By Mike Stevens
These days, it's hard to make a groundbreaking innovation in the world of terminal tackle. Most attempts result in a product that doesn't solve a problem or even worse, it comes off as gimmicky. While Carolina Keepers have been in service for well over a decade, the number of anglers that do not know about them or their capabilities boggles my mind. They are simple, cheap, versatile, and in my opinion, one of the best terminal tackle innovations in recent history.
A Carolina Keeper is a small plastic cylinder about the same size as the eraser on a #2 pencil. There is a tight slit up the middle of it, and when you squeeze it with pliers, the slit turns into an opening that you can slide your line through. When released, the hole closes and the Keeper clamps on to your line, eliminating the need for a swivel for all kinds of fishing applications.
As the name indicates, they were designed to replace a swivel for bass fishing's well-known Carolina rig. Rather than a three-knot (both sides of the swivel and the hook) rig, there is only one knot (on the hook), so one weakness in the line instead of three. Carolina Keepers bring the same advantages to many fishing applications: think floating bait rigs for trout, sliding sinker rigs for surf and shallow-water bottom fishing, a fly-and-bubble rig, or any other rig in which a swivel would normally be used to keep the sinker away from the hook.
– Instantly change the length of the line from sinker to hook (I balked at saying "leader" because it's usually just the main line) in seconds by pinching the Keeper and sliding it up or down the line.
– If bass fishing with plastics, quickly turn a Carolina Rig into a Texas Rig by sliding the CK and sinker all the way down to the hook.
– They can also be used to keep the hookless lures on a daisy chain in place instead of a metal crimp or exotic knots.
The only time I would pass on a Carolina Keeper and use a swivel is in a trolling situation or when utilizing any method that results in line twist. Also, if you typically use swivels to tie a different line (heavier, lighter, fluorocarbon, etc) on as a leader, you would have to tie a line-to-line knot to accomplish the same thing when using a CK instead of a swivel.
Carolina Keepers come in red or clear, are widely available, and are too damn cheap for you to not have them in your tackle box.