If you’ve ever had to retrieve a lure hooked deep inside a thrashing fish’s mouth – then you know how useful a good pair of fishing pliers can be. They truly are the workhorses of any fishing kit, allowing you to crimp barbs, cut through lines, cinch knots, retrieve deeply buried hooks plus much more.
If you’re like me, then you’ve learned the hard way that regular old pliers from your toolbox won’t last long in the saltwater environment. Mine fused shut after only a couple of outings! Make sure you get a pair of fishing pliers specifically suited for use around saltwater.
In this post, I’ll break down the different types of fishing pliers, explain how to choose the best pair for your needs, and review some of the top pliers on the market today.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Fishing Pliers
Why do you need fishing pliers?
The main purpose of fishing pliers is to safely extract fish hooks without destroying your fingertips on sharp teeth or barbs.
Fishing pliers are specifically designed for fishing use – they’re mean to withstand saltwater use without rusting or corroding. Unlike typical pliers you’d find in your toolbox, they have features like line cutters, split ring openers, and crimpers which make them invaluable to many anglers.
They’re also much lighter than other pliers, with many utilizing lightweight materials like aluminum and titanium. This means you can store them in an easy-to-deploy place on your belt or in a vest pocket without the annoyance of lugging around extra weight.
Most fishing pliers are built with needle-nose style jaws. These make them perfect for reaching deep into a fish’s mouth to extract a fishhook. If you normally catch larger fish with long toothy mouths – like northern pike or wahoo – then look for a pair with extra-long jaws.
If you’re a catch and release fisherman, then fishing pliers are especially important – they’ll allow you to quickly and safely remove a hook and return the fish back to the water with minimal disruption.
Top 5 Fishing Pliers – Reviews
These lightweight, versatile aluminum pliers from Piscifun are an excellent choice for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. The aircraft-grade anodized aluminum body offers top-tier corrosion resistance and will hold up to the wear and tear of regular use. CNC machined holes are cut out of the handles making the pliers incredibly light.
Made of tungsten carbide, the razor-sharp replaceable line cutters are built into the base of the jaws, which gives them excellent leverage when you need to cut through heavy mono or braided line.
The jaws themselves are made of titanium coated stainless steel – which gives them excellent durability as well as corrosion resistance. There are also a split ring tool and crimping notch built into the jaws.
An internal spring keeps the pliers in the open position whenever they’re out of the sheath, which makes them easy to use one-handed. A coiled lanyard and belt loop clasp are also included, allowing you to clip them to your belt or fishing vest.
- Lightweight CNC cut out handles keep weight to a minimum.
- Aircraft-grade anodized aluminum body offers excellent corrosion resistance.
- Replaceable tungsten carbide line cutters are razor sharp out of the box.
- Available in 7.9” and 7.1” configurations.
Best Snub Nose Fishing Pliers
These rugged titanium-coated stainless steel pliers are not only built like a tank, but they also feel incredible in hand. The rubberized grip provides you with a superb grip – even in wet, slippery conditions.
These pliers are pretty no-frills, they don’t feature all the bells and whistles of some other models, but they fulfill their purpose very well. The stainless steel body is tough and durable, allowing you to pry and wrench on things without worrying about them bending or snapping.
Razor-sharp replaceable cutters are built into the side of the jaws and will cut through both braided and mono line like butter. Two knot cinching holes are cut into the jaws themselves, allowing you to tighten tackle with ease. A molded sheath and lanyard are also included, which might save you from losing them to Davey Jones’ locker!
The only major downside is the stainless steel body is heavier than aluminum models, so these aren’t the most lightweight pair of fishing pliers out there.
- Rugged black-nickel titanium coated stainless steel construction.
- Replaceable cutters are razor sharp and tough.
- Ergonomic non-slip grips.
Best Titanium Fishing Pliers
These stunning all-titanium pliers are not only durable and corrosion-proof – they’re practically an heirloom quality piece. If you’re looking for the best fishing pliers around, and aren’t constrained by budget, then these would make an excellent choice.
Weighing in at just 5.5 ounces, these pliers are some of the lightest on the market. The all-titanium construction is not only light, but it’s also incredibly durable. Many owners report fishing with them for well over a decade without needing to replace them.
The replaceable tungsten side cutters are razor sharp, and with a Rockwell hardness rating of 60, they hold an edge extraordinarily well. These cutters can make short work of heavy braided line, hooks, wire and pretty much anything else you could think of cutting.
The ergonomic handles are spring loaded, which make them a breeze to use single-handed. Precision bushings provide a butter smooth gripping action – and won’t wear out even after years of use.
A beautiful hand-made leather sheath and lanyard are also included.
- Incredible manufacturing quality – will last for many years.
- Super lightweight and corrosion-proof titanium construction.
- The best of the best – would make a great gift for any angler.
Priced at less than 20$, these pliers are an excellent option if you want a capable set of fishing pliers without breaking the bank. Weighing in at just 6.4 ounces and made from aircraft-grade aluminum, these lightweight pliers are at home in both freshwater and saltwater.
The 7.5” overall length makes them one of the longer pliers – and perfect for reaching deep into a large, toothy fish’s mouth to extract a hook. The super sharp tungsten carbide side cutters make cutting through any type of fishing line quick and easy.
One stand out feature of these pliers is its soft silicone grip. Unlike some other models, the grip will work no matter how wet and slippery it gets.
A belt sheath and coiled lanyard come included as well as a respectable 5-year manufacturer warranty.
- Lightweight aircraft-grade aluminum construction.
- Includes line cutter, split ring opener, and crimping notch.
- Very reasonable price.
Best Multi Tool
While not strictly designed for fishing, these spring-loaded pliers from Leatherman are incredibly versatile – and more than capable of performing a variety of fishing tasks. Made from 420HC stainless steel, the blade holds an edge fairly well and doesn’t require frequent sharpening.
The multi-tool includes a nice selection of accessories including a partially serrated blade, pliers, wire cutters, scissors, can and bottle openers, a file and multiple screwdrivers. This makes the tool highly useful for cutting bait, adjusting rods and reels, cutting through fishing line plus cracking open a few cold ones at the end of the day!
The spring-loaded handles make one-handed operation easy, plus all the tools can be opened single-handed.
Keep in mind that these pliers aren’t specifically designed for fishing, so you’ll need to properly rinse and dry them when around saltwater. With that said, I’ve been using a similar Leatherman while fishing for years and it’s still in excellent shape.
- Spring loaded handles make one-handed operation easy.
- Highly versatile tool selection.
- Includes 25-year Leatherman warranty.
How to pick the right fishing pliers for you?
Picking the right pair of fishing pliers will depend on your personal preferences, how you plan to use them and which features you prefer.
Keep in mind that the best pair of fishing pliers is the one you’ll carry with you – even a cheap pair is far better than trying to pull a deeply buried fishhook out with your bare hands!
Let’s take a look at some of the key features to look out for.
Top manufacturers have been making fishing pliers from stainless steel for decades, but in the last few years, many have started making aluminum alloy and even titanium models.
Stainless steel pliers are still generally a good choice – they’re tough, durable and fairly corrosion resistant. Keep in mind that stainless steel is corrosion-resistant, not corrosion-proof. You’ll still need to give them a freshwater rinse after using and be vigilant about removing and corrosion that starts to form.
Aluminum pliers are lightweight, have excellent corrosion resistance and are fairly rigid. As aluminum is a softer metal, they’re not as durable as stainless steel and can bend if too much pressure is applied. Don’t use them as a crowbar!
Keep in mind that aluminum is not a great material for high-stress areas like cutting surfaces or jaws – for these, you’d ideally like to see tungsten carbide or stainless steel.
Titanium pliers are also lightweight, practically corrosion-proof, and offer a high level of durability and strength. Their major downside is price – titanium ain’t cheap!
Many newer pliers are spring loaded – which gives you more control when you’re using them one-handed. The spring keeps the pliers open and ready to use anytime they’re outside of their sheath. This means you’ll never need to force them open single-handed while you’ve got a wriggling fish in the other hand.
Obviously, this comes down to personal preference, but I’d recommend going with spring-loaded pliers for the added convenience.
Grip is often overlooked when considering any tool – but it really shouldn’t be. After all, a good grip means you’ll be able to use your pliers comfortably for hours at a time. If you catch a lot of fish (like a tournament angler) then a comfortable grip will be doubly important.
Obviously, a comfortable grip is pretty subjective – it will vary depending on your hand’s size, shape, and personal preferences. Look for a grip with individual finger inlays or soft rubber grips. Another thing to consider is the effect of water on your grips, you may want to add some grip tape if they’re slippery when wet.
The ideal nose and handle length is an important consideration and will depend on the species of fish you’re targeting.
Most anglers prefer longer needle-nose style pliers to their short stubby counterparts. The added length gives you better reach when you need to reach deep into a fish’s mouth and extract a fishhook.
This is particularly important if you’re a saltwater angler targeting larger fish like Tuna and Dorado. If you fish mostly smaller freshwater species like bass, trout, and walleye then a shorter pair of pliers can work well.
As mentioned previously, pliers made from lightweight materials like aluminum and titanium can be so light you’ll forget that you’re carrying them. These are particularly handy for kayak anglers, fly fishermen or anytime you want to keep added weight at a minimum.
Many models feature CNC bored out handles to further reduce the weight.
Beyond just retrieving fishhooks, fishing pliers have a number of extras that make them highly functional for fishing tasks.
Below are some of the most important features to look out for:
A good pair of line cutters can cut through thick braided line like butter. This makes them invaluable for cutting leaders, mainlines and tag ends.
Look for a high-quality cutter material like tungsten carbide or high carbon steel. These will cut cleanly through line without causing and fraying or line weakness.
Another feature to consider is replaceable cutting blades. Even if you use your pliers correctly, with enough cutting through heavy braid and steel wire, they’ll eventually wear down and need replacement. Replaceable cutters allow you to easily remove and replace worn-out blades.
Line cutters can either be built into the base of the jaws or into the side of fishing pliers. Again, this comes down to personal preference, but cutters built into the jaws will provide more leverage and cutting power.
Split Ring Opener
A split ring opener is a nice feature to have if you work with small tackle components like swivels, split shots and lead sinkers. It makes switching hooks on a lure much easier than trying to do it with your fingernails.
A crimping tool is used to crimp together leaders and sleeves for mono and cable line. Many pliers will have a notch cut into the jaws specifically for this task.
A good lanyard and sheath are a major plus for any pair of fishing pliers. If you’ve ever lost a pair to the bottom of a lake or river, then you’ll know how important properly fastening your gear is!
Most fishing pliers come with some kind of coil lanyard and sheath. These make it is easy to clip your pliers onto your fishing vest or waders – so they’re close at hand whenever you need them. If you fish from a kayak or canoe, then a lanyard and sheath are a definite must.
Some fishing pliers come with extra features like flashlights, bottle openers, multi-tools built into the handles and removable soft-grip handles. While some of these features can be useful, they aren’t really necessary for most fishing tasks you’re likely to encounter.
Fishing Plier Uses
Fishing pliers are extraordinarily versatile – they truly are the “jack of all trades” in your fishing arsenal. Here are just some of the tasks you can perform with your fishing pliers:
- Cutting through mainlines, leaders, tag and hooks.
- Removing hooks from fish or even your skin!
- Holding, cutting and preparing bait.
- Making adjustments to your rod and reel.
- Flattening or ‘crimping’
- Holding up fish – don’t use them for catch-and-release fishing (get a pair of fish grips for that).
- Cinching and tightening fishing knots.
- Changing the hooks on a lure.
- Crimping leaders and sleeves.
- Much, much more… (You’ll always find something useful to do with them when you’re on the water).
Maintaining Your Fishing Pliers
The number one enemy of any metal tools is, of course, saltwater. Saltwater can even corrode high-end coated stainless steel pliers if you’re not vigilant.
Any pair of fishing pliers is going to be better at resisting rust and corrosion than regular pliers, but you still need to maintain them properly if you want them to last.
To keep your pliers in top condition for as long as possible make sure to do the following:
- After using around saltwater, rinse with fresh water and dry thoroughly.
- Apply a thin layer of mineral oil over the entire pliers every few weeks.
- If corrosion or rust does start to form, remove it with steel wool and then coat in mineral oil.
- Don’t store your pliers inside a wet sheath! Make sure to let your sheath dry completely before storing your pliers.
Keep in mind that fishing pliers aren’t meant to be replacements for regular pliers. If you need to perform heavy-duty prying tasks, use a Leatherman or regular toolbox pliers.
Q: How to remove a fishhook using fishing pliers?
A: In order to remove a fishhook, firmly grip the hook with your pliers near the bend and rotate the hook out the same way it came in. Depending on the type of hook and how fish is hooked, you may need to flatten out the barb in order for the hook to slide easily through the fish’s lip.
If the fish is gut hooked or hooked deep inside its mouth, it may be very difficult to remove the hook without causing major injury to the fish. In this case, using your pliers to cut the hook (or line) as close to the fish’s body as possible. This will allow the fish to spit the hook out once it’s started to corrode.
Q: What is the pointy tip on fishing pliers for?
A: The pointy tip on fishing pliers is made for opening split rings. This feature makes changing or replacing the hooks on a lure simple and straightforward. Trying to do this with your fingernail can be a major pain, so look for a pair with a split ring opener if you normally use split rings in your tackle.
Featured image courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Source.
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.