What Are Swivels Used For In Fishing?

Last Updated on October 2, 2023

Fishing, an artful pursuit that melds nature, skill, and technique, often calls for an array of tools and tackle to enhance the angler’s chances of success. Among these tools, swivels play a quietly indispensable role.

These small but mighty components can make a significant difference in your angling experience. From preventing line twists to improving lure presentation and aiding in bait rigs, swivels are versatile tools that every angler should have in their tackle box.

So, let’s dive into the world of fishing swivels and discover how these unassuming little devices can make a big impact on your angling adventures.

Understanding Swivels

Swivels, those unpretentious yet indispensable devices in the world of fishing, are worthy of closer inspection. At their core, fishing swivels are simple, mechanical components designed to serve a variety of functions within your tackle setup.

A fishing swivel is a small, barrel-shaped device that rotates freely around a central axis. It’s a connecting link between various parts of your fishing rig, primarily the mainline and leader or terminal tackle. The swivel’s magic lies in its ability to swivel or spin freely, preventing your fishing line from twisting or tangling.

Swivels typically consist of two essential components: the main body and the attached rings or loops. The main body is the central part of the swivel, housing the bearing that allows it to rotate freely. On either end of the main body, you’ll find rings or loops where you can attach your fishing line, leader, or other terminal tackle.

The Versatility of Swivels in Angling Scenarios

Swivels are like the multitools of the fishing world. They serve a wide array of functions, making them indispensable for anglers of all levels. Here’s a glimpse of their versatility:

  • Preventing Line Twist: Swivels are champions at preventing line twists, especially when using lures that spin or rotate.
  • Enhancing Lure Presentation: When fishing with certain lures like spinnerbaits or inline spinners, swivels allow these baits to spin freely without affecting the line’s twist.
  • Strengthening Rig Durability: In heavy-duty fishing scenarios, swivels help distribute the force evenly, reducing the risk of line breakage. They add an extra layer of durability to your rig, which can be crucial when battling larger or hard-fighting fish.

Types of Fishing Swivels

Just as there are various fish species to target and countless fishing techniques to master, the world of fishing swivels is equally diverse. Each type of swivel brings its own unique advantages and applications to the table.

Types of Fishing Swivels

1. Barrel Swivels:

Features: Barrel swivels are the quintessential swivel type. They feature a cylindrical body with rings or loops at each end. The main body is known for its compact design, making it an excellent choice for reducing line twists.

Applications: These versatile swivels are widely used in both freshwater and saltwater fishing. Their simplicity and effectiveness make them a go-to choice for preventing line twists with various lures and rigs.

2. Ball-Bearing Swivels:

Features: Ball-bearing swivels take smooth rotation to the next level. They incorporate ball bearings within the main body, providing frictionless, 360-degree movement. This results in exceptional twist resistance and reduced friction on your line.

Applications: Ball-bearing swivels shine in scenarios where line twist resistance is paramount. They are favored for heavy-duty fishing, trolling, and targeting large, hard-fighting species. These swivels ensure your line stays untangled and maintains its strength under immense pressure.

3. Snap Swivels:

Features: Snap swivels combine the benefits of a swivel with a snap or clip for easy lure attachment. They have a streamlined design and a snap for quick changes of lures or other terminal tackle.

Applications: Snap swivels are fantastic for anglers who frequently change lures or baits. They’re commonly used in situations where adaptability and convenience are key, such as casting and retrieving lures or when fishing with multiple bait setups.

4. Three-Way Swivels:

Features: Three-way swivels, as the name suggests, have three rings or loops, allowing for multiple connections. They often feature a central ring with two perpendicular rings. This design facilitates complex rigging setups.

Applications: These swivels are favored for specialized rigs like three-way rigs or drop shot rigs. They’re versatile tools for presenting baits in unique ways, making them a go-to choice for anglers seeking versatility in their presentations.

5. Crane Swivels:

Features: Crane swivels are known for their strength and durability. They have a distinctive design with a rounded, open eyelet and a loop on the other end. The rounded eyelet helps reduce line friction.

Applications: Crane swivels excel in situations where you need to minimize line failure due to abrasion or intense pressure. They are commonly used in deep-sea fishing and for targeting big game species where line strength is critical.

6. Crossline Swivels:

Features: Crossline swivels, also known as crosslock or fastlock swivels, have a unique, X-shaped design with a lock mechanism. This allows for quick and secure attachment of terminal tackle.

Applications: Crossline swivels are favored by anglers who want efficient and secure connections when using lures or rigs that require precision in bait presentation. Their design ensures that your terminal tackle remains firmly in place.

Tips for Using Swivels Effectively

Swivels are versatile tools in your angler’s toolkit, and knowing how to use them effectively can significantly enhance your fishing experience. Here are some expert tips to help you make the most of swivels:

Tips for Using Swivels Effectively
  1. Match Swivel Types to Your Rig: Different swivel types serve distinct purposes. Barrel swivels for reducing line twist, ball-bearing swivels for smooth rotation, and snap swivels for quick lure changes. Match the swivel type to your rig’s specific needs.
  2. Consider Line Strength: Ensure that the swivel’s pound-test rating matches or exceeds your line’s strength. A mismatch could lead to failure under heavy loads.
  3. Use Swivels with Crankbaits: When fishing with crankbaits or other lures that tend to twist the line, a barrel swivel can be a game-changer. Attach it between your mainline and leader to reduce line twists.
  4. Don’t Overload Snap Swivels: While snap swivels are convenient for changing lures quickly, avoid overloading them with heavy baits. They’re best suited for lightweight lures.
  5. Tie Knots Correctly: Ensure you tie the knots connecting the swivels correctly. The most common knots include the improved clinch knot and loop knot for securing swivels to your line.
  6. Regularly Check for Wear: Swivels, like any tackle, can wear out over time. Regularly inspect them for signs of corrosion, damage, or weakened connections. Replace any compromised swivels promptly.
  7. Lubricate Ball-Bearing Swivels: If you’re using ball-bearing swivels, consider periodic lubrication to maintain their smooth rotation. Fishing in saltwater may necessitate more frequent maintenance due to corrosion risk.
  8. Avoid Unnecessary Swivels: While swivels can solve many line-related issues, avoid overcomplicating your rig with unnecessary swivels. Use them strategically when required.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

While swivels can be powerful allies in your fishing endeavors, common mistakes in their usage can hamper your success. Let’s explore these errors and learn how to avoid them:

  1. Choosing the Wrong Size: Using swivels that are too small for the task at hand is a common blunder. It can lead to decreased performance and potential line breakage. Ensure your swivel size matches your line’s strength and the weight of your bait or lure.
  2. Neglecting Barrel Swivels: Barrel swivels are excellent for reducing line twists, especially when using lures with a spinning action. Ignoring them can lead to frustrating tangles and reduced casting distance.
  3. Not Replacing Damaged Swivels: Damaged swivels compromise your setup’s integrity. Inspect them regularly, and if you find any signs of wear, corrosion, or weakening, replace them promptly.
  4. Overcomplicating Rigs: While swivels are useful, too many in your rig can overcomplicate things. Keep your setup as simple as possible while addressing specific needs.
  5. Failing to Adjust for Species: Different fish species have different preferences. Failing to adjust your swivel type and size to suit your target species can result in missed opportunities.
  6. Improper Bait Presentation: Misusing swivels during bait presentation can reduce their effectiveness. Ensure they’re correctly placed to allow for natural lure action and movement.
  7. Skipping Swivels Altogether: Some anglers believe they can do without swivels, leading to line twists and tangles. Swivels are invaluable tools in reducing these issues, so don’t overlook their potential benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I prevent swivels from tangling with other tackle?

Proper rigging and placement are key. Ensure swivels are not too close to hooks, sinkers, or other tackle components that could cause tangles.

Do swivels weaken my fishing line?

Swivels are designed to be strong and should not significantly weaken your line if properly matched to your setup. Follow the manufacturer’s specifications.

Are there specific swivels for fly fishing?

While fly fishing typically doesn’t involve swivels, they can be used in certain situations, such as when fishing streamers or sinking lines. In such cases, choose swivels designed for fly fishing.

What’s the ideal swivel placement in my fishing rig?

The placement depends on your specific setup and fishing style. However, a common practice is to attach a swivel between your mainline and leader to reduce line twist.

How often should I replace swivels?

Swivels can last a long time with proper care. Replace them if you notice signs of wear, or corrosion, or if they become difficult to rotate.


In conclusion, swivels might seem like small components in your fishing setup, but their impact is anything but insignificant. They contribute to smoother casting, fewer line tangles, and, ultimately, more successful fishing trips. As you embark on your next adventure, remember to consider the power of swivels and the advantages they bring to your angling game.

Now, it’s time to hit the water with this newfound knowledge and put it into practice. Whether you’re a novice angler or a seasoned pro, experimenting with swivels can lead to more productive and enjoyable fishing experiences. Tight lines and happy angling!

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