Swivels are small devices that consist of two metal circles connected by a ball or barrel shaped pivoting joint. Swivels are used extensively in sea fishing and have two main roles. Firstly, they are used to attach two lengths of fishing line together, such as attaching a rig to a leader or to provide the point where a hooklength joins a rig body – this is often done by trapping a swivel between two beads and crimps, as seen here. Secondly, they are used to eliminate line twist. As the two eyes of a swivel can spin and twist independently of each other this reduces the risk of line becoming twisted, as line which becomes too twisted will become weakened and eventually snap. All good fishing rigs will incorporate a number of swivels, and anglers making their own rigs will soon find that swivels are one of the most commonly used items of terminal tackle in UK sea fishing.
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Just like hooks swivels have sizes as shown on the chart below:
Anglers will usually have a range of differently sized swivels in their terminal tackle collection to choose from when they are making rigs. Typically the largest swivels used by UK anglers in general shore fishing will be a size 1 or 1/0 for the top of rigs, and it is usually size 6 swivels which are trapped between beads and crimps to join hooklengths (snoods) to a rig body. However, anglers may have uses for other size swivels as well. Larger swivels, such as sizes 2/0, 3/0 or larger may be used for rigs used to target large species such as sharks or conger eels, and very small size 8 or 10 swivels may be used when fishing for mini species or taking part in LRF (Light Rock Fishing). It stands to reason that the larger a swivel is the stronger it is. However, the type and design of a swivel can have a significant impact on how strong the swivel is.
Types of Swivels and Swivel Strength
There are a range of different types of swivels on the market with the three most common being barrel swivels, rolling swivels and crane swivels.
Barrel Swivels: Barrel swivels were the first type of swivel to appear on the market. When they are manufactured the wire is twisted into a circle to form the eye. one end of the wire then goes into the central section of the swivel, and the other end is twisted around itself. They are large, robust swivels which have now been superseded by both rolling and crane swivels which offer greater strength despite being significantly smaller. Despite this barrel swivels are still widely available in both tackle shops and online fishing tackle retailers with some anglers preferring the large bulky no-nonsense nature of this type of swivel, and the fact that they are less fiddly and significantly cheaper than other designs of swivel. Although the exact strength of barrel swivels varies considerably from manufacturer to manufacturer a size 1/0 barrel swivel should have a breaking strain somewhere around 100lbs, and a size 6 somewhere around 40 – 50lbs. Sea Angling Shop sell barrel swivels in a range of sizes which can be viewed by clicking here.
This type of swivel has a cylindrical central section, and a closer look at this design of swivel will reveal that both ends of the wire which form the eye go into the central section of the swivel. This produces a swivel which is both stronger and smaller than a barrel swivel, although they are more expensive to manufacture. The design of rolling swivels means that they also perform better then barrel swivels when under load, with the swivels still able to spin and reduce line twist when placed under considerable pressure. Rolling swivels are usually available in black or nickel plated (silver). A size 1/0 rolling swivel will have a breaking strain of around 120lbs, and a size 6 in excess of 60lbs. Sea Angling Shop sell high quality Black Nickel Rolling Swivels in packets of twenty, with prices starting at just 79p. Click here to view and purchase.
Crane Swivels: Crane swivels are have a rounded central section and like rolling swivels both ends of the wire which makes the eye goes into the central housing. Crane swivels are machined to be the strongest and smoothest type of swivel, although this also makes them the most expensive. They are usually available either black or nickel. The strength, reliability and smooth performance under pressure mean that this type of swivel is used by anglers who need the maximum performance from the swivels they are using. A good quality size 1/0 crane swivel can have a breaking strain of 200lbs, and a size 6 can have a breaking strain of over 100lbs.
Other Designs of Swivel
Ball Bearing Swivels: These swivels are designed so that the eyes are separate circles which do not go into the central section of the swivel, meaning that these type of swivels are massively strong. They are also very expensive and with rolling and crane swivels being more than sufficient for UK sea fishing ball bearing swivels are not widely used by sea anglers in the British Isles.
Three Way Swivels: This is one of the most popular other types of swivel. They usually come in barrel swivel design and take the form of a normal barrel swivel with an additional eye added through the central section allowing anglers to add a third line to the swivel. Three way swivels are commonly used in lure fishing and live baiting, although they can also be used in some shore rigs. View three way swivels at Sea Angling Shop here.
Cascade Swivels: A special type of swivel which incorporates a bait clip. It is designed so that in multiple hook rigs each hook can be clipped down on its own bait clip. The top snood clips to the swivel below which in turn clips to the swivel below that (they ‘cascade’ down, hence the name). The final snood clips to a conventional bait clip or impact shield. The are most commonly used to make three hook rigs when fishing over clean, sandy ground for flatfish species. While the concept of the cascade swivel sounds slightly complicated it is in fact fairly simple, and very effective. Cronus Cascade Swivels – only £1.89 for a packet of ten – can be viewed and purchased by clicking here.
Link Swivels: This is a generic term for any swivel which has a connector attached to it. There is a huge range of link swivels available on the market such as American snaps (barrel swivels with a snap connected), crane interlock swivels (crane swivels with a strong lock link attached), snapclips (rolling swivels with a simple metal clip attached) and a massive range of other similar devices. Link swivels are popular with anglers who are lure fishing as they allow spinners to be changed quickly and easily, although some anglers use them to quickly change between rigs when bait fishing. Sea Angling Shop sell Trace Builder Crane Interlock Swivels, which are ideal for anglers looking for a strong and reliable link swivel.
Round Eye or Diamond Eye?
Rolling and crane swivels are available in either round eye or diamond eye designs. There is not a huge amount of difference in the performance of these swivels, and it is simply down to an angler’s personal preference. Swivels are available which have one round eye and one diamond eye. These swivels are designed to be used for hooklengths, with the round eye being attached to the main body of the rig and the diamond eye having the hooklength attached.
Swivels and Safety
Anglers should always ensure that they use swivels of sufficient strength in the rigs they are making. Any swivel used in the main body of a rig should have a breaking strain which is at lease the same as the leader line (this is not difficult as a size 1 or 1/0 crane or rolling swivel from all good manufacturers will have a breaking strain of over 100lbs).