Snap swivels are an extremely convenient tool, especially if you are new to fishing and not yet comfortable with various knots. They allow you to try a variety of lures quickly and also minimize line twists. On the other hand, they are one more thing that can fail, and their bulkiness can potentially scare fish or kill your lure’s action. Read on to see why I’d suggest having some in your tackle box, but probably not tied on every rod.
What is a snap swivel?
A snap swivel is a piece of terminal tackle used to connect your fishing line and a lure. It serves two purposes:
1. It allows one to change lures swiftly, without needing to tie a second knot; and
2. It prevents your line from twisting, as is common when using spinning reels.
It does this by combining two pieces of terminal tackle. The snap is a clasp that attaches to the lure. It can be opened and shut, which makes trying a new lure a very easy affair. The swivel prevents ts line from twisting, as it rotates 360 degrees around a fixed point, which is an eye you tie your line to.
Seeing as these do combine two types of terminal tackle, you might wonder if you should just pick one over the other. Usually, I’d agree that’s true. I use a snap on several of my rods, but only have snap swivels tied on my children’s rigs.
Why Use a Snap vs. a Snap Swivel
As mentioned above, I use snaps on several rods but only use the bulkier snap swivel on my kids’ rods. This is because the former gives me almost all of the benefits of the latter with much less weight. The only additional benefit the latter provides is that it minimizes line twists, but this can also be accomplished by properly maintaining your gear. With kids, however, all bets are off.
I use a snap for my crankbaits and even jerk baits. I think that having a little bit of wiggle room up front gives it an action that I prefer, as the bait sits very loose against the snap as opposed to tight against the line. Not for nothing, but Kevin VanDam agrees. He’s the person who convinced me to try it after some forum folk tried to swear me off of snaps.
In the case of a jerk bait, consider this for a moment. These are lures that are twitched as they are retrieved, but are meant to pause frequently. Some jerk baits float, sinker, or stay neutrally buoyant. During that pause, if your jerk bait is loosely attached to a snap, it’s going to have a more natural action than sitting perfectly still.
The Benefits of Snap Swivels
If you followed that link, Kevin VanDam mentioned that he only uses snaps, not snap swivels. I won’t take as hard of a line as him. Snap swivels have their place.
You have to remember, whenever you’re reading up on fishing, most of the people that are going to give you advice are professionals. “Well, isn’t that exactly what you want,” you ask? Not exactly… You see, the good thing about asking professionals is they’ll give you the best advice for a fishing tournament. If money is on the line, and every little thing could mean the difference between cashing a check or going home broke, then it’s worth listening to them, as their advice will give you an edge. However, if you’re just out there with your kids, it’s a different story. Here are several benefits to using snap swivels while fishing.
They Allow You to Change Lures Quickly
Not sure what the fish are going to bite on? If you’re using some sort of snap, you can quickly change lures until you find the one the fish are after. Although you could simply retie over and over again, using a snap will save you money on a fishing line (which is convenient when fishing with an expensive line like a braid).
Given that not all of us have 40 rods that they bring along, the versatility snaps and snap swivels provide in changing lures quickly is well worth it.
They’re One Less Thing That Can Go Wrong (Kind Of).
I say that these are “kind of” one less thing to go wrong, because they come with their own problems, but at least they solve one: line twist. Many problems come up while fishing, especially if you bring the youngsters along. Line twist is a real thing and it exacerbates the many tangles your children are likely to get into. A snap swivel helps cut down on that a bit as the swivel makes the line twist a bit less likely.
They Offer a Bit of Protection from Teeth
Another benefit of snap swivels is that they add just a bit more protection from the teeth of fish like pike. While they are not replacements for a proper leader, the length of the snap swivel is essentially tooth-proof and might help you save a few more lures over the course of a season.
It’s Convenient When Leaders Come With Them
Many leaders out there, such as these fluorocarbon leaders, already come with snaps attached. This is very convenient, as it makes tying your leader a quick affair, and allows you to quickly change lures. If you don’t use a snap with a leader, you’re going to go through a lot of leaders quickly retying, which is a shame considering how expensive they are.
They’re Great for Fishing With Kids
If your kids are anything like mine, they love rooting through tackle boxes and checking out all the lures you have. They want to try a bunch of them and don’t necessarily have the patience to stick with one for any length of time. Using a snap or snap swivel will save you a ton of time retying lures in this situation. It’s 1000 times easier to teach a kid to unclasp a snap than it is to retie a lure. It’s just one more thing that can help make fishing with kids stress-free.
Drawbacks of Snap Swivels
As with all things in life and fishing, there is a balance. We’ve talked about the benefits of snap swivels. Now, let’s spend a little time talking about some concerns people have when using them.
It’s Just One More Thing To Fail
It might seem a bit odd to say this given I just talked about how they’re one less thing that can go wrong in the “benefits” section above, but remember Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” A snap swivel has several points of potential failure. The snap, especially on lighter models, can be very thin and prone to opening or breaking. Each eye on the swivel could also break off. That’s three more things that ol’ Murphy can be right about. It might not be worth it.
It’s One More Thing That Will Catch Weeds
Another downside is that snap swivels are another place that can collect weeds. They have nooks and crannies that vegetation loves to get into, and it can be difficult to get some of the sloppiest stuff out. So in that respect, you could find that the snap swivel has some effect on the lure’s success ratio if too many weeds get on it.
A Snap Swivel Can Affect a Lure’s Action
Many concerned people ask, “will a snap swivel kill a lure’s action?”
The short answer is it depends on the lure, and what its action is in the first place. Generally, a lure that you’re simply retrieving (such as a spinnerbait or crankbait) should see no perceptible decline in action. This is because the extra weight isn’t going to make any difference to a lure that is being reeled back in rapidly.
On the other hand, certain lures, like poppers and other topwater lures, are carefully balanced for a specific action. Adding the weight of a snap swivel to the front of them can affect their balance. The question then becomes, “does it affect it in a bad way?” Always remember that so many of the fishing lures on the market are specifically advertised as having slightly different actions than their competitors, so who is to say that your modification made things worse?
It Might Scare the Fish
Some people claim that snap swivels scare fish. I’m not so certain about this. There’s an awful lot of gear on different fishing rigs that are bulkier and more obtrusive than a small snap swivel, and they still catch fish. Just look at all the stuff folks fishing for lake trout drag behind their boat – their lack of stealth isn’t hurting anything. Likewise, a Carolina rig and drop shots have plenty of accessories hanging about, but they still work great for fishing.
Also, as with so many questions in this post, it’s going to come down to what type of lure you’re attaching to that snap swivel in the first place. Some lures are moving so fast that you’re seeking a reaction strike where the fish doesn’t have time to consider its options. A snap swivel isn’t going to matter when you’re fishing those techniques. Others, however, “soak” in the water for a long time hoping a fish finally decides to eat it after staring at it for a while. I could see snap swivels being a problem with those.
What Size Snap Swivel Should I Use?
Use the smallest snap swivel that you can get away with, based on the type of fish you’re targeting. All of the drawbacks of snap swivels increase with size, and the only real advantage you get is an additional strength. See the photo below. Which one do you think is going to kill a lure’s action and scare more fish? The answer is obvious.
In addition to the risk of killing a lure’s action or scaring fish, having a larger snap swivel also increases the risk that it will hang up on your lure. For example, in the above photo, there’s a chance that the one on the right is large enough to swing down and catch the front treble hook on a crankbait. That would be an annoying situation to deal with, to say the least.
Only use a larger snap swivel in situations where you truly need it, such as when targeting larger saltwater fish. Most freshwater fish (with a few exceptions, like carp or gar) is going to be catchable with smaller gear.
What Lures Work Well With Snap Swivels?
I mentioned above that some lures are going to be affected more than others while using snaps or snap swivels. Let’s spend a little time going over what lures do and don’t work well with snap swivels.
Essentially, I’d recommend snaps or snap swivels for lures you’ll fish horizontally and fast rather than vertically and slow, but let’s look at a few specific options.
Anything You’ll Fish Fast, Below the Water
Spinnerbaits and crankbaits both work great with a snap or snap swivel. You minimize any of the drawbacks of this terminal tackle because you’re usually throwing these in open water and reeling them in fast enough that fish strike instinctively before they can get a good look. Given that, it’s unlikely a snap swivel will scare any fish while attached to a crankbait or spinnerbait.
An exception in my mind would be swim jigs. On the one hand, using a snap swivel on a swim jig would provide at least some protection from pike and pickerel, however, when I’m tossing these, it’s usually because I’m looking to glide through some vegetation better than my spinnerbaits can, and a snap swivel is going to remove that advantage.
Can You Put a Hook on a Snap Swivel?
I would not recommend using a snap swivel with a bare hook. Generally speaking, bare hooks are used with worms or soft plastics that resemble worms or other creatures. They’re a slow presentation and one where fish often size up their meal before they strike. If there’s any credence to the thought that a snap swivel will scare away a fish, it’ll bear out with a slow presentation such as this.
Also, if you’re fishing soft plastics, your hookset needs to be very hard. I wouldn’t trust a snap swivel to hold up to that kind of stress over time, especially if you’re using a smaller one that is less obtrusive.
Can You Use a Snap Swivel on a Topwater Lure?
I wouldn’t recommend using a snap swivel on a topwater lure. This is because they sit on top of the water just so, and if you were to add in any additional weight you would drag the front of the lure down. This could greatly impact its action. For example, walkers like a Zara Spook might plow into the water instead of gliding past it. Likewise, a popper like the Rebel Pop-R could find its nose brought into the water, limiting its “popping” action.
Conclusion: When Should You Use a Snap Swivel?
As with many of the recommendations that I make on this site, I tend to go a little against the grain. Most folks out there would tell you to steer clear of snap swivels, and with good reason. With that said, this website aims at teaching parents how to go fishing with their children. I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend having some snap swivels in your tackle box. The benefits they provide make the drawbacks manageable.
While I wouldn’t recommend using one if money was on the line in a tournament, or if you were fishing a heavily pressured lake with discerning fish, you shouldn’t hesitate to tie on one if you’re out at the local pond with your kids, or even if you’re just fishing for fun.
If you decide to go with a snap swivel, get the smallest ones you can that still have decent strength. Then, tie them on your little ones’ rods and let your kids have fun mixing and matching lures until they find one they like.