s. I use a medium heavy for spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, sencos, light flipping and pitching, soft plastic jerkbaits, etc.  I use heavy for pitching weights 5/16 oz. or larger, Carolina rigging, and frog fishing.  Ultra-light rods are good for creek fishing with small baits, and medium light would be good for small crankbaits. 
          Other factors to look at when picking out a rod, are how it matches and balances with a  reel, how sensitive it is, what type of guides it has, and other features.  There are two main types of  materials rods are made out of, graphite and fiberglass.  I use all graphite rods except for crankbaits, in which I switch to glass rods, especially deep divers and those in which I do not have to make accurate casts at a target.  The more graphite a rod has, the more sensitive it is.  Higher graphite rods do have a better chance of breaking, but that is a sacrifice worth making to a certain extent.  I like rods with an IM-7 amount of graphite, or a comparable amount.   I use ‘Fishin Edge’ rods, out of Arkansas, especially for flipping/pitching, carolina rigging, and their glass rod for deep diving crankbaits.  These rods have wrap around eyes that allow the line to come off the baitcasters like a spinning rod.  This keeps your line from coming in contact with any metal pieces, makes for easier pitching, and the back bone never comes out from under the rod because the way it is designed. The rod is made to distribute the weight throughout the entire blank.


 General line sizes for bass fishing include strengths of 4#, 6#, 8#, 10#, 12# 14#, 17#, 20#, 25#, 30#, and 65#.  It comes in three main colors you should know.  Clear, clear blue fluorescent, and lo-vis green.  To make it simple, I use lo-vis green for every technique I do except when I need to see line movement, such as when I use soft plastics.  Lo-vis green is the least visible (other than fluorocarbon which I will talk about later), but it can be tough to see.  Clear is much easier to see when you need to watch your line for movement.  The only time I use clear blue fluorescent is when I am night fishing with a black light, because it glows, and when I am fishing extremely murky water.  The line used most for bass fishing is monofilament, but fluorocarbon and braided line are also essential tools.  Each type of line has its own qualities that you need to know. 

Monofilament has varying degrees of stretch to it, depending on what kind you use.  It has some floatation to it, and breaks down under sunlight.  Fluorocarbon and braided line have no stretch to them.  Fluorocarbon is invisible under water, it sinks,  and sunlight does not effect it like mono.  Braided line is nearly unbreakable, but is not as smooth as mono or fluorocarbon, does not hold knots as well, and certain kinds can be rough on equipment.
          I will now go through and list what type and size of line I use for different baits and techniques.  It doesn’t mean that is the only line you should use, but it is what works for me.  For flipping and pitching heavier tubes and jigs, I use 20# clear mono.  By heavier I mean 3/8 oz. jigs or larger, and with tubes I will use 20# line with a 3/16 oz. weight and up depending on how fast I want a bait to fall.  Heavier line makes baits fall slower.  With lighter flipping/pitching, senco style baits, and light worms I generally use 14# mono.  I do use 14# fluorocarbon with sencos because it speeds up the fall a little, which I prefer.   Using the mono with these types of baits allows a little give for close, hard, hook sets.  For spinnerbaits and topwaters, I use 17# mono for heavier baits and  14# line for baits 1/4 oz. or smaller.  For crankbaits and jerkbaits I use 12# fluorocarbon.  With crankbaits, the lighter the line, the less water resistance and the deeper the bait will run.  I like fluorocarbon for crankbaits because it sinks, therefore you get more depth out of your baits, plus  you can feel every wobble of bait, and tell whether you are hitting rocks, weeds, or wood, because there is no stretch to it.  For finesse fishing with small worms and light weights, or if I am using small crankbaits, I will switch to 8# fluorocarbon.  Lighter line gives you more action with lighter baits.

Bryan Honnerlaw  runs Okeechobee Outfitters, a professional guide service on Lake Okeechobee, Florida. He is in Florida November-March.  guides on Kentucky/Barkley lakes in May and June, does instructional fishing in Ohio July-October, and tours on the BFL and Everstart tournament trails.  For those of you interested in learning in depth bass techniques and get hands on experience,  Okeechobee Outfitters offers a four-day bass fishing school, twice a year, on Lake Okeechobee.  One session is in April, and one is in November.  The school includes six guides in fully rigged tournament bass boats, classroom and on-the-water time, lodging, and a tournament where you make the decisions on day four.  For more information on this school or on guided or instructional trips in Florida, Ohio, or Kentucky call Okeechobee Outfitters at (937) 728-1344, or email at 


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