In the heat of the battle anglers put serious strain on their tackle. Yet when it comes to failure, your rod and reel likely aren’t the main source of anguish. Main line and knotted connections are often the weakest links, with chaffed leaders and poor rigging techniques easily exploited by the ocean’s most powerful opponents.
While you should have complete confidence in your knots, innovative anglers have developed a host of knotless connections in an effort to subdue oversized game on undergunned tackle. The benefit of light tackle is that instead of fighting the weight of a 50-wide, you can scale down and enjoy the battle with smaller rods and reels that are much lighter and easier to handle. The only problem is that smaller reels lack adequate line capacity when spooling with straight monofilament. This is where it pays big dividends to spool with ultra-thin spectra backing. Most 30-pound class reels hold around 350 yards of 30 lb. monofilament, but load the same reel with 50 lb. braid and you’ll have over 700 yards to work with. If this still isn’t enough to tame your opponent you may want to take up a different sport!
Basically an extended wind-on leader, a monofilament top shot acts as a shock absorber while enabling anglers to increase line capacity with smaller diameter spectra lines. Spooling your reels with fresh line is the easiest way to avoid tackle failure, and with the aid of a top shot you’ll rarely have to replace your main line in its entirety.
Although braided fishing lines are all the rage due to their sensitivity and near zero stretch attributes, hollow core enables anglers to create knotless connections from backing to leader. A Bimini twist and albright knot will connect solid braid to a monofilament top shot, but even this relatively streamlined connection can hang up. If you can’t stand the sound of a knot passing through your guides or hate that little bulge in your spool then simply eliminate them altogether. Splicing hollow core backing and monofilament main line eliminates weak points in the line with an almost invisible connection. And while some anglers shy away from hollow core due to the fact that it’s even pricier than braid, if you change your monofilament main line as often as you should, hollow core backing will actually save you money in the long run.
When spooling your reel with hollow core you’ll want to leave enough space for up to 100 feet of leader material depending on the application and your reel’s capacity. It should also be noted that if you are chasing an IGFA record your backing must test within, or below the breaking strength for the record claim.
Before you start you’ll want to invest in a set of threading needles. Although they aren’t necessary, they will make the process much easier. Available in various lengths and diameters, DaHo threading needles (dahoproducts.com) are hollow to the tip and effectively open the woven fibers of the hollow core so your top shot leader material can be inserted with greater ease. Select the appropriate sized threading needle that fits the diameter of your monofilament top shot. From here hold the hollow core vertically and insert your selected needle with leader material inserted from the top down, no less than four feet into the hollow core. Once you have inserted a sufficient length of line push the threading needle through the wall of the hollow core. Separate the needle and slowly pull the mono back into the hole it exited out of by coaxing the hollow core with your fingertips.
Gently apply pressure to both ends and the leader will snug, effectively being held in place by the tight weave of the hollow core. From here take a serving jig or set of woodworking clamps and secure both the leader and hollow core no less than 12 inches away from the junction. Now it’s time to start serving the splice.
While the serving method involving a series of half hitches works well, the technique shown here results in a more streamlined finish. While some choose to serve with solid spectra, wax rigging thread is easier to work with and holds just as tight. You’ll want to start about an inch from the hollow core/monofilament junction. Wrap the floss around the spectra once and leave a 6-inch tag. In the opposite direction, heading towards the junction, make eight wraps over the loose tag line. From here pull the tag tight and cut clean at the edge of the wraps. Continue wrapping down the hollow core and about half of an inch over the monofilament. Turn the serving and continue wrapping a second layer of floss over the original serving. Once you’ve reached the starting point you’ll want to lay down a loop puller made from 20 lb. monofilament. Place this along the hollow core with the loop pointing away from the junction. Now continue with about six more wraps over the hollow core. Cut the rigging floss from its spool and insert the tag end into your mono loop puller. This technique is similar to the one a rod builder would use to lock in guide thread. From here pull the tag tight and trim. Although this seamless connection is ready to go, if you want even more security you can coat the serving with a thin application of super glue or specialized serving adhesive.
You may think that this knotless connection isn’t up to the challenge, yet when completed properly this rigging technique results in a connection that retains 100% breaking strength. Splicing techniques aren’t new, but instead of relying on Dacron anglers now have advanced hollow cores with precise weaves. Good luck and remember that practice makes perfect and confidence is key to your continued angling success.