It just might be an inevitable curse of the fishing aficionado that we are constantly in search of the next best line, lure, or technique. For those that have switched to braided line, it is only a matter of time until you come across the holy grail that is the FG knot. At first, the FG knot, which is said to stand for “fine grip,” is one of those knots that you are abundantly happy once it is tied. However, going through the process to get there just doesn’t seem worth it. Usually, people lament that it takes too long to tie.
They keep coming back to it though because of how clean and strong it is. It is arguably one of the best knots, if not the best knot, for connecting your braided line to the mono or fluoro leader. It is stronger, thinner, and, by practicing the techniques in this article, faster than other knots. It seems to beat out the Crazy Alberto knot, the Double Uni knot, and even the Albright. Of course, it does have it’s limitations too and we will cover those later. The beautiful thing about fishing is that practitioners are crafty. Offer up a good knot and it won’t be long before someone finds the best way to tie it.
How does the FG knot work?
A little understanding of how an FG knot works always helps when it comes to tying it. That’s something to keep in mind with other knots too, especially if you are having difficulty with them. Sometimes just taking a moment to really breakdown what the knot is trying to do, and why, can help you understand how to tie it. So, with the FG knot what is going on?
Well, if you have ever used a Chinese finger trap then you already get the basic idea. Those are the little toy braided tubes where you put a finger in one end, another finger in the other end, but when you go to pull them out the tube gets tighter and both your fingers are stuck. Scores of little kids have had to go running to Mom to help get them unstuck, the only way to do so is to release the tension on the tube.
Well, an FG knot works in a similar way but there is no way to release the tension. The knot just gets tighter and tighter. Your braided line works like the Chinese finger trap while the leader is your finger. A series of braids and finishing knots create a tight coil of braided line that goes around the leader. When tension is applied it causes the braids to just dig in deeper which makes the knot even more secure. When a fish is on the line it’s like trying to pull your fingers out of a finger trap. The only recourse is to snap the line or catch the fish.
An FG knot also works so well because it is slim. When you are reeling it won’t get caught on the guides of your rod. This slim profile also means that the knot is spread out over a length of a leader instead of being balled up in one place. This spread distributes tension better and eliminates any weak points in the knot where it might snap. As you pull on the not the braids just dig in further and further until the two lines almost meld into one.
Why use the FG knot?
Just saying that the knot is stronger, slimmer, and faster to tie isn’t always reason enough. Here’s how that breaks down practically. Because the FG knot is so slim you can reel the connection through your guides without it breaking. Larger knots get snagged, slow down reeling, and ultimately snap the line or even the guides. This also becomes useful if you are using top-shots. You can add on as much leader as you need without having to worry about reeling it back through the guides. This also means you don’t need to buy special wind on leaders.
Another very practical application of this might be apparent to anyone who has tried connecting a heavier mono lead to a lighter braid. The braid tends to slip out unless you double the braid with a knot. The FG knot mostly erases this problem. The braid is wrapped around the leader and then cinches tightly down into it so braid and leader diameters don’t matter as much.
How to tie the FG knot quickly
The biggest challenge most people have with the FG knot is tying it quickly. This is because many folks are trying to do it with one hand effectively tied behind their backs. If you are tying the knot with the braid in one hand and the leader in the other you have already started wrong. You need to free up both of your hands to help wrap the leader and tie the finishing knots. If you have already tried tying the knot the traditional way the novelty of freeing up a hand probably strikes you immediately.
To tie this knot correctly you need tension in your braid and this is usually where the other hand comes in. To get around this you can simply bite down on the end of the braid with your teeth and lean the rod away from you. This will create enough tension for you to continue. If you have limited space, like in a kayak, you can still bite down on the tag end of the braid and then run a length of the line down to your foot and step on it. Basically, you need to get creative with creating the tension while freeing up your hands.
Once you have done that the next step is to thread the leader onto the braid. For the first wrap take the leader up over the braid wrapping it towards the rod. Then pull the leader tight so the braid wrap tightens. You need to do this after every wrap to make sure so each wrap falls into its appropriate place. The final product of the first wrap should have the leader tightly wound around the braid. The braid and leader should always finish perpendicular to each other.
For the second wrap take the tag end of the leader and wrap it around the braid but this time coming towards you instead of towards the rod. This is how you will create the braid effect that is seen in Chinese finger traps. The wraps alternate between going towards the rod and towards you. Continue these alternating wraps until you have done it 18-22 times in total. Each wrap should stack up next to the previous one in a growing coil along the leader. Remember, after each wrap you need to tighten everything and realign the braid and leader so they are perpendicular.
Finishing the FG knot
Put in the simplest terms, the first half of tying an FG knot is simply using alternating wraps to intertwine the braid and leader. If you were to just leave it at though the whole thing would come undone very quickly. You have to add the finishing knots to secure the whole thing. Then, and only then, can you cut off the tag ends. How you finish the FG knot isn’t so straightforward though. There are a few different ways you can do it but the most common are basic hitch knots and the Rizzuto finish.
The hitch knots are the simplest and they are used under most conditions. The Rizzuto finish is a little more involved and it comes into play when you are going after bigger fish. To do the hitch knots you just hold the coils you made with one hand and then tie the hitch knots with the other. A hitch knot is made by creating a loop with the tag end of the braid then taking that tag end around the main line and through the loop. Two hitch knots are good to start.
At this point, you should apply as much tension as you can to your braid and leader to help the coils really sink in and tighten. Only after you have done this can you cut off the tag end of the leader. You can cut it close to the knot too because those coils aren’t slipping. Then, you might want to tie two more hitch knots above the leader to help cover the hard edge from the leader’s tag and ensure it doesn’t snag on anything while fishing. Finally, you just have to cut off the tag end of the braid and you are good to go. The knot is finished.
If you intend to catch heavier fish the hitch knots won’t cut it though. You will need the Rizzuto finish. To begin, hold the braid against the tag end of the leader so they are parallel. Then, take the tag end of the braid and form a loop while passing the tag end of the braid over the tag end of the leader and back through the loop. Don’t tighten the loop just yet though. To complete the Rizzuto finish you will need to wrap the tag end of the braid around the parallel braid and leader tag end sections. Do this about six times.
Next, take the loop itself and wrap it around the parallel braid and leader tag end section as well until it is fully wound. Take care not to lose hold of the tag end of the braid during all of this. Once the loop is fully wound pull the tag end of the braid as well as the braid itself until the Rizzuto finish completely tightens on itself. The final result should look like a tight coil atop your braided FG knot. At this point, you can cut the tag end of the leader and even throw in a couple of hitch knots if you want to cover the rough cut end. A finishing touch for all knots, preferred by some, is to take a lighter to it and slightly melt the lines together and singe the ends of the braid. This makes for a much tougher knot.
Maybe there is no perfect knot
Even the very best things in life have their flaws and that is no different for the FG knot. The FG knot is basically a tool and when tools are used under the wrong conditions they tend to not work as well. Despite the few exceptions we will cover here, the FG knot is still one of the strongest and slimmest line to leader knots out there. It is fairly simple and versatile too!
The main faults that people have found with the knot are that it doesn’t work well with certain fishing lines and it can fail if the mono/fluoro leader is weaker than the braid. It helps to keep in mind that as amazing as the knot is, it really only excels under the conditions it was meant for. This means that you should only use it for braid to mono/fluoro connections and nothing else. Also, the braid must be the coiled line and not the mono or fluoro line. This is because the braid is harder relative to the mono/fluoro and is able to bite into the line better when the knot is tightened.
However, the leader should be stronger than the braid. Usually, this results in the braid slipping unless you double the braid with a knot but with the FG knot things are different. The FG knot absorbs most of the tension and deflects it from the braid. This means you need a leader that can stand up to taking the brunt of the work while you are fishing. The FG knot works like a braided coil that flexes and stretches under tension. All the coils of the knot help absorb the forces on the line.
Another issue that has flared up with the FG knot is that some people have gone to cast their line only to see their lure/hook and leader go flying off the end. This happens when the knot has failed. This knot shouldn’t fail but, as we said, nothing is perfect. To prevent this from happening you need to make sure the top coil on the knot is solid. If this top coil comes undone from say, repeated impact with a guide or debris in the water, then the whole knot will weaken. The strength of the FG knot might lead some to overwork it, but this is how you lose lures. Ideally, you shouldn’t cast the knot through guides if you can help it. If your situation requires it however then keep checking the knot to ensure its integrity.
This issue of the top coil hitting guides becomes more prominent as the diameter of your braid increases. Lower profile braids will meld more seamlessly with the leader while heavier braids will create more of a detectable ridge that can hit the guides. If you know you are casting through the guides and that you have thicker coils based on your braid and leader sizes then it is recommended that you use fewer coils actually when tying the knot. The fewer coils you do the better that first coil can dig into the leader giving it a lower profile overall.
The FG knot is still the strongest and slimmest option available for anyone looking to connect a braided line to a mono or fluoro leader. Tying the core coils of the knot is fairly simple once you free up both hands to do so. Finishing the FG knot with either the hitch knots or the Rizzuto finish then completes it so the knot suits your needs. From a practical standpoint, the knot is great for anyone who needs to cast it through the rod guides as well as anyone connecting a relatively heavier leader to a smaller diameter braid.
Of course, no knot is perfect so the FG has its limitations. It really only works when a braided line is wrapped around a relatively softer mono or fluoro leader. Any other line types won’t really work. Also, it is best to have a leader that is stronger than the braid because of how the knot works. Effectively it distributes tension through its coils before the force reaches the braid. If you keep this all in mind then you will be using the FG knot like a pro in no time.
Bonus tip: For the more visual learners out there check out this great visual step by step guide to tying the FG knot!