Updated on March 22, 2022
Pliers are the most essential piece of gear that doesn’t help you catch fish. We’ve all heard the saying, “the right tool will make any job easier” and this is especially true for fishing pliers. Anglers use pliers for so many tasks from unhooking fish to rigging lines and because of their utility manufacturers now make a variety of specialized pliers that are better for doing certain tasks. To help you sort through all of the options, here are the top five fishing pliers you should have on your boat.
Needle nose pliers or “long nose pliers” might be the most useful hook removal device ever created. Long narrow pliers really shine when unhooking fish that are hooked deep, have small mouths, or are delicate and require a more gentle approach. While these pliers are great at removing hooks the extra length reduced clamping strength and makes them less useful for preparing lines. Long pliers are a go-to for any angler when they need finesse and are an asset to any tackle box.
Short pliers are robust and offer significant clamping strength which is perfect for heavy tackle. If you are working with fish that are large, toothy, or have a strong jaw, short pliers are your best bet. When using heavier gear the clamping strength of these short pliers can free up a stubborn hook and even help crimp rigging. Avoid using short pliers on delicate fish because it can easily cause serious damage to their mouths. Short pliers are also essential to any tackle box as it allows anglers to better-manipulated tackle and free heavier hooks.
Curved pliers are a variation of long pliers but with a bend for perfect positioning. The bend makes it easy to grab a hook and work it free from just the right angle. This curve also allows anglers to bend or wrap wire when preparing leaders. These pliers also have a wire cutter near the base which comes in hand for toothy fish. These pliers are not necessary for all anglers but they are nice to have when you need them.
Small pliers have many of the advantages of long pliers when it comes to being gentle and working in tight spaces. The biggest advantage of small pliers is they are easy to keep on hand and are useful for most fish. Having pliers is better than not having pliers and many models of small pliers can easily fit in your pocket. A negative of having small pliers is they lack strength which would come in handy when attaching weights or swapping hooks. While the other pliers are ideal for most situations you find yourself in these pliers are not essential but they are handy.
Rigging pliers have the most clamping force on the list which is used for setting up lines and other rigging. These pliers are perfect for making leaders with line crimps or cutting and twisting wire. While some rigging pliers have jaws capable of removing hooks this isn’t its strong suit. These pliers are not necessary for most freshwater anglers but if you are heading offshore or targeting large fish, these pliers are worth their weight in gold.