Nov. 1, 2012 Avoiding The Unholy Tangled Mess

Written By: Steve ‘Hippo’ Lau, November 2, 2012

Just the other Sunday after church, my ol' buddy Bob said for me to wait for him because he had something to show me. I waited after the second service and Bob walked towards me with a folded over shopping bag. Reaching into his bag, he pulled out the biggest unholy tangled mess I had ever seen. 

The unholy tangled mess was a twisted ball of approximately one hundred yards of twisted 25 lb. test monofilament line. It was obviously the result of hours of trolling with a spinning lure.

You see, Bob told me he was going to go trolling for salmon in the delta earlier hat week, and I had advised him to use a good quality ball bearing swivel with some sort of keel if he was going to troll all day. He said he took my advice and used a swivel, but knowing him, I asked if he used a ball bearing swivel and he said he used a swivel. 

When I pressed him on the subject, he said again that he used a swivel. When I asked how much the swivel cost, he said it was those that sold for $1.29 for a dozen.

I asked again, "DID YOU USE A BALL BEARING SWIVEL?" This time he admitted that it was not a ball bearing swivel, but hey, a swivel is a swivel, right?


This has been an outstanding year for salmon and there are hundreds of thousands of salmon yet to travel upstream to spawn. The time honored practice of trolling a spinner for these salmon results in a high percentage catch rate. The problem is, as it was for Bob, people go cheap and end up with God awful twisted lines for all their efforts.

It is not simply a matter of using a free spinning swivel when trolling spinners for salmon (or trout for that matter), because a number of swivels turn freely when there is little pressure applied to them, but when trolling, the spinning blade of the spinner will definitely put a strain on the swivel and many times, that pressure is enough to keep the swivel from rotating.

I remember a simple demonstration that was given many many years ago when I was a young lad attending one of the San Francisco Sports and Boat Shows at the famous Cow Palace. It was given at the AFTCO both and consisted of a piece of fishing line with perhaps 12 different swivels tied end to end and hung from a fishing rod. 

The idea was to pinch the free end of the fishing line, pull down on the rod tip, then spin the line between your fingers. The swivel that spun first was then shown to be the freest spinning swivel under pressure. 

I remember going up and inspecting all the swivels to make sure none were glued shut or some other form of trickery employed. I found that all the swivels were indeed swivels that spun smoothly, but when I added the pressure, only the AFTCO ball bearing swivel spun freely. The bead chain swivel did spin a little bit, but none could challenge a good ball bearing swivel.

There are other brands nowadays that also spin well and are worth buying including KroK and P-Line. I would definitely add some sort of trolling keel the the rig some four or five feet up from the spinner, but the first thing to do is to use a good quality ball bearing swivel to your rig. This will certainly go a long way in preventing the horrors of an unholy tangled mess.

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