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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.
- Best Premium: Van Staal Titanium Pliers
- Best Budget: Berkley Straight Nose Pliers
- Best Long Reach: Rapala 11-inch Long Reach Pliers
- Best Forceps: Cuda 7-inch Freshwater Forceps
- Most Ergonomic: Bubba Pistol Grip Stainless Steel Pliers
- Best Split Ring: Texas Tackle Split Ring Pliers
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
- Sizes: 6 and 7 inches
- Titanium construction
- Spring loaded handles
- Included lanyard and leather sheath
- Won’t rust in even the worst saltwater conditions
- Extremely lightweight
- Cutter holds line in place for clean slices
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
- Sizes: 6 and 8 inches
- Carbon steel jaws
- Corrosion-resistant composite coasting
- Spring-assisted handles
- Included lanyard
- Lots of features for a low price
- Comfortable handles
- 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
- Size: 11 inches
- Carbon steel construction
- Molded grips
- Rust resistant
- Long build allows for safety with toothy or deep-hooked fish
- Comfortable handles
- 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
- Size: 7 inches
- Stainless steel construction
- Serrated jaws
- Integrated sharpener to keep hooks in perfect shape
- Oversized, rubberized grips for easy handling
- Added sharpener combines multiple tools in one
- Also functions as a line cutter
- 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
- Pistol grip handle
- Stainless steel construction
- Spring-loaded non-slip grip
- Sheath with belt clip included
- Include several other functions made specifically for demanding anglers
- Comfortable handle provides lots of strength
- Carbide cutters
- 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
- Multiple sizes, including for large and extra-large hooks and split rings
- Top-grade surgical steel construction
- Plastic-coated handles
- Spring-loaded handles
- 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
- 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.
Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Fishing Pliers
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.
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.
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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.