Tuesday, March 5, 2024
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What the Snell?!

Knots & Rigs with Mark Williams

IN Fisho’s 40th Anniversary Edition (August) we looked at the Top 10 Knots required by anglers to pursue any fish on the planet. One of the knots that featured in that list was the common snell. This month we’ll look more closely at this valuable connection and the specific areas where it can be employed.

The common snell is a knot used for connecting lines to terminal tackle, specifically hooks. The unique quality of the snell is that the knot is actually formed around the shank of the hook. This made it a vital connection in the times before fishing hooks featured ringed eyes. In those days fishing hooks featured spatulated or flatted eyes which prevented the snell knot from sliding off the hook shank when tied. Probably the only place where you will see a spatulated hook these days is those that are used in the construction of imported baitfish jigs. I can recall seeing luderick hooks featuring spatulated eyes when I was very young, but I suspect they were old hooks and blackfishing was probably one of the last areas that they were widely used in.

The common snell provides a very reliable connection with a high knot strength. It can be successfully tied in a wide variety of line sizes from the lightest luderick traces through to heavy, hard monofilament gamefish leaders. It is ideally suited to use with hook patterns featuring an upturned or downturned eye. In reality when using the common snell you don’t even really have to feed the line through the hook eye at all, although in practice I always do. Probably the most commonly used hook pattern with the snell is the suicide pattern, which features an upturned eye. Modern chemically sharpened hooks such as the Gamakatsu Octopus pattern are ideally suited to being connected to either mainline or leader using a common snell.

Back in the mid to late 1980s hot yellowfin tuna action off locations such as Stockton Bight, Bermagui, Narooma and Sydney saw the development of cubing for tuna. Basically this entailed setting up a berley trail of chunks of fish flesh or cubed up pilchards at a prospective location and dropping baits back amongst the berley to the hopefully hungry yellowfin. Heavy suicide patterns were extremely popular for this style of fishing and some guys even went to the length of painting their hooks with red nail polish to match the tuna cubes they were hiding the hooks in.

The common snell was a preferred connection for this heavy duty tuna action, although I know that some experienced tuna anglers used to have concerns about the burrs left on the end of the ringed hook eye from the production process damaging the leader knot during extended fight times. So to protect their leaders from this potential damage they would bind up the gap in the ringed hook eye with waxed baitfish rigging twine prior to snelling the hook to the heavy leader. I never experienced this problem personally as we fished a different system employing full pilchard baits using Mustad Southern & Tuna or Sea Demon patterns, which both feature brazed eyes.

The one area where the common snell is employed more than any other is for chasing popular species such as mulloway and snapper while fishing large slab or whole squid baits off two hook rigs. A pair of suicide hooks can be easily snelled onto a leader at a distance apart to suit the size of baits being fished.

Renowned knotologist Geoff Wilson actually employs a variation on the snell knot when fishing two hook rigs for mulloway. The bottom hook in the rig is attached to the leader using a traditional common snell knot, but the other hook is attached using a variation Geoff calls a sliding snell. The advantage of the sliding snell is that it allows you to slide that hook up and down the leader to make allowance for any variation in the size of baits being used during a session. Both the common snell and sliding snell connections can be found in Geoff Wilson’s excellent books on fishing knots and rigs.

I find the common snell a relatively straightforward knot to tie. In tying it has similarities to the Albright special and nail knot in that if you keep your wraps as tight and neat as possible while forming the knot it goes a long way towards it being tied successfully.

One thing I do recommend when tying the common snell is that you keep your tag ends as short as possible; long tags always seem to get in the way a bit and impede the process.

 As always a bit of lubricant such as saliva applied prior to pulling the knot up will always help with the finished product.

The common snell is a connection that really should be an essential part of the rigging arsenal of any angler contemplating fishing big multiple hook baits for species such as snapper and mulloway. However, it’s also a handy knot for any lure or fly angler to have up their sleeve as it can also be used for multiple hook rigs for skirted trolling lures and even large saltwater tube flies for gamefish species such as sailfish and marlin.

Check out a video showing how to tie a common snell at www.fishingworld.com.au.

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