To succeed when fishing, you must use the right equipment in the right fishing scenario. One key piece of terminal gear used in many fishing scenarios is a fishing swivel.
Anyone new to fishing reading this might ask, what is a swivel, and what do swivels help with? These are the questions I am going to answer.
In this article, I’ll cover what swivels are, what they help with, the different types, and when to use them so that you can start integrating them into your setup and hopefully increase your fishing success.
What Are Fishing Swivels?
Fishing swivels are made of metal and consist of two or three metal rings you attach your line to that are held together by a joint in the middle. The joint holds the rings tightly together lengthways while allowing them to spin freely in both directions or swivel, hence the name.
Why Are Fishing Swivels Useful?
The main benefit of swivels is removing any line twist that leads to tangles. When you are fishing without a swivel with a lure or bait that spins, the spinning motion twists your line which not only damages the line but also causes tangles.
When you attach one between your main line and your lure, the lure and line will spin together around the pivoting joint. This means your line doesn’t spin, will last longer, and will cause fewer tangles.
Other advantages of swivels include connecting two different types of lines or different breaking strains of lines together with ease. There are also types, such as a snap swivel which makes changing lures a lot easier, but more on that later!
What Are The Types Of Fishing Swivels?
There are five main types of swivels fishermen use most often and these include:
- Barrel swivel
- Ball-bearing swivel
- Three-way swivel
- Snap swivel
- Finesse swivel
Each type is a little different from the next, and we will discuss them all in detail below, looking at how they work and when it is best to use each one.
Barrel swivels are the most common type of swivel used by anglers all over the world. They consist of a barrel-shaped joint in the middle that holds a ring above it and below that, you can attach your mono, braid, or fluoro line.
The barrel joint allows the rings to twist freely while you are fishing in order to prevent line twists and those nasty tangles that come from it.
Barrel swivels are also the most basic and affordable type on the market. While this is great for the wallet, they tend not to perform as well as others.
There is nothing inside the barrel joint on these swivels; sometimes, the rings can catch inside them. When this happens, the rings stop being able to turn, and that dreaded line twist will be back.
- Easy to use
- Work well most of the time
- Rings can catch and cause line twist
Ball Bearing Swivels
Ball-bearing swivels are a performance version of the barrel swivel. A ball-bearing swivel works in the exact same way as a barrel swivel, except the barrel joint, has ball bearings inside it, which the line rings are connected to.
By being connected to a ball bearing instead of empty space, the line rings can turn more easily and a lot more reliably. This means the line rings won’t get caught and create a line twist, making the ball-bearing type much more reliable than your standard barrel type.
The main downside to these is that they are much more expensive than barrel types; thus, it would be prudent to only use them when the situation demands it, for example, when using a lure that twists a lot more than others.
- Easy to use
- More reliable
- Always remove line twist
- More expensive than others
Three-way swivels are just like barrel swivels but instead of having two line rings running into the barrel joint, they have three, hence the name. By having three line rings you can use these swivels to build more effective rigs when fishing near the bottom.
They are often called T swivels or T-Turn swivels. The T-Turn version includes two beads at the center, between the 90-degree ring that goes to your bait or lure.
One great way of using the 3-way option is in a multi-hook bottom fishing rig. You can tie your main line to the top swivel ring, your leader with a hook to the middle one, and then use the bottom line ring to tie a connecting line to the next three-way swivel, where you add another hook and so on.
Once you have added all the hooks you want to your rig, you can then add your weight to the final bottom line ring on the final three-way swivel. If you tie your weight on with a weaker line, you can break it off easily when it gets snagged without losing your entire rig.
You can also use them when trolling slowly with your bait near the bottom. Simply attach your main line to the top line ring, leader and bait to the middle line ring, and your weight (using a lighter strength line) to the bottom line ring. Again, this also means you can break off the weight when you get snagged and save the rest of your rig.
- Makes building bottom fishing rigs easier
- Great for trolling slowly near the bottom
- Allows your weight to break off without losing your rig
- Easy to use
- Remove line twist
- A little more expensive
Snap swivels are either ball-bearing swivels or barrel swivels that come with a snap (clip) attached to the bottom of the two line rings.
When using a snap style, you will tie your main line to the top line ring, open the snap (clip), attach your leader line or lure directly to it, and then close it. This makes changing lures incredibly easy, as all you have to do is open the snap, remove your lure, add a different one, and close the snap again.
The best snap swivels are ball-bearing snap swivels for the reasons we already discussed when we looked at ball-bearing swivels, but again these are more expensive than barrel snap swivels.
- Remove line twist
- Makes changing lures much faster
- Works well when connected to leaders or lures directly
- Barrel snap swivels can stick
- Ball-bearing snap swivels can be expensive
Finesse swivels are a little different from the other swivels we have looked at as these come with a hook readily attached to them. A finesse type has a top-line ring that goes into a barrel or ball bearing joint and beneath that is a hook that rotates freely around the swivel, followed by a drop shot clip.
When using these swivels, you would tie your main line to the top swivel rig, a leader with a drop shot weight to the bottom clip, and add a soft plastic lure to the hook. This setup allows your lure to swim freely, stops any line twist on your mainline, and lets you add a drop shot weight quickly and simply.
You can also use a lighter line to attach your drop shot weight so that if you get snagged, you only lose the weight and not your whole rig!
- It makes drop-shot fishing easier
- Removes line twist
- Allows the hook and lure to rotate freely
- Good for snags and weedy areas
- Quite expensive
How To Choose The Right Size Swivel
Now that we know about the main types of swivels and when to use them, let’s look at how to choose the right size ones for your fishing situation.
All the swivels mentioned above come in different sizes, and their size denotes their breaking strain, just like fishing line. For example, you can buy one that may break at 10 lbs of pressure and one that breaks at 130 lbs of pressure.
The key is to use one a little heavier or the same breaking strain as the main fishing line you are using. This is so that if anything in your rig does break, it is not the swivel but the line that breaks.
But, the bigger the swivel, the more likely a fish will see it, which matters when fishing for spooky species. In this case, don’t compromise the strength of your chosen option, be sure to use a longer leader between the swivel and the lure.
Swivel Sizes Availability & Swivel Size Chart
When shopping for fishing swivels, they will be labeled with a size similar to hooks using the aught scale. A size 18 is smaller than a size 10, and the biggest types are labeled as 1/0 or 2/0, a 2/0 being stronger and larger than a 1/0.
Unfortunately, there is no standard aught sizing in regards to the breaking test of the swivel. Each manufacturer specifies the size but the breaking test change can vary. Below is the typical swivel size chart of barrel swivels from several manufacturers for reference.
- Size 2# – Test 88lb to 102lbs
- Size 4# – Test 66lb to 73lbs
- Size 6# – Test 58lb to 62lbs
- Size 8# – Test 40lb to 44lbs
- Size 10# – Test 29lb to 35lbs
Note: You will find the same variation for a snap, ball bearing, finesse, and 3-way swivels.
The packaging will also show the breaking strain on it, so it should be quite easy to match them to the line you are using.
Once you have determined your line-breaking strain, choose the smallest size possible to match your line strength. The length and width of swivels are more consistent within each manufacturer.
What Materials Are Swivels Made From?
You can buy swivels made from several types of metal. The best material to choose is stainless steel as they are not only strong but also corrosion free.
Other than stainless steel, some manufacturers use lightweight metals such as copper or brass as the base material, which is softer than stainless steel.
Almost every type of base material is plated with silver nickel or black nickel.
Stainless steel is a slightly heavier option, but its durability outweighs any impact from the additional weight. Some anglers claim it’s harder to cast with a heavier swivel, but in my experience, this is negligible.
What Color Swivel Is Best?
Swivels come in silver, black, and gold. These colors are the secondary plating process on top of the base material.
Whilst colors can be important when fishing, this impact is usually only to attract fish to your bait. Swivels are not used to attract fish unless they are attached to your lure. So in the majority of cases, the color does not matter as the swivel only acts as a terminal tackle.
Personally, I prefer black color, as I would prefer no additional shiny objects on my line, which could affect my fishing in some way.
Do Swivels Scare Fish?
Some swivels are black and some are shiny! So do they scare or attract fish?
If you are concerned that the swivel is frightening fish, then make sure you have a sufficient leader to keep the swivel away from your lure or bait. Some anglers like the bright ones as they believe it acts like a spoon that shines and attracts fish. I have found little evidence that either case is a game changer.
More importantly, use a smaller swivel as this will give your bait the best presentation, and when fishing with a lure, its most natural look.
Lastly, to ensure that it rotates perfectly, tie your line to the center of the eye of the swivel.
Thank you very much for reading my article. I hope you enjoyed it and now understand all about swivels and when to use them. Fishing swivels are a very useful piece of terminal tackle that makes most fishing scenarios easier and helps you catch more fish.
Please share the article with any of your fishing buddies, and why not check out my in-depth guide on the best fishing pliers with tips on how to use them correctly.
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