Snap (Swivel) Decisions by Capt. Mike Schoonveld

Snap (Swivel) Decisions by Capt. Mike Schoonveld


Multiple choice question: Snap swivels are:

A) Important

B) Not important

C) Useful

D) Inexpensive

E) All of the above

If you answered all of the above, you guessed the answer I would choose, but there are other answers about these remarkable little products I could have listed and still chose “all of the above.”

snap swivel fishing duo lock

L – R, Duo Lock, Interlock, Cross Lock and Coast Lock.

I could have added: “colorful” “strong,” “expensive” or a variety of other possible answers to the question. The correct choice would still be all of the above.

It’s surprising how much time many anglers will spend prowling the aisles of tackle stores or surfing fishing gear websites trying to decide if one kind of fishing line is better than the next or if a green/glow spoon will outproduce a glow/green spoon. Then, when it comes to purchasing snap swivels, they often grab the first package they come to so they can get to pondering whether to purchase an 8'6" rod or an 8'8" model. Those two inches can make all the difference, right?

So can the choice of snap swivel you tie to the end of your line—or even if you should tie a snap swivel to the end of your line—make much difference? Let’s delve into the world of these tiny terminal tackle tools we all have on our lines or in our gear boxes.

First, realize a snap swivel is a combination tool. It’s a snap. A thin wire generally with a permanent or semi-permanent loop to which a line or swivel attaches and a second loop on the opposite end which clasps open or closed so a lure can be fastened to it.

It’s a swivel. A swivel is two loops permanently connected to each other with a mechanism allowing each loop to rotate independently.

Snaps can be used all by themselves (no swivel) and there are fishing applications which incorporate swivels used sans snaps. Intertwine the closed loop on the snap and one of the loops on the swivel and viola, it’s a snap swivel.

chinook catch fishing great lakes king salmon Snap swivels are a detail.

Great catches come from attention to detail. Snap swivels are a detail.

Here’s another quiz. Choose the perfect answer:

The main purpose for snap swivels is:

A) To prevent line twist

B) Facilitate changing lures quickly

C) Make lures have better action

D) All of the above

E) None of the above

If you answered “all of the above” for this question, you are wrong.

The best answer is E) None of the above. Though choices A, B and C are true some of the time, none are true all of the time.

A swivel (no snap) can be used to prevent line twist and often is when using live bait or lures which aren’t particularly compatible with a snap or snap-swivel.

Alternatively, choice C), some lures do wiggle or twist through the water better when connected to a snap-swivel.

Snap swivels on a body bait can kill the action.

If your main purpose for using a snap-swivel is choice B), you need to learn to tie quick, easy knots. Just as choice C) is correct some of the time, there’s just as many times connecting a lure with a snap-swivel instead of just tying direct to the lure kills or impedes the action of a lure.

A friend was fishing the same area as me one day when I was experiencing steady action using Brad’s ThinFish plugs. He was catching zilch and called me on the radio. We compared tactics—kind and color of the lure, lure speed, depth of the lure and everything was identical. Until he mentioned the snap-swivel size.

“What snap-swivel?” I asked.

“Aren’t you using a snap-swivel?” he asked back.

Long story, short, once he tied direct to the split ring on the nose of the ThinFish, he was in the game. It’s as important to know when not to use snap swivels as when to use them.

The rule I follow is stuff that doesn’t spin when going through the water—jigs, hard baits, flies, weight forward spinners, safety pin spinners and others—doesn’t need to be paired with a snap swivel. I do use a snap swivel when fishing with stuff that does spin or rotate as it’s retrieved or trolled—most spoons, in-line spinners, dodgers and flashers.


There are two basic types of swivel mechanisms used with several different types of snap configurations. I use the term “swivel” very loosely in the previous sentence. There are swivels made with ball bearings and swivels made with no ball bearings—usually called barrel swivels or crane swivels.

Would you rather use a reel with moving parts that run on ball bearings or one with moving parts that are metal on metal? Which would be smoother? Which is going to last longer? Which is less prone to failure?

I know my answers and that’s why there are no snap swivels on my boat that aren’t the ball bearing type. The term swivel isn’t all that descriptive when it comes to non-ballsy models. Sure barrel swivels rotate—but not with the ease, smoothness and durability of ball bearing models.

steelhead spoon swivel snap lock

This spoon was ruined by a feisty steelhead. The snap swivel is still good.

When it comes to ball bearing swivels, there are certain “grades” available at a variety of price points. Almost all of the ball bearing models cost more than any of the similarly-sized barrel swivels.

When it comes to ball bearing swivels There are name brand swivels such as Sampo, Matzuo and others made with top quality materials and tight tolerances. There are less expensive ball bearing swivels, often with store-brand names, made by...? You’ll never know. I do know neither Bass Pro, Cabela’s or WalMart have swivel factories.

I’ve used store brand swivels. Most of them work pretty well, most of the time.

I’ve used the top of the line swivels and found them mostly flawless, most of the time. If pretty well is good enough for you, remember the maxim, “You get what you pay for.”

When you reel in a spoon attached to a store-brand snap swivel that’s gone without a bite for an hour and you find your line twisted into what looks like a kitchen scrub pad, you are getting what you paid for. If you reel in a spoon connected to the line with a name brand swivel, you’ll be surprised if the line is twisted.


One would think the snap end of the snap swivel would be as important as the swivel end. It is, but remember its' function is completely different than the swivel end.

It’s like a boat and motor. Both are important, both work together. But the job of the boat is to float, the job of the motor is to make the boat move.

The snap is the connection between the lure and the swivel. It’s a flexible, springy wire with specific bends or brackets allowing the wire to open to attach or remove the lure or to close so the lure stays attached.

Since I don’t often catch lake trout on plugs, you can bet a snap swivel was a part of this catch.

Since I don’t often catch lake trout on plugs, you can bet a snap swivel was a part of this catch.

Four types are commonly available at tackle emporiums. Interlock snaps are made with a bent piece of wire attached to a thin metal buckle. Though two pieces of metal are used to make the snap, interlocks are usually less expensive than the other three familiar types—the cross lock, coast lock and the duo lock.

These last three are made from a single piece of wire, differing only in how the wire is bent. On a coast lock, after the loop attaching the swivel is formed, the tag end of the wire is permanently bent around the shank of the snap and can’t be opened. On the cross lock both the swivel end and the lure end hook closes on the shank side of the snap. On the duo lock the swivel end locks on the shank while the lure end closes on the other side. Both ends of the snap on duo locks and cross locks can be opened.

Which type is best?

Which is easiest to use?

Which configuration is strongest or less prone to failure?

If you know, tell me. I’ve used all of them and truthfully, they all worked equally well. None are easier to use than the other. You open them up with your thumb, you close them with your thumb. Open, close, open, close—it’s safety pin science, not rocket science.

I’ve never put different models and brands to the strength test.

Some are sold by breaking strength, some are sold by size—either in metric or inches—still others have their own size code. There’s no industry standard to say a Size 2 has to be a certain length or a specific breaking strength.

The only test I’ve put them to is on-the-job tests and they all passed. I’ve never had a snap or swivel break while I was using it. I’ve never reeled in a snap swivel and only had the swivel on the line—whether it was 40-pound test, two-inches long or was a coast lock instead of a duo lock. I’ve never reeled in a line after losing a fish and/or lure because of a bent, unbent or broken snap wire.

To me, it looks as though, things like wire size/strength being equal, the coast lock is probably stronger than the cross lock and both of these look stronger than the duo lock and interlock. Still, all passed the on-the-job tests.

That being said, the interlock versions are my least favorite. On the assumption a fish I’m trying to catch is smart enough to notice the snap swivel ahead of the spinner or spoon I’m using and then decide not to bite due to the hardware, the flat metal clasp would make the snap swivel slightly more visible to the high-IQ fish.

I don’t lose much sleep over such assumptions. If I need some swivels and the interlocks are a buck cheaper than coast locks, I buy the interlock version.

Spoons are always trolled attached to a snap swivel.


I’ve caught thousands of fish on lures with a split ring either at the line tie point or holding the hooks to the lure. I’ve caught hundreds of fish with snap swivels which had a split ring at the end where the line is knotted. Once in a great while, I’ve lost fish due to split rings failing. Though rare, I don’ t like it when it happens.

Fishermen don’t often have a choice when it comes to picking lures equipped with either split ring hook attachments or line ties or welded ring. Only a few lures come with welded rings as standard hardware. I’m not so concerned with possible split ring failure that I modify the lures I use with beefier hardware. Stretched out split rings are very rare.

Snap swivels often come with welded ring line ties and when I’m shopping for snap swivels, I specifically look for the ones with the solid welded rings instead of split rings. Both versions are readily available. Some of the high-end/high-dollar name brand snap swivels have split rings, some of the store brand versions have welded rings. The solid rings are just one less possible weak link in the connection between the rod tip and the biggest fish of the day.

One last quiz: Are you now going to give as much attention to your snap swivels as you do to the next lure you buy?

A) Absolutely yes

B) Probably not

C) The author of this article is nuts.


If size, type, strength and other variables when choosing snap swivels isn’t confusing enough, consider this. Ball bearing models often come in shiny chrome, dull stainless steel and black. Barrel and crane swivels are commonly available in chrome, black, red and shiny brass.

Does color make a difference?

Black swivels are commonly preferred by saltwater angler on the theory the sparkly chrome or other shiny color encourages fish with razor teeth to bite at the swivel end of the lure and either miss the hook or sever the fishing line.

Spoons and spinners work best when attached to a snap swivel.

Spoons and spinners work best when attached to a snap swivel.

The black is more stealthy. If you are fishing for really finicky fish that would shy away from a lure with a swivel on its nose, choose black. On the other hand, if you think the tiny bit of sparkle from the chrome plating or other metallic finish enhances the look of your lures, choose the color that peaks your fancy.

Personally, when I think the difference between making a good catch or not depends on the hue of the snap swivels I use, I think the correct answer to the final quiz in this article is C).

- written by Capt. Mike Schoonveld


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1 comment

Thanks for the article . My family has been fishing Canadian lakes since the 1930’s and I think your observations are right on the money. Some species are a lot less leader or swivel-shy than others (pike are about as subtle as a freight train—if they decide to hit they are more often like a torpedo whereas perch are both sneaky and more easily spooked and the less hardware they perceive, the better. Brand name ball bearing swivels seem to have better quality control and they have built their reputations on being dead-reliable. Your tip on black is also good, in my experience. The less hinky the bait seems, the more successful it will be at fooling a fish into biting a totally man-made fraud, or a natural food that’s been meddled with. Anything we can do to NOT create an instinctual “no sale” reaction, the more likely we are to have something on the stringer.

Thanks and good luck on the water.


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