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February 06, 2008

Game Plan Q&A: Check Those Swivels!

This is the first time I've used this type of snap on my swivels, and now I'm not too sure about using them again...

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Q: During the final day of the Luanda Sailfish Classic we were trolling hookless teasers and came across a very strange occurrence: We hooked something, which was bizarre, as there were no hooks on the lures! We wound in the line and discovered there was a little tunny neatly "hooked" on the "Escape Proof" swivel we were using.

This is the first time I've used this type of snap on my swivels, and now I'm not too sure about using them again. Had it opened like this while fighting a prized game fish, it could have been disastrous if the line slackened! In fact, I've since spoken with two people who lost marlin when these types of swivels opened. Have you ever heard of anything similar to this?

Iain Nicolson
Luanda, Angola

A:  I've never heard of a bonito caught on one of these connectors, Iain, but it's easy to see how it could happen. We call them "leg splitters," and they are by far the strongest of all readily usable devices. However, these connectors have a coating that wears fairly quickly, to the extent that the legs can fall open if you're not careful. This is especially true when trolling down-sea with a stiff wire leader and a bait that jumps out of the water when the boat surfs down a wave. Such action creates alternate pushing and pulling of the loop end of the leader inside the connective device's legs. This often opens the legs and frequently results in a lost bait, hook and leader.

A seasoned mate familiar with leg splitters will check them at least daily. When the legs begin to swing too easily, you can tune them with a crimping tool or heavy set of pliers - simply apply pressure and slightly dent the edge of the grommet that goes through the two legs and upon which they swivel. This tightens the swinging effect and helps keeps the connection closed. Be careful, though: a bit too much pressure and you will never get the device open again.

The bottom line is that leg splitters serve as a great connector when properly used and closely monitored. They test at about 500 pounds, so with heavy tackle, we typically use 500-pound ball-bearing swivels between the trace and the wind-on leader. I should also note that these devices open much less frequently with mono and cable leaders because of their more supple natures.

Capt. Peter B. Wright
Cairns, Australia

About the skipper: Peter B. Wright has caught more marlin over 1,000 pounds than any captain or angler in sport-fishing history, including a 1,442-pound black that stands as the Australian men's 130-pound-class record. Wright ( has fished all over the world and is a contributing editor for Sport Fishing and Marlin magazines. In October 2007, he was inducted into the IGFA Hall of Fame for his vast accomplishments.