While a twisted line cannot be completely eradicated by a swivel—even when used in conjunction with an anti-kink weight or vane—it may save you the catch of a lifetime.

One of the most useful, but most neglected accessories for the angler is the swivel. It is primarily used to prevent fishing line from becoming twisted, and whether the angler employs any of the various forms of spinning, or merely retrieves a dead-bait, the turning action of the bait spiralling through the water will be transferred to the line. If monofila-ment is allowed to twist, it begins to kink, and at best becomes a tangled mess—at worst the line weakens so badly that it will most likely break at the first strain.

The only preventative is the use of one or more efficient swivels mounted between the line and lure, working in conjunction with an anti-kink weight or vane. Such devices are attached to the reel line by means of a bloodknot or grinner knot. But efficiency is difficult to achieve in a swivel. Early traces had two, three or more swivels, operating on the principle that the more that were added, the better the chance of at least one working. Those early mechanisms were in the form of an open, oblong box with eyes mounted through each end. A little corrosion or rust plus an ac-cumulation of grit and mud quickly impaired their efficiency.

Different types of swivel

Today, the angler has the choice of several types of swivel, all working on the same basic principle but with varying refinements. The plain barrel swivel is the most popular and probably the tackle dealer’s best seller especially since many anglers simply ask for ‘a swivel’ and leave the choice to the assistant. Its con-struction is simple, with two eyes (through which trace and line are mounted) allowed to revolve in- dependently on their separate beads of metal carefully shaped to fit the inside of the barrel. The free rotation of the eyes depends on tolerances left when the thin metal is compressed during machining; nine times out of ten, the tolerances are adequate and the swivel revolves freely. The tenth case is where trouble sets in, and before leaving the shop it is worth checking each swivel that is purchased, and again before fishing.

An improvement on the plain bar-rel is the American Berkley swivel. It differs only in that a good grade of metal is used and the eyes are flattened sightly at the terminal ends to ensure that trace and line stay in place, free from a natural tendency to pull to either side when an un-equal strain is applied. An improve-ment in efficiency which costs little more, is the Hardy ball-bearing swivel. Again, there is the barrel type of construction but with exac-ting tolerances and incorporating small ball-races that ensure that the eyed pieces revolve freely.

One swivel remains in this cate-gory—the Diamond swivel, in which the loops are not round but diamond-shaped and are fastened by means of an expanded link. Usually manufactured from fine steel, they appear rather flimsy, but in fact are equal in strength to other types. They are considerably lighter and rarely jam.

Swivels for freshwater fishing are usually made of brass or blued steel, and if you have any choice it is better to purchase the steel ones because they are harder and last longer before wearing out. Brass, a much softer metal, suffers from wear and tear quite quickly. Neither brass nor ordinary steel are used in sea swivels as salt water is par-ticularly corrosive to these metals, and stainless steel is now more commonly used.

Sea water is very abrasive too, because of the particles of sand suspended in it, so the rather open construction of a barrel swivel will allow sand to enter and cause damage to the moving parts. This is not very important if the swivels are bought cheaply and thrown away after use, as is often the case with sea anglers who fish for the smaller, weaker species around our coastline, so that it is not too serious if a swivel jams.

Matters can be very different if you are fishing for big conger eels, skate, or shark. And the angler who is lucky enough to fish for such hard-fighting, powerful species as marlin, or broadbill swordfish, or the very biggest sharks, should never use anything but the very best tackle, —including swivels which are engineering marvels.

These swivels are made of stainless steel or a really hard alloy not affected by sea water. All moving parts are machined to very fine tolerances, so that it is almost impossible for abrasive particles to enter and will probably be grease-filled as a further protection. Miniature ball-races can be built in to ensure the smoothest possible rotation by minimizing friction, and modern developments have produced swivels which are far in advance of the simple barrel-type device.