When and How to use a Swivel, Snaps or Link Swivels

We have received overwhelming response on how to use snaps, swivels and snap swivels (aka link swivels).
Fret Not! In this article, we will address these 4 key issues. 

  • Types of swivels, snaps and their differences.
  • When & How to Use them
  • How to Fix them to Your Lures
  • Things to take note of while using them

To understand the above pointers better, we will split our fishing grounds into Freshwater fishing and Saltwater fishing. Afterall it all depends on what type of fishing you are doing and what sort of bait or lures you are using.

1. Types of Swivels, Snaps & Link Snaps


The 3 most commonly used are;

  • Swivels
    Swivels provide an axis point that allows leaders or rigs to spin, yet keeps the main line still. This reduces the amount of twist to the mainline.
  • Snaps 
    Snaps is a piece of terminal tackled that has a safety pin like clip linked to at least one of the rings. The clip can either be a crossslock, coastlock or interlock pin. 
  • Link Swivels (Swivel with Snap)
    Any swivel which has a connector attached to it are referred to as Link Swivel. 


2. When & How to Use Swivels


There are 3 main variations of Swivels. 

  • Barrel Swivels 
    Barrel swivels were the first type of swivel to appear on the market. They consist of two circles made from wire which forms the eyes and then goes into the central section of the swivel. Barrel swivels are large, robust and also bulky in design. They have been superseded by both rolling and crane swivels which offer greater strength despite being significantly smaller. 
  • Traditional Rolling Swivels
    It has a cylindrical central section. This is swivel is both stronger and smaller than a barrel swivel, although they are more expensive to manufacture. The design of rolling swivels means that they perform better than barrel swivels when under load, with the swivels still able to spin and reduce line twist when placed under considerable pressure. A size 1/0 rolling swivel will have a breaking strain of around 120lbs, and a size 6 in excess of 60lbs.
    • Ball Bearing Swivels
      Ball bearing, means these swivels have ball bearings inside to minimise friction and deficiencies found in barrel swivels. Ball Bearing swivels allow the swivel to twist freely when it is under pressure. Ball bearing swivels are also much more expensive due to the added mechanisms. 
      ball bearing Swivel

      Ball Bearing Swivels vs Traditional Rolling Swivels

      While all of these swivels functions the same (to prevent your mainline from getting twisted), there is a slight difference in performance between traditional round swivels and ball bearing swivels. Although the performance hardly matter to most anglers, we will still explain the technicalities of the differences;

      A traditional round swivel spins at around seven twists per inch of braid line while a ball bearing swivel, spins at less than two twists per inch of line. This means a ball bearing swivel is much more effective at preventing line twists than a traditional swivel!

      Other factors to consider are line tension, stiction in the bearing and friction in the bearing. As the tension in the line increases, both the stiction and the friction increase. The torque in the line naturally increases with more twists. To relieve the twists, the torque has to build enough to overcome the bearing stiction to start relieving and then overcome the friction (which is usually less than the stiction) to keep relieving twists. As the twists are being relieved, the torque keeps dropping till friction stops it. So, all the twists will probably never get relieved.

      All of these technicalities simply means that unless you are retrieving lures that are extremely fast, it wont make much of a difference. Which concludes that traditional swivel works just fine and is also much cheaper as compared to Ball Bearing Swivels. And secondly, do not fish with engineers, they complicate things. :-)

      Understanding Swivel Sizes

      Swivel Size Chart

      The swivel sizes are broken into 2 different scale;

      The first scale is for small swivels. It is called the "size" swivel scale generally for swivels under 20mm in length. The main two things to remember about this "Size" scale are:

      • The number is always preceeded by a # hash character 
      • The higher the number, the smaller the swivel
        For example, a #12 swivel (we pronounce it size 12 swivel) is smaller than a #5 swivel. The swivel size gets bigger as we go down the scale until we reach size #1. 

      After #1, we move on to the second scale called the “aught” measurement system. With the “aught” system, all numbers are followed by “/0”. This time, the higher the number, the bigger the swivel. So a 10/0 swivel (We pronounce it 10 slash zero) is larger than a 6/0 swivel. 

      As a rule of thumb, the size of the swivel should match the strongest line it is attached to. Example, if your leader is 60lb test and your line is 30lb test, then the swivel should be able to withstand 60 pounds of weight. 

      • Surf Fishing
        Typically for surf fishing, sizes between #1 to 2/0 work well in most situations. Afterall shock leaders are typically between 80 and 100 lb test. So swivels rated between #1 and 2/0 are the safe choice for most situations.
      • Rigs
        Usually size #6 swivels that are trapped between beads and crimps to join hooklengths (snoods) to a rig body.

      • Deep Sea, Sharks, Rompin Fishing
        Larger swivels, such as sizes 2/0, 3/0 or larger may be used for rigs used to target large species such as sharks.
      Do note that the larger the swivel, the stronger and heavier it is. Weight can have a big impact on its performance.

        When to Use the Swivels?

        • Topwater Lures
          Example of topwater lures are Walk the dog pencils such as the Rapala Maxrap Walk n Roll, Rapala Skitter V. Walking the dog lures requires a fair bit of turning and twisting. Since it is about making the lure move rhythmically from side to side by repeatedly twitching the rod tip. It works wonderfully well for covering water and drawing fish from a broad area because the lure keeps moving and the steady surface disturbance allows fish to zero in on a target.

          There are also anglers who prefer to use snaps for their topwater lures as some top water lures may also spin by itself, E.g The Bone Hoverjet. Do take note that if you are using such a lure, dont try to compensate the strength of the swivel with a stronger snap E.g 100kg strength snap to withstand the top lure movement. Reason is because, a 100kg strength snap is generally heavier and will cause your topwater lure to sink and perform less efficiently.  

        • When targeting aggressive fish that tend twist, turn & jump. 
          When caught, many fish species become restless and aggressive and twist the line in an attempt to free itself. If you are not using swivels, all the twisting may weaken your line and leads to breakage. 

        • Jigging.
          Reason is because when using a snap, the jig tends to spin around and thus, it twists and tangles your line. 

        Apart from preventing line twisting, round swivels will not randomly open when fighting a bigger fish, making it more durable and reliable than a snap. 

        How to Connect Swivels to Your Lure?

        This is your your top water lure should look like. 
        Swivel and split ring using a Top Water Lure and where to place your leader line and mainlines. 

        Round swivels usually goes together with split rings. The top eyelet of the swivels will be connected to the leader line while bottom eyelet will be connected to the the split ring and lure.

        We use split ring because;

        • It is more durable than tying a knot
        • It is easier to change your lures quickly. 
        • Split ring  enables better natural bait action in the water. 

        3. When & How to Use Snaps


        Snaps have a safety pin-like clip with slight variations. Crosslock snaps, Coastlock snaps or Interlock snaps. Similarly, all of these functions the same, with just the variance in their looks of the snaps that suit different anglers.

        How to Connect Snaps to Your Lures 

        Snaps do not allow the the lure to twist, but instead, act as a stronger connection between the fishing line and lure. They are generally preferred for freshwater fishing, or light fishing in saltwater fishing. Snaps can be matched with most types of lures. In comparison to the previous round swivels, snaps are easier when you want to change lures. Simply unlock in a few seconds and there you go!

        Apart from top water lures, most lures, such as a crankbaits which will not twist on the retrieve. Therefore, using a snaps will be sufficient.


        4. When to Use Link Swivels (Swivel with Snaps) 

        As the name suggests, a snap swivel is a combination of a snap and a swivel. Snap swivels are commonly used when you want the bait to turn.

        Link Swivels

        Not all lures are suitable with snap swivels. Only live baits, such as Tamban, prawns or other small fish, and Rigs, such as the Single Apollo Rig made by SGFR, can be matched with them. When the bait/lure/jig turns, it makes it smooth with the swivel so that the line does not tangle. With the snap in place, it allows you to change rig easily too! 

        The diagram below shows how swivels with snaps connects to a Single Apollo Rig.


        5. Things to take note of while using a Swivels & Snaps.

        Swivels Can Damage Rod Guides.

          While using a swivel, the eyelet of the swivels may go into the rod guide while anglers try to spool their line back, and once it's stuck or it goes directly into the guide, the rod will be damaged. 

          Swivels that are reeled up too far and crash against the guide are a common source of chipped rod guides. All it takes is one hard blow to break the rod tip, and your line will be torn by any sharp edges left behind from the fracture.

          Swivels' ball bearings can affect lure action.

            The ball bearing can be disadvantageous for luring as the fast spinning could affect the action of the lure. 

            Swivels add a point of weakness to the line. 

              When you use a swivel, instead of a line-to-line connection, you are adding in an extra knot. Unless needed, a swivel also adds another component that could fail. Snap swivels are not very strong. If you hook a big fish and it pulls forcefully, your fishing line will most certainly break at the swivel. 

              Replace Your Swivels & Snaps

              Due to the nature of the design and wear and tear, snaps will eventually break. Monitor and replace when the snapping appears weak to prevent the loss of a more expensive lure. We recommend replacing it after every 2 fishing trips. Snaps are not expensive and it is not worth losing your fish or expensive lures because of a faulty snap. 


              Round Swivels

              Topwater fishing (Freshwater),
              Jigging (Saltwater)


              Freshwater Fishing,
              Light Fishing in Saltwater (Tamban Hooks)

              Snap Swivels

              Saltwater Baiting (With Live Bait and Rigs)
              With livebait.


              So there you are ready to go! Last tip, personally I will still have a swivel in my tackle box :). 

              You can find all the different types of
              Swivels, Snaps, Split Rings & Link Swivels here

              How to tie FG Knot & Uni Knot

              Happy Fishing!

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