When it comes to trophy tautog, it’s all about your connections.
The most vulnerable section of our tautog rigging is without doubt, the final 20 feet. For me, this is a mono top shot consisting of a mono to braid knot, a 20-foot length of mono line, top shot to leader connection, and the rig itself.
In coming weeks I’ll share exactly why and how we rig this way, breaking down a few proven options that will help you to land the larger tautog that have been keeping you up at night. Now, you’re going to hear my humble opinion, forged from the choices of some of the best toggers I know; opinions steeped in a deep history of how we’ve always done it, coupled with the newest, dependable and most modern tackle and materials available today.
No Terminal Tackle
The purpose of using a mono top shot is to provide some protection against abrasion as your line rubs against the structure. For as strong as braided line is, when under tension as it is when fighting a fish, it can quickly part when making contact with a piece of underwater structure. The heavy mono will show damage when dragged over the structure, but hopefully it just gets a bit “shaved” and not cleanly cut off.
Mono also adds some much needed shock absorbing properties into the mix. The powerful rod used in the blackfish game, coupled with heavy braid, can put a tremendous amount of pressure on a larger fish. As the fish starts digging towards the bottom, a huge amount of pressure is exerted on every knot and connection between your reel and the fish. Your monofilament top shot is like a giant, measurable rubber band; this little bit of stretch is a good thing as it relieves some pressure on your overall rigging. It won’t break, but it has a little bit of much needed give you want while attempting to take a good fish.
Make Good Connections
The knot joining your mono top shot to your braided line needs some special thought. You’ll often have to tie it in less than ideal conditions, and know that it’s going to take a lot of pressure! It will quickly fail if tied poorly. For this connection I prefer a Slim Beauty knot. It’s fairly fast and easy to tie. It has a slim profile, so it comes through the guides neatly. The mono tag end does not protrude at an angle that will cut your wet thumb when flipping your ten ounce weight all day. The Yucatán knot is another excellent choice here; quick, strong, reliable, and easy to tie with cold wet hands.
The most widely used brands of monofilament line for this purpose are Berkley Big Game or ANDE in either 50-, 60-, or 80-pound tests. I use 60 all season long, except when its trophy time when fishing south during the winter months along the DELMARVA coast. Then I opt for 80-pound test top shot.
For a few more knot ideas and “how to” tips for tying, check out The Fisherman Magazine’s Fishing Knot page. The November edition of The Fisherman goes to print on October 26, 2020 and then we’ll pick up with a few more tautog rigging ideas here starting with a standard single-hook-and-weight dropper rig popular when headboat togging, AKA the Belmar Rig.