Fishing Tackle – Swivels
The purpose of swivels is to prevent line twisting and to allow lures and spinners to revolve. They shouldn’t be used when a simple knot will suffice or when a split shot sinker will work. Swivels are meant as a motion device.
9 swivel tips
- use them only when needed; bottom rigs don’t require swivels unless the current is strong
- small swivels work best
- 2 swivels usually work better than one and should be of the same type
- 3 swivels are required when trolling with flashers, cowbells, lake trolls, big spinners or whirling devices
- swivels are required fore and aft of the trolling sinker
- the swivel be the upper most device with any terminal rig when trolling or spinning
- rig swivels ahead of sinkers and keels; swivels turn better on the end that is not stabilised
- this is important: swivels work best when stress is applied directly along the bearing or swivel axis. Therefore, don’t use loop knots to tie swivels into a rig Check to make sure your knots are centered on the eyes
- avoid brass-based swivels
In this article you’ll find information on:
How to use swivels
While it’s been popular to combine snaps with swivels, this is not always a good idea. Quite often anglers use a combination of both when one or the other need only be used. With this in mind, why add to the amount of hardware, increase weight and increase the number of points of failure?
More hardware also increases drag and vibration levels, which can scare off fish.
Tip: In trolling, the use of a snap and swivel is a must as the bait, lure, sinker, leader, etc is changed often through an outing.
Note: Visibility is also an issue as a baited hook with a snap swivel attached will often result in a nibble rather than a strike.
How swivels work
- Tensile stress and torque are the 2 forces at work in a swivel.
- Torque is the rotational force that makes swivels work.
- Load, the tensile stress, works against the swivel keeping the line from twisting.
- As long as the torque force is greater than the load force, the swivel will work and prevent line twisting.
Be mindful of all hardware on your line. Remember the torque force must be greater than the load force.
This is a little complicated so we suggest you focus on using swivels only if nothing else can be used in it’s place.
In order to avoid another lengthy physics lesson, just know that smaller swivels are more efficient than larger swivels.
Assuming the same type, material and quality. By efficient, we mean that it offers less frictional force and turns more easily.
The best swivels are not cheap and your best bet is to go with solid brand names.
If you’re going to use a swivel, we recommend paying a bit more on this item as it can adversely affect the rest of the line and your success.
The most common swivels are the slider-type thrust swivels, which sound more like a sci-fi term that a swivel used for fishing. As with any popular device, there are several variants:
- various barrels
- offshore swivels
Ball Bearing Swivel
Ball bearings use free rolling friction, which is far easier to overcome than slider based friction.
So, how much better are they? The ball-bearing swivel is far more efficient than the other swivels, but there is a cost premium.
As we’ve mentioned this is one piece of equipment that saving money will cost you in the long run. The time taken to unravel a fishing line will more than make up for the lost cash spent on this swivel.
We recommend the Sampo brand of ball bearing swivels. Don’t be fooled by cheaper ones as they’ll bind and don’t have near the same level of efficiency.
Bead Chain Swivel
The bead-chain is a brand name and a type of swivel that resembles the bead-chain used on lamps. In fact they’re the same bead chains made by the same process, although these are stronger than the lamp versions.
The bead-chain is made from stainless steel, which is strong, secure and resists corrosion.
Compared to the barrel swivel, the bead-chain is stronger and has a lower drag. It’s also less susceptible to binding than the barrel swivel.
Barrel Swivel, Single Head
Twisted-eye barrel swivels are mostly imported from Asia. American made swivels have not been made in 20 years. The best made swivels come from Japan, others are considered of lower quality and aimed at the weekend warrior.
All the barrel swivels we’ve come across are made of brass. Some are plated or have a different color, but they’re brass underneath.
Brass is the worst metal to use due to its poor strength.
The barrel body and eyes of traditional swivels are made from brass and subject to compression.
Barrel Swivel, Split Head
The split head is shorter, stronger and less prone to binding. Even though it uses the same curved bearing, surfaces are subject to compression.
The double shanks are the reason why the split head is not as prone to off-centre loading and binding.
Stick to major brands when purchasing swivels.
No longer popular in North America, but they are still popular in Australasia and the Asian part of the Pacific rim. Much like the barrel swivels, these are made of brass and suffer from the same strength and security issues.
There’s no need to discuss how much stronger it may be than the barrel swivels. When dealing with a weak material, it doesn’t matter how much less substandard it is. It’s also subject to snagging.