What Are Swivels Used For In Fishing

What Are Swivels Used For In Fishing: Beginners Guide

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When it comes to fishing, there is a lot more gear out there than you might think. Sure, you have your classic rods, reels, line, and bait, but there is still more. One of the things that you might not know about is the swivel.

The swivel is a neat little piece of tackle that has a couple of benefits which it brings to the table. So, let’s talk about what a swivel is and what it is used for in fishing.

Let’s take a detailed look into what are swivels used for in fishing.

Let’s give you a little hint. It’s all about your fishing line getting twisted up.

What Is A Swivel?

In its most basic form, a swivel is a fishing device that consists of two rings which connect to a pivoting point. In other words, you have a ring on the left, a pivoting point in the middle, and then another ring on the right.

The most common material to use for the construction of swivels is nickel plated brass, at least for the pivoting point, with the rings often being made of stainless steel.

Stainless Steel Or Nickel Plated?

What you need to know right off the bat is that the stainless steel or nickel plated ones are usually considered to be the best options around. The good part about stainless steel swivels is that they are generally quite strong and durable, plus the special makeup of stainless steel usually stops it from rusting and corroding quite well.

However, stainless steel is also quite expensive, which can be a problem. It also tends to be very shiny, which may be a problem when stealth is a major concern for your fishing needs.


If stainless steel is too expensive or not stealthy enough for your needs, you can always turn to the nickel plated brass options, which are a bit cheaper. They are also duller, which does help in terms of a stealthy approach.

However, the problem with brass plated nickel is that it tends to be much weaker than stainless steel. The process used to coat the brass with that stealthy black color actually degrades the quality of the brass, making it weak.

It can’t hold as much weight and it’s not the best in terms of resisting the effects of saltwater either.

What Is A Swivel Used For?

A swivel is definitely a very nifty tool to have in your arsenal when fishing. It does come with a certain benefit, which is that it stops your line from getting twisted up.
If there is a lot of wind, or if you are using a lure that likes to spin and rotate in the water, chances are that your line is going to get twisted.

Problems Caused By Twisted Line

If your fishing line gets twisted up, several things will happen. For one, it can be harder to retrieve it effectively, which also goes for long distance and accurate casting.
Twisted line will also affect the way in which it sits on the reel, it can causes knots, messes, and is just generally not good. Twisted and warped fishing line never does anyone any favors.

If you are using something like a spinner, spoon, or crank bait, you have probably experienced line twist before.

Heck, even if you have a really wild fish on the line, your fishing line might twist up uncontrollably.

How A Swivel Helps

Well, this is where the swivel comes into play, a very useful tool indeed. Seeing as a swivel is made of 2 loops and a pivoting point, it will effectively stop your line from twisting up all the way to your rood and the reel.

Even if you have a lure that turns a lot, or a wild fish on the line, it won’t twist up if you are using a swivel.

Yes, the line might twist a bit up to the pivot point, but because the pivot points turns and keeps one section of the line separate from the other, it will stop the line from twisting past the pivot point.

Other Uses For Swivels

The other use for a swivel is to stop sinkers or bobbers from moving past a certain point on the fishing line. If you have a sliding sinker, you probably don’t want it sliding all the way down to the bait and lure, because this can create problems.

If this is the case, using a swivel will keep the sliding sinker in place, or at least stop it from moving past a certain point.

When it comes to bobbers, a three way swivel can allow you to attach a bobber, to keep it stationary, and still allow the line and hook underneath to move freely.

How To Use A Swivel

Let’s explain how you actually use a swivel. So, you have the fishing line that comes off your reel, Tie the end of the line onto one end of the swivel, one of the loops. Now, you will get another length of fishing line, generally no more than 1 or 2 feet at the most, and tie that to the other end of the swivel.

To the end of this line, you will attach your lure and bait.

Therefore, you now effectively have 2 separate parts of fishing line, with the pivoting swivel in the middle. So, even if the lure is twisting and turning, the pivot point in the middle will stop the same thing from happening past the swivel, this keeping the length of line running from the pivot point to the reel straight and untwisted.

Attaching A Sinker Or Bobber

If you want to attach a sinker or bobber, you should probably get a 3 way swivel. This is a swivel which has an extra loop attached under the pivoting point.

This will allow you to keep those 2 lengths of line separate, while attaching the bobber or sinker to the third loop, thus effectively keeping it right where you want it.

Different Types Of Swivels

There are a few main types of swivels out there, all of which can be useful in certain circumstances, and each of which have their own specific benefits and some drawbacks too.

Let’s take a look at the different types of fishing swivels right now;

Ball Bearing Swivel

One of the most common types of swivels out there is the ball bearing swivel. This is a basic kind of swivel, but often also considered the best in the business.

These feature stainless steel ball bearings which sit between the spindle and the body. Therefore, the swivel can rotate freely, thus stopping line from being twisted.

The great part about ball bearing swivels is that they can often handle very large loads, and they are good for offshore fishing, even when trolling for heavy fish.
However, beware that these are often fairly expensive.

If you ask what are barrel swivels used for? Well, they are used for getting those big fish while negating line twist.

Barrel Swivel

The next common kind of swivel that is used in fishing is the barrel swivel. The barrel swivel is usually made out of nickel plated brass, at least the barrel itself is, the center piece.

The eyelets or loops tend to be made of brass. Now, these are usually much cheaper than ball bearing swivels, plus they are often a bit stealthier and harder for fish to see.

On the other hand, they just don’t have the same load capacity, nor are they as good for heavy fishing situations.

If you have a heavy fish on the line, the barrel swivel might not be able to turn, thus rendering it useless.

Extreme Swivel

The extreme swivel is a pretty cool option to go with, often referred to as the Australian style swivel. This is because they are great for heavy fishing purposes.

These things are shaped like a torpedo, they are very streamlined, and they are made with very solid materials that can hold heavy loads without issue.

They are awesome for deep sea fishing and when trolling for marlin, Bluefin, and other huge fish. They can handle loads which other swivels just cannot deal with.

With that being said, extreme swivels tend to be up to 2 or even 3 times the price of even the best ball bearing swivels.

Finesse Swivel

The Finesse swivel is also sometimes called the power swivel. Now, these look kind of like barrel swivels, but they are usually much smaller, more compact, and stronger too.

These are nice because they are both compact and durable, they can handle fairly heavy loads, and they are quite stealthy too.

Due to their small size and coloration, they can be hard to see. Now, they are not quite as strong as extreme swivels, and maybe not even as strong as some ball bearing swivels.

So, if you don’t need a stealthy swivel, and are going for very large fish, you might want to stick with a ball bearing or extreme swivel.

A Word On Snaps – Snap Swivel vs Barrel Swivel

Now, if you do not know what snaps are, they are a little different from swivels. They more or less look like a fancy paper clip. These do not have a pivoting point, and they don’t turn.

Instead of attaching line to both ends, they are generally used to attach a lure to one end, and the line to the other. Now, these don’t negate line twist, but they do help with maneuverability.

In other words, fishing line knots can be rigid, and this will stop lures and other kinds of tackle from moving freely in the water. A snap, sometimes called a snap swivel, although the name is inaccurate because they don’t turn or swivel, will help your lure move more freely and naturally.

Snaps can be kind of useful at times, but they generally are not too strong, they often can’t handle heavy loads, and they won’t stop line twist either.

Final Thoughts

Something to note about swivels is that they will generally make your line and overall load capacity weaker. Simply put, you are breaking down your fishing line and have something in the middle.

In other words, you have 2 ends of fishing line tied to a swivel, each with knots. This can be problematic indeed, as the knots can come undone, plus some swivels just are not that strong.

To be quite honest, most big game fisherman hate swivels, because although they do help with line twist, they will do you no favors when trying to haul in a several hundred pound tuna.