The Best Fishing Pliers of 2024

Find the right tool for unhooking fish, cutting line, crimping barbs, and changing split rings
We tested the best fishing pliers.

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Fishing pliers can be an angler’s lifesaver—literally—and they can serve more common practical purposes like modifying lures, crimping wire, and enabling the quick release of sportfish. The best ones do their intended jobs well and stand at the ready, rust-free and willing to work. 

Many of us are inclined to spend as little as possible on these oft-forgotten tools, arguing that a pair of hardware store or discount pliers works almost as well and won’t be as painful if dropped overboard. When they fail at a specific task, however, and particularly if that results in a lost trophy fish or a lost day on the water, suddenly, the value of having a proper tool becomes evident. If you’re looking for a quality pair, here are some of the best fishing pliers I’ve tested.

How We Chose the Best Fishing Pliers

I’m notoriously clumsy, which led me to drop more than one tool over the side of my bass boat, which initially convinced me that cheap pliers were the way to go. However, after nearly electrocuting myself by using long nose pliers to remove a wing nut from a battery terminal, I realized that having the right pliers is key to getting the job done. Same with trying to change out a treble hook in 3-foot waves with my fingers— it doesn’t work. There’s also nothing more frustrating than going to open your pliers to find they’re rusted shut. I still don’t spend foolishly, but now I realize that quality and specificity matter. Accordingly, throughout my boat and garage there are a number of quality implements ready to do key jobs to maintain my sanity and my safety.

Best Fishing Pliers: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Premium: Van Staal Titanium Pliers

Best Premium Pliers

Van Staal Titanium Pliers

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Key Features

  • Sizes: 6 and 7 inches
  • Titanium construction
  • Spring loaded handles
  • Included lanyard and leather sheath

Pros

  • Won’t rust in even the worst saltwater conditions
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Cutter holds line in place for clean slices

Cons

  • Expensive

Van Staal has long made premium gear, including reels and tools, meant to withstand harsh saltwater environments without missing a beat. These pliers, available in 6- and 7-inch sizes, live up to that legacy. In addition to being extremely lightweight, they’re full of features such as channel-cut jaws that hold line in place securely, and also make clean cuts on tough wire. The handles are spring-loaded, so they’ll always be ready to go, especially since the materials are guaranteed not to rust or corrode under any conditions. So whether you’re 100 miles offshore or deep in the Amazon, they won’t fail when safety or fish security is at hand. Just make sure that you attach them to the lanyard and anchor it securely, because dropping these overboard would be tragic.

Best Budget: Berkley Straight Nose Pliers

Best Budget Pliers

Berkley Straight Nose Pliers

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Key Features

  • Sizes: 6 and 8 inches
  • Carbon steel jaws
  • Corrosion-resistant composite coasting
  • Spring-assisted handles
  • Included lanyard

Pros

  • Lots of features for a low price
  • Comfortable handles
  • Corrosion-resistant

Cons

  • Not quite as durable as more expensive models

Berkley’s basic pliers resemble what you might find at a hardware store at a similarly reasonable price, but upon closer inspection, they’re clearly made to be used by anglers. Several features, including the carbon steel jaws and crimping mechanism, will bail fishermen out in a pinch. Moreover, these are extremely comfortable to use, with paddle handles that allow for one-handed operation. They may not be quite as corrosion-resistant as some higher-priced models, nor as durable, but they’re more than up to the task for day-to-day freshwater use.

Best Long Reach: Rapala 11-inch Long Nose Pliers

Best Long Reach Pliers

Rapala 11-inch Long Nose Pliers

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Key Features

  • Size: 11 inches
  • Carbon steel construction
  • Molded grips

Pros

  • Rust resistant
  • Long build allows for safety with toothy or deep-hooked fish
  • Comfortable handles

Cons

  • Not many extra features

Whether you’re trying to save your own knuckles or the life of a deeply-hooked trophy fish, sometimes a standard 6-inch or 8-inch set of pliers aren’t up to the task. They simply won’t go deep enough and still allow for maximum dexterity. Rapala has solved that problem with this 11-inch set, while still keeping the price point eminently affordable. They’re made of nickel-plated carbon steel for durability and rust resistance, along with comfortable grips that allow for one-hand operation under duress. The first time a musky or pike takes your prized lure to the back of its gullet you’ll be glad you have these. Even if you already have a standard-sized pair, they’re an excellent addition, and also help in a pinch for MacGyvered boat repairs in tight spaces. 

Best Forceps: Cuda Freshwater Forceps with Sharpener

Best Forceps

Cuda Freshwater Forceps with Sharpener

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Key Features

  • Size: 7 inches 
  • Stainless steel construction
  • Serrated jaws
  • Integrated sharpener to keep hooks in perfect shape

Pros

  • Oversized, rubberized grips for easy handling
  • Added sharpener combines multiple tools in one
  • Also functions as a line cutter

Cons

  • May not be stout enough for deeply-hooked extra-large fish

Sometimes a scalpel is a more valuable tool than a sword, and sometimes forceps are the best fishing pliers. That’s especially true when dealing with delicate fish and fine wire hooks. That’s why forceps have such a strong following in the trout fishing world, but their applications are wider than that—especially if you have the right ones. These are comfortable to grip and will help you safely dig into tight spaces to remove hooks, whether it’s a #18 dry fly, or the fine wire of a flat-sided crankbait. They also have a sharpener built in so you can get those hooks back to tip-top shape upon removal. They’re not at the bottom of the forceps price scale, but those extra features make the small bump worthwhile.

Most Ergonomic: Bubba Pistol Grip Stainless Steel Pliers

Most Ergonomic

Bubba Pistol Grip Stainless Steel Pliers

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Key Features

  • Pistol grip handle
  • Stainless steel construction
  • Spring-loaded non-slip grip
  • Sheath with belt clip included

Pros

  • Include several other functions made specifically for demanding anglers
  • Comfortable handle provides lots of strength
  • Carbide cutters 

Cons

  • Mid- to upper-range price point 

Whether you’ve lost some function in your hands or just want to ensure maximum grip under all conditions, a pistol grip style set of pliers can help you hang on, and these Bubba’s are really a fantastic tool. They’re made of stainless steel with a titanium-nitride coating, allowing continued operation in saltwater. They also have multiple features such as a crimping tool and wicked sharp cutters. I find them easy to grab onto and easy to hold thanks to the non-slip grip, even when my hands are cold and wet. When my hands are at their worst, these fishing pliers may be at their best. 

Best Split Ring Pliers: Texas Tackle Split Ring Pliers

Best Split Ring Pliers

Texas Tackle Split Ring Pliers

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Key Features

  • Multiple sizes, including for large and extra-large hooks and split rings
  • Top-grade surgical steel construction
  • Plastic-coated handles
  • Spring-loaded handles

Pros

  • Made for one task and do it perfectly
  • Retain “bite” for decades
  • Can be operated with one hand to ensure that you don’t put a hook through a finger

Cons

  • May need multiple pairs if you fish with wildly different hook sizes

I bought my first set of these pliers nearly two decades ago, and I still use them nearly every week to add or replace split rings and treble hooks. The only reason I added a second pair was that I needed some larger ones for my Amazon “choppers” and my big yellowfin tuna poppers. It’s a simple tool at a bargain price, and while others may be cheaper, none that I’ve tried have lasted as long. They open a split ring, no matter how stubborn, and hold it open as long as you want without degrading the tool or the hardware. In the long run, that means much more fish in the boat.

Best Rigging Pliers: Shimano Power Plier

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Key Features

  • 7 inch pliers for #5 – #11 split rings
  • 6 inch pliers for #1 – #5 split rings
  • Stainless steel
  • Line cuter
  • Crimpers

Pros

  • Spring loaded for easy reopening
  • Rubber coated

Cons

  • Line cutter doesn’t work on braid

Stock hooks are usually OK, but I like to modify my baits and put the hooks and split rings I have the most confidence in. I bought these Shimano pliers specifically for the large split rings on my big swimbaits. They work fantastic for that application and I find myself using them on the water for rigging just as much as I do the evening before a trip. —Scott Einsmann

Best Braid Scissors: Cuda Titanium

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Key Features

  • Multiple sizes, I prefer the 5.5 inch
  • Oversized grip
  • Made of titanium

Pros

  • Cut any size braid
  • Don’t rust
  • Stay sharp

Cons

  • Pivot can get tight after a few years

I’ve been using my 5.5-inch Cuda pliers for two years now in both fresh and salt. I fish mostly out of a kayak so they often get drenched. Yet, they’ve stayed sharp and cut super light braid on my finesse setups to 80-pound braid on my frogging gear. I was particularly abusive to them on a recent trip to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel which involved getting soaked in saltwater and covered in sand. Then they were put away without a rinse, and forgot about through the winter. There’s some corrosion on them right now, and the pivot is tight. But a few squirts of WD-40 and a rag fixed that in no time. —Scott Einsmann

Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Fishing Pliers

Features

Simply put, what do you need your pliers to do, and what are you fishing for? Taking a tiny hook out of a bluegill is a far different task than preparing lures and rigs for marlin—no less specialized, but demanding different features and a different level of durability. In most cases, the simplest one-function tools are fine for that purpose, but if you want a single option that can accomplish multiple things, you’ll likely pay for that convenience.

A designated storage space for the best fishing pliers will ensures they're always at the ready.
A designated storage space for the best fishing pliers will ensures they’re always at the ready. Pete Robbins

Storage

Depending on whether you’ll keep them in a sheath, in a pocket, or in a dedicated place on your boat, the size and shape of your pliers may be beneficial, or it may be problematic. Just ask the guy who sat down and put them through his newly-upholstered seat. Similarly, if you’re hiking, lightweight construction is critical. No matter your budget, no one likes to lose a valuable tool, but it’s particularly painful at the upper end of the price spectrum, so proper storage is key.

Materials and Durability

Exposure to moisture and the elements takes a toll on tools, and it’s particularly pronounced in the salt. If you’ve ever gone to unhook a deeply-hooked fish, or crimp a wire, or a cut a line, and found your pliers seized up and corroded, you’re realized that sometimes it’s possible to be pennywise and pound foolish. Similarly, if you can’t make a needed cut because your tool is too cheap, you might as well have bought nothing at all.

Final Thoughts on the Best Fishing Pliers

Anglers need at least one pair of good pliers. They’ll allow you to modify tackle, remove hooks, and cut fishing line—all daily tasks on the water. The best fishing pliers for a lifetime of use are the Van Staal Pliers, but before you run out and spend $300, look over my other top picks and see which one best fits your specific needs.

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Pete Robbins

Fishing Writer

Pete Robbins is one of Outdoor Life’s fishing tackle specialists and angling travel experts. He has written extensively about the bass tournament scene for nearly two decades. Recently, he’s expanded beyond that niche to include adventure travel and bluewater angling. He lives in Vienna, Virginia, with his wife Hanna (who often outfishes him) and their Australian Shepherd Rooster, who is now banned from their bass boat for pressing too many buttons at inopportune times. The Robbins family calls the Potomac River their home water, but they (minus the dog) have also fished in Africa, Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, and Alaska, as well as most of the United States.  

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