Fishing with a Twist - A Quick Reference Regarding Swivels

I’m certain very few would argue that we’re creatures of habit. There’s just something about a daily routine that soothes OUR soul and keeps OUR earth on its axis. Whether it’s waking up to read the paper, stopping at Starbucks to grab a coffee of the day or reflecting on your favorite scripture verse, it’s evident that we all have intricacies in our routine that set each of us apart. That said, when a fellow charter captain told me I should consider using a swivel between my main line and leader while fishing my corkies, let’s just say my expression probably resembled that of a dog who just heard a high pitch whistle.

Never in my life have I ever used a swivel until this past winter. To be honest, I saw them once on an old episode of Bill Dance Outdoors, when the Bassmaster himself, was teaching his audience about the advantages of fishing a Carolina rig. Other than that, I’ve probably thought about using a swivel about as much as I’ve considered getting my nails done….never! I remember thinking, “Do big trout enthusiast, like myself, really use them?” In fact, I was always under the impression that people who fished with swivels, weren’t very good fisherman and had little clue when it came to catching fish. So here’s the twist, pun intended, swivels, if used properly can help you catch more fish, but they aren’t always necessary. I’d like to explore, in the next few paragraphs, a once taboo topic in the Bush household and talk about when, how and what kind of swivel you should consider, or if you should even use them at all. However, before we discuss, let me expound on why my mindset was always anti-swivel.

For starters, braided line, while growing up, was still in its infancy as far as development. Spiderwire was the only line company that sold braided line in the late 80’s/early 90’s and since we did fine catching boatloads of trout on 10# test Ande line, switching really never made any sense, and neither did adding a swivel. The second reason was pride in your angling ability. It was almost a rite of passage to tell people, you caught you’re limit of good trout on 8 or 10# test. It was a true mark of an angler, and comparable to a baseball player leading his team in home runs and being the smallest member of the team…a respectable feat. Lastly, and most important, swivels gave away the transparency of your line and compromised your ability to trick a trout into eating something plastic. After all, this is what we hung our hats on and anything that impeded that goal was an obstacle.

However, with the advancement in line and lure technology, I was forced to rethink these age-old obstacles and learn more about their capabilities. It’s almost ironic that something as small as a #12 swivel could possess so much information. That said, I’m not saying we all need to rush out and buy every VMC swivel from your local tackle shop, but hopefully this blog will open your aperture and at least put a few in the boat/wade box.

I have 3 different rod/reel/line/lure/swivel combinations.

  1. No Swivel: You’re probably thinking, “Chris, you just made me read 550 words about swivels and the first point you make is to use “No Swivel?” Yes, understanding when not to use them, is just as important as knowing when to use them. I don’t use a swivel about 85% of the time. For example, I never use a swivel when fishing a jig, topwater or a Slow Sinking hard bait (MirrOdine/Catch 5/Catch 2000). It’s important to know that because if you can get away without fishing with a swivel, I recommend it. It’s one less failure point from your rod to a hooked fish and less failure points means less line/knot compromise, thus equaling more landed fish and less heartbreak. For these rod/reel/line set ups – I use a 6’5” Medium Light CastAway Skeleton Waders special rod paired with a 7.1:1 low profile (Lews SS/Abu Garcia Revo SX/Daiwa Tatula) spooled with 15lb test braid (6lb diameter) spliced to a 6’ 20lb test fluorocarbon leader. The reason I don’t use a swivel with this equipment and lure pairing is because swimbaits and most of the MirrOlure hard baits stay horizontal in the water column and don’t spin when either retrieved or twitched. So my bias is still somewhat present to the fact that if you don’t have to use a swivel…don’t. A bait that swims perfectly straight caught plenty of fish pre-swivel and will do so post-swivel.

However if you do or wish to explore…the next 2 applications will hopefully help.

2.Swivel on your main line: I only use a swivel on my main line when fishing a Corky, either Fatboy or original, or a Paul Brown SoftDine. I’ve found through trial and error that regardless of how I bend my corkies into place, I always find that they always sink or swim slightly off kilter. So to avoid this, and probably more of a confidence thing, a swivel will keep that corky horizontal in the water column, thus presenting my bait as in #1. This set up differs greatly from #1. Instead of a Medium Light rod, I like a 6’6” Medium action with a fast tip. I still use the same reel and line set up except I tie my braid (main line) to one eye of the swivel and a 12” piece of 20’ fluorocarbon to the other side, with a loop knot to the lure. I find this set up gives the lures aforementioned, a great deal of flexibility/range and spontaneity…thus triggering more strikes, and less twisted line and tilted lures.

3.Swivel directly to the lure: This is almost a hybrid of #1 and #2 since I still splice a 6’ piece of fluorocarbon leader to my main line, but instead of the tag end of my flouro going directly to the lure it goes to a swivel on the front end of the lure. I generally use this with my set up from #1, since I only use this with 1 lure. Tidal Surge lures makes a great line of products to include the Crazy Croaker and Maniac Mullets. In addition to these 2 lures, they make them in either a slow-sink (1/8oz sink rate) or a fast sink (1/4oz jig sink rate). Due to the combination of sink rate and profile, I like my swivel to have direct contact with my lure only because I compare it to fishing with a jig. When a big trout inhales that bait, you feel a slight tap, which means less lag in hook response. Less lag equals quicker and more direct hook sets, in-turn equaling more fish. That said, it’s the only time I ever have a swivel on the eye of my bait, and I let conditions dictate the use of my Tidal Surge’s.

So what kind/size swivel? My general rule of thumb is the smaller the betterI usually use either SPRO #10's or AquaTech's clear plastic swivel rated up to ~30lbs for main line attachment. For direct lure connection, I go with the Norton Quick Twist in the smallest size the have (check the factory pound rating).

Finally, as I’m typing this, I find that consistency in lure presentation, despite lure shape/weight/profile is the key to more strikes. Which is ironic, because I was texting a friend today and in one of the responses I said, “Getting bites and getting it done are 2 totally separate endeavors,” and I think swivels can be that lynchpin to success in getting a few more bites while tuning in your lure presentation (whether to use them or not). So I encourage you to step out of your normal fishing routine and open your aperture to what your lure is doing below the water, establish some consistency, and make the determination if swivels can unravel your poor production into greater success.

Spring has sprung…now go get ‘em!

Tight Lines and God Bless!

Chris