by Jarrod Day
Fishing isn’t all just about the catch and release of a fish, though it may be the bulk of it, but when we dissect and analyze a typical days fishing it goes something like this:
So, which is your favorite tool?
Petrol, check, Bait, check, rods/reel, check, tackle, check, food and water, check and that’s then followed by launching and an epic session catching the fish you were targeting.
One thing we often give little thought to is fishing accessories. While they don’t tend to be a forethought or even an after thought for that matter but when it comes to fishing, accessories can make your day a whole lot easier.
How many times have you caught a fish then fumbled around with it tucked under your arm as you attempt to pull the hook from its mouth with your fingers? Wouldn’t a pair of pliers be easier? How many times have you guessed the weight of your fish only to have your mates second guess your estimation and consider you an exaggerator?, wouldn’t a set of scales be more accurate? And how many times have you attempted to fillet your catch with the blunt knife that you had been cutting up your bait with earlier that day? Wouldn’t a sharp fillet knife make the job easier? The only answer to all of these questions is YES. So with that, let’s have a look at few fishing accessories that can make your next fishing day a more organised and easier one.
Can you see the lure? Try getting this out without using long nose pliers.
Brag mats, and scales are sure to keep the friendship going for any group of anglers these days. The old saying’s'it was this big' and 'fishermen are exaggerators' are slowly losing momentum these days with more and more anglers seeking the truth when it comes to a fish’s weight and size.
Scales come in a wide range of styles nowadays from hi-tech digital; spring and the old dial type are becoming quite popular accessories. Dial and spring scales are still the cheaper option but over time they can become rusty, corrode and may not be accurate as for most of the time they tend to be stowed in the boat. Digital scales on the other hand are very accurate and while they are made from plastic have less metal that can be exposed to the high salinity levels of the saltwater environment meaning they are less likely to break down. The only real downfall is that they use batteries to work so always ensure you have a spare set for when the time comes to weight a fish.
Brag mats are also very popular with more and more anglers turning to measuring fish rather than weighing them. Brag mats were more so bought out for catch and release purposes where the angler can easily place their catch onto a brag mat, measure it and quickly get it back into the water. Some brag mats not only have measurements but a fairly accurate weight rating. This is only an average but gives you a fairly good estimate of the weight of your fish by its length. Brag mats are now widely spread throughout the industry and are quiet cheap. ANSA recently unveiled its C&R mat (Catch & Release) for inspire angler to catch and release their catch, these can be picked up for as little as $10 and have a ton of information printed on them. Publishing company AFN also produce Brag mats for each state of Australia with each printed with the legal size and bag limits per species.
Brag mats are a great way to get an exact mesurement of your catch.
Keeping your teeth:
I think it is fair to say that gone are the days of cutting fishing line with your teeth. This is mainly due to the introduction of braided lines in which if you attempted to bite through them would only flatten the line rather than doing any actual damage to it. In the world of line cutting, there are many different tools for the job. Where once just a pair of old scissors did the job, these days there are more specific ones for braided lines, mono lines, both and of course a wide range of nail clipper type products. Some pliers also contain braid scissors but these tend to be quite high in price.
As for scissors though, braid scissors tend to fetch a higher price because of the quality of the blade. Braid scissors are available and are extremely sharp. These can cut braid easily leaving a clean cut rather than a frayed one. The only downfall with braid scissors is some anglers continue to cut mono lines with them and this will only cause the blade to become blunt and damaged. Braid scissors come in many forms, some cheap that will get you through while other more expensive with sheaths and lanyards, some also combine tools and have split ring plier at the end of the jaws, ideal for lure anglers. If you are going to cut mono either get a spare pair of scissors or a pair of clips to do the job for you, keep braid scissors for braid and they will last longer.
I must admit, I have strange fascination for pliers these days purely due to the fact that the range is huge and each one can do something quite different from the other. If only someone made one that did everything I desired, I’d be in heaven.
Pliers just aren’t pliers anymore, in fact some pliers might have a braid scissor, some a wire cutter, others may have a split ring opener and so one, it just doesn’t end.
While the most common is a pair of 6' flat-nose pliers, also known as 'duckbill,' after their resemblance to a duck's bill. With long, narrow, flat jaws, they are stronger than long-nose (needle-nose) pliers, but less able to reach into really confined spaces. This type of plier tends to be mostly used to remove hooks from fish, depending on brand they can also be used for other functions. While a 6' plier may have small teeth for gripping, some contain groves further up the jaws for crimping, squashing or cutting objects.
Flat nose pliers can also come with a bent tip to enable the angler to get into tight areas such as a fish’s mouth to access hooks lodged in difficult locations.
Other pliers in a similar range also some in different lengths such as an 8' 10' and 11'. As mentioned previously that some pliers come with a split ring tooth at their end, these are more designed for lure anglers. A split ring pliers main purpose is for when the time comes to remove old treble hooks from a lure and to replace them with new ones or to put on and take off lures which may be connected to a swivel. These pliers come in handy when targeting species such as bream to replace small hooks on lures and then to the other end of the scale with Big GT poppers and trolling lures like that of Yo-Zuri Hydro Magnums.
When choosing which set of pliers to purchase, just make sure it has all the features you require. In saying that, you may end up with a few pairs to suit your requirements.
Opening split rings without the right set of pliers can be extremely difficult.
Hook removers and fish grippers:
Although pliers are mainly used for the removal of hooks in a fish, more specialised tools such as hook removers make the job even easier. A hook remover is shaped more like a pistol with a hook at its end. This is placed onto the hook while in the fish’s mouth and the trigger is pulled to get a secure and strong grip on the hook. The hook remover can be pushed in a forward motion or twisted to dislodge it before pulling it out of the fish leaving minimal damage compared to that of removing with a set of pliers.
The old 'flatty flicker' is one tool that has been around for donkey’s and while very inexpensive, some people enjoy making their own versions. To this day and especially when it comes to species such as flathead, I have never known of such a small yet useful tool. It really doesn’t what boat or whose boat you go on, I bet there is a flatty flicking on board somewhere.
Hook reomval pliers are ideal for when a fish engulf's the entire hook.
Lastly is the savage pair of fish grippers. Fish grippers are quite barbaric and I think most of the time they are used unnecessarily and do more harm than good. Often, if an angler gets an unwanted species on the end of their line, they grab it with the grippers, squashing it, removing scales before tossing it back overboard. Though they do serve a purpose if you intend on keeping the fish, there are better more humane tools that can be used for the same job.
Lip Grippers are a great tool for any handling of a fish although; they can still do some limited damage. A lip gripper is designed to hold a fish around the lip so it can be held and released easily. The only downfall is that the gripper itself has quite a strong grip which can punch holes into the lower jaw of the fish, particularly if the fish is thrashing around.
There are many versions of lip grippers available and it pays to check the commentary of the gripper before purchase making sure it is made from stainless steel preventing rusting.
Lip Grips make handling fish much easier.
Use the right knife:
Knives, just where do I begin? As I sit and write this, just today I lent down on a Finish made Martini and let me tell you, they are sharp considering I now have nerve damage throughout my little finger along with a few stitches. So with that, when it comes to filleting or cleaning fish, you’ll want the best and sharpest knife you can get.
Often, anglers tend to grab a few knives when in their local tackle store and then once on the boat, begin to cut up their bait. After the days fishing, the same knife may be used to fillet their catch. While there is nothing against this practice, it will make filleting a nice fish more difficult, especially if the knife has become blunt.
Ideally, I prefer to have a few 'bait' knives in the boat and a knife wrap to store my fillet knives in. This keeps the good knives separate from the old bait knives. I also have around 5 fillet knives for the different species I catch. This makes filleting each species much easier than having to fumble around with a small boning as such to fillet a snapper. When the wrong knife is used, you tend to hack the fillet rather than being left with a nice cut of fresh fish flesh.
There are many different knives on the market and it is sometimes difficult to know what is good and what is not. A higher price does not always mean it is the best so it pays to do some homework.
Knives in the $15-$30 range tend to be made from stainless steel which in this day and age really doesn’t last too long. In a perfect world, a knife made from Carbon Steel or Carbinox with the likes of Martini from Finland continue to produce some of the best quality knives on the market. When it comes down to a knife, it is the blade that is the most important and the better quality blade the longer lasting the knife.
Stainless steel blades maintain their sharpness for a long time and don’t rust. Keeping them sharp is very important and it is recommended to use a diamond sharpener to keep a perfect edge. Some cheaper knife sharpeners might do the job to a point but if you look closely could chip the steel ruining your knife.
Carbon steel on the other hand is especially suitable for carving and filleting. This blade is easy to hone to its original sharpness. With a carbon steel blade, it is important to dry it immediately after use. It would also be a good idea to treat the blade by rubbing unsalted cooking oil into the metal. A regularly treated carbon steel blade remains stainless and has an especially long working life.
Generally, cheaper knives will become blunt more quickly and when sharpening, steels, stones and knife sharpeners can chip the blade. When filleting you will no longer get a clean cut rather a rough cut making it more difficult to slice the fillet from the carcass.
Don't use your bait knife to fillet a fish, use a specific fillet knife.
Like any tradesman in the world, there is always a specific tool to make the job at hand easier with less effort. In the fishing world, this is the same. Whether you’re upgrading hooks on lures, filleting fish or weighing your catch there is plenty of different accessory options available.
If you’re in the market for a new tool or are interested in what’s available, drop into your local tackle store and have a good poke around. I’m sure you’ll find something to make the next job easier.