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When to Use a Swivel While Fishing Offshore

Less tackle usually equates to more bites, but some situations demand it.

When to Use a Swivel While Fishing Offshore

Swivel size is only part of the equation. The lowest profile is a knot (far left), but there are reasons for various sizes and designs.

I have long been a proponent of putting as little tackle in the water as possible. I rig to get bites from sometimes finicky fish. When I can get away without wire, I use as light a fluorocarbon as I can get away with.

For me, swivels are a necessary evil, but if your boat’s in gear, or you’re casting a spoon, you’re probably going to need one.

If I’m drifting live baits on flat lines, it’s no swivel for me. Learn to tie an Albright special knot. Take a piece of No. 5 wire and haywire twist a hook on one end, and simply bend a couple inches of the other end back on itself. Your total piece of wire need not exceed 12 inches. Tie the Albright around the loop created by the “bend back” and then use the old “pump handle” trick to break off the wire instead of cutting it. (Your hands will thank you if the knot slips through your hands while handling a fish.)

I don’t care how good a ballyhoo you rig, I think it’s impossible to troll one that never rolls, thus putting a twist in your line. The same holds true for almost all the lures you’ll pull, as well as trolled livies. Nothing spins more than a livie that dies on the troll.


The important thing is to carry enough inventory so your swivel matches your line, method of fishing, and tackle class.

For example, the first stainless swivel in the lineup photo is a 70-pound swivel that is impossible for me to thread without my glasses. At first glance, you would think that’s the only size you would ever use. After all, if you put too much drag on the 30- or 40-pound mainline, certainly the line will break before the swivel fails. Unfortunately, the reality is too much drag on a tiny swivel will turn that tiny little loop of steel into a knife, cutting your mainline, and making you think you tied a bad knot. The solid “wind on” swivel is designed to reel through the guides of a trolling rod. I just don’t want that big a piece of hardware in the water.

Mark Kratz with Sampo says they make all their swivels out of brass as the rings rotate easier than stainless. He stresses that you need to make sure you have a welded eye, instead of a split ring eye. A size 3 Sampo with a welded eye is a 60-pound-test rig while a split ring eye is the same size, but only 15-pound test.


A ball-bearing swivel is bigger than a standard, but it rotates easier, and virtually eliminates line twist. When high-speed trolling I would insist on ball bearings. A lure twisting at 20 knots can be a disaster to your tackle.




Syd Rives from Spro Tackle says those of us who like using as little tackle as possible need to insist on swivels with rounded stainless loops (joined in a brass body) to make sure the swivel doesn’t cut the line. For Syd, when he’s trolling live baits, he insists on a swivel small enough to not attract a Spanish mackerel that could bite his line. He kingfishes with a No. 8 swivel (50 pound), and fishes his 30- to 60-pound mono with a No. 6 (80 pound) or a No. 4 (130) swivel. Now keep in mind, that when you’re using braid, you can always downsize your swivel, as braid is much smaller diameter.

For bottom fishing, I make my dropper rigs with 3-way swivels, because they are stronger than knots. The new interlocking swivels from Spro create the same effect with a lot less size.

If it sounds like I’ve skipped over snap swivels, I don’t use them. Remember, everything I do is aimed at making a natural presentation. I don’t need to be trolling with snap swivels touching the water and creating a bubble. Also, I've seen too many fish lost because somebody forgot to close a snap swivel. Are they easier? Most certainly. Can the guys who fish with me tie a uni knot almost as fast as they can open and close a snap swivel? Absolutely. For me, less tackle in the water always means more bites. FS

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Florida Sportsman Magazine June 2021

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