The critical link between angler and fish is the knot holding the hook to his fishing line.
Despite its importance, however, a lot of anglers tie inadequate knots and then bemoan their "luck" when a fish breaks free.
I may be a knothead (my wife will testify to that), but I learned long ago that careful attention to how I attach lures and hooks keeps fish connected to my line long enough to get them back to the boat.
Sloppy knots, on the other hand, definitely cost fish. I saw that first hand many years ago, at the expense of a friend.
He was fishing a jig from the back of my boat at one of the local reservoirs and set up on a bass. His line broke almost immediately after he jerked on the fish.
A half-hour later, the same thing happened. So I asked him what kind of knot he was tying. He showed me and I cringed.
After he accepted my offer to tie another jig onto his line with a Palomar knot, the fellow didn't break off another bass that day. I only hope he paid enough attention to learn that knot and how to tie it properly.
Numerous knots have been developed for all kinds of angling applications, from attaching lures to joining leaders to main lines. Their names are as colorful as a 64-pack of Crayolas.
All worth knowing
There's the blood, clinch and Palomar, standards for just about every angler. Then there's the Centauri, the World's Fair and the surgeon, less familiar, perhaps, but all worth knowing how to tie properly.
For a great guide to just about every fishing knot, check out these Web sites: activeangler.com and shoreangling4u.tripod.com/knotguide (www is unnecessary for these sites). They provides a thorough list - if you can't find a knot that works for you here, it probably hasn't been invented - well-illustrated diagrams show the important steps in tying each variety.
Remember, too, that a knot is only as good as the line with which it is tied. Check with your fingers and eyes for abrasions to make sure you are starting with a nick-free section.
As you tie the knot, watch for loops that fail to settle into proper position. A wayward piece of line can significantly weaken the entire knot.
And finally, when cinching the knot tight, be careful to avoid unnecessary friction that overheats the knot, essentially creating weak spots by melting the line. To reduce friction, wet the knot with spit or lake water, and then pull it snug.
Preventing fish epidemics
Scientists at a B.A.S.S.-sponsored workshop recently said anglers can minimize the potential for transmitting fish diseases from one body of water to another by adhering to a few basic guidelines.
Biologists and resource managers presented findings at the 2003 Largemouth Bass Virus Workshop. Among the presenters was Tony Goldberg, of the University of Illinois, who advises anglers to resist the temptation to transplant fish, according to a news release from B.A.S.S.
"I can think of a million reasons for anglers not to move fish from one body of water to another and not one good reason to move them," Goldberg said.
He said anglers can reduce the risk of transferring disease organisms - like largemouth bass virus - by following these guidelines: Don't move fish or water from one fishery to another and clean water from your livewell and other compartments before taking your boat from one lake to another.
It has long been suspected that moving fish and water from one place to another can spread exotic nuisance species and pathogens. In northeast Ohio, for instance, anglers have inadvertently enabled species like zebra mussels to establish colonies beyond Lake Erie.
Largemouth bass virus caused a great deal of concern in southern U.S. waters in the late 1990s as epidemics hit bass hard in a number of lakes. While the damage was mostly in southern waters, evidence of the virus was found in bass populations in several northern lakes, including Lake Michigan and Lake Champlain in Vermont.