Often neglected for more noteworthy equipment and accessories, swivels are actually some of the most consequential pieces of terminal tackle in existence. They are available in a wide variety of styles, sizes and finishes with the selection process heavily influenced by application, execution and target species. Although some anglers argue they introduce weak points and invite cut-offs from toothy predators, swivels are critical components that deserve a spot in every angler’s tackle bag. Sure they aren’t super exciting to talk about, but swivels have several key benefits that cannot be overlooked.
First and foremost, swivels are designed to combat line twist, but they also have a heavy influence on the presentation and strength of your overall rig. When the appropriate swivel is used properly everything below this critical connection may spin, but the swivel will keep line twists from working their way up the main line. Swivels also enable the quick change of leaders, lures and baits. However, it’s important to note that not all swivels are created equal.
…one of the biggest factors in the formation of twisted line is ill‑equipped swivels.
You may be under the impression that line twist is introduced by trolling lures that don’t run true, live baits that don’t swim straight, or improperly rigged sinkers, but one of the biggest factors in the formation of twisted line is ill-equipped swivels. Cheap and poorly designed swivels appear to turn and revolve perfectly in your fingers, but apply any amount of pressure and they won’t be of much benefit.
Like all aspects of sport fishing, things can be a lot more complicated than they need to be. Duolock, coastlock, crane, power, barrel, ball bearing, pig tail, escape proof, single, double, triple, sleeve and wind-on swivels are only some of the available options. And although marketing gurus claim otherwise, there are really only a few types of swivels you need to worry about.
Starting at the most basic level, barrel swivels are typically manufactured with nickel-plated brass and have a barrel that forms around brass pins or ring eyes. Barrel swivels are primarily used to connect your running line to leader. While cost effective, the inherent design doesn’t do much to combat line twist. When pressure is exerted from the main line and/or leader, the pins inside the barrel are forced to the top and bottom of the barrel. The associated friction can keep the swivel from freely turning and may lead to the failure of terminal tackle.
As their name implies, ball bearing barrel swivels incorporate stainless steel ball bearings in between the spindle and body, which provide greater freedom for the swivel to rotate under pressure. Ball bearing swivels are crucial in trolling applications and make up for the deficiencies associated with standard barrel swivels. The only real negative aspect of ball bearing swivels is their inherent price, although serious anglers can’t afford not to use high quality ball bearing swivels. You’ll also want to inspect your ball bearing swivels, as there are some variations in regards to the associated components. Some have dual rotation technology, where the swivel spins at both ends, while others only have one side that rotates. Furthermore, some are equipped with welded ring eyes, while others feature split rings. A variation to the traditional barrel swivel design is what’s commonly referred to as an Aussie swivel, or heavy swivel. Resembling a capsule or tube, these heavy-duty rotating swivels have a reputation of being some of the strongest in the world.
Snap swivels are different altogether and incorporate a barrel or ball bearing swivel and snap enclosure to make changing baits or leaders a breeze. Duolock snaps are easy to open and close, but are best suited for light tackle or freshwater applications. Coastlock snaps are the number one choice for offshore anglers who need a quick change snap swivel. Australian pigtail swivels are yet another variation of the traditional snap swivel and are favored by some because they can’t open up under extreme stress and have a streamlined profile. The escape proof snap looks good in theory, but many anglers have issue with these connections, as they sometimes open too easily and at other times won’t open at all. While ball bearing and snap swivels cover most situations, the variety of swivels on the market is mind blowing.
Three-way swivels provide an additional connection point to attach a weight or hook and are routinely used when bottom fishing. Sleeve swivels offer the same theory as a triple swivel, but cannot be used with thin diameter monofilament. Sleeve swivels are also routinely used for the construction of spreader bars, dredge teasers and deep drop rigs. Double swivels have two snaps connected to a single ball bearing swivel and are often employed when fishing a planer or lengthy shock cord.
Typically available in a shiny or matte black finish, swivel color is a hot topic among anglers worried about bite offs. Commonsense would lead you to think that shiny swivels would catch the eye of inquisitive predators, but it’s actually the opposite. When attacking a bait or lure from below, black swivels are much more noticeable against the bright sky. Similar to how many species have lighter colored bellies so they remain relatively concealed from predators lurking below, shiny swivels disappear against a lighter background.
One of the newest developments in swivel technology is the Invisa Swivel by Aquateko. Manufactured with a proprietary fluorocarbon-like material called fluoro-clear, these space-age swivels are rust proof and feature self lubrication for impeccable performance under pressure. They were also designed to be neutrally buoyant in an effort to give baits and lures the most natural presentations possible.
When it comes to sizing and selecting swivels, at the very least match the swivel strength to the breaking strength of your leader. If you’re not worried about sacrificing stealth you can always choose a swivel that is one size heavier. With 50 lb. leader material, a 75 lb. swivel is fine, as is a 100 lb. class swivel with 80 lb. leader material.
Like all aspects of sport fishing, it is the collaboration of numerous factors that lead the way to success. While not as exhilarating as a new reel or lure, swivels play a large role in your overall success and ability to eliminate tackle failure. Nothing matters if your connections aren’t reliable, so when selecting swivels be sure to go with the gusto.