When to Use a Swivel Fishing: All Situations Explained

Fishing with a swivel can be a highly effective technique for both beginners and experienced anglers. Swivels can help prevent line twists, can make changing lures much easier, and can …

Fishing with a swivel can be a highly effective technique for both beginners and experienced anglers. Swivels can help prevent line twists, can make changing lures much easier, and can improve the natural action of your lures or bait.

However, deciding when to use a swivel can be a bit confusing for some, especially since there are a range of different situations that may need a swivel and many that won’t. In this article, we will take a closer look at the different situations where a swivel can be useful for anglers of all experience levels.

What Is a Swivel?

Swivel
Swivels connect two rings via a pivoting joint to prevent line twists and tangles when attaching the leader line, bait, or lure.

A swivel, such as a snap swivel, barrel swivel, ball bearing swivel, or other types of swivel, is a useful addition to any tackle box that consists of two rings connected by a pivoting joint in the center.

One ring attaches to the main fishing line, while the other ring is used to attach the leader line, fishing lure, or bait. The center joint allows the lure to rotate or spin without twisting the main fishing line, which in turn helps to reduce line twists and prevent tangles.

Swivels come in a variety of sizes and styles and are often made from metals such as stainless steel or brass. They are a common component of many fishing rigs and are used in a variety of fishing techniques by both beginners and professional anglers alike.

Barrel Swivel vs Snap Swivel

Snap Swivels
Snap swivels have a snap hook and a swivel on opposite ends, preventing line tangling and enabling fast attachment of lures or hooks.

Barrel swivels and snap swivels are both extremely common when fishing. Barrel swivels are simple and reliable swivels that consist of two rings and a barrel-shaped connector in the middle. They allow the line to rotate freely, preventing it from getting twisted and tangled.

Snap swivels have a snap hook on one end that allows for quick and easy attachment of lures or hooks. They also have a swivel on the other end that rotates the line to prevent it from twisting.

While barrel swivels are generally stronger and more durable for very large fish than snap swivels, snap swivels are easier to use and allow for quicker lure changes making them perfect for beginners.

Ball Bearing Swivel vs Standard Swivel

Ball Bearing Swivel
Ball bearing swivels use ball bearings to reduce friction and increase rotation and are often used for fishing with spinning lures.

Ball bearing swivels make use of ball bearings to reduce friction and increase rotation. They are commonly used when fishing with lures that spin, such as crankbaits and spinnerbaits.

Standard swivels are more basic and typically have lower weight ratings. While they can help reduce a twisting line to some degree, they are generally not as effective as ball bearing swivels in this regard.

When You Should Use a Swivel

Fishing Swivels
Using a swivel is recommended to prevent line twists when fishing with spinnerbaits, spoons, blades, or live bait.

When Line Twist Is Likely to Be an Issue

Line twist can occur when the lure or bait spins while being retrieved, causing the fishing line to twist and knot up. This twisting can lead to a fraying or knotting of the line, which can end up causing it to break. Using a swivel is highly recommended when fishing with spinnerbaits, spoons, blades, or some live bait.

When You Are Trolling Lures

When you are trolling normal or topwater lures, you can use a barrel swivel or ball bearing swivel to connect your mainline to your leader, depending on the size and strength of the fish you are targeting.

Using a swivel of any kind can also make it easier to change certain lures and leaders on the fly, as you can simply unsnap the swivel and replace it with a new one instead of having to retie your entire rig. This is perfect for surf fishing or when trolling during saltwater fishing.

When You Need to Change Lures Quickly (Snap Swivels)

Snap swivels feature a quick-release mechanism that allows most anglers to easily swap out most lures or hooks without having to retie various knots. This can be especially useful when targeting multiple species of fish, each of which may require a different type of lure or hook.

When It’s Better Not to Use Swivels

When You Want to Keep Things Simple

Using swivels adds an extra component to your rig, which can increase the chances of a tangle or malfunction. If you’re fishing in a situation where you don’t need to worry about line twists or a particular presentation, it may be easier to just tie your lure or bait directly to your main line.

This can be especially true if you’re fishing for smaller fish or in calm waters where there’s less of a risk of line twists. Additionally, skipping swivels can save you some money, as swivels can be relatively expensive compared to other fishing gear and can take up a few spaces in your terminal tackle boxes too.

When the Swivel Will Catch on the Line Guides

While swivels can be useful in many fishing situations, there are some instances when the swivel will catch on the rod guides. This can happen if the swivel is too large or if it’s positioned too close to the lure.

When this occurs, it can cause your line to tangle and become frustrating to manage, or it may even create chipped rod guides, which can damage or lower the value of your rod. Whether you are brand new to fishing or an old pro, watching a swivel damage rod guides can be a very frustrating experience.

Another Situation

When using finesse fishing techniques, such as drop shotting or shaky head fishing, adding a swivel can cause the bait to move unnaturally through the water reducing the chances of a bite.

When fishing in clear water, swivels may reflect light and create unnatural flash, alerting the nearby fish to the presence of something foreign. If you are fishing in areas where big fish might be timid, it is usually better to tie the line directly to the hook or topwater lure to avoid any potential negative effects caused by the swivel itself.

How to Connect Swivels to Your Line

The most common method for connecting swivels to your fishing line is with the “clinching knot.” This knot is relatively simple to tie and offers a secure connection.

When tying a clinching knot, start by threading the fishing line through the eye of the swivel. Next, twist the end of the line around the mainline five or six times, making sure to keep the coils tight and neat. Then, thread the tag end of the line back through the loop formed by the eye of the swivel.

Finally, moisten the knot and tighten it by pulling on the tag end while holding the swivel and the mainline. Trim the tag end of the knot to keep things looking tidy, and you’re ready to attach your lures, live bait, or rig to the swivel.

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AUTHOR
Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.
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