Fish with Swivel or Not? How to Decide

Swivels on fishing line can be a useful tool, but only in certain circumstances. A major factor in whether you’re successful fishing on a swivel or not is whether you’re using it in the correct conditions or not. 

So do you fish with a swivel or not? A swivel should be used in any situation in offshore fishing with lures that are prone to twisting, when trolling a jig lure in the ocean, or when just soaking a bait or lure in any location with a high amount of current. 

If you decide to use a swivel, you’ll need to know when a swivel would be useful, and what kind of lures to use a swivel with. Read on to find out more about exactly what a swivel is, when you’ll need a swivel, and how to attach one to your line. 

What is a Swivel?

A swivel (also known as a line connector) is a metallic piece of terminal tackle that is attached above the lure on the fishing line and allows the lure and leader line to spin independently of the mainline. Swivels are useful in conditions that would cause the fishing line to become twisted. These are some of the conditions that could cause a line to become twisted while in the water: 

Twisted fishing line is a big deal in fishing for a few reasons. 

  • First, fishing line that is twisted is much more likely to cause bird’s nests and tangles on the reel, which can basically render your fishing rod useless unless you stop and attempt to either clear the tangle or reline the rod. 
  • Twisting in the line also causes tension at the spots where the line is twisted, and this tension greatly reduces a fishing line’s overall durability and increases the chance that the line will break at the points of twist due to increased stress. As a result, lines that have been twisted are more likely to snap while you’re battling a large fish or if you get your lure snagged on something. 
  • A twisted line is also one of the causes of a bad hook set, which means if your fishing line is very twisted, it’s more likely that you might get a fish bite on your lure or even take your bait, but not be able to set the hook in the fish’s mouth and reel it in. Many amateur fishermen fishing offshore will lose a lot of bait from bait thieves due to not realizing that their twisted line is one of the underlying culprits. 

Advantages of Using a Swivel

There are many advantages to using a swivel when you’re fishing, which means it’s a good idea for all anglers to keep at least a handful of them in their tackle box just in case the situation calls for one, and it’s also a good idea for them to know how to effectively secure one between the leader line and the mainline to avoid the tackle coming loose either during a cast or a fight with a fish. 

Here are some of the advantages of using a swivel:

  • Swivels are not expensive. Compared to some pieces of fishing tackle, swivels are cheap, and you can get a decently-sized pack of them for just a few dollars. This means that all fishermen
    can afford to have a few in their arsenal, especially if they tend to fish in scenarios that call for
    a swivel.
  • Swivels can increase weight to ease a long cast. If you’ve got a relatively light lure on the line, adding a swivel can increase the weight on the end of the line and make it easier to cast a light lure farther.
  • Swivels prevent twisted line: As explained before, twisted fishing line can cause many problems while fishing, and the main purpose of a swivel is to prevent twists in the line.
  • Swivels allow you to use combinations of different fishing line types. For example, you can use braided line as your mainline and use fluorocarbon as your leader line. Because fluorocarbon is less visible in the water than leader line, the fisherman can then utilize both the camouflage aspect of fluorocarbon and the increased strength of braided line at one time.
  • Swivels allow you to avoid having to tie line knots. Some people are not confident in their ability to tie a line-to-line knot. If you’re afraid you can’t tie a good enough line-to-line knot to keep your tackle on the mainline between your mainline and your leader, you can just connect the two pieces of line via a swivel instead.
  • Swivels make it much easier for you to change lures or bait. You can pre-cut leader lines with different lures attached, and this makes it easier to switch between lures at a moment’s notice while you’re fishing, or swap between a live and cut bait. When you’re fishing one area for several different species with different feeding behaviors, this can be a big benefit. 

Overall, swivels increase your versatility as a fisherman because they allow you to experiment with several different fishing setups at once, allowing you to determine more quickly which kinds of lures or bait are working, and which are not. This can increase your efficiency as a fisherman too, since it lets you change up your tactics off the cuff. 

Swivels allow you to be much more strategic with your fishing, but they do have some disadvantages
as well.

Disadvantages of Using a Swivel

While swivels offer some benefits to certain kinds of fishing, there are some distinct drawbacks as well that cause a lot of fishermen to choose not to use them unless absolutely necessary. Here are some of the disadvantages you run into when you’re using a swivel: 

  • Swivels add a point of weakness to the line. The same design that allows the leader line to swing independently of the mainline also adds a weak spot to the line because you have to add knots, and because snap swivels are not very strong. If you hook a particularly large fish and it pulls hard, when your fishing line breaks, it’s most likely going to break at the swivel.
  • Swivels can damage your rod guides. If you reel your line too hard or far up into the spool with a leader line and swivel on, the swivel can crack or chip your rod guide eyelets on the inside. These cracks or chips, in turn, can lead to your rod damaging and fraying fishing line that is being dragged across the sharp edges of the broken rod guide.
  • Swivels can take longer to tie than tying a line-to-line knot. Tying on a swivel requires two knots (the one from the swivel to the leader line and the one from the swivel to the mainline), and for those who are less experienced with tying knots, this can be more tedious than tying a single line-to-line knot.
  • Swivels decrease sensitivity of the line. When you have a swivel between the lure and your rod, you’re not going to be as likely to feel a fish on the line as easily as you would if you had a single mainline or a line-to-line connection between your mainline and your leader line. This can lead to bad hook sets and other issues actually securing the fish onto the line when you get a bite.
  • Swivels impact lure and terminal tackle movement. No matter which tackle you go with swivels affect the way the lure moves on the line, and in some cases, this can be a detriment with the case of specialized lures that are designed to move in a specific way.
  • Swivels themselves are susceptible to pressure damage while fighting a fish. Not only is the fishing line itself more likely to break at a swivel point, snap swivels especially are made of a metal that bends under heavy pressure, so if you hook a fifty-pound fish and it fights hard, a swivel will often break under the strain.
  • Swivels set too close to the lure can scare away fish. When swivels are used, they shouldn’t be used right on top of the terminal tackle, as anything additional on the line near the lure has a chance to spook any incoming fish and prevent them from taking a strike at the lure. Swivels should be set sixteen to forty-eight inches back on the leader line from the lure.

While some of these drawbacks, such as how long the knot-tying takes and how swivels affect the movement of a lure, can be offset by practice from the fisherman, others are simply a fact of life when it comes to adding swivel tackle to your setup. 

The fact that there are just as many disadvantages to using a swivel as there are advantages means that there are only certain scenarios when fishing where it makes sense to even use a swivel.

When Do You Use a Swivel?

There are only a few situations you’ll want to use a swivel while fishing, as useful as they can sometimes be. These are some of the times when you’ll want to use a swivel while you’re fishing:

  • When you’re using lures or pieces of terminal tackle that are likely to twist the line due to their design or movement in the water (the types of lures which cause a line to twist will be covered in the section below)
  • When you’re trolling and dragging a lure in a boat in waters of 30 meters or more
  • When you’re casting and soaking bait/lures in an area with a strong current that will tumble the lure as it sits in one position (offshore deep-sea fishing, for instance)
  • When you intend to go back and forth between multiple types of tackle to target different species of fish
  • When you want to use a different type of leader line than your mainline, but don’t know how to tie a line-to-line knot well 

Likewise, there are also times when it is not a good idea to use a swivel. Here are the scenarios where you’ll want to avoid using a swivel:

  • While performing inshore or surf fishing: It can often be useful to use a leader line while surf fishing due to the abrasive environment, but swivels are not appropriate gear for fishing from the beach in most cases.
  • When you’re using an action-based lure: Lures that depend on the movement of the rod to move properly are not a good choice for swivels; instead, you’ll want to use lures that are reeled in directly, or use swivels with live/cut bait.
  • When you are targeting very large fish: If you’re going after large fish such as marlin or grouper, a swivel can be too big of a risk due to the weakness it introduces to the line. While a swivel is good about taking the impact of a twisting line, it also can snap under pressure when a very large fish takes the bait. 

To get the most out of adding a swivel to your tackle, you’ll want to pay attention to whether or not a swivel would even help you in your particular fishing situation. Read on to find out more about what kind of lures are best used with a swivel. 

What Kind of Lures Require a Swivel?

There are only certain kinds of lures that are a good choice to use with swivels. These are the types of lures you’ll want to use a swivel with: 

  • Weightless flukes: Weightless flukes (also known as “jerkbait” as a result of how they are typically fished) are slender lures with a smooth slippery texture that are designed to look like a dying or wounded baitfish. These lures are a favorite among bass fishermen.
  • Senko lures: Senko lures are soft plastic worm-like lures that are impregnated with salt, allowing them to float horizontally with a side to side movement that drives fish to strike out at it. These lures are popular because they don’t have to be worked with any kind of complex movement, but instead can be allowed to free-float.
  • Weedless spoons: Weedless spoons are a type of spoon lure that are specifically designed to be used in heavy cover as a topwater lure. Spoons attract the fish by reflecting light when they are rotated while being reeled in.
  • Pre-rigged worms: Pre-rigged worms are worm lures that have already been strung with hooks. Pre-rigged worms can come set with either J-hooks or circle hooks. Like weedless spoons and flukes, pre-rigged worms can be easily cast into cover without causing a snag in the line. 

The best lures to use in conjunction with a swivel are lures that also resist twisting. This means you’ll want to lean on lures that are designed to be anti-snag (like slippery lures) and lures that are designed with heavy cover or rough currents in mind. 

As long as you have the right lure and the right conditions for using a swivel when you attach one to your line, you shouldn’t have to worry about any kind of problems using it.

How to Attach a Swivel to Your Line

Equally as important as knowing what conditions to use a swivel in is knowing how to tie a swivel onto your line so that there is as little reduction in line strength as possible, and the least possibility of the line snapping or coming undone by heavy pressure. 

There are a variety of knots you can use to tie a swivel into your line, but here are three of the most popular knot styles for swivel tying: 

Learning how to tie a secure knot is one of the most important skills an angler can learn in order to increase their versatility when they’re out fishing. It means the difference between being stuck with one set of tackle and being able to quickly adjust your fishing methods on the fly for better fishing success. 

One way to prepare your tackle ahead of time is to attach swivels to pre-cut sections of leader line that is already tied to a lure, so you don’t have to worry about tying any lures on once you get out on the boat. Then all you have to do is choose one of the lures and tie the mainline to the swivel end of the leader line. 

Swivels Are Useful, but Only in Certain Fishing Scenarios

If you’ve ever used a swivel incorrectly, you might be unconvinced of how useful they are, because using a swivel in the wrong circumstance can greatly decrease how effectively you fish. But if you learn how to use a swivel under the right conditions, it can help a lot with a few different fishing tactics and can help prevent line-damaging twists. 

Those who are surf fishing or fishing in any waters more shallow than thirty meters aren’t going to need to fuss with a swivel, but for those who are trolling or fishing in deep water, swivels can be a good way to prevent tangles and accentuate the natural drifting movement of certain lure types.

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