I recently heard an unfortunate tale from a fishing buddy of mine. After fighting with a large, angry Jack Crevalle for what seemed like an eternity, he finally wrangled the fish within gaffing range. After what seemed like a clean gaff job, his telescopic fishing gaff came apart – resulting in a useless piece of aluminum, and a lost fish!
While it may seem like an afterthought to many anglers, a good fishing gaff is an important piece of fishing gear and can be worth its weight in gold in the right situation. When you’ve got a trophy fish on the end of your line, you’ll need a solid gaff to successfully land it inside the boat.
Gaffs are also popular with kayak anglers and ice fishermen, due to their ability to land fish in tight spaces – where a net would be difficult or impossible to use.
I’ll break down some of the best gaffs on the market, explain the various gaff designs and their uses, and help you pick the ideal one for your needs.
Quick Answer: 6 Best Fishing Gaffs
Fishing Gaff Types
Gaffs come in a wide variety of lengths, hook shapes and sizes, and designs. Some are built for hauling in large offshore bruisers, while smaller hand gaffs are designed for use in compact spots.
Long Handled Gaffs
Long-handled gaffs typically measure 4 to 6 feet long and are used for landing larger saltwater fish like Wahoo, Dorado, Kingfish and Tuna. These gaffs are typically made from solid aluminum or fiberglass, making them durable enough for heavy-duty use.
Hook sizes typically vary from 2 to 4 inches, with larger hooks used to gaff larger species.
Many feature a tapered shaft that narrows out towards then hook end. This lowers the gaff’s overall weight and decreases resistance in the water, which allows you to be faster and more accurate.
Hand gaffs are smaller and lighter than long-handed gaffs. Many feature telescoping handles, allowing you to extend and retract them as needed. Many also feature wrist straps to keep them coming out of your hands due to a thrashing fish. Rather than gaffing the fish in the head, these gaffs are meant to hook the fish in its lower jaw.
These gaffs are generally meant for smaller fish weighing less than 15 – 20 pounds. Most are made from lightweight aluminum and can bend or break if you try to use them on heavier fish. The compact size and lightness make these gaffs an excellent choice for kayak and canoe anglers.
Flying gaffs are a specialized type of gaff used for the largest offshore species like Marlin, Sharks, and big Tuna. They feature a hook and shaft designed to disconnect on impact, with a rope tied directly between the hook and one of the boat’s cleats. When the pole and hook disconnect, you’re left with a hand line that’s easier to deal with than a standard gaff.
Harpoon style gaffs are spear-shaped gaffs with long, straight steel tips. The design is ideal for kayak fishing, as you don’t need to maneuver the gaff into the exact right spot – as you would with traditional hook gaffs. The spearhead allows you to gaff the fish anywhere on its body, and many harpoon gaffs feature ridges built into the spearhead that grip the fish and lowers your odds of losing it.
Ice Fishing Gaffs
When you’re trying to pull a pissed off pike through the ice, a good gaff will make your job that much easier. These gaffs are typically shorter than other types, only measuring around 2-feet long. Many feature treble hooks rather than single hooks, making hooking fish behind their gills much easier.
Top 6 Fishing Gaffs – Reviews
How to choose the right fishing gaff?
With so many different makes, models, and designs, picking the right gaff for your needs can be a challenging task. The best fishing gaff for a given situation will depend on the type of fishing you’re doing, the available space, as well as your budget and preferences.
It’s important to match the gaff length and hook size with the fish species you intend to target. The most popular gaff lengths are between 4 and 6 feet, but gaffs in the 8-10 foot range are also popular with bluewater anglers targeting Marlin and Kingfish. 4 to 6 foot gaffs work well for most medium to large saltwater fish, such as Dorado, most Tuna, Wahoo and Cobia.
Also consider the boat size and gunwale height when picking out a gaff – a bigger boat with higher gunwales will necessitate a longer gaff.
Hooks come in variety of shapes, lengths, thicknesses and point types. They’re generally made from corrosion-resistant stainless steel, and most are between 2 inches and 4 inches in size. This size is ideal for gaffing Tuna, which are the most commonly gaffed fish. As a general rule, a 2-inch to 3-inch gaff will work well for fish 50 lbs. and under, and a 3-inch to 4-inch gaff is ideal for fish 50 lbs. and up.
Hooks are designed for maximum durability and tensile strength. A large thrashing fish can easily bend or break a mismatched gaff, so it important to match the hook’s gauge or thickness is directly in proportion to the size of fish you’re targeting.
Hook points vary in design, with some having triple or quadrable point edges, and others being completely conical with no flat edge. Points with multiple flat edges will be easier to sharpen yourself, but you can still sharpen the conical type if needed.
In addition to traditional hook-style gaffs, there are also kage (spear) style gaffs with a straight spear point. These are ideal for kayak anglers, as the motion required is a spearing push motion, rather than the typical pull motion that can cause your kayak to become unstable.
Most gaff’s handle materials are either anodized aluminum, fiberglass, or wood.
Aluminum: Aluminum is tough, highly corrosion-resistant, and lightweight. It’s one of the most commonly used materials in high-end fishing gaffs. Many aluminum gaffs feature a tapered body, with a thicker butt-end for added grip, and slimmer hook-end to cut down on weight and provide better maneuverability in the water.
Fiberglass: Fiberglass is similar to aluminum in terms of strength, but is about 20% lighter. It’s also fairly flexible, and will flex rather than bend or break under stress. Fiberglass is smooth and doesn’t provide much grip, so these gaffs will usually feature cord-wrapped handles. Many also feature tapered bodies similar to aluminum gaffs.
Wood: Wood handles are cheap, fairly durable, but weigh significantly more than other types. They can also break down over time, especially if the varnish or coating wears off. If you’re into DIY, you can fashion a decent wood-handled gaff out of basic supplies you can find at a hardware store.
How to use a fishing gaff?
Successfully gaffing a fish requires patience, good technique, and practice.
Ideally, you want to gaff the fish right behind its head, as this will give you control over its body, and won’t damage the meat. However, if the fish is thrashing around, and you can only gaff it in the tail, don’t hesitate to take the shot – most of the time this will stun the fish and still allow you to pull it on board successfully.
To gaff larger fish, follow these steps:
- Reel the fish in as close to the side of the boat as possible. The closer it is, the less you’ll need to reach, and the better your odds of success.
- Wait until the fish is calm and has exhausted itself, and isn’t thrashing around excessively.
- Make sure the hook is facing downwards with the hook towards the boat.
- Align the hook with the area directly behind the fish’s head (right behind the gills, and under the dorsal fin).
- In one fluid motion, pull on the gaff pole, which will sink the gaff’s hook the fish and lift it up out of the water.
- Once it’s hooked deep, use both hands to lift the fish out of the water, and into a cooler or fish box if possible. If you place it on the deck, it will often start thrashing around.
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I’ve loved being in the outdoors for as long as I can remember. I grew up fishing, canoeing, and camping throughout the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. It’s what lead me to start this site and share my passions for fishing, diving, kayaking and more. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or (preferably!) preparing for my next outdoor adventure.