Ron's Tackle Tips — Swivels

Ken Jones

Staff member

By Ron Crandall of Ron's Reel Repair (November 1998)

What is a swivel?

A swivel is an optional part of your terminal tackle that turns as your line turns and keeps your line from twisting and knotting.

Types and Uses of Swivels

BARREL swivel: This is the most common type of swivel, and comes in chrome, brass and black. This swivel is most commonly used to connect the line to the leader and is the top end of a High-Low Rig. My preference is to use a black rather than shiny, (chrome or brass), swivel, in order to entice the fish to strike the bait rather than the swivel.

SNAP swivel: Snap swivels include the McMahon Snap, the Lock Snap, the Safety Snap, and the Coastlock Snap. The Snap swivel is used at the end of your line or leader and is used to attach your sinker, lure, jig, etc. While it is not as critical, I still prefer a dark swivel to a shiny one.

Three-Way swivel: This swivel attaches to your line and allows you to have a longish leader for your bait, and a shorter leader for your sinker. This swivel is used mostly by persons who tie their own leaders, and is rarely sold as pre-tied leader rigs. Two three way swivels can also be used to create a high-low rig. This is a very versatile swivel and one of my favorites. I use it to vary the line weights to the hooks and sinkers and main line.

Slide swivel: This is a less frequently used swivel. It is a hollow tube through which the main line runs, with a snap, or barrel swivel attached to the middle of this tube. The bait is attached to the main line, and the leader and sinker is attached to the snap. When a bottom fish such as a halibut grabs your bait, it will mouth it first and swim away. If the fish feels a drag, as from your sinker it will frequently spit out your bait before you can set the hook. I've tried this swivel a few times when chasing halibut and starry flounder.

Ball Bearing swivel: Ball Bearing Swivels come in all of the above types and are three to five times as expensive as the above listed types. They are rarely used for inshore applications, but frequently used by salmon trollers.

Additionally, there are a great variety of specialty swivels which I will not deal with here.

Cost is a factor. A more expensive swivel will do its job, mainly swivel. Do not buy the cheapest swivel that does not work, and discard any swivel that is jammed.

Lastly, if you are fishing in heavy kelp or rocks, or short distances, you may wish to dispense with a swivel entirely, and tie hooks and sinkers directly to your main line.