Do Swivels Scare Fish Away? Find Out Here!

I have always had access to the ocean, lakes, and estuaries to fish throughout my life. As part of a ‘fishing family,’ birthdays and Christmas gifts often included a supply of hooks, sometimes lures, and almost always a variety of swivels. These mostly ended up in the fishing box, where many of them can probably still be found today. Swivels in my youth were only used in the sea or for bass fishing, and we never seemed to need them. Most likely, it was because the gifted swivels were often so big that you needed a 14 ft cast master rod and 49A Penn reel to cast them out into the surf.  

Using the incorrect size swivel or snap-swivel with a lure or bait can scare fish away. Swivels should never be used with live bait but can be used with fast retrieve lures if the swivel can’t be seen. The additional weight of a swivel compromises the action of some lures.

Of course, there’s no way of asking fish if they can see swivels. So when the fishing is slow, I often wonder if the swivel I’m using isn’t scaring the fish away. Let’s explore some facts and answer the question.

Can Fish Notice The Swivel If Attached Directly To Your Bait?

When presenting a bait to a fish, the bait must represent something natural-looking, edible, and appealing. Fish will not be fooled if you attach a big snap swivel directly to a hook and then attaching the bait. The baited hook won’t look natural, and your next ‘big one’ is likely to be suspicious and swim by.  

When using artificial lures, fast retrieved lures such as crankbaits and spinners are least affected by the use of swivels attached directly to the lure. Of course, the swivel should be appropriately sized so that the lure itself doesn’t get entangled in the swivel while casting or retrieving the lure. The smaller the swivel, the better.

Swivels Can Give A Unnatural Action To The Bait

Ideally, your bait, whether artificial, alive, or dead, should be presented in a natural-looking form. If using a finely tuned artificial lure, these are designed for use without a swivel, unless it’s a spinner type lure.

Attaching a snap swivel to, for example, a Rapala-type lure, popper, or plastics in the case of bass fishing would negatively influence the lure’s action. The reason for this is because a swivel would add weight close to the lure.

Swivels Can Give A Unnatural Presentation

Some fish species are pickier than others. The less picky and aggressive fish will care less about presentation.

If the snap swivel attached directly to your hook is small and you attach the bait so that you hide the swivel, you’ll get away with using it. Keep in mind though the smaller the swivel, the weaker it is when targeting large fish species.

Attach a large snap swivel to the hook, and the bait will plummet to the bottom of the waterway and be most likely covered by vegetation, dust, or grit before the fish can locate the bait. Fish “tasting” the swivel may also be deterred from taking the bait, which can be avoided by attaching your line directly to the hook.

A general rule of thumb with artificial lures is that the bigger the lure, the less it will be affected by a snap swivel.

When Should You Use A Swivel?

Different swivels have different uses. The two most common types of swivels are barrel swivels,  which include ball bearing swivels, and snap swivels.

Swivels, preferably a ball bearing swivel, should be used when you’re fishing with a spinning reel. These reels are prone to twisting the line. Additionally, swivels should always be used with spinnerbaits, which often tend to twist the line.  

Tips On How To Reduce Your Swivels From Being Noticed By Fish

If you need to use a swivel to reduce the chances of line twist, it is best to attach the swivel at least ten inches or further up the mainline. Doing this will keep it well away from the bait itself so that the fish will focus only on the bait or lure and won’t be tempted to investigate the swivel itself.

Attaching the swivel further up the leader will still allow the swivel to function as intended. Therefore, it won’t interfere with the lure’s action or negatively affect the presentation of dead or live bait.

If using a snap swivel, you can also hide the swivel by covering it with bait.

If you’re looking for some general guidelines on how long your leader line should be then check out this post.

When Should You Not Use a Swivel?

Swivels such as snap swivels attached directly to the hook or artificial lure should not be used when the fish have time to examine the bait and when targeting non-predatory fish species. The type of artificial lure being used also dictates the use of a swivel or not. The weight and resistance caused by the swivel can negatively affect the action of some lures, such as light plastic baits, small delicate Rapala-type lures, and floating poppers, to mention a few.

Species such as barracuda, pike, marlin, sailfish, bass are generally targeted using artificial lures that are fast-moving and create noise and lots of movement. In such instances, the use of a swivel, even relatively large ones, will not affect the effectiveness or action of the lure.


Do swivels scare fish away? They can, for sure. Undoubtedly some timid fish species would be scared away by the slightest movement on the river bank. A combination of factors affects the odds of a fish being scared off by using a swivel. Presentation and quality of the bait itself, along with the type of swivel being used, will improve the odds of catching a fish.

Ideally, it is best not to use a swivel. However, it is sometimes unavoidable, either for convenience or to reduce line twist resulting from your reel or lure choice. Keep the swivels as small as possible to reduce the visibility, weight, and resistance caused by the swivel, bearing in mind the strength rating of the swivel. Keep in mind that some lures don’t do well when attached to swivels.

Happy Fishing & Tight Lines

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