What Size Swivel For Ice Fishing Is Best?

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If you plan on actually catching anything from under that ice, you do need to have the right gear. One of the pieces of gear that you should always have when ice fishing is a swivel. So what size of swivel do you use for ice fishing?

Your swivel should be slightly stronger than the lb of leader line that you are using, so if you are using a leader that holds up to 30 lbs, then you need to be using a #10 size swivel that can handle up to 31 lbs. So, it really depends on the line you are using, but the general rule of thumb is you always want to use a swivel that has maximum strength and durability and is slightly heavier than your leader line.

ice fishing in the dark


Do You Use A Swivel For Ice Fishing?

Most people would recommend that you use a swivel for ice fishing, as well as for most other types of fishing.

In case you did not know the whole point of a fishing swivel is to allow the line to untwist itself as you retrieve the hook.

A swivel is, of course kind of like a ball bearing that allows for freedom of rotation. So, when your line goes to twist itself, rather than the full line twisting and then causing issues on the spool, it only twists so far as the swivel.

The swivel can rotate freely and therefore keeps the line from tangling and knotting. Therefore, if you are worried about your line tangling and getting knotted up during the retrieval, then a swivel is definitely beneficial.

The general rule of thumb here is that you should use a swivel whenever you can. This is especially the case if you are using any sort of lure that is known for causing line twist.

This is also the case if you were fishing for fish that tend to be big time fighters and will move around a lot during the retrieval.

When Should You Not Use A Swivel For Ice Fishing?

What you need to realize here is that swivels are definitely not invisible. Depending on the exact type you get, a swivel can be quite large, and of course the silver color of it is quite visible underwater.

This means that fish may very well see this level and be scared off by it. Therefore, if you are fishing in extremely bright and clear waters, then using a swivel may not be ideal as it may likely scare fish away.

Of course, this does also depend on the exact type of fish that you are angling for. Add some fish are more easily spooked than others.

On that same note, if you are using a very delicate fishing presentation that relies on stealth, such as if you are using a very small baitfish, then a swivel may also ruin that presentation and scare fish away.

What you also need to consider here is the temperature. Of course, the air is going to be below freezing, but with that being said, there is a certain limit that you need to pay attention to.

If the temperature is extremely cold, such as double digits in the negative, then a swivel may actually freeze. When you reel the swivel out of the water, the remaining water on it can freeze, thus causing the swivel to seize up.

It may not exactly be a reason why not to use a swivel when ice fishing, but it does certainly render the swivel useless.

On a side note, remember that the swivel should always be a bit stronger than the line, so if you have very strong line but only weak swivels, then there is not much point in using one.

On the other hand, if you happen to have very thin line, but a very heavy swivel, this may also be bad, not necessarily due to strength issues, but because that swivel will be super visible on that thin line, and yes, the line may snap too.

How Do I Choose A Swivel Size?

What you need to take into account here is that yes, smaller swivels are of course much stealthier and less likely to scare fish away, but it does also need to be large and strong enough to ensure that it won’t break on you during a retrieval.

The rule of thumb here is that your swivel should be just a little bit stronger than the leader line. So, if you have a leader design to hold up to 30 pounds, you will want a swivel that can handle at least 31 pounds (which coincidentally is the maximum strength of the #10 size swivel).

You may even go one size larger for the swivel. For example, if you are ice fishing for walleye, you need line that can handle at least 4 pounds, preferably 6 pounds, which means that the swivel you would use in conjunction with that line would need to be able to hold at least 7 pounds (which more or less every swivel can, so the smallest one would be fine).

Is It Bad To Use A Snap Swivel?

The reality here is that snap swivels are just not all that great. Sure, snap swivels are cheap and very easy to use, because they can just be snapped on, as the name implies, but that is pretty much where their benefits end.

Sure, they may be able to stop a bit of line twist from happening, but usually not all of it, especially if you are using a lure that is known to spin a lot during the retrieval.

Moreover, snap swivels are very big and bulky, plus they often have multiple colors on them, which therefore makes them super visible and likely to scare fish away.


If you are going ice fishing, you should use a swivel, and remember that either barrel or ball bearing swivels are best, but snap swivels not so much.

As long as you get the right kind and size of swivel, it should bring you some big time benefits for your next ice fishing adventure.

Jason Downs

I created Fishtackly to share my 30 years of fishing experience and knowledge with others with the aim to help, and hopefully get more people involved and educated in this fantastic hobby that I love.