This Is The Only Time To Use A Swivel For Inshore Fishing

By: Luke Simonds on August 22, 2017
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fishing swivels

Allow me to introduce you to one of the most misused and misunderstood saltwater fishing tactics known to man…

The Swivel!

We have received numerous questions from our readers (and the Salt Strong Insider Club) regarding the use of swivels on fishing leaders while inshore fishing.

And after hearing so many different questions (and some horrible advice that accompanied in some of the comments), we knew we had to make this blog to clear up when (and when not) to use a swivel.

Here’s a short list of the most common questions about fishing swivels:

  1. Should I use a swivel?
  2. If so, where should I place the swivel on the leader assembly?
  3. If I use a swivel, what knots should I use to tie a swivel to a leader?

So this post will address these 3 questions in hopes that it helps others become more aware of the pros and cons of swivels along with how to most effectively rig them when they’re used.

Note: If you have any tips you’d like to share about using swivels, then please use the Comments section at the bottom of this post so others can learn from you.

Want to catch more inshore fish and be part of a tight-knit fishing club that guarantees your success?

Then check out the Salt Strong Insider Fishing Club here.

Should You Ever Use A Swivel For Inshore Fishing?

when to use a swivel fishing

Many anglers have asked about using swivels, and the true answer is that it all depends on what type of fishing you’re doing and what sort of bait or lures you’re using.

From my experience (lots of inshore fishing and a fair amount of offshore fishing), I’ve found the best results going without swivels in most situations.

But there are certainly some instances where I believe swivels are necessary, so I absolutely always have at least one swivel in my tackle box at all times.

Since swivels should only be used in specific situations, we’ll cover those first before diving into the reasons why I believe swivels should be avoided in most cases further down in this post.

Why It’s Better To NOT Use Swivels (In Most Cases)

no swivels

There are multiple benefits to NOT using swivels when it comes to inshore fishing.

Here are the top 3 reasons not to use swivels while inshore fishing (in my opinion).

1. Swivels put the more fragile main line at risk of getting weakened

Although the weight of most swivels is minimal, even the smallest amount of weight can cause the main line to drop lower than it would with a line to line knot which increases the odds of the lighter main line rubbing up against sharp objects on the bottom.

And when fishing shallow oyster bars with long casts, even the slightest dip of the line below the surface can cause the main line to rub up against the very sharp oyster shells which will create weak points in the line that often aren’t known until it’s too late and the biggest fish of the day got off from a broken line.

2. Swivels can damage rod guides

I remember the first time I noticed my brand new line looking like it was getting shredded by some sort of underwater structure.

But I was fishing grass flats so there really wasn’t anything out there that could do the damage that I was seeing…

So I started looking at my rod guides and noticed a slight fracture in the top one which was created a sharp edge inside the guide.

And as my line was getting retrieved, it was getting pulled directly over that sharp edge which was shredding my line.

After asking around trying to learn how that type of fracture was possible, I realized that a common cause of chipped rod guides is from swivels that get reeled up too far and slam up into the guide.

All it takes is one forceful blow, and the rod tip will need to be replaced or else your line will get shredded by any sharp edges from the fracture.

Not fun!

3. Time – It takes longer to tie two knots for the swivel than one line-to-line knot

This one is minimal and of course dependent on how comfortable you are with line to line knots compared to line to swivel knots, but it’s still a factor.

And sometimes every second counts when the fish are feeding.

If you are using a swivel because you can’t tie a line-to-line fishing knot, here is my advice…

LEARN how to tie a solid line-to-line knot (like the FG knot).

However, if you are in a situation when a swivel really is the best solution, here are the answers to the other two most popular questions we get about saltwater fishing swivels.

When It’s OK To Use A Swivel

fishing swivel

The core benefit of a swivel is to prevent your line from twisting, so situations in which line twists are a risk is when swivels should be used.

Note: Line twists are bad for anglers because twists can weaken the line and they also can cause the line to get itself into knots when casting (ex: those pesky wind knots).

The only situations when I use swivels are:

  1. When using a casting lure that is prone to twist during the retrieve (ex: weedless spoon)
  2. When trolling live/dead baits that are likely to twist (ex: trolling ballyhoo while offshore fishing)
  3. When soaking live/dead baits in areas with current

And when using lures/baits that have a low risk of causing line twists (which is almost always for most inshore anglers), I’ll simply use my line to line knots to make the connection… explained below.

Where Should You Place The Swivel?

In the rare instances when you would use a swivel for inshore fishing, here is my advice.

The ideal place to have a swivel (if you’re going to use one) is at the top of the leader… away from your lure/hook.

This allows for the swivel to be on the line to absorb line twists from the bait without being an unsightly bulk right next to the bait that can cause more fish to get spooked.

Swivel on leader

Note: If you’re inshore fishing, then I highly recommend reading a post about tying leaders that I did specifically for inshore anglers (click here).

What Knots To Use For A Swivel?

Before hosting many knot tests over the past year and half since launching Salt Strong, I used to just use whichever knot a trusted friend or family member taught me while growing up.

Because I thought that as long as my knots aren’t unraveling, then they are the top choice.

But I no longer feel that way after seeing firsthand how significant one knot’s breaking point can be compared to another knot the didn’t slip either (sometimes one is over 30% better than another).

So I now always recommend for everyone to make time to test out knots with whichever line you line to use to make sure that you’re maximizing your overall line strength.

Here are links to some of my knot contests which show exactly how to tie the top knots for each type of connection in case you’d like to see the results from my testing:

Line-to-Line Knot Contests

Line to Hook/Lure/Swivel Contests

Conclusion

when to use a swivel for a knot

There are many applications for swivels in saltwater fishing, but when it comes to inshore fishing I’ve been finding the best results WITHOUT them (except when using lures that are prone to twisting line or offshore fishing when you have a bait that is twisting).

Although a swivel certainly can’t prevent all twists from moving up into the main line, they certainly can help prevent some twisting.

And if you have a different fishing application where swivels can be helpful, then I’d certainly love to hear about it…

Just use the comments section below so others can benefit from your knowledge too.

Fish On!

Related Posts:

Want to catch more inshore fish and be part of a tight-knit fishing club that guarantees your success?

Then check out the Salt Strong Insider Fishing Club here.

P.S. – If you think your angler friends or fishing networks would like to see this, please Tag them or Share this with them. It would mean a lot to me.

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Phillip C. Munson
Phillip C. Munson
1 month ago

If I want to cast large live shiners….can I place my hook directly onto a steel leader….

Julia Clare. RN
Julia Clare. RN
2 months ago

I can see the fishes. They pick off my lure (sardine) they just don’t bit the hook. Help.

Aaron Clements
Aaron Clements
10 months ago

What about when bottom fishing and you must use a weight (Carolina Rig) with the weight above the swibrl? Especially in heavy current. If I don’t use a swivel, the weight can damage the knot or slip over the not in my experience. If there is way to do this without a swivel I would be very interested. Let me know.

Greg
10 months ago

I always have, and always will use a swivel. Almost all of my fishing is surf fishing in the Outer Banks and I have never had a problem with swivels. There were a few times that I wasn’t paying attention and reeled in too much line causing the swivel to hit the top eye but fortunately, I never had any damage.

Chris
Chris
2 years ago

Never had any issues with swivels in your con list. It’s a rather short list and the list for for pro swivels way out weigh the cons IMO

Hominid
Hominid
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris

Exactly right, Chris – their “reasons” not to use a swivel are total baloney.

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris

I’ve been using swivels for 20+years, in my braid to short leader connections. The benefits out weight the issues using Pro or VMC 38-50# swivels.

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 years ago

Time to fish the bay again, I have always used a swivel between my main line and leaders. I find it to keep my lines untangled; I like tri swivels for high low rigs with a soft floating bait. enable me to adjust the depth of my bait.. Works for me

Jeff James
Jeff James
2 years ago

Thanks for your information. I use two swilvils one at the top and one at the bottom for the sinker. This is a double drop loop rig. It seems to keep the leader from tangles. I have a pontoon v bow boat and have not mastered the artficial baits. When the other people on the boat are catching fish on the bottom, I have to fall back t on the double dropper rig.

Pat B
Pat B
2 years ago

I fish cut bait from shore in fairly strong current. Usually using 6 or 8 oz weights. Some days 12oz will not hold bottom. My main line is 80 lb 8 strand braid. I stitch a loop splice in the braid then attach a ball bearing swivel using a cats paw (offshore swivel knot) with 5 to 8 turns. I then attach a mono bait rig to the swivel. If I have to break off and retie a new swivel, stitching a loop in the braid on the beach is not practical so I tye a loop using a spider hitch. This is temporary until I can get home and put a splice in. I like braid but could not find a knot that would not slip. I used to use a 12 turn Uni knot. One day I noticed that it was only a 4 turn Uni. That knot was slipping also. Someone suggested splicing a loop. Since then I have not had any “mystery breakoffs” during the cast or when a big fish was fighting.

pwburak@gmai
pwburak@gmai
2 years ago
Reply to  Luke Simonds

So….. here is my journey with fishing knots.
I discovered the Uni knot about 20 years ago. It has served me well with mono. I use a 6 turn Uni with mono up to 25lb. I use a 5 turn with mono up to 50lb and a 4 turn with mono up to 80lb. I haven’t used mono above the weight. I can say this knot in mono has not faailed me. I started playing with braid about 15 years ago. I used a 12 turn Uni in the braid and I had no problem with this knot. My salt water shore fishing setup was an 8 ft med/heavy rod with 40lb braid using a 12 turn Uni to a swivel then a mono bait rig with a 4oz weight. This served me well for years. Then I got a 12ft rod and upped the casting weight to 6oz and bait. I started to get breakoffs while casting or during a fight with a big fish. I did some searching on the internet and came across the term “mystery breakoff”. I upped the braid to 50lb then to 80lb. I still was having mystery breaks. Then one day on the beach just before a cast I glanced at the swivel and saw that the Uni knot was about a 1/4 of the size it should have been. I had a good look at it and it was a perfect Uni but only had about 4 wraps. I retied it, cast out and mulled over what I saw. I thought that upping the lead weight and the centrifugal force of the longer rod was pulling on the knot to the point it was slipping and when it finally let go I called it a mystery break. I was talking with a friend about it. The knot tests I’ve seen slowly inrease pressure and record breaking strenght. I haven’t seen any test testing knots under shock. Shock of casting or shock of fish hitting the bait. He suggested a loop splice. I did a search “fishing braid stitch loop splice”. A South Africa fishing forum came up showing how to do this. I stitched a loop in the braid two years ago and it has not slipped or failed. Two years on one knot is a long time. I also stitched a loop in my son’s braid and his knot lasted 22 months. He was badly hung up and had to break his line. I put a 15 turn spider hitch in the braid and have been watching that knot to see if it’s slipping. So far…nope. Spider hitch is earier to do that stitching a splice…. still watching it.
And to finally answer your question…the twelve turns are inside the loop. I had no problems with the Uni in mono and not in braid until I went to a longer rod and heavier weight thus my impression that the knot slipps under stress in braid.
Sorry for the long story but this is the background to my belief that the knot slips in braid.
………….. Pat B

Pat B
Pat B
2 years ago
Reply to  Luke Simonds

Third time a charm…….
I went fishing yesterday and noticed something that I have to zdd as a P.S. When I fish from a saltwater beach I usually use a power cast similar to one called a “off the beach cast ‘. My son uses one called the “pendulum cast “. The majority of people where I fish just lob their bait into the water. Powercasts put more force to the end of the line as you know. Just another piece of the puzzle I forgot to add…….

Steven Free
2 years ago

I only use swivels on things like you said Luke spoons and maybe inline spinners but that’s about it but if I do use them I like to put the
swivel on the spoon itself I mount one on every spoon and inline spinner I have that way they are always there and I don’t have to go look for one I also like to use a speed clip on all my hard baits instead of tieing directly to the lure itself with a loop knot the speed clip is very strong and I have never lost a fish using one and the loss was a direct result of the clip failing

Hominid
Hominid
1 year ago
Reply to  Steven Free

Excellent.

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 years ago

I use a swivel under a egg clip on cork . It stops the cork from moving down . I rig it braided line to leader. 20lb mono leader to 2 to 3 ft leader and hook. Clip on cork on top of leader ,and two wraps of braided around top pin of cork and clamp. Perfect for live bait and I catch hundreds of trout using this rig every year.

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 years ago

I use swivels with a popping cork and a live bait

Jason
Jason
2 years ago

I tend to use a latch swivel when I am fishing with a popping cork set up. The swivel appears to allow the popping cork to float around a bit more freely without tangling with my main braided line. Of course, I always tie a fluorocarbon leader on the bottom end of the popping cork. I also like to use the latch swivels due to my being able to change out popping cork rigs, i.e. from one with a jig head on it (maybe using a gulp shrimp on this one), to one with a circle hook on it for cut or live bait. Anyone else use this similar type of set up with any luck?

Mark
Mark
2 years ago

How should you determine what size swivel to use?

Hominid
Hominid
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark

Smallest size and test you can get away with.

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark

Most people over think the size of a swivel. 38-50 VMC or Pro swivel are small enough and strong enough for most in shore or near shore fishing applications.

Cary Perkins
Cary Perkins
2 years ago

I agree it’s better to use a knot. I am in St Maarten inshore fishing for Tarpon with bass tackle and seem unable to tie a sufficient knot. Problem may be the 50 pound mono is too heavy and stiff for me to adequately cinch the knot. Would buy better line but no one here carries fishing stuff. Arthritic hands don’t help. Tried the FG knot as a last resort from your excellent video and it was unraveling from the half hitches. So…I resorted to a swivel with Palomar knots. Landed a 43 inche one last night. But I agree a knot would be better if I can tie one.

Cary perkins
Cary perkins
2 years ago
Reply to  Cary Perkins

This is the sequel to the post above from St. Maarten. Lost two Tarpon last night that each pushed 4 feet. The 20 pound main braid snapped during jumps. Swivel and leader held fine. Then I discovered frayed spots in my line. No, not from swivel damaging the end guide, but from throwing big knots in line leader connection having broken the guide next to the end. I just noticed in another of Luke’s posts that he doesn’t reel the knot past the end guide because damages the knot. That could be part of why my knots don’t hold. Tried an FG knot this morning before I read this and it unraveled like the rest. So… new, heavier braid tonight and a new rod. Am hopeful for a good evening.

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 years ago
Reply to  Cary Perkins

Try an Albright if you aren’t tying light mono to heavy mono or fluorocarbon.

Anonymous
Anonymous
9 months ago
Reply to  Cary Perkins

You have to do “rizutto” finish or FG unravels on me too.

Ron Mahoney
2 years ago

That FG knot is amazing to see, sure you have shown its many benefits, and the video to tie is simple to understand and execute—except that my fingers are arthritic and such finesse is very difficult for me…I can tie the FG in the comfort of my home with a LOT of patience, and re-starts when I drop the line or knot before it is completed. But, because of this difficulty, oput on the boat I think I may use barrel swivels for mainline to leader. The loop knot is altogether a different creature, easy even for “Mr. Fumblefingers” to tie, and a real benefit for leader to lure, jig or often hook! Now, maybe I just need to take more young people fishing and teach THEM the FG knot, but ya know, they usually have school or work to attend to!

Ron Mahoney
2 years ago
Reply to  Luke Simonds

Great advice (as always !) Luke. Very easy for these difficult fingers to tie the surgeon’s knot, and simple to remember! If I had the agility in my fingers, the FG knot is simple too but takes much more precision and tight hold on the line. I use the Palomar for terminal ties on 50# + braid, but haven’t been comfortable with it on light braid. Followed your advice on that too and learned the UNI knot, very easy too for me and with the tests you did, I’m confident in it. Will try all these knots on the water this weekend ~~~~ Thanks!

Hominid
Hominid
1 year ago
Reply to  Luke Simonds

Way better knot and there are others — the FG knot is baloney.

Hominid
Hominid
1 year ago
Reply to  Ron Mahoney

The FG knot is nonsense.

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago
Reply to  Ron Mahoney

The FG knot is not practical to use in lines under 20#, in my opinion. Go with the smallest swivel possible, to get the job done. The benefits do out weight the issues.

Andy Williams
2 years ago

I had a time when I was using braid & the line kept getting cut every time I pulled the line out of the rod tip to tie on the leader. I thought the braid was bad until I finally found the rod tip eye was chipped and acted like a razor blade.
Just thought I would share that.

Brittany J Serafin
3 years ago

I frequently use swivels when doing a lot of surf fishing. Sometimes it can be tough to get baits out against the wind and by adding a small egg sinker weight behind the swivel connecting to the leader I am able to cast shrimp bait out with ease. With this set up, the egg sinker also settles on the bottom allowing the bait to stay put and the live bait can float freely with a given amount of leader.

Andy Thatcher
Andy Thatcher
3 years ago
Reply to  Luke Simonds

Dropper rigs are well and good when fishing for smaller “table” fish however if the line should break above the dropper you condemn the fish to dragging around the weight. For larger fish that are more likely to find any weakness in your set up I would suggest a swivel and sliding weight solution….just my two pennies worth.

James Wilkinson
3 years ago

I’ve never fished saltwater flats but was wondering if swivels would help keep grass off the hook/baits. I would use small swivels fishing in MI to help keep the soft vegetation off hooks and baits. Does that not happen with vegetation in FL?. What about using a swivel to keep egg sinkers from sliding down to the hook. Do people use egg sinkers when saltwater fishing for any type of fish?.

Gary Rankel
4 years ago

Hey, Luke….I fish the inshore area north of Tampa using light rigs with 10lb braid / 20lb leader, connecting them with a knot. To facilitate changing lures / colors, I use the No Knot Fas-Snap (extra large size) to avoid re-tying. This product is made for changing flies on fly rods, but the extra large size (which is no bigger than the tiny split rings that come with many new lures) works great, and serves the same purpose as tying a loop knot. The lures snap on and off easily, and I’ve not had one lure come off in over 10 years of fishing.

Mark Denison
4 years ago

Hey Luke I do a different type of fishing than most of you (Roosterfish inshore) and I Use a swivel from my 40 lb braid to my 80 lb tippet. I use a two once minnow pattern or a Roberts Ranger most often. I fish from a panga to the back of the waves or from the beach. The action is top water and fast. The swivel works well. Here is my video. I often try to adapt other types of fishing techniques to whatever I am fishing for. Have you tested the Bimini twist?. Thanks https://youtu.be/Jdpe48iWwEI

Chuck Eaton
4 years ago

I second Cuck Rose—and—here in Jersey inshore and particularly offshore always use a ball bearing (sampo) swivel–even flat lining–the barrel swivels don’t operate as well as the ball bearing. One can purchase hooks with welded “sampo” swivels attached to the hook…last year I caught Longfin(40-70*) tuna with hook/split ring/swivel knotted to end of wind on leader…(90% of the guys use the “palomar” or “improved clinch” knots for line/leader/hook connection. Try drifting whole or chunk baits without swivel and you end up changing a lot of mono. On the West Coast, it’s a whole different ball game…

Chuck Rose
4 years ago

You guys know I pier/dock/bank fish a lot of chunk mullet on the bottom up here in SC, where we have almost 10′ tidal swings…and when the tide is running even a little, your bait invariably starts to “propeller”…so you better have a swivel on or you will retrieve a twisted mess of leader/line/bait/hook.

I place it in the same location as you show it, with a sliding sinker (pyramid or egg) above the swivel, and a glass or plastic bead above that to protect my guides.

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 years ago
Reply to  Chuck Rose

I use the same rig concept for flounder and I do find the bead above the swivel helpful to protect the knot from being damaged by the banging of the weight.