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September 14, 2004

Wind-On Swivels For Finesse Baits

Light-tackle anglers use wind-on swivels to gain stealth in presenting finesse baits.

The trend toward miniaturization in electronics yields a steady flow of new computers, each model smaller yet more powerful than its predecessor. A similar downsizing tendency has also influenced the terminal-tackle industry: A new crop of compact swivels provides superior strength in a petite package.

The Spro Heavy Swivel bears little resemblance to common ball-bearing or barrel swivels. Rather than a plump, oval-shaped body with a ring at each end, the Heavy Swivel's trim, rectangular profile contains no bulging midsection.

"Anglers commonly refer to this model as a 'wind-on' swivel because the streamlined shape lets it run safely through rod guides and onto a conventional reel," says Paul Michele, national sales manager for Spro. "Standard swivels must be much larger to deliver the needed strength for marlin or tuna fishing, so they don't fit through the guides."

Spro produces Heavy Swivels in six different sizes -- most of which fit easily on your thumbnail -- ranging in strength from 150- to 570-pound test. Other manufacturers and retailers market similarly designed swivels, often incorporating "wind-on" in the name. For instance, Bass Pro Shops offers the Offshore Angler Wind-On Swivel in 150- and 200-pound-test sizes.

"We perform extensive quality control to assure that our swivels test out to at least the rated strength," Michele guarantees. Reluctant to divulge company secrets, however, he avoids specifics when asked how Spro manages to make such small swivels so strong. "The uncommon strength results from unique product design and the use of very high-grade stainless steel in a special manufacturing process," he says.

Stealth and Steel
Whether dropping back ballyhoo to sailfish, pulling plastics for marlin, or slow-trolling live baits for smoker kings, fishermen appreciate low-profile terminal tackle that contributes to a clean, natural presentation. Extremely wary fish often force anglers to employ lighter lines and thin, fluorocarbon leaders; tying fat, cumbersome swivels on light lines usually defeats the purpose of stealth and discourages bites. In conjunction with thin leaders, small swivels allow live baits to swim unencumbered by heavy, action-inhibiting terminal tackle.

Michele cites tuna chunkers and other "finesse anglers" as believers in the ability of Heavy Swivels to maintain strong connections yet go unnoticed by sharp-eyed game fish. He also mentions an important user group at the opposite end of the spectrum: wire-line trollers. "In the Northeast market, we sell quite a few Heavy Swivels to anglers who use Monel wire while trolling for bluefish and stripers," he says. Obviously, these guys don't rank stealth as a priority. They need a reliable yet sleek way to join monofilament and wire line. "Tying mono directly to Monel rarely proves satisfactory," Michele explains. "Heavy Swivels serve this niche very well because they make a dependable connection and cause no problems when wound onto the reel."

Compact and strong, wind-on swivels offer numerous advantages but have one potential Achilles heel.

"Heavy Swivels turn more freely than crane or barrel swivels, but not as freely as ball-bearing models. If a lure or technique generates a lot of line twist, you may want to switch to a ball-bearing swivel," Michele advises.

Triple Threat
The common three-way swivel consists of a stout ring sprouting a trio of wire legs. The short legs, spaced at equal intervals around the ring, feature end loops for attaching line.

This type of specialized terminal tackle enjoys popularity more because of the "three-way" than the "swivel" in its name. "Three-ways don't offer a great deal of protection against line twist because they really don't turn smoothly and easily," Michele says. "They're designed to provide a convenient, secure method of connecting three lines. For example, if an angler doesn't know how or prefers not to tie a dropper loop, a three-way does the job nicely."

Three-ways see widespread use among bottomfishermen as the central component in breakaway rigs. The main line attaches to one leg and the leader to another, and to the third leg a piece of monofilament (lighter than the leader and main line) holds a sinker. If the sinker snags bottom, the light mono snaps and the angler recovers leader and hook. Anglers who rely on costly fluorocarbon leaders often use breakaways to protect their precious investment. "If you use 3- or 4-foot fluorocarbon leaders and keep losing them, that makes for an expensive day," Michele says. With a three-way swivel and breakaway rig, fishermen sacrifice sinkers but ultimately save leaders and money.

Standard three-way swivels conveniently connect multiple lines, but prevent the dropper from riding perpendicular to the main line because of the 120-degree offset between legs. This angle of presentation works fine for fishermen who bounce baits along bottom while drifting an area in search of flounder, for example. However, anglers who target snapper from an anchored boat drop lines straight down and often prefer a connection that forms a 90-degree angle at the dropper. Such an angle helps reduce tangles by keeping the leader away from the main line.

Available from companies such as Bass Pro Shops and Rite Angler, cross-line swivels resemble a standard barrel swivel with an extra attachment loop jutting at a right angle from its midsection. "The Offshore Angler Cross Line Swivel works great where anglers need a 90-degree connection for droppers," says Bass Pro Shops' Katie Mitchell. These swivels come in nine sizes, with pound-test ratings from 30 to 600, covering applications that range from bait-catching rigs to heavy-duty setups for grouper.

Another way of making 90-degree droppers comes in the form of swivel sleeves. This nifty problem-solver consists of a barrel swivel with a heavy-duty, longer-than-normal sleeve running through one of its end rings. The main line passes through the sleeve, allowing the swivel to slide up and down the line. "The Offshore Angler Swivel Sleeve makes a convenient way to add droppers, and the barrel swivel can rotate 360 degrees around the main-line axis," says Mitchell. "You can control the sleeve's range of travel along the line by tying on barrel swivels or crimping beads in place as stoppers."

Robust construction tells you that swivel sleeves are meant for heavy-tackle applications. Bass Pro offers two models, rated at 150- and 200-pound test, both with a 2-millimeter inside diameter to accommodate up to 400-pound mono. Rite Angler produces three sizes, for mono from 200- to 500-pound test. "Many of our customers rig daisy-chain teasers with swivel sleeves to minimize tangles," Mitchell points out.

For bottomfishing 60 miles off Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Capt. Eduardo Baumeier uses 80-pound Spectra main line and thick mono leaders because he stands chances of hooking anything from snowy grouper to swordfish. When assembling terminal rigs, he uses Offshore Angler Three-Way Barrel Swivels ? two barrel swivels joined by passing the ring of one through that of the other.
"Three-Way Barrels make the best option for adding droppers because I can't tie a dropper loop in 400-pound mono. These swivels are better than a standard three-way because one swivel stays on the same axis as the main line, and the other swivel, with the dropper, revolves around it," says Baumeier. "Besides making a clean connection that allows main line and dropper to swivel in nearly any direction, these things are rated at 600 pounds. I've never had one fail."
Next time you're browsing at the fishing supply store, take a long look in the terminal-tackle section. You'll find that today's generation of specialty swivels contains hip solutions to many rigging problems.