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Wetting The Line: Fix Friction and Nail Your Knots

Wetting The Line: Fix Friction and Nail Your Knots

If you haven’t had this bad experience yet during your lifetime, let us help you continue to avoid it: Don’t ignore the light on the dash that informs you when your vehicle is in need of an oil change.

Motor oil is essential for the performance of your vehicle. Take it from an engineer: Friction is the enemy of efficiency in all machines. And there’s plenty of potential for friction within combustion engines. All of the moving parts involved undergo wear and tear, corrosion, and intense temperatures as they work. Motor oil helps to reduce this harmful friction and cool the engine as well.

This is also the science behind wetting your fishing line when tying a knot. It’s easy to visualize the friction in a car engine, but the same thing happens when you tie a knot on your line, if at a smaller level.

Perhaps you’ve tied an improved clinch knot and are ready to tighten it. You grab the standing line and pull the coil tight against the eye of the hook. If you haven’t wet the line, there will be greater friction between the standing line and the rest of the coiled line as you bring them together. This creates heat as well; your hands may not feel that smallest of temperature increases, but if you’ve ever received a dutch rub from your older sibling, then you know how friction can burn. This heat weakens the line and makes it more prone to break during a battle with a fish.

If it’s a hot day on the pond, you may feel like jumping in, and you’re not wrong. Water has always been the go-to method for cooling down, and the same applies to fishing line. If you get your fingers wet as you tighten up, you’ll also be cooling down your knot and counteracting the heat generated by friction.

You can use saliva on the line...but we don't recommend kissing the fish.

This water works as a traditional lubricant as well, leading the line to slide more smoothly during the tightening process. We’ve done several posts on how to maintain the strength of your line by avoiding nicks and scratches, and this applies here as well. Although nowhere near as damaging as a toothy fish, pulling the line together quickly can damage its surface, much like a rug burn (we’re pulling out all of the mean sibling comparisons today). If there’s water on the line, you’ll reduce this potential for damage by reducing the friction.

We used water for our examples above but there are other options for wetting the line. An old standby for fishing enthusiasts has been to simply use saliva. This is an effective method, but you should always make sure that you‘re fishing in a clean water source before you put a finger, or the line, in your mouth. Anglers who aren’t afraid to spend a few extra bucks can also invest in specialized line lubrication, which helps in both preventing friction and preventing line memory, the process by which a line begins to naturally bend to the shape of the spool).

We should mention one option that shouldn’t use to lubricate fishing line: WD-40, or other conventional household lubricants. These will certainly do the job, however they have a negative impact on the waters where you fish. Do a favor to your fellow fishermen, especially those who employ saliva, and make sure that your lubricant of choice is eco-friendly. Dirty water means less fish.

Wetting your line is a win-win, for as little work as it requires. Your knots will sit stronger and your line will last longer. Just like a classic sports car that runs beautifully 50 years later, all it takes is some quick maintenance to prevent future issues.


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