With spring here and summer approaching, more and more anglers will be targeting stripers and magnum-size catfish in North Carolina’s rivers and lakes, and an important part of landing big fish without fear of losing them is understanding the best knots and line strengths and how those two factors are related. Few things in fishing are more frustrating than battling a big-shouldered fish, only to lose it when a knot falls apart.

Don Enderle, who has guided on Lake Gaston for 35 years. said two of the most-common knots will work for catfish and stripers — but only under certain conditions.

“A Trilene knot or improved clinch knot will work with some line diameters, but not with others,” he said.

His ties his favorite Trilene knot for both species like this:

* Double loop the tag end of a leader through a hook eyelet or swivel eye.

* Twist the tag five times around the main line above the hook’s eye, leaving at least 3 inches of tag end.

* Put the tag end through the bottom loop.

* Wet the line twist with saliva.

* Cinch down the knot until it's tight around the hook eye.

Many anglers think they’re finished after these five steps. But Enderle added a word of caution.

“After some people finish (the third step), they also thread the tag end through the top line loop,” he said. “That can be a good or bad idea.”

What appears to be a logical move to compress line by threading a tag end through an extra loop and adding the pressure of a fighting fish — because the knot should grow tighter when a fish is pulling hard — often produces the opposite effect with smaller-diameter line.

“You can put the tag end through the top loop with line that's 20-pound-test or more, and that’ll not cause a problem," Enderle said. “But if the line isn’t at least 20-pound-test, when a bigger fish yanks hard against a hook tied with a Triline knot, it can loosen the knot, the knot unties and a fish can be lost.”

He uses at least 20-pound-test line before he puts the tag end through two line loops before tightening. Otherwise, he just puts the tag end through the bottom loop.

"If your reel has 13- or 15-pound-test, and you hang a big bass or striper, and you’ve put the tag end just once through the loop at the bottom, you shouldn’t worry,” he said. “The knot will just cinch down tighter.”