All fluorocarbon leaders and all loop knots — all the time.
That could be the slogan for Capt. Nick Poe, who firmly believes that using a fluorocarbon leader results in more hookups with speckled trout - no matter the water clarity or fishing style.
“I put a piece of fluorocarbon leader on everything I do, whether I’m fishing a jig, working a topwater - whatever,” said Poe, with Big Lake Guide Service in Lake Charles, La.
The other piece to Poe’s rigging puzzle is a non-slip loop knot tied to his hook, jighead or topwater lure.
“If you tie a Palomar or a fisherman’s knot, you’re tying it straight to the bait, whereas I tie a loop knot, and that gives my jig or topwater more range to move than if I had tied it stiff to the bait,” he said. “Even if I’m fishing live shrimp under a popping cork, I tie a loop knot to my Kahle hook.
“The loop knot, in combination with the fluorocarbon, is a big deal to me.”
And don’t tell him that fluorocarbon leaders aren’t necessary unless the water is crystal clear.
“If a fish saw your bait and decided to eat your bait, then the water was clear enough for him to see a piece of fishing line tied to it,” Poe said.
He typically fishes with Fins 20-pound Windtamer braid, and about a 6-foot piece of either Seaguar or Berkeley Vanish 20-pound fluorocarbon.
If he’s working a topwater, he uses a smaller piece of fluorocarbon leader because it doesn’t float like mono.
“I don’t think it matters as much on topwater because there’s so much action going on right at the surface and your line is flicking so fast that I don’t know if a fish would see it,” he said.
Precise knot tying is key, both to attach the braid to the leader and the leader to the lure.
“To connect the braid and the fluorocarbon, I use a triple-surgeon knot as long as as the braid isn’t slick,” he said. “If you’re fishing Power Pro Slick 8, that knot will slip so you’ll have to go to something like an Albright knot.”
He stressed to take care in tying good knots, especially if your rods have micro-guides.
“They have to be extremely tight knots and you have to clip the ends short, so you better be tying good knots to fit through micro-guides,” he said. “But if you don’t have micros, you don’t have anything to worry about.
“I clip all my knots right at the knot - with no tag whatsoever.”
The loop in his loop knots at the lure runs in the ¼- to ⅛-inch range.
“I try to tie them as tight as I can without it sucking down onto the shank,” he said.
The only variable is the fluorocarbon, and the cleaner the water, the smaller he goes.
“Even if I’m offshore at the short rigs 6- to 8-miles out, I’m fishing with 20-pound fluorocarbon leader,” he said. “If it’s really, really, really clear - like Florida clear - I’m going to drop to 15 at least.”
The fluorocarbon leader and loop knot combo tie in together with Poe’s ‘minimalist’ thinking when it comes to tackle.
“The less tackle that’s in the water, the better,” he said. “That’s why I always throw the lightest jighead you can get away with in whatever current and conditions you’re dealing with. It’s just the way the bait looks to the fish when it’s going through the water column.
“That’s why when you put all this stuff together, I think it matters a lot.”