I was growing a little concerned as Manny Huerta stood motionless in the waist deep chocolate colored water, shoulders hunched against the biting east wind and light mist. It wasn’t raining when we exited the boat and he elected to forego his waterproof wading jacket to stay a little cooler.

“Hey, are you okay?” I asked after closing the gap between us without ever detecting any noticeable movement. “I’m not too cold, but I’ve been drier,” he said through clinched teeth. “I’m having trouble with my leader and I don’t know if it is the fluoro or my knot.” At that time, he had already caught and released several nice trout that were unable to exploit any weakness in his tackle.

“I’m not going to blow an opportunity because I was careless with my knot, but I just air mailed a Corky half way across the lake and it made me nervous,” he added. Manny made the switch to braid well before I ever gave it a try, so he was no stranger to the dreaded backlash in mid-cast that snaps 20-pound test fluorocarbon like it was thread. Convinced this was something more, he would not make another cast until he figured it out!

Huerta is definitely a stickler for addressing the minutest of details even while on the water. “If you are going to spend the time and money to get only a few shots at a special trout, why jeopardize that chance by ignoring a problem you have some control over,” he says with conviction.

The sixty-seven year old retired landscaper has put his hands on five trout over ten-pounds in forty years of trout fishing from Laguna Madre to the Indian River in Florida. “I have been trout fishing since I was 11-years old,” he states, “but I got big trout fever when I caught a 12-pound speck on live bait on the Indian River many years ago. We moved to New Orleans and it was twenty years before I caught another ten-pound fish, but I learned a lot during that drought.”

Huerta contends that too few anglers realize the importance of line care and tying quality knots. Aside from ignoring the long term benefit of slathering on sun screen, the most common mistake shared by the majority of my clients each year is taking their fishing line for granted. Not taking the extra time to tie a quality knot is almost expected, but there are other oversights that can prove costly as well.

Spools that are both over and under-filled sabotage the performance of even the most expensive reels. Refusing to change the line as long as there are no visible knots or partially buried backlashes, continuing to use line with so much memory that it looks like a slinky lying on the surface, and the failure to re-tie on a frequent basis are a few of the more obvious pitfalls.

I also see lots of folks laboring with high dollar reels filled with a monofilament line that is too heavy for that particular reel. A quality 10 to 12-pound test line with a short length of 20-pound test shock leader is adequate for the largest of trout, provided you remember the purpose of the star drag on the side of your reel. Most of the popular low profile reels simply cannot handle 17 to 25-pound mono better suited for hand-to-hand combat with bass in dense cover.

There is no substitute for being able to execute long backlash-free casts when stalking wary trout that usually hunt alone. The smaller the line diameter…..the longer the casts. A growing number of fishermen now use braid because the diameter is so small that you can fish a 20-pound test line with the equivalent diameter of 6-pound monofilament without sacrificing distance.

While I now fish with Power Pro’s 20-6 and 30-8 braid exclusively, I am still a believer in the advantages of adding a few feet of mono or fluorocarbon leader material. That advantage might cost me a lure on rare occasions when it frays or snaps, but it has never broken while fighting a fish. I am convinced the low visibility factor produces more strikes as most lures perform better when attached to mono or fluorocarbon and knots are much easier to tie.

So why use braid at all? The undisputed answer is sensitivity, sensitivity, sensitivity. No matter how light, every strike is detected with braid and that can make the difference in a good or great trip. After catching and releasing a personal best trout last week, Vidor angler, Larry Strickland, will readily second that contention.

Larry has caught more than his share of big specks on Sabine this year, but it wasn’t until giving braid a second try that he put his first eight-pound trout in the boat. He lives and dies with a Corky and immediately realized that he had not been feeling a lot of strikes until he returned to the no-stretch line.

The bottom line here, pardon the pun, is that the last link between you and the fish is the line on your reel. If you can’t buy into granting your line top priority, then you need to stay indoors a little longer and wait on the birds to start working over smaller school trout. A trophy trout will only break your heart and your line!