To Swivel or Not to Swivel

Posted by MNAngler On September - 7 - 2010

To swivel or not to swivel
That is the question
Whether ’tis safer to tie a lure directly
And get a more realistic action
Or tie on a swivel
And thereby, easily switch them. For convenience. To save time.

Ok, so I’m no Shakespeare, but I do wonder about whether or not I should be using a swivel with a clip.

I’ve been using swivel clips for years. For me, someone with limited resources and a wife that doesn’t understand having multiple rod and reels at the ready, I cannot carry 10 rods with different lures for different situations. A swivel clip is easy and convenient and allows me to try a bunch of different lures quickly.

However, angler friends (who are better fishermen than I) tell me that you can get a much more realistic action by tying a lure on the line directly. This, of course, isn’t so important with crankbaits or spinnerbaits, but I’m a heavy user of the fluke which requires twitching to simulate a wounded baitfish.

In all my years of using swivels, I’ve never had any fail on me–until recently. The first set fell apart so the clip didn’t clip. After losing a spinnerbait because of it, I quickly disposed of those and bought a new set. I brought those with me on my trip to the Gunflint Trail and two of them opened up during a fight with a fish and I lost my lure–and the fish. Needless to say, I stopped using those as well.

For the rest of my trip, I ended up using my father-in-law’s method of quick lure switching which is to tie a loop at the end of the line. You thread the line through the eye of the lure as if there is no loop, open up the loop, pull the lure through the loop, and tighten. This is an effective way to simulate a direct tie-on and be able to switch lures fairly quickly.

However, with the braid I use, the line tightens pretty well and it can be difficult to loosen the loop at the eye to switch lures. I don’t know if mono has the same problem. You also have to create a fairly large loop to account for larger lures and it can open up and get tangled in treble hooks.

Tying a lure directly is not that big of a deal, I suppose, but it takes time and uses up expensive line. Especially since I have some of my rods rigged up with a 7-9 ft flourocarbon leader. The 9 ft can get shortened pretty quickly if I tied on every time I switched.

So I pose the question to avid anglers out there. Do you use a swivel? Or do you tie on directly? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Do you find that you catch less fish when using a swivel? Please leave a comment with your experience. Thank you in advance for your advice.

7 Responses to “To Swivel or Not to Swivel”

  1. Wolfy says:

    I’ll tell you my short answer, and then WHY

    NO – I don’t use swivels unless I’m vertical jigging.

    The only swivels I even own are found on the end of my pike / musky titanium leaders. I think that brass swivels are too bright and might be a deterent to getiing a bass to hit. Or, even worse in your area , emit a little flash and get a snakey small pike to seperate my crankbait from my line.

    I think most people use cheap snap swivels, and they are junk. IF I used swivels, they would be Sampo, and they are more expensive than the line you use to re-tie.

    I have always been an avid re-tyer. If you want a loop knot, with a little room for the bait to move more freely, learn to tie the Rapala knot proficiently.

    My $ .02

  2. Nathan says:

    I don’t use swivels, but I did growing up and can’t remember ever losing a fish due to the swivel. I don’t use them now because id just get lazy and not check my line enough during the day. Retying forces you to check your line.

  3. bassdem says:

    I wrote a post like this called The Swivel of Shame back in October of 2007. I’m not sure if I covered any of the stuff I’m going to mention here in this comment. I might have to go back and revamp the post. I’ve lost just as many fish to knots as snap swivels, but I can guarantee I’ve recovered more snagged lures because of a snap swivel when properly paired with the simple loop knot I use (not the Rapala knot). On the flip side, I’ve probably also been able to recover more lures because of the loop knot and not a palomar, for example. I’m very confident in the overall reliability and strength of that loop knot and it’s very similar to the loop you described above, except I don’t use it for fast changes anymore like that. Terminal tackle, yes. Lures, not so much. The loop is small and doesn’t slide open. For any rig that I am throwing spinnerbaits and crankbaits, I have a snap swivel tied on. For plastics and some jigs, I tie my loop knot. Then again, with a few jigs, I do resort to a snap swivel sometimes. I definitely use snap swivels and encourage anyone who likes to change up lure sizes and colors to consider them for quick swapping. Plus, it’s no fun retying in 100 degree heat with the sun beating down, nor is it fun retying with 30mph gusts and cypress trees all around you. No shame in using a snap swivel at all. We’re simply using what is at our disposal to fit our needs.

    Sure, some snap swivels can open up or break. I avoid the brass ones. Too shiny and too fragile. I’ve been buying the Tournament Choice black crane swivels lately and with the added kink in the snap, most lures stay connected, even if the snap opens up. I really like them, even on my Scumfrog. Now, what I will say is pay attention to how any lure swims when connected via a snap swivel. Some crankbaits, especially lipless cranks, do not swim right when paired with a snap swivel. Others swim better with snap swivels that have a round bend. The round ones tend to be the weak ones, so that’s why I’m sold on the crane swivels.

    The other thing worth mentioning is the size and tenacity of the fish on the other end. A snap swivel may not hold up against a hefty fish. My 7.5 almost got away because once I held it up, still hooked on the rattle trap, the snap swivel broke in half and the fish almost flopped its way to freedom. If I hook into a toothy fish, it doesn’t matter how I’m tied. I won’t have a steel leader on. A bowfin, chain pike, or gar is going to damage my line, but I’m more confident hooking into one if a snap swivel is there. It’s always possible that they brush against it and not my line.

    As for checking line, it’s something I do every few casts anyway, regardless of how the lure is connected. With all the shallow water I fish, pitching is what I’m usually doing. You can’t help but inspect line when pitching. It’s a habit any angler should pick up, regardless of how you tie to a lure.

  4. mdtolic says:

    There was a stretch where I decided swivels were going to change how I fished. They were going to save time and line and lures and make me a more efficient angler. I tried sever, including the snaps like the No Knot Fast Snap and the one you thread your lure on. In the end, none of them ended up helping me much at all. In fact, I lost more expensive baits after the locks failed or user error (typically a mid cast backlash that caused the lure to rip free from the swivel or the swivel to break off at the knot) than I ever had before! Shortly after this I started using the good old Palomar knot, tied directly to the lure/hook. I quickly made this my connection of choice and now use it for just about everything. I can rig it up very fast, with little line waste, with the speed and efficiency I hoped for with a swivel. Plus, I have more confidence in this simple knot than any swivel/clip I’ve ever used. I know this won’t work for all, but it works great for me.

  5. Mel says:

    I rarely use a swivel anymore. I must say, I used too, when fishing spinners on trout streams. They were pretty essential to not having twisted line caused by the lure. As Wolfy said, I now use the Rapala knot when fishing with Rapalas. Other lures, also, are tied directly to the line. Fish of a lifetime could be waiting on that next cast. I don’t want a cheap swivel to cost me that fish!

  6. MNAngler says:

    Thanx, all, for all your great advice. I’m not sure I was swayed either way, but I have some things to think about.

  7. Raz says:

    I fish differently than those that posted here. I troll.
    I primarily fish with spoons and need a swivel to prevent line twist.
    I use a black sampo barrel swivel with solid rings, then tie a four to six foot fluorocarbon leader onto the swivel. I also like to quickly change lures so I use a small duo-lock snap at the end of my leader.

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